India’s 20 tourist scams that no one tells you about | Solo Female Travel


As a country to explore on your female solo trip, there is perhaps almost nothing better than India. Colourful, rich, vibrant, energetic, architecturally supreme, and so much more, it is actually difficult to access the character of this country. What’s even better is that each city in India has its own flavour. Travel a few kilometers, and you experience a different hue altogether. You turn a corner, and a surprise awaits you in this country. 

All your wishes will be granted on your solo trip to India. Snowcapped mountains? Check. Beautiful seas? Well, have you ever travelled to Goa? What about a beautiful desert? Spend some time in Rajasthan. You name it, and India has it.

But unfortunately, there is also a dark side to the country that no one tells you about. The different scams that you might fall prey to may turn your solo female travel to India sour. While India is mostly safe for solo women travellers, it is never too late to stay alert. So why not buckle up and get to know about all the possible scams you have to steer clear of during your trip to incredible India.

1. The driver may take you to the wrong hotel

When you land in India and reach your first destination, you might take a cab from outside the airport and give your driver the address to your hotel. The driver will seem enthusiastic at first and tell you that he knows the place (your booked accommodation) well. 

But when he stops, you see that he has taken you to a completely different hotel. When you tell him that he has brought you to the wrong destination, he will argue that he thought you were talking about this hotel and that the said hotel is better. Never ever fall for that. This is a very common tourist scam you will face in India. Most drivers get a commission from the hotels they bring the foreign tourists to. To avoid this try arranging transportation from the place of your accommodation even if it is a little more costly. As a solo female traveller, your safety comes first.

2. Taking a longer route

Drivers in India follow anything but a GPS, and even if you ask them to, they will just brush you off. Instead, they may take a longer route to your destination so that they can charge you way more than you had originally bargained for. Excuses like, “Oh, the roads are closed” are very common, and this is a scam you want to avoid when in India.

3. Hotel closed

This is a scam in India that I have fallen prey to, and thus I would ask you to steer clear of it. When you give the driver the address, he may tell you that said hotel has closed down. As someone who has no idea about the lay of the land, you will be confused and surprised. In my case, to make matters worse, the hostel I was staying at did not pick up the phone.

A piece of advice from someone who has been a victim of this scam in India, do not believe anything the driver tells you. Ask him politely to drop you off at the said location because 9 out of 10 times, you will find that you were being duped.

4. Giving wrong directions

There are good people and bad people in every country, and while I have encountered some lovely people during my first solo female trip to India, there were also some cons.

If your GPS isn’t working or you find that your destination isn’t properly marked on the map, you are left with no choice but to ask for direction. In most cases, you will be directed correctly. But if you are unlucky, you may fall prey to another scam in India. Someone might completely misdirect you, and the probability of this increases after sundown. Be very careful and if you think that your surroundings are making you uncomfortable, leave at once.  

5. Paying twice at the hotel

I stayed at a small hostel in Udaipur on my solo trip to India. While checking in, I had paid the full price for two nights, but I was stupid enough not to ask for a receipt of payment. When I was leaving, a different manager at the front desk asked me to clear my dues. When I repeatedly told him that I had, he refused to relent. Finally, I was forced to pay the whole fare again. It was then that I realised that this was also a tourist scam in India and the easiest way to avoid this is to force the manager to give you a receipt that says you have paid the money.

6. Getting duped at a religious establishment

India is a diverse country, and it houses a lot of religions too. While the temples and mosques, and churches are some of the most beautiful, this is also a hotbed for getting scammed in India. 

At any temple or shrine, you may be coaxed to offer puja to the gods. Well, while it is quite a spiritual experience, you may be charged an exorbitant price for it and way more than what a native pay. So, try and get to know beforehand what different prices are for the pujas, and if anyone tries to overcharge, tell them that you are aware that he is trying to dupe you.

7. Extorting money

Getting scammed at a place of worship in India runs deep. When you are walking around the place and admiring its beauty, someone might come and force you to accept a souvenir calling it a ‘gift.’ Never ever take it. Because when you do, they will immediately ask you for money.  

8. Godmen

Religion is almost like a business in India, and so there are plenty who try to make a living off it. You will see plenty of godmen at different places of worship in the country. Beware of them! There are also chances that they will tell that you that if you don’t pay them, they are going to curse you. Do not fall for this scam because trust me, they do not have any power, and all they are trying to do is mess with your head (like, duh!). 

9. Do you see an elephant?

Well, unlike what we might think, seeing an elephant in India is not that common a feature. It’s far from the tales about India we have grown up reading or watching, and no people don’t go around on elephant backs in this country.

However, around most temples, elephants are seen. They are decked up and bejeweled and are considered holy. This is also another tourist scam in India where they will ask for money just because you have ‘witnessed the holy elephant.’ Do not fall for it. 

10. Beggars maybe just a con

I was absolutely unaware of this until a friend pointed me towards an article in a reputed daily. There is definitely a downtrodden of the society in any country, and of course, they need to be helped. Well, that’s a no brainer. But what I got to know is that most beggars are part of a nexus or an elaborate plan to extort money from foreign tourists. You might feel bad for them and give them alms. But in reality, the money is taken by someone who they work for and not them.

So instead, why don’t you buy them a meal for their family? That will actually help them immensely, and they will be thankful to you as well. And the smile that they will flash after you have given them something to eat is worth more than anything that you can take back home with you.

11. Meter broken in autos and cabs

On your visit to India, this is one scam that you absolutely cannot escape. When you hail a taxi or an auto in India, most of the time, you are met with one response. “You have to pay this fare because our meter is broken.” This is a classic scam to extort more money than necessary, and you are mostly left with no option. 

In such a precarious scenario, you have no other option but to bargain and settle for a price that is near what you deem fit. However, you can try booking an Ola or Uber in India because they are relatively cheaper. Learn more about what you can expect when backpacking through India

12. Meter shows an exorbitant fare

The tourist scam in India surrounding these vehicles runs deep. You might see a taxi or an auto that has a running meter, but when you reach the destination, you find that it is showing a sky-high fare. I later got to know that this is another tourist scam where the drivers purposely tamper with the meter so that it automatically shows a higher price. In such a scenario, you have no option but to relent.

13. Never pay upfront to a taxi or cab driver

In India, taking a prepaid taxi to travel is a good option. But if you are availing of a prepaid taxi, you are not required to pay upfront to the driver. And even if the driver says you must, do not fall prey to this tourist scam in India. There is a high chance the driver will leave you before your destination, and you will have nothing to do then. 

14. No change

As a foreigner visiting a country, getting used to the new currency is always a problem. On top of that, in India, there have been times when shopkeepers have refused to give me something just because I couldn’t tender the exact change. I usually don’t carry a lot of cash if the country is digital like India. But credit cards are not accepted everywhere in India, especially not in the small roadside shop where you stop for a snack or a bottle of water. And in situations like these, many times you are forced to pay more than what the item you are buying is worth. 

15. Fake or tattered currency notes

This is a tourist scam in India that can prove costly for you. The worst part about this is there’s no way to understand if you are carrying a fake currency or not to the naked eye. But that is not all. There are instances where the shopkeeper or a driver hands you torn and tattered currency notes, which you will never be able to use anywhere else. And if you ask them to change it, they will tell you that it is a perfectly fine currency. Do not fall for that. Insist on taking a fresh note because otherwise, the whole currency goes to waste. 

16. Train tickets

Train tickets can be bought from the official Indian railway site, but there may be times you fail to access this site. In such cases, there will be people telling you that there are no tickets and you can only get tickets if you pay a much higher cost. Well, this is usually a tourist scam though at times it can really help. If you are desperate and your schedule cannot be tinkered with, go for it. But if you can help it, it is better to go to the railway station and ask if there are any tickets left.

17. Guides at historical places

India is rich in history and heritage, and you can witness all of it at historical monuments. In the age of Google, it is very easy to access information about the places, so in most cases, a tourist guide becomes redundant. But I have seen that in most historical places, there will be guides loitering around and even following you even if you tell them you don’t want their services. Near the exit, they might hound you for money, saying that they have actually made your experience better. As a solo female traveller, you are more prone to fall prey to this. So, my advice would be: Be firm and tell him that you will not pay even if he is rattling off facts near you during your visit.

18. Roadside food and juices

India serves you beautiful cuisine on its platter, but not everyone can handle the level of spice in India. And even if you can, handling food available at the roadside is possible by a lucky few. Not only is there an absence of hygiene here, but also sometimes the food is adulterated by the seller. The water used in juices may also not be fit for drinking. So, I would advise you to stick to food available in proper restaurants as there is a high chance you may experience the infamous Delhi Belly.

19. Shopping might turn into a nightmare

You cannot resist shopping in India, and just like its varied culture, there is something unique everywhere you go. But in India, there is also a touristy trap of being asked to pay way more than the actual price. To avoid that, you have to make sure that you bargain like a local. Yes, it’s not something you can achieve overnight, but I do have 25 tips that you can follow on your solo trip to India.

20. Aware of fake products

As I have said before, India is a shopping paradise, and then everyone will love the souvenirs you take back home. Every region in India boasts of its own unique craft, but there is also a tourist scam that I have experienced while buying these products. Handicrafts in India are mostly expensive, but there is a chance that what you are buying is fake, and you are only getting duped. Souvenirs like a Kashmiri pashmina or a Hyderabadi pearl is beautiful, but it is a waste if you pay an exorbitant amount for a fake. It is indeed very difficult to spot one, so my advice would be to buy these products from a government-authorised handloom shop. Yes, you will probably not be able to bargain here, but at least you know what you will carry back home will be authentic.

Yes, there are scams in India but then which country hasn’t got one. And that shouldn’t deter you from experiencing this beautiful country. Despite all its flaws, India treats its guests with so much love that you will want to keep coming back again and again.

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An introverted solo female traveller on an adventure around the world.

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