It’s not uncommon for tourists to meet touts and scammers anywhere in the world while traveling. Such cheats are always coming up with new scams to cheat money from unsuspecting tourists. We wrote this article just to help tourists from falling in to such scams .
Common tourist scams
1) Recommended shop owned by a friend of guide, driver
For shady guides and taxi-drivers, it’s a very common scam and not entirely illegal either. While sightseeing, they’ll offer tourists a free, no-obligation tour of a shop, factory, showroom etc and claim that it’s just part of the tour or owned by a friend of theirs. But once tourists enter the premises, well trained salesmen don’t let anyone escape easily without buying something. They will do everything to keep you in and badger you. Such tourists are very often conned in to buying useless, overpriced items like rugs, clothes or random trinkets
2) Providing wrong information
There are numerous variations of this scam and is very common too. One latest version that we heard was from an American guest of ours who wanted to see Red Fort (Lal Qila) in Delhi. He was staying in a hotel Paharganj, which is a drive of just 15 minutes from Red Fort. When he was searching for an auto-rickshaw to take him there, a random person came up to him and offered him to take him there in his ‘private car’. For fare, he asked a price which was 6 times the actual fare of an auto-rickshaw and much more expensive than a taxi. He tried to fool the tourist by bluffing that only private cars were allowed inside the fort due to terrorist scare,. Fortunately, the guest was well traveled and he ignored the tout. He hired an auto-rickshaw from the road and visited Red Fort without facing any problem.
Simple precautions to avoid tourist scams
All tourists are very likely to be approached by dishonest touts in a wide variety of places and situations. Here are some ways by which tourists can avoid losing their money or prevent touts from spoiling your journey:
1) Plan in advanced and keep documentation
You should know every relevant detail before paying for any service. You shouldn’t micro-manage but it’s good to have at least the very basic details. When planning for a journey, collect information about every hotel, driver, food, sightseeing, car, guide, etc. and write it down for handy reference. . Not only you have a good idea of what you are paying for, but you can also remove things or services you don’t need or can ask for upgrades and better facilities.
2) Ignore random strangers who seem suspicious or too eager
Many places frequented by tourists will have numerous vendors, guides and beggars trying to sell something or begging. Don’t pay attention to them or make eye contact or do anything to make them think that you they might be able to get something from you. Not everyone you meet will be a tout, but most of such people are poor or greedy who just want to make some quick money.
3) Don’t rely on guides, taxi-drivers exclusively for information
As mentioned earlier, most business owners pay a very significant portion of their sales to whoever brings clients to them. While a small commission is alright, a lot of times, it’s so much that the tourists end up paying at many times their reasonable cost. Some taxi drivers may offer you discounted fares if you agree to visit some ‘friend’ showroom or shop on the way. Avoid such people at all costs. If you absolutely have to go, then always check for reasonable price and bargain hard.
4) Collect relevant information from books, magazines and internet
These days, almost all good businesses have a website, reviews on forums and various travel websites like Trip Advisor Tripzar, Lonely Planet, Google,and others. Try searching for what other tourists have to say. Some businesses will have some bad reviews. Check their response or anything they did to make up for the bad experience of their guests. There are some good business with no online presence. In that case ask for advice before committing. Businesses who are in field for long term, care about their reputations and are more trustworthy than touts who care only about money.
5) Keep low profile and don’t stand out
While traveling, do not show off your expensive belongings like electronics, large amounts of cash, expensive branded clothes, etc as status symbols or for any other reason. Keep a low profile and don’t let other people know how much money are you carrying. People who look rich usually attract more unsavoury characters than and less flashy ones.
6) Don’t fall for posers
Some scammers try posing as officials of government agencies to fleece money.. It is rare but happens nonetheless, If you ever meet anyone like this, always ask for an ID. Every government issued ID in India is in English as well as a local language, Hindi in most places. They may tell you that you were doing something illegal and threaten you with arrest or bigger fines if you don’t pay them. Contact nearest policeman or an uninvolved local and let him know of the issue. Ignore anyone without a uniform.
Apart from this, there are many ethical businesses like ours :D, which don’t rely on such corrupt practices and travel scams . You’ll also find many good Samaritans who will help you without expecting anything in return. But you have to use your own judgement to know that. Don’t let behaviour of some greedy tout spoil your journey or mood. We hope that this article will prove to be of some help and you will enjoy your travel experience.
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