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Scams and ways of dealing with touts.

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Everywhere I read about India, I also read about its infamous touting (con-artists who advertise themselves as tour guides) and scams to watch out for. Some examples include:

  1. Riding in a taxi or rickshaw wanting to go to a certain hotel only to have the driver take you to his “uncle’s” shop to try to convince you to buy a shipment of tourist items he’s trying to export to the U.S. He promises you a huge profit because he’s saving on the “export tax” and promises that someone will be there to greet you in the U. S.
  2. This “taxi” scam has many versions including your hotel is: closed, under construction, full, not pleasant, burning down, invaded by aliens, and/or anything else they can think of and instead they drive you to a different hotel or even mock National Tourist Bureaus and try to get you to book with their hotels/tours.
  3. A “fake” entrance to the bus station complete with a fake guard and  metal detector claiming your bus/train tickets are not confirmed and you need to go to another office to re-confirm.
  4. Fake or unsafe tours.
  5. Here’s a pleasant one: one person throws fecal matter on your show and then another charges to clean it up OR they throw it on your bag and tell you so that when you put your main bag down to check on it they steal your carry on/purse etc.
  6. After agreeing on a place and price a taxi stops 6-8 blocks from the pickup and demands more money. Choices are to pay more or get out and find another taxi.
  7. Hotel clerks saying that there is no bus running during normal times but they would be “happy to hire a cab”.
  8. Hotels promising showers, hot water, electricity and then not providing.
  9. Groping of females is common.
  10. The infamous gem scam where a friendly generous person offers you money, fame, and bliss for simply saving him the export tax of diamonds!! Too good to be true!

One friend I talked to said he hated India because he “didn’t like the person I was becoming… I was screaming at everyone and couldn’t trust anyone”. Needless to say this doesn’t sound fun or restful or even civilized. Suggestions I’ve heard for dealing with the touts? (The opinions herein expressed are not necessarily the opinions or views of said writer!)

  1. Have a lot of patience!
  2. Be firm, hold your ground, and say “No” a lot!
  3. Don’t get angry – it just encourages more harassment.
  4. Agree on price and location ALWAYS before going anywhere and be very direct in saying, “I don’t want to go anywhere else”.
  5. Ask to see a hotel room before you book it.
  6. Be patient.
  7. NEVER pay a deposit to anyone on the street.
  8. Total lack of reaction or absent minded dismissal.
  9. Treat them like you would your 3-yr-old – say No, No, No and don’t give an inch.
  10. Learn some Hindi phrases such as “I don’t want anything”.
  11. Ask them how much it would cost to go to the store 2 meters away, to find a moonrock, or get a motorboat (or basically anything that can’t be gotten) – this will usually get you a laugh and a walk away.
  12. Trust your gut but generally not someone approaching you!
  13. If any problems threaten to call the tourist or transport police.
  14. Have I mentioned patience…

Writing this post after the last, which dealt with community, has also raised the question of how to handle these situations with both strength and kindness. I’m sure there will be times when we are both extremely annoyed and overwhelmed with people wanting to sell us on something. The thing I most want to remember is something I read on another blog which was a reminder of the poverty and desparation so many of these people live in daily. What would I do if I lived in this situation and a foreigner who makes more in a month than I do in a year comes to town?? My humble thought is I probably would be no different. I hope to keep this in mind when I’m saying “Nahi!!” (Hindi for No) for the thousandth time or trying to walk through a crowd of touts begging for engagement.

  • http://www.manaliandterry.com Manali & Terry

    I think carrying a huge backpack with a camera around your neck will bring attention to you anywhere, especially anywhere in SE Asia, even being Indian, they can usually pick me out as a person that doesn't live there. Some of the above is exxaggerated, but you should always be cautious anywhere you go. Plenty of scams exist in non-third world countries as well.

    Another piece of advice would be to try to blend in as much as you can and not flaunt that you have money to spend (ie. you're just a poor traveller/dirty hippie, lol). But I totally agree with the saying NO and sticking with it – if you give an inch, the hawkers or whoever will try to take a mile. India will definitely make you a tougher person but I think you'll appreciate things you have or take for granted a lot more as well! I don't think a RTW trip would be complete without having that experience.

    Have you guys watched Slumdog Millionaire? It could be a good preview to what's in store!

    PS. Thanks for the comment on our site Jayme! We'll see you guys in Aus and will add your site to our links as well!

  • http://www.manaliandterry.com Manali & Terry

    I think carrying a huge backpack with a camera around your neck will bring attention to you anywhere, especially anywhere in SE Asia, even being Indian, they can usually pick me out as a person that doesn't live there. Some of the above is exxaggerated, but you should always be cautious anywhere you go. Plenty of scams exist in non-third world countries as well.

    Another piece of advice would be to try to blend in as much as you can and not flaunt that you have money to spend (ie. you're just a poor traveller/dirty hippie, lol). But I totally agree with the saying NO and sticking with it – if you give an inch, the hawkers or whoever will try to take a mile. India will definitely make you a tougher person but I think you'll appreciate things you have or take for granted a lot more as well! I don't think a RTW trip would be complete without having that experience.

    Have you guys watched Slumdog Millionaire? It could be a good preview to what's in store!

    PS. Thanks for the comment on our site Jayme! We'll see you guys in Aus and will add your site to our links as well!