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Guide to Street Smart Travel in India

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More than in any country in the world, you need to be street smart in India. Your street smartness will help you navigate the tricky Indian waters of travel. Indians are warm, large-hearted and generous but which country in the world doesn't have its share of scamsters? Be on your guard for these scams while in the country.

Street smart travel in India

Photo Courtesy: Andy_Mitchell_UK

On arrival

The most common trick in the book for scammers is to take you to a different or a hotel with a similar name. Irrespective of whether you have a booking in a particular hotel or not, it is not uncommon to be taken to a 'very good' hotel owned by the 'brother' of the taxi or auto driver for which he will receive a handsome commission from his 'brother'. If you have already got a room booked, don't be shocked if the taxi or auto driver informs you that the hotel was burnt down or closed down recently. This is one more way to get you to cough up money for a place of their choice.

The doctored meter scam

This is a cause of much pain and suffering for Indians and non-Indians alike. The scourge of doctored meters is present in almost every Indian city and the only cure for this is prevention. Most airports and railway stations have the facility of pre-paid taxis or pre-paid auto stands available so it is advisable to use one which will save you a lot of headache. If you are for some reason not able to avail this and have to hire a cab or an auto from the street make sure that there is a meter in the auto or taxi before you site down. If not, it is better to avoid getting in. Insist on the auto driver showing you a chart with the fares written beside the corresponding figures shown on the meter . The variation to this and the one much harder to spot is a doctored meter whereby the rates shown will be correct but the meter will be tampered with so that it ticks over faster than normal and racks up more money. Pre-paid taxis and autos are the best way to avoid this. You can make a booking for a radio cab online or call and book for a designated number of hours. So, if you are new in a city like Bangalore or Delhi, it would make sense to take a cab for designated hours and pay a fixed amount. The cab will go wherever you like it to go.

Street smart travel in India

Photo Courtesy: epSos.de

The gem shop or the saree shop scam

"Madam don't go here. I know a best place for this. Don't buy just go and see." Most common across all tourist places across India, the 'best place' would involve a commission for the driver or tout for any deal that takes place between you and the shop. Sarees might not be as authentic as claimed or gem stones or precious stones might be real or fake. A variation of this is mostly likely to happen when you sign for sightseeing tours with private bus operators where they will literally force you to go and buy stuff from designated shops they have tie-ups with. Although, the stuff you buy here is less likely to be fake but you have limited choices of checking out local stuff and also getting the best price for it.

Credit card scams

Different ways might be used to lure you into sharing your credit card details with scammers. So you are in this jewellery shop and you decided to buy this lovely piece of jewellery but then the shopkeeper tells you that there is some additional customs duty to be paid on this and the seller can arrange it for you, for a fee, of course. All you need to do is give him your credit card details and it will be taken care of. Other than your spouse (sometimes not even your spouse) we don't recommend sharing your credit card details with anyone.

The 'I lost my belongings' scam

This could happen to you while simply walking on the road or waiting for the traffic signal to go green. A well-dressed person walks up to you and tells you in crisp English that he is new to the city and has just lost his belongings in the train/ bus or got mugged. It could any of these two variations. He will ask you for money to get back to his home-town which he will promise to repay.

The fake train tickets scam

One or more fellows will approach you in official looking attire and ask if you have tickets for your journey. The goal is to persuade you to get away from the railway station and get you to buy fake tickets. Buying tickets directly from the railway station or through authorised agents known to the hotel you are staying in is the best way to buy tickets. Tickets can be also booked online on the somewhat dodgy www.irctc.in website, the official site of Indian Railways. ( The site crashes quite often so the key is to be persistent with it while trying to book).

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