36 Most Common Tourist Scams in India

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Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal

 

As the world’s seventh largest country by area and with the world’s second largest population, India can lay claim to being an extremely diverse country.

The country boasts a plethora of sights and sounds rich with culture and heritage that are an amalgam of the past and present. Incredible! India it is indeed.

However, behind the beauty lies the ugly other side – India is also home to one of the most number of travel targeted scams in the world.

It truly pays to do your own homework beforehand so as to enjoy and marvel at this unique subcontinent (South Asia) of the world.

Read on to learn how to protect yourself here!

 

 

A. TOURIST ACTIVITIES

1. Fake government approved tourist information centres

 

How it works:

There is only one real official government India Tourism office which is at 88 Janpath Rd, as shown in the picture below:

Image source: leavemehere.wordpress.com

 

Any others, like the one below, are fake:

Image source: leavemehere.wordpress.com

 

If possible, avoid engaging offline tourist agencies.

Many of these agencies charge hidden costs and exorbitant fees for crap service, and receive kickbacks / commissions from the multiple low quality shops that they bring you to.

Also, be wary when such agencies claim that a certain attraction / shop / restaurant / accommodation / transport is unavailable, and then recommend an alternative where they can get a commission.

This is an interesting article where a fellow traveller recount how she got off a scam tour! http://grrrltraveler.com/countries/asia/india-asia/tip-hotels-india/getting-off-of-an-india-tour/

 

What to do:

Engage a licensed, reputable tour operator which you can find via:

  • TourRadar: all the best multi-day tours by established names like Intrepid Travel, G Adventures, Trafalgar, etc can be found here with best price guarantee.
  • Viator: largest platform of day tours globally and in India with low price guarantee.
  • Your hotel / hostel affiliated tours: reliable but generally not the best or cheapest.

To determine if an operator is legitimate, ask these questions:

  • Is the operator licensed and is there a professional website, physical office, business email and working telephone number?
  • Are there online reviews? Do they sound legitimate?
  • Is the price too low to be true? What does it cover (vehicles, guides, safety, insurance, hidden fees, etc)?

When paying:

  • Avoid paying in full upfront unless through a reputable platform / operator.
  • If using an online platform, do not make payment off the platform.

 

2. Flower bracelet / red string / Indian flag tokens / free gifts

Image source: holidify.com

 

How it works:

This is India’s version of the friendship band in Europe (e.g. France / Italy).

A scammer will first talk to you to make you feel comfortable. Once you let your guard down, they tie a flower bracelet / string on your wrist as a sign of friendship.

Once tied, they will demand payment and you will find it impossible to remove.

They might also claim it is free initially only to demand payment later.

Like the bracelet / string, you might find Indian ladies pining the Indian flag onto you forcefully at metro stationsbridges, and narrow paths.

Besides bracelet / strings, it can be anything which is given “free”, so watch out.

 

What to do:

Fold your arms and avoid anyone u see holding such bracelets or strings. Nothing is free.

 

3. Paid blessing scam

 

How it works:

At religious places such as by the Pushkar Lake, Varanasi or even the temples of Kanchipuram, you will find “holy men” or Sadhus conducting ceremonies to bless anyone willing to pay a fee.

Should you be in a group, these holy men will agree on a set fee initially, only to claim later that the fee is for each person.

If you do not pay, he will curse you instead. Just pay what was initially agree upon and leave as these “holy men” are unlikely to bother you further.

Besides blessings, some of these scammers also try out the bracelet / string scam. There are also some who will ask for donations.

 

What to do:

Avoid or only pay what was initially agreed upon.

 

4. Pickpocket

 

How it works:

Crowded streets, train stations, public transportation, markets, shopping malls, tourist attractions, hotels, nightspots or anywhere tourists hang out at are pickpockets’ favourite spots.

An interesting statistic is that over 90% of pickpockets caught on the Indian metro are females, and some of them are accompanied with children to make them look less suspicious.

These thieves work in gangs, and will hang around to spot anyone carrying an expensive or neglected phone / jewelry / valuable / bag and where it is stored.

Once they mark a target, they surround you and then work like this:

  • One keeps a lookout and blocks passer-bys from seeing the scene.
  • Another blocks, pushes or distracts you (e.g. ask you an innocent question / survey / drop something and ask you about it).
  • A third steals your valuable / slashes your bag and then passes it on.
  • The last hides the loot under a jacket / coat / newspaper and then escapes.

 

What to do:

Stay alert and watch out for suspicious characters, though that is easier said than done.

The best solution is still, to not make yourself look like a target. 

Make it impossible for thieves to steal from you with these methods:

  • Carry around a photocopy of your passport instead of the actual one.
  • Carry small amounts of cash in a cheap spare wallet that you wouldn’t mind losing. Do not leave it in your back pocket.
  • Conceal small valuables in a money belt / hidden pouch, large valuables in a slash-resistant and lockable anti-theft bag.
  • Leave most valuables in your hotel / hostel / apartment safe, secured with hotel safety tools.
  • Get a good travel insurance (e.g. World Nomads, trusted by Lonely Planet and National Geographic – check our review) which covers loss of valuables.

 

5. Can I help you my friend scam

 

How it works:

This is a very popular scam in Asia (e.g. Thailand) and Africa (e.g. Morocco), where a friendly stranger will come up to you to offer his help.

Rest assured that even if it is for something extremely small, payment will be demanded.

It can be for anything, such as selling fake VIP queue tickets at religious sites.

The even more malicious scammers will think of ways to extract information such as your travel plans for the day, shoot it down, and recommend something “better”.

Recommended places are basically where he gets a commission.

Or he could simply bring you to the nearest tourist agency (which is fake) and fleece more money out of you, like in the video below:

 

What to do:

Avoid engaging overly helpful / friendly strangers who offer unsolicited help.

 

6. Elephants / camels / picture worthy animals or people

Elephant in India

Elephant in India

 

How it works:

When you see such picture worthy animals or dressed up strangers roaming the streets, have second thoughts before taking a picture.

If you take a picture, someone will spring out from the shadows to demand payment.

 

What to do:

Avoid taking photos unless you don’t mind paying.

 

7. Fake products

Image source: mapsofindia.com

 

How it works:

This is not such an easy one to spot.

Good quality Indian products which are popular with tourists, such as cashmere and pashmina, are usually expensive. A low price is almost a sure fire sign that the product is fake.

However, there are many retailers who still peddle fake products at premium prices.

To ensure you buy only the authentic stuff, get them from the authentic / authorized online / offline retailers.

Some reported fake products: Rajasthali brand in Rajasthan, etc

 

What to do:

If you wish to buy, learn how to separate the wheat from the chaff, or only visit licensed, experienced dealers with a good reputation.

You can find these by doing some online research or by asking your hotel / hostel staff.

If you find researching too time-consuming, other options available include:

  • Using local connections: get a local to bring you around.
  • Shopping tour through Viator (largest platform of day tours globally and in India): get a professional guide to bring you around.

 

8. Fake sunscreen

 

How it works:

At the beach, you might encounter vendors offering sunscreen, either in a bottled form or on an ad-hoc basis.

These are most likely baby lotion or some other cheap substitutes which are not sunscreen.

 

What to do:

Decline or if you would like to take the chance, inspect the product carefully (sight, smell etc) before taking up the offer.

 

9. Dynamic prices

Leather goods shop in India

Leather goods shop in India

 

How it works:

Bargaining is a national pastime in the country. Prices can change and different prices are given as the shopkeeper sees fit.

As a foreigner, expect to face an absurdly high starting offer and bargain from there.

 

What to do:

Have a rough idea of how much something really costs in India before purchasing.

Do some online research, check with your hotel / hostel staff or check out a fixed price shop for a ballpark figure.

Then bargain hard and start with a ridiculously low offer as well.

If you are tired of haggling and wouldn’t mind paying a slightly higher but fair price at souvenir shops with fixed prices, you can check these out (non-exhaustive):

  • In general: shopping malls, state government emporiums (e.g. Central Cottage Industries Emporium), there are fixed priced shops in markets / bazaars as well but you still have to be careful with those.
  • New Delhi: Khan Market, People Tree, Fabindia.
  • Mumbai: Central Cottage Industries Emporium, Avante Cottage Crafts, The Bombay Store.
  • Chennai: Victoria Technical Institute, Saravana Stores at Pondy Bazaar.
  • Agra: The Warehouse of Gifts & Souvenirs.
  • Kolkata: Dakshinapan Shopping Center.
  • Rajasthan: Rajasthali, Jeypore Souvenirs.
  • Goa: streets of Calangute and Candolim.

Also, just because a shop has the word “emporium” in its name does not make it a government owned enterprise. Some are private but may claim to be a government shop / government backed.

If you find all these too time-consuming, other options available include:

  • Using local connections: get a local to bring you around.
  • Shopping tour through Viator (largest platform of day tours globally and in India): get a professional guide to bring you around.

 

10. Importing duty free gem stones

 

How it works:

This is a commonly perpetrated scam in Jaipur, Agra, Goa and Rishikesh.

A stranger approaches and asks if you can help him out by using your duty free allowance to import gemstones for him.

He then guarantees that these gemstones will be sold to his customers / partners in India.

Obviously, this is all a ruse and what happens at the end is that you will be left with a pile of worthless “gemstones”.

 

What to do:

Firmly decline when approached by a random stranger with a business opportunity.

 

11. Chilika Lake gem stone scam

 

How it works:

During a boat tour along Chilika Lake in Odisha, you will be brought to an island, and shown a live demonstration of how gemstones such as black pearls are extracted from shells, which are then sold for a bomb.

This is all a ruse. The “gemstones” are worthless fakes. They are simply inserted into the shells prior to your arrival.

 

What to do:

Avoid buying.

 

12. Begging for milk and pen

 

How it works:

There are pitiful looking child beggars in India (in Hampi and Kerala) who don’t beg for cash, but for milk and pen (same in Cambodia)!

What they do upon receiving one is to return them to the stores for cash.

There are also sightings of these beggars begging for milk in Bombay.

 

What to do:

Ignore them but be wary when going past a bunch of them, as they may rob / steal your valuables.

If you want to help, donate to established charities instead.

 

13. Beggar robbers

Street in India

Street in India

 

How it works:

Be wary of streets lined with beggars.

If you find your path blocked, there have been reports where tourists find themselves “thronged” by beggars who dig through your bags and pockets.

You won’t have any time to react and your valuables will be stolen in a split second.

 

What to do:

Give the beggars a wide berth.

Also, to protect yourself from such a scenario, store your valuables in a sturdy anti-theft bag that is lockable and slash resistant and in a money belt or hidden pouch.

You can also use a cheap spare wallet to contain small notes for your daily transactions to minimize any losses if targeted.

 

14. Student providing free tour services for books

 

How it works:

This works similar to the begging for milk and pen scam.

After providing tour guide services, the scammer will ask that you buy some ridiculously expensive books for him from an affiliated bookstore instead of paying a tip.

He will then return these back to the store for a cut.

 

What to do:

Do not take up free tour offers from a stranger on the streets.

 

15. Young beggar girl with a baby / child

Image source: haikudeck.com

 

How it works:

Besides robber beggars and child beggars, you will see young girls carrying a baby or child begging for food. Don’t fall for it.

 

What to do:

Firmly reject, as donating will only encourage such behaviour. If you want to help, donate to established charities instead.

 

16. The garbage / faeces scam

Street of Delhi

Street of Delhi

 

How it works:

This is India’s version of the globally infamous spilled liquid scam (e.g. Austria, Brazil, UAE), where in Delhi, a scammer throws garbage or faeces at your shoes or clothes.

Next, an accomplice suddenly appears to help you clean up the mess.

In the ensuing chaos, the same accomplice or another accomplice then steals your valuables without you realizing.

 

What to do:

Always be aware of your surroundings. Stand your ground and reject any help should you find yourself in such a situation.

Again, it will help if you have stored your valuables in a sturdy anti-theft bag that is slash resistant and comes with a locking system, and in a money belt or hidden pouch.

Ideally, you should also be armed with travel insurance (e.g. World Nomads, trusted by Lonely Planet and National Geographic – check our review) to ensure that even if all else fails, you are still protected.

 

B. TRANSPORT

1. Taxi driver doesn’t know how to go / place closed

Image source: seattleglobalist.com

 

How it works:

At the start or halfway through your journey, the driver will suddenly say that he doesn’t really know the way! Or it could be that the roads are closed due to protests!

What he can do for you, is to bring you to another hotel or a travel agent to set things up.

Logically speaking, you can of course choose to get out of your cab and hail another. Practically however, you might be in the middle of a highway, or simply do not know where you are.

Accept the offer, and you will most likely end up at an overpriced, dodgy accommodation.

Besides hotels, this can apply to tourist destinations as well.

Besides claiming that one doesn’t know the place, the taxi driver can claim that the place is closed, burned down, under renovation, has shifted or what have you.

Anyhow, he will recommend going somewhere where he can get a commission from.

 

What to do:

Stick to your plan. Do not get thrown off by such claims.

Do also check out the opening hours of any place you are planning to visit.

Finally, only book tours and accommodation through legitimate platforms and not through street touts.

For tours:

  • TourRadar: all the best multi-day tours by established names like Intrepid Travel, G Adventures, Trafalgar, etc can be found here with best price guarantee.
  • Viator: largest platform of day tours globally and in India with low price guarantee.
  • Your hotel / hostel affiliated tours: reliable but generally not the best or cheapest.

For accommodation:

  • Agoda: leader in Asia with the best selection and rates here generally.
  • HomeStay: if you are up for gaining genuine insights of India by staying with a local host.

 

2. Pre-paid taxis at airports

Bangalore Airport

Bangalore Airport

 

How it works:

Not technically a scam per se, more a tourist trap, as pre-paid taxis at airports are priced exorbitantly.

 

What to do:

One workaround is to go to a government approved pre-paid taxi stand (e.g. MERU cabs) which cost Rs 50 only.

You can then arrange with the driver to meet outside and use the meter which will cost much less

Other options include:

  • Pre-arrange vehicle pick up through your hotel / hostel or through day tours platforms like Viator (largest globally and in India).
  • Get a rental car via Rentalcars (largest selection globally).
  • Use a taxi booking app like Ola Cabs.

 

3. Meter doesn’t work

 

How it works:

You should know the drill as this happens almost everywhere in the world. In India, it would be in the big cities like Mumbai.

The cab driver claims that his meter doesn’t work and demands an inflated flat fee.

 

What to do:

Avoid non metered taxis.

However, even for cabs who turn on their meters, do at least watch how fast and how much the meter jumps by to tell if it is rigged.

Do some research to find out the rough price of a route – you can estimate the fair price of any route by checking:

  • With your hotel / hostel.
  • An online taxi fare estimator / online travel forums.
  • Taxi booking apps like Ola Cabs.

Take a photo of the car plate and also of the driver’s license in case anything goes wrong.

If all these seem like too much effort, you can also consider:

  • Getting a rental car from Rentalcars (largest selection globally).
  • Arranging private transport through your hotel / hostel or through day tours platforms like Viator (largest globally and in India).

 

4. Rogue rental / taxi drivers

 

How it works:

There have been cases of rental / taxi drivers driving off with tourist belongings.

There are then some who would like to try their luck and ask for a small sum to cover gasoline on long trips, or any other arbitrary items like the use of the boot for your luggage!

Other tricks include the “disappearing money” sleight of hand trick described later.

 

What to do:

Avoid leaving luggage in the boot, try to keep them beside you in the car instead.

As for valuables, keep them securely on yourself in a money belt / hidden pouch and in an anti-theft bag.

Also, do not pay upfront and take a photo of the car plate and / or driver’s license as a fail-safe.

 

5. Taxi fare discount for visiting shops where drivers get a commission

 

 

How it works:

The proposition is simple, a taxi driver can offer you a discount in return for going a few shops where he can get commission.

He will also claim that you do not have to buy anything.

The truth is that a few shops = at least 5 ~ 6.

And while technically you do not have to buy anything, the shopkeepers have a way to gang up and exert pressure on you to buy.

 

What to do:

Don’t waste your precious holiday time.

 

6. Rickshaw drivers

 

How it works:

These guys are as infamous as the tuk tuk drivers in Bangkok or cyclos in Vietnam at scamming tourists.

The usual tricks would be claiming that a place is closed and bringing you somewhere else.

Or they could simply send you to a fake information tourist counter which provide you recommendations for tours or accommodation at inflated prices.

The more ruthless ones will simply drive you somewhere secluded, and then demand a higher payment.

 

What to do:

Avoid, even for very short trips.

If you were to take one, agree on a price first no matter what they say about the trip being free, etc.

We also recommend concealing your valuables with a money belt / hidden pouch, and to use a cheap, spare wallet with little cash inside to act as a decoy.

This is to show the scammer that there is little point in exploiting you when caught in such a situation.

 

7. Corrupt traffic police

 

How it works:

On the road, your vehicle might be pulled over by a police officer asking for a road fee to be paid on the spot.

Note that this is unofficial and does not have to be paid, unlike tolls which are legal.

 

What to do:

When confronted with such a situation, refuse to pay. Threaten to call the police hotline (at the end of this article).

If you have to, ask to pay only at the official station and ask for an official receipt after payment.

Again, we recommend concealing your valuables with a money belt / hidden pouch, and to use a cheap, spare wallet with little cash inside to act as a decoy.

This is to show the scammers that there is little point in exploiting you when caught in such a situation

 

8. Fake train ticket office / counter / officials

 

How it works:

This is one of the most common scams in India! There have been MANY such reports.

At a fake train ticket office or information counter, many things can happen:

  • You might be charged an obscene amount for a fake train ticket.
  • Hounded for a tip for the simple advice they provide.
  • Sent somewhere where the perpetrators can get a commission from.
  • You are told that the train is stopped / cancelled and to take a long distance rental car instead where they can charge you more.

There are also fake train officials who go around targeting tourists as well, claiming that you have bought a wrong ticket / are on the wrong train / at the wrong seat and have to pay a fine.

 

What to do:

Only buy a ticket through these sources:

  • Direct from company / official counters.
  • Licensed retailers.
  • Your hotel / hostel if such a service is provided.
  • Day tours platforms like Viator (largest globally and in India).

When at a train ticket office, try to see if there are other people / proper equipment there, and watch out if any train officials only check tourists’ tickets, or everyone else’s.

When you are on the train and approached by ticket officials, look to see if they have their badge with name and number.

They should also have a seating chart which shows which seats are taken and which are not.

 

C. MISCELLANEOUS

1. Snatch theft

 

How it works:

Generally, there are two versions of snatch thefts – strike and run, or distract and grab, in many possible contexts:

  • Bikes / mopeds riding past, with a pillion rider doing the snatch.
  • Snatching from behind you, then running into a getaway car to escape.
  • At restaurants, stealing unattended bags / valuables on the chair or table.
  • Hotels airports, where distracted / tired tourists carry all their valuables out.
  • The beach where tourists are relaxed, or when they head to the water.
  • Nightclubs, where “prostitutes” pretend to proposition tourists by grabbing them but are really trying to steal your valuables.
  • Seats beside a train’s doors where a thief gets out just before the doors close.
  • Stealing of bags on overnight trains / buses.
  • Valuables snatched through a car / bus window.
  • Thefts around ATMs.

 

What to do:

At crowded places, even seemingly safe places like at a restaurant or hotel:

While out walking / on transport:

  • Use a cross body anti-theft bag facing away from the road / windows of your vehicle.
  • Do not carry valuables in your hands when walking by the road or when beside a vehicle window / train door.
  • Avoid wearing obvious jewelry which can be easily ripped off.

Other protection measures:

  • Leave valuables in your hotel / hostel / apartment safe secured with hotel safety tools.
  • Get a good travel insurance (e.g. World Nomads, trusted by Lonely Planet and National Geographic – check our review) which covers loss of valuables.

 

2. Quack doctors

Image source: YouTube – News7 Tamil

 

How it works:

In India, the number of qualified doctors is the same as unqualified ones, meaning there is a 50% chance of getting a quack doctor.

Of course chances are lowered around bigger cities with better rule of law, but it pays to do your own research before consulting a doctor / going to the clinic.

 

What to do:

Do your research and seek help only from reputable places – online travel forums or with your hotel / hostel staff.

 

3. Unofficial SIM card sellers

Image source: scamdesk.com

 

How it works:

I know, getting a SIM card from the official offices can be a huge hassle.

However, buying from unofficial sources will most likely get you a defunct or inactive one.

 

What to do:

Only buy from these sources:

  • Direct from company / official counters.
  • Licensed retailers.
  • Your hotel / hostel if such a service is provided.
  • Day tours platforms like Viator (largest globally and in India).

 

4. Paying before and after

 

How it works:

There have been reports, especially of hotels, where they collect payment before your stay and demand payment again after your stay / service.

They insist that you have not paid initially.

 

What to do:

First, only book established, reputable hotels from legitimate platforms like:

  • Agoda: leader in Asia with the best selection and rates here generally.
  • HomeStay: if you are up for gaining genuine insights of India by staying with a local host!

To avoid potential trouble, insist on getting a receipt payment.

 

5. Tampered food and drinks

 

How it works:

There are many ways food and drinks can be tampered with.

For instance, food and drinks can be drugged, which have been reported on long haul travel / transport or in bars.

Drinks such as bottled water can also be refilled with tap water with the cap taped back on.

 

What to do:

Do not accept food from strangers and always inspect your food or drink before consumption.

 

6. Providing wrong bill and not rectifying service charge

Indian buffet

Indian buffet

 

How it works:

This is a simple and lucratively easy scam for service providers (restaurants / hotels, etc) to execute as long as you do not pay attention.

When you ask for your bill, one will be provided with extra items which you did not order. If you did not spot it, you will end up paying more.

If you spot it, a new bill will be provided. However, the service charge (15%) and luxury charge (>10%) if applicable may not change!

That may or may not be significant depending on the amount spent, but it still pays to scrutinize your bills in India.

 

What to do:

Check all line items on your bills and ask if unsure.

 

7. Currency switcheroo / counterfeit bills

Image source: indiascup.com

 

How it works:

This happens when a large number of notes changes hands, be it while changing money or for a product or service.

This sleight of hand trick is expertly carried out by many scammers while counting your notes in front of you.

He or an accomplice may cause a distraction and he then slips a few notes into his laps / drop it onto the floor and then demand you top up the shortfall.

Besides making the money “disappear”, a large note (e.g. 1000 Rupees) can also be easily swapped with a small note (e.g. 100 Rupees).

In the past, before demonetization, a common scam was for scammers to swap a large note with a counterfeit one. They then pass it back to you and ask for a new one.

 

What to do:

When handing over cash, make it clear how much there is (for instance, count the notes out loud).

Watch the shopkeeper carefully.

 

8. Giving the wrong change

 

How it works:

An innocent mistake, or is it?

 

What to do:

Always count your change.

 

9. Copycat locations

 

How it works:

This is a scam that is commonplace in Vietnam as well.

If there is a place that has been popular with tourists, be it a place of attraction, shop, service provider or a hotel, there will be copycats with a very similar name but a much worse product or service.

These copycats work in cahoots with taxi drivers or even unofficial “tour guides” at places of attractions to bring you to them.

 

What to do:

Always do your research (e.g. TripAdvisor) and know where you are going / what you are getting before going.

 

10. “Damaged” rental equipment

 

How it works:

Another very common scam around the world  (e.g. Mexico, Cambodia, etc), the rental company will claim that you have damaged the equipment which you have rented.

An exorbitant repair fee will then be demanded.

 

What to do:

To prevent this from happening, first engage a reputable tour operator which you can find via:

  • TourRadar: all the best multi-day tours by established names like Intrepid Travel, G Adventures, Trafalgar, etc can be found here with best price guarantee.
  • Viator: largest platform of day tours globally and in India with low price guarantee.
  • Your hotel / hostel affiliated tours: reliable but generally not the best or cheapest.

Before the activity starts, inspect your equipment thoroughly, raise any issues and take multiple photos before using it.

 

11. Donation scam

 

How it works:

There are these donation boxes which you see at religious places, and it’s difficult to tell if they are really legitimate.

 

What to do:

If you must donate, ask for licenses or read the official rules and regulations.

 

12. Luggage helpers at airport

Image source: hindustantimes.com

 

How it works:

This happens everywhere in the world.

Watch out for anyone who offers a trolley or a helping hand at carrying your luggage, as he will ask for a tip after helping.

That is if you are lucky and he has not already ran off with your bag.

 

What to do:

Decline, unless you really need help.

We recommend concealing your valuables in a money belt or hidden pouch and in an anti-theft bag that you can keep close to you, rather than in a large luggage.

 

D. KEY SAFETY ISSUES

This is not a fear mongering exercise, as most visits are trouble free as long as you exercise some common sense.

However, it is always better to be safe than sorry.

Information below has been compiled from:

                                                     

1. Violent crime, hazards, hotspots, terrorism, civil unrest

Image source: smartraveller.gov.au

 

How it works:

A brief summary:

  • Violent crime: uncommon but rising. Females travelling alone should watch out for sexual harassment.
  • Hazards: landmines along India – Pakistan border, in states of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Punjab.
  • Hotspots:
    • Jammu and Kashmir: potential for terrorist acts and violent public unrest.
    • India – Pakistan border: strong military presence on both sides.
    • Northeastern states: violence by ethnic insurgent groups.
    • East central and southern India: Maoist extremist groups (Naxalites) are active here.
  • Terrorism: Islamist groups such as Harkat-ul-Jihad-i-Islami, Harakat ul-Mujahidin, Indian Mujahideen, Jaish-e-Mohammed, and Lashkar-e Tayyiba do operate here.
  • Civil unrest: demonstrations and general strikes are frequent, can turn violent. Inter-caste and inter-religion tensions can also lead to violence and disruptions.

 

What to do:

Stay alert, avoid secluded areas, travelling alone at night, hiking alone, and don’t look like an easy victim.

Monitor local media in case of any terrorist threats, and avoid the danger zones and demonstrations.

Areas to avoid include:

  • Jammu & Kashmir (except Eastern Ladakh): particularly the Line of Control and tourist destinations in Kashmir Valley.
  • India – Pakistan border: within 10 km.
  • Northeastern states: Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Tripura, Manipur.
  • East central and southern India: rural areas of Chhattisgarh, Jharkand, Odisha, along the border with Andra Pradesh and in remote parts of Bihar and West Bengal.

As for tips on protecting oneself from sexual assaults, check out this video here:

 

2. Medical care

Image source: Wikimedia – Nichalp

 

How it works:

Quality of medical care varies greatly.

Quality is reasonable in major population centers, but limited or even unavailable outside.

Diseases to vaccinate against / watch out for include:

  • Insect borne diseases: chikunganya, dengue, zika, Japanese encephalitis, leishmaniasis, malaria, filariasis.
  • Food and water borne diseases: travellers’ diarrhoea, hepatitis, typhoid, cholera, polio, meningitis, diphtheria.
  • Animal borne diseases: avian influenza, rabies.
  • Human borne diseases: tuberculosis, HIV.
  • Others: air pollution during winter months of October – February (e.g. in Delhi and some other Indian cities).

 

What to do:

If you can’t afford travel insurance (e.g. World Nomads – our review), you can’t afford to travel, as:

  • Emergency health services can cost a bomb.
  • Insurance providers can make complex logistical arrangements to get you the best medical treatment fast.

Vaccinations to consider:

  • All travellers: measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, flu shot.
  • Most travellers: Hepatitis A, typhoid.
  • Some travellers: Hepatitis B, Japanese Encephalitis (if visiting rural areas), cholera, rabies (outdoor activities, activities involving animals), malaria.

Prevent insect bites:

  • Protective clothing.
  • Insect repellents.
  • Insecticide treated bed / cot nets.
  • Plug-in insecticides.
  • Avoid wooded and bushy areas with high grass.

Food safety:

  • Practise safe hygiene such as washing hands with soap.
  • Only drink bottled water or water that has been boiled.
  • Avoid unpasteurized dairy products, ice cubes, uncooked and undercooked food.

 

3. Natural disasters

 

How it works:

A brief summary:

  • Earthquakes: several parts of the country (particularly north eastern) lie on active fault zones.
  • Rainy season: June to October, causing flooding and rainslides.
  • Cyclones: September to December (east), April to June and September to December (Bay of Bengal).

 

What to do:

Effective preparation and prevention involves staying at the “right” place, travelling at the “right” time and getting travel insurance (e.g. World Nomadsour review) that covers natural disasters.

Check the latest media reportsweather forecasts and sources such as:

Reacting to one:

  • Earthquakes: drop (to hands and knees), cover (head and neck with arms), hold on (to sturdy furniture); expect aftershocks.
  • Cyclones: stay indoors away from windows, do not use electrical appliances / equipment, do not head out and touch debris (more injuries / deaths happen after than during).

 

4. Transport safety

 

How it works:

Driving here is dangerous. In fact, India leads the world for traffic related deaths.

Factors to watch out for:

  • Drivers often run red lights.
  • Roads are poorly maintained with lack of signage.
  • Vehicles travel without lights and lack of street lighting.
  • Heavy traffic and main roads generally only have two lanes.
  • All kinds of users on the road, such as overloaded trucks and buses, pedestrians, livestock, camel carts, horse riders, elephant riders, scooters, cars.

Other safety concerns:

  • Public buses and trains are usually overcrowded and poorly maintained.
  • Boats may not contain safety equipment.

 

What to do:

Make sure your travel insurance (e.g. World Nomadsour review) covers travel accidents.

Driving:

  • Only book via legitimate platforms (e.g. Rentalcars – world’s largest rental car aggregator).
  • Check latest media reports and weather forecast.
  • Stay alert, wear seatbelts, keep doors locked and windows up

Other transportation:

  • To move around, use official taxis or arranged taxis rather than motorbikes.
  • Avoid travelling outside urban centers after dark.

Pedestrians:

  • When crossing the road, check both directions and be very careful.

 

E. GETTING HELP

1. Emergency numbers to call

Image source: .thefrustratedindian.com

 

  • All in one emergency number :112
  • Police: 100
  • Fire: 101
  • Ambulance: 102
  • Disaster management: 108
  • Women’s helpline: 181
  • Air ambulance: +91 9540161344

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3 Comments

  1. Avinash

    To avoid all the taxi / transportation scams, use Uber or Ola app based taxi services. These cabs area available in all major cities. For other towns, check distance using Google maps and agree to a fixed fare before boarding.

    Reply
  2. joe

    These scammers are bring to the western world as they flood in. I’ve confronted them (mainly indians so far) about tiny prices increases at petrol stations. Hardly noticed they go unchecked but when they do it to 100 people its a small profit that goes in their pocket.

    Reply
  3. Pol Hope

    The north -eastern states are perfectly safe for tourists if we stuck to the usual safety norms.The border areas of Nagaland and Manipur may experience its share of strikes but not qualify as violent unrest.

    These are beautiful regions of India which are marred by paranoa stemming from terror and unrest decades ago something that has been successfully controlled by Government and Military. They are currently the safest states to travel in the country and probably one of the best for female travellers .
    Hopefully the reputed travel websites would rectify so that tourists could enjoy the mesmerising beauty of the “seven sisters”.

    Reply

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