Asia Lifestyle

Cultural Do’s & Don’ts in India: Scams to Avoid!

Indian Holy Man, Hindu.
Written by Town & Tourist

India is a Magical place full of rich culture, history and diversity. However, it can also be a big culture shock to people from the west especially to those who are naive. I know many friends whom the culture shock and lifestyle differences has caused them to offend, get ill, scammed and even arrested!

So to help avoid any of these embarrassing mistakes and potential upsets. We have put together a powerful and extensive list of the Do’s and Don’ts you must be aware of when traveling in India.

This is to ensure you follow the necessary etiquette and get the most out of your trip! It is a bucket list experience to see the great parts of India…but to get the most out of your trip  there are some things to Do and some to Don’t Do without upsetting the locals.

Contents: 

  • Part 1: Cultural Don’ts while in India.

  • Part 2: Cultural Do’s while in India.

  • Part 3: Indian Food & Drink (Do’s and Don’ts) 

  • Part 4: Solo Female Do’s and Don’ts. 

  • Part 5: Scams to Avoid in India.

Part 1: Cultural Don’ts While in India.

1. Don’t – Wear Revealing or Tight Clothing in India.

Indians dress very conservatively with large parts of their body covered. This is especially true in the countryside areas, where the style is more traditional. A good rule of thumb is to keep your legs covered, so no short dresses, skirts, or shorts! Also avoid wearing strapless tops anywhere.

If you do wear a spaghetti strap top like this, wear scarf or shawl over it to blend in more. On the beaches of Goa it’s fine but not as you enter more traditional and populated areas then it’s best to cover up to avoid unwanted attention, a common perception in India is that western  women are promiscuous!

So dressing more conservative, can help you get more respect if your a woman. In addition, looking like a tourist is not just culturally offensive to some, it makes you a prime target for scammers and theft.

Another important place to remember this is in Temples! Where you must keep covered up and follow temple etiquette.

Do's and Don'ts What to wear in India -

Photo by Brenna Holeman, author of the Batteredsuitcase.com A great travel blog.

2. Don’t – Wear Black Clothes when visiting an Indian Jain Temple.

It is offensive to wear black clothes, leather clothing or bring any other leather articles such as handbags, belts, shoes and even camera cases, into Hindu and Jain Temples. It is actually forbidden! (Indians consider the Cow Sacred…just as a heads up).

If you have something like this and didn’t realise it’s best to leave it in a safe place outside or on your tour bus.

Do's and Don'ts temples in India

The temples and architecture in India is fascinating and beautiful!

3. Don’t – Take a Photo of the Deity (Gods) in an Indian temple

Normally this is prohibited.

Do's and Don'ts Elephant God India Vishnu.

Hindu Elephant God Vishnu, at a temple in India.

4. Don’t – Enter a temple, other religious area, or home with your shoes on.

This is true for other religious areas aswell such as, a Gurudwara or Dargah. Fun Fact: A Gurudwara is a means “door to the guru” and  is a place of assembly and worship for Sikhs. Fun Fact: A Dargah is a Shrine built over the grave of a religious figure or saint. Shoes are also sometimes removed before entering certain shops.

If you spot shoes at an entrance, then it probably makes sense to take yours of aswell. Some Indians do where a certain pair of “indoor shoes” while in their home, you make look at this similar to “slippers” which are worn in western households. Same rules apply, these are never normally worn outside.

5. Don’t – Drink Alcohol near temple areas.

You might think this is an obvious one, but I saw a group of Aussie tourists, with a 6 pack of beers just outside one highly religious temple!

6. Don’t – Encourage Beggars while in India.

Giving money to beggars or excessive tips to workers can leave you lots of unwanted attention/harassment and make you more of a target for thieves and scammers. If you really want to help your best bet is through the appropriate approved charities, or perhaps some volunteer work.

 Do's and Don'ts, Streets in India are common for beggars.

Streets in India are common for beggars.

7. Don’t – Use your left hand to pick up objects or eat.

Sorry lefties but a cultural faux pas in India and considered bad luck is using your left hand to pass objects or eat. Always use your right hand. This is true for many asian cultures from Thailand, Cambodia and even Mongolia!

For more info on cultural do’s and don’ts in Thailand check out other great article.

Fun Fact: Lots of Indians also consider the left hand to be used for going to the bathroom, so you can see how eating with it would look pretty disgusting to them!

8. Don’t – Shake hands with Ladies while in India.

This is only acceptable if they offer first. One should cover his/her head with a cloth while in a Gurudwara or Dargah. Parikrama or walking around the sanctum sanctorum should always be in clockwise direction. Take only as much as you can eat, do not leave anything uneaten over the dish.

9. Don’t – Smoke in Public Places, or closed Public transport (Bus)

Do's and Don'ts Indian school bus, with kids. -

This school bus here in India is actually not as busy as many others.

10. Don’t Point Your toes or Finger at People in India.

In many asian cultures feet are considered to be dirty and the most un holy part of the body.  Thus, it’s important to avoid pointing your feet at people , having your feet up or touching people or objects such as books with your feet. This is common also in Thailand and Cambodian cultures.

If you do this by accident make sure you apologise straight away. Indians will often touch their head or eyes as a sign of apology.  A contrast to this is some Indians bend down and touch an elders persons feet as a sign of deep respect. If you need to point at someone use your thumb or whole hand.

11. Don’t – Photograph women without permission.

12. Don’t – Show Affection in Public while in India.

India is very conservative when it comes to showing affection in public especially in the older generation. With everything from holding your partners hand, kissing and even hugging sometimes considered obscene!

Moral policing can occur and although unlikely that you will be arrested it’s best to avoid anything considered as obscene. Fun Fact: A funny joke among many westerners in India is its ok to “Piss in Public but not kiss in Public”

13. Don’t – Judge the Whole of India

India is a very diverse place with massive culture variations prevalent between different cities and states.

Some places are more traditional then others and some people find offensive more than others. So try not to be too judgmental on a whole country from one encounter. Keep an open mind.

14. Don’t – Leave your valuables, passports, cash etc in your hotel room.

Like the great investor warren buffet said,” diversify your portfolio”.  Keep your cash in different bags and pockets.  I also recommend getting yourself a hidden travel belt or wallet, this is a great way to avoid pickpockets and scammers.

15. Don’t – Directly Decline a request or invite.

In western society we are often taught that saying “No” upfront is great as your not giving the other person false expectations.

However, in Indian culture it’s the opposite.  To them this can seem disrespectful and make them look bad especially in front of other people. An alternative option is to adopt the Indian method. By saying a phrase like “Maybe” , “I’ll try” or “I’ll see what I can do”.

16. Don’t – get angry, especially in public.

There is a big thing in India and many asian cultures of “saving face”, try not to show anger or frustration.

17.  Don’t – Smell flowers in a shop or a Indian temple.

18. Don’t –  Be too Polite in India.

In western culture “please” and “thank you” are the bread and butter of good manners. However, in India, these phrases can often seem unnecessary or overused or even overkill.  The rule of thumb is more manners is used the less you know someone.

In Hind culture , there are three degrees of formality i) intimate, ii) familiar or iii) polite. The word “please” or in Hindi (Kripya) is used infrequently as it implies doing a favour and creates unnecessary formalities and an actual separation in the relationship. “Thanks” should be reserved for people whom you aren’t familiar with, waiters, shop assistants etc.

Whereas if someone has really helped you out many times and you are more familiar with, using excessive manners or praise might seem overkill.  A great example of this is imagine if your invited on a homestay or around someones house for dinner, try not to say “Thanks for having me here and cooking”, it is better to say. “I really liked the food and enjoyed the time with you”.

Fun Fact: Being overly polite in India can also be a sign of weakness, especially if someone is trying to scam or exploit you. If your traveling and getting hassled by touts or vendors, don’t say “no thank you” instead be more assertive, stern and forceful.

19. Don’t – Give someone an expensive gift.

This can seem overkill and will attract unwanted attention From others.

20. Don’t – Book transportation, or travel tickets from unauthorised dealers.

The best way to do this is to contact a reputable tour operator for peace of mind.

21. Don’t – Buy Shahtoosh Shawls, in India.

Buying/selling Shahtoosh shawls is a crime! A Shahtoosh is a specific kind of shawl, which is woven with the down hair of Tibetan antelope (chiru), by the craftsmen and women of the Kashmir region.

It is estimated that 20,000 chirus are are slaughtered annually to meet the demand of the shahtoosh trade.  The Shahtoosh shawl is now a banned item with possession and sale being illegal in most countries for the Chiru is an endangered species under CITES.

However, it is believed by many that the weaving of Shahtoosh shawls continues in secret in Kashmir, India due to high demand by westerners. Fun Fact: Legends say a shahtoosh is woven from such fine wool, it can pass through a ring. The rich often used this a status symbol.

Do's and Don'ts Tibetan antelope killed for shahtoosh fur

The majestic and endangered Tibetan antelope killed for shahtoosh fur. Popular with western, chinese and even Pakistani tourists. Photo by Todayonline.com

22. Don’t –  Be shy when asking a question in India.

Be confident and assertive, not overly polite. # Use licensed guides for sightseeing.

23. Don’t – Checkout of the hotel in hurry.

I have heard many stories from friends who have checked out in some hotels quick and been unreasonably charged many extras, as they didn’t have time to check.

24. Don’t – Think Indians will be Punctual.

In western culture it is considered to be rude to be late, and you should always call ahead. However, in India there is a funny joke some say “Indian Standard time” and for others it’s “Indian Stretchable time”. Always overestimate how long it will take for someone to arrive, if they say 30 minutes it could mean one hour.

25. Don’t – Visit areas which encourage social injustice and inhuman practices

For example, a sati temple.

26. Don’t – Tip too high or when not needed.

Trust me, it spreads like wildfire and you will have groups of people waiting outside when you arrive.

27. Don’t – Be Offended by Direct Intrusive Questions by Indians.

In India, privacy of ones life is not high up on their list. They are naturally inquisitive people and may ask you many intimate and direct questions, “how much do you earn?” etc. In western culture, we would find this a little intrusive, but in India, it is considered normal.

In fact, the best thing to do is also ask them the same questions back, they will feel honoured that you have taken an interest in them. If you don’t feel comfortable with these questions just be vague or even lie, its better to save face and you will seem more on an open person.

28.  Don’t – Ignore Your Body Language while in India.

If your a woman be aware of indirectly touching a man on the arm when greeting or shaking hands. This can be considered a more intimate gesture if coming from a woman. For men, only shake hands if the woman reaches out first. A great greeting is just a simple “Namaste” with both palms together in front of the chest.

29.  Don’t – Expect People to give you Personal Space or Que.

We have all seen the pictures of Indian public transport, hundreds of people packed together like sardines and even on the roof. As a brit, I’m used to a form of this on the tube, when I used to work in London, in the city!

However, one thing I wasn’t used to was the like of a proper question system (Brits love to queue!). In India, its more a mob of people, a queue forms and then it descends into chaos! To remedy this, people tend to stand so close together so they are touching and no one can push in. This can feel a little weird but you it’s necessary evil.

Part 2: Cultural Do’s while in India.

30. Do – Follow Temple Etiquette in India.

As we spoke of earlier, dress appropriately, cover head if possible with a scarf and  try not to photograph unless they give you permission. Donations can be made at the donation counters, make sure you get the receipt duly signed.

31. Do – Always dispose of your rubbish properly.

This should be true for where ever you are in the world, but it’s especially necessary if exploring deserts, the Himalayas or temples.

32. Do – Use a strong suitcase with a secure padlock.

Mishandling at airports is very common, don’t think your suitcase won’t be thrown about because it probably will. My favourite case for traveling, is one that is very secure, lightweight and easy to manoeuvre.  Or alternatively a durable backpack is a lifesaver! Avoid, the issue with “steps” which isan’t fun with a suitcase!

33. Do – Buy at genuine shops and vendors in India.

Legal and transparent places at the best places to shop to avoid getting scams. Also, improve your haggling skills as it’s part of the culture and necessary. See my top haggling strategy to avoid offence, in my article on Cambodia Do’s and Don’ts . It’s a similar process.

Do's and Don'ts Vibrant Indian markets, culture.

Indian has many vibrant markets, don’t be afraid to haggle while there.

34. Do –  Get inoculated against Yellow Fever.

Especially if coming through infected regions. For a full list on the injections you need check out the Center for Disease control and protection.

35.  Do – Get yourself covered with travel insurance

For personal belonging theft and medical insurance, it’s definitely worth it for peace of mind.

36. Do – Check all your travel documents are up to date with emergency phones numbers.

Also, store all local Indian emergency numbers in your cell phone, for peace of mind.

37. Do – Have Sense of humor and be Patient.

38. Do – Make friends with the local Indians.

The Indian people are some of the friendliest in the world.

The Indian people are some of the friendliest in the world.

39. Do – While changing money, insist on getting a certificate.

40. Do – Bring a small gift if you stay at a home.

41. Do – Have a VALID Indian VISA!

Practically every foreign national requires VISA to enter India. So don’t listen to some travel agents who tell you differently. For Indian Visas, check out their government website. For E Visas, check out this official  link.

 42. Do – Wear Traditional Indian clothes for special events.

43. Do – Bring enough supply of your prescription medicine if needed.

Remember also to carry a doctor’s certificate along with you to avoid possible issues with customs at the airport in India. For

 44. Do –  Carry physical maps of the places in India, as signboards are often absent.

If you sign up to our email list and make a request, we can send you any maps you need as an ebook, so you can print it.

45. Do – Drink Bottled Mineral Water.

Check the bottle is sealed before purchasing it. This is your best bet to avoid various contaminated-water related ailments.

46. Do – Brush your teeth with bottled water!

Yes even if staying in hotel, brush your teeth with bottled water.

47. Do – Be aware of Indian Bank and office opening hours.

Indian banks tend to operate from Monday to Friday between 10.00 hours to 15.30 hours.  Indian Government and administrative offices tend to operate between 09.30 to 17.00 hours on weekdays. But best to check locally to confirm your specific bank.

48. Do – Discuss Positive things about the Hindu religion.

Religion is a very sensitive issue in India so it’s best to avoid, criticising and speak of parts you do like.

Indian culture is fascinating with many colorful outfits,

Indian culture is fascinating with many colorful outfits and traditions.

49. Do – Learn the Famous Indian “Head wobble”

This is a common, method across the culture of communicating.

50. Do – Book India hotels & transport with a reputable company.

I always use, HOTEL LOOK as they compare thousands of hotel prices, are reliable and have a great selection in India.

Part 3: 15 Food Tips to avoid getting ill in India

So you wan’t to avoid the infamous  “Delhi Belly”, then check out these top tips!

1. Do – Eat Freshly cooked food only.

Be aware that a lot of food and water is contaminated.

2. Do – Drink only Bottled and Sealed Mineral Water.

Check the seal before drinking and even brush your teeth with bottled water!

3. Do- Try to stay away from eating at unofficial street food vendors.

4. Do – Stay away from buffet’s even if your in a nice hotel.

This food could be contaminated due to over exposure.

5. Don’t – eat any food offered to you on trains or while traveling in India.

At best it could be contaminated, at worse it could have sleeping pills in it. (Best bet is to reserve first class while traveling on trains.

6. Do – Always wash your hands regularly and use a hand sanitiser.

7. Do – Be Aware of how spicy the Indian food is!

It is well know, that Indian food culture uses a vast array of exotic spices and blends. I would avoid ordering large portions without first confirming with the waiter how spicy it is and even try a small sample. Another option is to ask for “Jain Vegetarian” food, this less spicy and more refined. To ease the burning get some plain rice and bread with your meal.

Spicy Food Markets in India. Do's and Don'ts

Spicy Food Markets in India.

8. Don’t – eat anything uncooked such as salads or juices .

Cooking kills most bacteria and uncooked food will likely be washed with contaminated water.

9. Do – Try Probiotics and Charcoal.

Probiotics are natural wonders and actually boost the good bacteria in your stomach, help ease your digestion and improve your immunity.

Definitely bring these with you before traveling to India. Build up your immunity before you come to avoid spoiling your trip.  Bring Charcoal tablets with you as a precaution, in case you do fall foul to “Dehli Belly”. They are great are stopping diarrhoea and sickness. As it rapidly absorbs the pathogens and toxins which are causing the issue.

10. Do – Try not to over eat while in India.

Eating till your busting is extremely popular in. Western cultures, especially in the U.S. However, when traveling in India be aware it may weaken your digestive system and lower your natural immunity,  this will make you an easy target for bacteria

Fish Market India - Do's and Don'ts while in India.

Fish Market in India

11. Do – Eat only from respectable clean restaurants

If they are busy that is usually a good sign.

12. Do – Try eating with your hands!

This is so counter intuitive to most people from western culture, who are always told “don’t eat with your hands it’s dirty” . However, in India it’s quite the opposite apart from being part of the culture, you will find that your hands will be cleaner than any other utilisels provided. Use hand Sanitiser and wash before eating to ensure this.

13. Don’t – Eat too fast if eating in a local Indians home.

A homestay in India is a fantastic experience and I have had some of the most tasty food there before. But if you eat too fast they will keep pilling more on your plate, which can little to a very awkward situation.

14. India is great if your a Vegetarian or Vegan!

India has some of the lowest meat consumption rates in the entire world. In Hindu religions the cow is considered sacred so beef is banned in some places such as Maharashtra.

Also, due to the lack of commonality when it comes to meat you will find most meat not prepared and stored safely. It is often left in warm conditions, easily accessible by flies and bugs! So if you can, it might be wise to be a vegetarian for your trip to India.

Do's and Don'ts India, Indian Food spices and herbs

Indian Food has many tasty blends and flavors to try while traveling.

15. Do – Stay in a good hotel while in India.

If you really wan’t safe, delicious food. 4 or 5 stars are usually good options.  Here are some highly regarded options below with great reviews. Here are a few of my favourites which are 4-5 star, with great service and competitive prices.

New Delhi:

Mumbai:

For other great hotel options use our useful hotel look tool below, which compares thousands of hotels from booking, Expedia, Kayak and other providers.

Part 4: 15 Do’s and Don’ts for a Solo Female traveling in India.

Around 10 years, India was not considered any less safe for a woman then other parts of the world. However, recent media attention and shocking news stories has brought some terrible treatment of women to light.

For example, in 2012 there was a gang rape in Dehli of a 23 year old student who got onto the wrong bus at night and was horribly raped and assaulted. After a honourable struggle in hospital she died a couple weeks after due to massive internal injuries. This was a real turning point for worlds view of India, and suddenly the conservation of the safety of women became more prevalent.

However, despite situations like this which are popularised in the media. You should be aware that India is still generally safe for women and a great place to travel if you use your COMMON SENSE and be SENSIBLE. A good place to start is to check out the useful tips below.

Do's and Don'ts India Temple

Sarah, One of our town and tourist Solo backpackers heading to a temple in India.

1. Do – Be Assertive, not too polite!

Like I mentioned earlier in the Do’s and Don’ts section. Being overly polite can be seen as a sign of weakness. So if there is something you don’t like or are being harassed be assertive and confident.  A great tip is to say  “JYAO,” loudly, which means “go” in Hindi.

2. Do –  Ignore staring and any unwanted attention.

This best way I have found to act in these situations is to be cold and focussed on what you are doing! If you are feeling uncomfortable, move away from the situation. “Social Shaming” also works really well in India, if you speak up loudly many locals with support you and tell the other person to go away.

3. Do – Dress Conservatively and even try wearing Indian clothes!

Like I mentioned, earlier tight revealing clothing is a big no no. However, apart from this it’s nice to keep an open mind and even try some local Indian clothes, especially at events or festivals.

Apart from fitting in better with the culture, you will find Indian clothes are low cost, light, comfortable and perfect for the environment. One of my favourite outfits is a Punjabi Suit or three piece salwar Kameez.

I even know some women who travel India in full Indian. Dress and tell people that they are married to an Indian man, in Delhi. This helps to give them a feeling of protection.

4. Don’t – be overly friendly to men in India.

This is especially true of working class men, whom are generally less educated. Being overly friendly can give of the wrong signals.

5. Do – Bring you Cell Phone and get a local Indian sim.

Bring your cell phone and get a local Indian SIM card. It is very cheap for texts, data and calls in India so it’s definitely worth it. Another option is to buy a cheap throwaway phone while in India just to use while traveling for calls, texts and emergencies.

Something you should be aware of is most of the time you will require a copy of your passport and Indian visa to purchase a phone or sim from a reputable store. Another top tip is to get a power bank so it’s always charged.

6. Don’t – accept offers of visiting anyone’s home, unless you are very confident of the person.

7. Do – Avoid traveling in deserted places very late at night, as a solo woman.

8. Do – Carry extra photocopies of your Indian visa and passport

9. Don’t – act confused, act confident always and as if you know the area.

Even if you don’t confidently ask for directions from reputable tourism office or hotel.

10. Do – Be social with other travellers.

Getting to know other travellers while traveling is great for social life, safety and info. It is very easy at hostels especially in places like Goa, Manali, Rishikesh, Pushkar and Varkala Beach.

11. Do – Learn some basic Hindi

While traveling to northern India, basic Hindi phrases can really help you out. Here are some of the most useful phrases below:

Hello – Namaste or Pranam Hello Amit – Namaste Amit ji (ji at the end of the name can be used to show respect)

  • Me – Mai
  • Mine MeraThis is mine
  • Ye mera haiWho are you
  •  I am from USA – Mai USA se hum

12. Do – Always lock your luggage under your berth while on a train.

13. Do – Request to be seated or even find other women travellers while on a train.

Do's and Don'ts India Hindu Holy man asleep.

I did have many great conversations when I was stuck next to this holy man on a train…he was pretty sleepy and looked like he lived on the train!

14. Do – Explore but stay ON the tourist trails when traveling India for the first time.

Try out popular tours such as Golden Triangle; Delhi, Agra, Jaipur etc. For more info on Northern India tours check out our great article on the best north Indian tour operators. 

15. Do – Book Reputable High quality hotels or consider a group tour.

Part 5: Top Scams to Avoid in India. (Do’s and Don’ts.)

1. Baby Begging Scams. – Milk Run!

Trust me, it ’s heart wrenching to see a baby asleep in a mothers arms. However, these babies are sometimes not even theirs and even sedated. The milk run scam is popular, in many parts of Asia.

The premises is this, a beggar will come up to you and ask you to buy milk to feed the baby. Of course you see nothing wrong with this as it’s only milk. However, the mother will direct you to a shop which is also in on the scam.

The milk is over priced and after you leave the beggar will return to the shop some money back and split the proceeds with the shopkeeper.  Another variation of this is kids asking for “pens for school”.

Do's and Don'ts India- Indian Children

Indian Children can be really cute, but watch out for scams.

2. Sorry sir, the shops Closed or train cancelled.

This is a popular scam and very common all over India, especially around major tourist spots.At New Delhi Railway Station, you may be approached by someone who tells you your train has been cancelled. Then you a ferried into a nearby car and forced to pay an extortionate rate.

Another variation of this, is when you head for a shop, attraction or tourist bureau. You will often be told that it is “closed” so the person offers to take you to an even better attraction!  

When taking photos or certain people or animals (like cows that are dressed up or elephants on the street), someone nearby is expecting a tip. It isn’t a law or anything, but if you don’t pay expect to be yelled at! ‘s

3. Taxi Meters – Running fast.

The vast majority of taxi and rickshaw drivers are honest, however some has their meters altered to run faster than normal!

Keep an eye on the meter and if you notice it running faster then normal suggest it is broken and give him an opportunity to fix it or ask to stop and get in another taxi. Another version of this is when a taxi driver says, “sorry the meter is broken”, they then offer an extortionate price.

How to Avoid this? – Do’s

Your best bet is to compare other prices and ask to go by the meter of a different taxi. If they refuse offer to go the police station to resolve the issue, (this scare tactic usually works wonders)  I always ask up front an approximate price, and then also ask to use the meter to avoid any surprises.

In Bombay now, it’s illegal not to use a meter now (although many near tourist spots will never turn it on for you). Like I said a meter is the best but another place where it can be difficult to get them turn it on is near an airport.

When at a airport, you best bet is to head to government approved stands, where you can buy prepaid tickets. A good one is MERU cabs. Always confirm with your GPS to get the fastest route.

Do's and Don'ts Tuk tuk's India

Tuk tuk’s are common in India and many parts of asia.

4. Paid Blessings and fake Indian gurus.

Be aware of fake holy men or “Sadhus” in Hindu. They will offer you blessings by putting a red thread on your wrist. They then will demand lots of money. This is common in religious places such as Pushkar and Varanasi.

This can also be common with smarter fake holy men, coming up and asking for donations. Don’t fall foul to this. I true holy man with never approach you on the street in this way. They will be at a temple and have a passive collection pot where you can donate if you wish to.

 India Do's and Don'ts - holy men

Guru’s and holy men in India are common especially in temples.

5. Watch out for extra drink charges.

Its an inevitable  that you may be at a bar and things are getting lively, drinks are flowing then the bill comes. For some reason, there is an extra 5 expensive drinks on there, which you didn’t order. You should always check the bill and confront the assertively if it is not correct. Then may then say “Sorry, that must have been the other table”.

6. Pushkar Lake Scam.

This is a common one, where a holy man will offer to do a ceremony and bless your friends or family. At the start he will agree, to Rs 100. Then after he will stay sorry I think you misunderstood its 100 rupees per person and if you refuse. He will offer to curse your whole family!

7. Fake Ticket Offices in India.

Keep an eye out for these. Especially in Delhi.

8. Importing Indian Gemstone scam without taxes.

This is a common scam in Jaipurand and Agra, popular spots for gemstones. It is even happening in Goa or Rishikesh, these days. The scam goes like this, a gemstone dealer will approach you offering to sell you some gemstones which you can export under his duty free license. Then he will also offer to give you details of a partner in another country whom will pay double. Of course the whole thing is fictitious and you will be stuck with some worthless gems. There are even some instances of scammers posing as fellow travellers, and offering the same scam…so be careful. Don’t fall for any of these scams or give out your credit card details.

9. Watch out for “sleight of hand” when making purchases.

Be careful when making purchases from a shop with large notes such as 2000 rupees. When you hand the note over the person will inform you that its fake and hand it you back. In the mean time however, they have switched it for a fake note.

Another variation of this is where you will hand money over and the shop keeper will pretend to count the notes and show you have given him less. But really, he has used “sleight of hand” like a magician to hide notes.

To avoid this always be aware of how much your giving them and even count it out before giving it to them. If it does happen be assertive and demand the note back, they usually it can magically reappear.

10. Watch out for “fake” police fines.

While driving in a taxi, if the police stops just your car and informs you that must pay a road fee, don’t believe them. The taxi driver may be a good guy and tell them no, however most the time he is aware of the scam.

11. Indian Taxi driver, doesn’t know where your hotel is.

This scam has nearly happened to me before. I arrived at Delhi airport of a late flight and just wanted to put my head down and get some sleep.

After hoping in a taxi, part way through the drive he said I can’t find the hotel and offered to take me another hotel close by which had space. But luckily, I had a little bit of international data on my phone, so I fired the map up and informed him it was around the corner. Suddenly he realised and acted surprised.

Do's and Don'ts India Zig Zag Road, Zuluk, Dzuluk India.

Given a chance some taxi drivers in india, will take you on some big detours. This photo was taken at Three level Zig Zag Road in Zuluk, india. Part of the famous silk road route.

Fun Fact: Three Level Zigzag road one of the most dizzying roads in the world. Located in the Sikkim Indian state, nestled in the Himalayan mountains, the road has over 100 hairpin turns in just a 30km stretch.  It is located near Zuluk or Dzuluk, a small village located in the historic Old Silk Route from Tibet to India.

I have heard other variations of this Indian taxi scam, where the taxi driver will say that hotel is full and offer to take you to a travel agent he knows. If in Delhi and you use a pre paid taxi voucher, don’t give it to the driver until he drops you where you request. He needs this in order to get paid. D

12. Indian SIM Card Scam The SIM card scam: if you buy a SIM while in India, you need to fill out paperwork, give a copy of your passport, and a 2×2 photograph, which is one of the things I’ve told you which paperwork to have handy!

If they don’t ask for all that, they are either giving you a used SIM meaning you’ll get calls all day from rando Indians, or they aren’t even planning on filing your paperwork which means your SIM you just prepaid 500 rupees on will shut off when it isn’t verified.

As a tourist, it might be best to go straight to the main office of Vodafone, Idea, or whatever company you choose. Vodafone is the worst. They turned three of my SIM’s off!

13. Watch out for Damage on Rental Bikes or Cars.

If you rent a bike or car, take photos of any damage and even make a video on your phone. This way you are protected. Some places ask you to leave your passport as a deposit, I would offer a photograph and small cash deposit. Nothing is more valuable than your passport.

Bottom Line while in India:

India can be a fantastic place to travel, if you follow the rules above and don’t fall short to the scams of any unscrupulous characters.

One of my top “Do’s” in India is to head to HOLI Festival, an amazing paint filled extravaganza when the whole country doses each other with colorful paints. Its a really fun experience and great to see some good points about Indian culture.

Do's and Don'ts India Holi Festival (Festival of Colors)

Holi Festival (Festival of Colors) a Popular Hindi Festival 9 Mar 2020 – Tue, 10 Mar 2020

Want to save money and get a high quality hotel in India? Use the hotel look tool below to compare a great selection of thousands of hotels in India.  

Do's and Don'ts India Holi Festival of colors

Holi Festival of colors India.

About the author

Town & Tourist

A travel resource guide that has been carefully crafted and curated by travel bloggers to help you find the best places to travel to in the USA.