Travel scams run the gamut from elaborate and well-orchestrated (think Agra food poisoning) to simple (giving incorrect change back). Here’s a few I’d like to avoid:
There’s poo on your shoe! Some travelers say that this is a rite of passage in India, especially in big cities like Delhi and Mumbai. I think, however, that I can get to know the country quite well without fecal matter on my feet.
Here’s how this one works: the bleary-eyed traveler is walking around a busy, crowded area. Scam Artist #1 (hmmm, maybe we should call him Scam Artist #2) squirts some poo on your shoe.
Scam Artist #2 points it out to you. “Sir! There’s poo on your shoe!” Coincidentally, Scam Artist #2 happens to be equipped with everything needed to clean the poo off your shoe… for a price.
This begs two questions for us. First, what can you do? Not a thing, really. Chalk it up to bad luck, you’ve just been had. Chances are you won’t pay much for your impromptu shoe cleaning, so try to have a sense of humor about it (you have to admit, it is a pretty good trick).
The second question is: how did they get the poo into a tube to begin with? We’re not sure we want the answer to that one.
Those samosas cost how much?! This has to be one of the more outrageous Indian travel scams I’ve heard, in part because of how nervy and blatant it is: a Dutch couple visiting India were recently charged 10,000 rupees—the equivalent of over 200 dollars—for four samosas, the deep-fried pastry-stuffed-with-potato. That’s right, as in the snack.
What shocks us is that the Dutch couple actually coughed up the dough. (Read the full BBC story about the incident).
That reminds me of another food-related scam that can leave your pockets slim: the Taj Mahal (Agra) food poisoning scam. This one is a few years past, but you never know if and when it will resurface. In fact, when I was in India in the summer of 2007, several Indian friends cautioned my travel mates and me not to stay overnight in Agra and advised us to avoid the food and water there.
So, what was the scam? Allegedly, restaurants were serving unwitting tourists bad food. OK, you can get food poisoning anywhere in the world, but it didn’t stop there. In Agra, the restaurants were in cahoots with local doctors who then charged the sick tourists exorbitant fees for necessary medical treatment. The doctors then gave a commission to the restaurant.
Have you ever been scammed while traveling? Have you ever been a victim of the poo on the shoe scam? Share your story here…