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The Price of Being A Foreigner in India

How I Learned to Spot the Scams and Stay Alert

My Tuk-Tuk ride in Jaipur, India. Photo taken by myself-Grace McDonald

My pale skin-tone, shiny blonde hair, and crystal clear blue eyes can be quite a different sight than what many Delhi locals are used to seeing. Due to this fact, no matter my whereabouts, I had attracted the attention of many locals.  

This kind of attention was not always beneficial as it created more opportunities for me to be exposed to new threats. Of course, not everyone you encounter is out to harm or take advantage of you; however, it is important to note that there are folks that just enjoy gaining profit from vulnerable tourists. 

✈️ Foreigner Tax Charge 💸

Sadly, yes, this is like an unspoken rule that a mass majority of street vendors in India oblige by. Foreigners tend to get charged more than what a local would pay. This applies to cab and auto rickshaw (tuk-tuk) fares as well.

Sometimes it can be unavoidable, but in most scenarios, the stall owner or driver will let you bargain.

There are those out there, however, that just want to take advantage of you as a tourist.

Once, I wanted to travel from a local market to the nearest Delhi metro station my destination was a little over a half a mile (nearly .80 km) by an auto rickshaw.

(I always ask the price before I enter a vehicle. This allowed me to leave if need be—a strategy that saved so much time and money!)

He told me I would need to cough up 500rs (rupees) for his service. That is nearly eight U.S. dollars for just a half a mile ride!

In cases like those, I learned that it is best to just part ways and try again. Sometimes it is better to decline and walk away then it is to let that situation escalate to a confrontation or become aggressive (yes, that has happened). 

👊 Forced Purchases 💰

There are quite a lot of scammers out there who wait for tourists to walk by them, and they will forcibly place items onto you and demand further payment.

OK, let me place a little disclaimer here before we go further:

I do not mind paying for an item that has a set price. That is their business policy, and no matter that stall's or shop's success I should respect them as their customer and pay what is rightfully theirs.


when I do not show interest in an item, and one declares that I must pay for a certain service that I did not approve of, that is when the line has been crossed.

Even after insisting your disinterest, they will still demand a pricey charge for whatever item it is that they are trying to push onto you.

This happened to me at the India Gate in New Delhi. A woman had grabbed me by the arm and forcibly stamped a fake henna tattoo onto my palm, even after I repeatedly told her, "No, thanks".

Here's the thing: what I discovered is that saying, "No, thanks," or "No, thank you," is not going to cut it here.

You need to stand firm and really show you're serious by declaring your disinterest with just a firm "NO," and continue on your way without looking back.

Even better, if you want to use some of the local language, you can tell them no in Hindi by just saying, "Nahin."

I can't tell you how many times this has saved me. They will immediately be shocked by your word choice, giving you a chance to get away. 

At the End of the Day, You Are in India!

National Flag of India with the Ashoka Chakra in the center. Source: UX Design Wallpaper India

A country with a population over 1.3 billion.

A nation that such a diverse geographical design from the Himalayan peaks to Indian Ocean coastline.

It is important to stay sharp and observe your surroundings to keep yourself safe and accountable, but you must also remember where you are and make sure to not let the days pass you by!

Enrich yourself in a culture that has history that will take you back five millennia. You'll be so mesmerized by this country's majestic attributes that no faulty mishap or encounter will ever make you regret this as your travel destination of choice. 

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