How to avoid scams in Pushkar

By |2017-01-10T14:19:27+00:00April 15th, 2014|Destination, India, Scams|20 Comments

Scams in Pushkar, India

The scams in Pushkar can ruin any trip. Most of the scammers locate themselves around Pushkar Lake and other holy places. Avoid the scams in Pushkar by reading up on local tricks and scams before you visit.

Pushkar is often portrayed as a holy city inhabited by holy people; as a place where people come to die and be cremated by the banks of Lake Pushkar. It’s a sacred place for rituals and prayers or at least that’s what they tell you. The harsh reality is that although it might have a spiritual significance, it most of all booms with low-life scammers and hocus holy men.

Sadly, I found out the hard way.

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Scams in Pushkar, India

Scams in Pushkar, India

Scams in Pushkar, India

THE FLOWER PETAL SCAM

I was told to watch out for locals offering me flower petals in Pushkar. It’s a well-known scam where they approach you and give you some petals. Then they demand a ludicrous sum of money and make a scene and potentially involve the police who is also in on the scam, if you refuse to pay up. So, obviously, we wouldn’t touch them with a barge pole! After several dodges, we got to the holy pilgrimage lake and thought we were in the clear.

Little did we know, our problems were only just beginning…

BLESSING SCAMS IN PUSHKAR

When we reached the ghats, we were immediately approached by an elderly man with a turban. In India, it’s not uncommon that strangers approach you, so I didn’t give it much thought. At the beginning he just walked next to us, then he told us that he was a brahmin; the highest of the hindu caste system. When he went on telling us about the lake and asking about our families I didn’t even realize that he’d led me away from Pernille and down to the water. When I did notice, I told him upfront that I wouldn’t pay him any money, but he kept saying that he was a brahmin and that it wasn’t about money.

Naive as I was, I believed him. Also, seen in retrospect, it wasn’t the smartest move to reveal the names of my family. It all just went so fast, and suddenly he wrapped a ribbon around my wrist while giving blessings to my two brothers.

Where I come from, giving blessings to someone’s dear ones is pretty darned personal. So, when he said: “you give me a 1,000 rupees donation for every one of your family members”, I was in shock. How could he pray for my family and in the same breath ask for a donation?!

Scams in Pushkar, India

HOW I GOT AWAY FROM THE SCAMMER

I tried to get past him, but the so-called brahmin stepped in front of me and called over a friend of his. I saw Pernille on the other side of the ghat speaking to someone, but I couldn’t get in contact with her as the bullying friend openly blocked my way. “Pay, or we call the police!” he said in a harsh tone while they pushed me into a corner.

I was scared. I had no intention of involving the police since they could be in on it – and then what would happen! I had 500 rupees in my wallet that I curled up and quickly handed over. While they unfolded it, I ran for the hills… or in this case, Pernille, whom I found in a similar argument with another scammer. I took her hand and we both ran up the stairs and far away from the scammers.

Scams in Pushkar, India

Pernille is forcing a smile

CHEERING UP IS HARD TO DO

After the incident, we were low-spirited and figured that a nice Indian meal could cheer us up. We went to Honey and Spice at Laxmi Market where we ordered a healthy breakfast and ate in silence. When the owner of the restaurant handed us the bill, he said out of the blue: “If you didn’t pay them more than 1,000 rupees, don’t worry. I had a costumer yesterday who gave them 5,000 rupees. Happens all the time.”

I didn’t know whether to be relieved or outraged.

Scams in Pushkar, India

Scams in Pushkar, India
Scams in Pushkar, India

Scams in Pushkar, India

Scams in Pushkar, India

A HARD-LEARNED LESSON

Our mindful eating didn’t really add any zen to our moods and I couldn’t get over the fact that I had let myself get scammed. Had all my years of traveling taught me nothing?

Getting scammed was a blow to my ego and I felt ashamed of what had happened. But this whole thing also taught me that we learn all the time. Just because I’ve dodged my share of scams in the past doesn’t mean I’m immune to them. If anything, I’ve learned to be more alert and never to trust a stranger just because he claims to be religious. It was a hard-learned lesson, but it was well learned.

Have you been scammed on your travels?

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How to avoid scams in Pushkar, India

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20 Comments

  1. Jim September 2, 2014 at 12:55 am - Reply

    Dealing with scammers is something every traveller will have to do at some time or other. I suspect that every miajor tourist destination has more than its share of them. Here’s my Parisian ‘gold’ ring scammers story… http://compleattraveller.blogspot.com.au/2011/01/one-ring-to-scam-us-all.html

    • Miriam September 2, 2014 at 3:45 pm - Reply

      Thanks for sharing your story, Jim! I totally agree with you and so I think it’s important to stay alert at all times when traveling, no matter how experienced a traveler one might be.

  2. Jason September 2, 2014 at 8:07 am - Reply

    I agree with Jim, all of us have to deal with these scams during our travels at some point. It is really disturbing how common they are and especially coming from someone involved with religion or the police force. I was almost robbed by the police or at least I think they were police in Vietnam, here is that story. http://www.jslivingthedream.com/vietnamese-motorbike-scam-almost-got-robbed/
    The good thing is you and your friend got away with your safety and got a reality check so that you are prepared next time. Great post.

    • Miriam September 2, 2014 at 3:53 pm - Reply

      That sounds horrible, Jason. I’ve always thought religious scammers were the worst kind, but I guess they have nothing on the police. I’m glad you got out of it okay! This scam has definitely taught me a lesson and I am much more skeptic now – hopefully it will be my last 🙂

  3. Jim September 3, 2014 at 2:57 am - Reply

    Another City, Another Scam
    This scam took place in New Orleans during my visit there in 2012. Apparently, it is a well known scam in the city, but unfortunately, I had never heard of it.

    While out walking one day I was approached by a local person of doubtful character who complimented me on my boots! I immediately sensed that I was about to be scammed by a panhandler for a dollar or two, but this guy was better than most. He wanted to guess, with absolute certainty “Where you got your boots.” I tried to ignore him, and said there was no way he could know where I got my boots, but he was insistent, so I let him guess, since he was quite persistent, and didn’t seem to be able to take “No” for an answer.

    Sucked in again, Jim!

    Of course, he knew exactly where I “…got my boots.”

    “You got your boots on your feet!” he crowed triumphantly.

    With that, he bent down and smeared some gunk on both boots and then insisted on cleaning them for me – for an ‘donation’ of course. I wasn’t too happy about the scam, but took it in good humor when I realised he wasn’t alone, and that a couple of friends were providing back up for this con man.

    However, my good humor quickly soured when he (and his friends) tried to scam me out of $20 for the so-called ‘shoe cleaning’, I baulked and gave him $9.00 in small bills, which he happily took. I did have a $20 note, but I was not going to give him that if I could help it. I suspect that if I had only given him $5 he would have been just as happy with that, but what the heck.

    I paid because, just like the gold ring scammer in Paris, I should have known better, but despite my Scammer Alert warning system, I still fell for his patter, and for that I needed to pay for my stupidity. I also paid because I had a feeling that his own ‘good humor’ and that of his friends might also have turned sour very quickly, and I was in no position to defend myself against three men.

    Next time – and there will always be a next time – I hope I have the presence of mind and the good sense, to simply ignore the scammer and walk away before they have time to launch into their well rehearsed patter.

    By the way, I was in Paris again just last month, and the ‘Gold Ring Scam’ as I like to call it, is still going strong. This time I was approached by some guy trying to con me while I was visiting the Eiffel Tower, but of course he went away empty handed.

    Finally, if you ever go to Paris, watch out for the young women who claim they are collecting money for institutions providing services for people with disabilities of one sort or other (mostly for the deaf or deaf-mutes). Some of them even pretend to be deaf-mutes themselves, but watch them long enough and you will see them talking together as they go about their lucrative ‘business’.

  4. shobha December 3, 2014 at 1:58 pm - Reply

    Dear Miriam, Sad to read about your incident but i am surprised that how could you got believed on their threatening language ! coz police will never take the side of them. they used the POLICE word just for scaring you and cause i am Indian so wants to give this advise to all travellers “Be Aware from these kind of people specially in religious places of India and if ever you got trapped just contact the police trust me they will help you very seriously if you are not indian traveller ” i have also visited Pushkar with beautiful memories 🙂

    • Miriam December 4, 2014 at 12:07 am - Reply

      Thanks for your input and advice, Shobha. I’m very glad to hear an Indian’s perspective on this! I absolutely agree with you that travelers need to be extra careful around religious places and that goes for all of India btw! Your story is proof that Pushkar is not all bad, so thank you for sharing this with us!

  5. Amir January 9, 2017 at 9:26 am - Reply

    Thank you for sharing this story. I also go to scammed in Pushkar. Half-way through I realized that I have to consider this as an experience for which I paid money. More specifically, a look into what assumptions they held about tourists, as the scammer had assumed I was an atheist Western European. In the end, I paid 150 INR. But still felt like I should have been more alert. Thi said article cheered me up a bit!

    • Miriam January 9, 2017 at 10:57 am - Reply

      I’m sorry to hear about your experience, Amir. You can’t blame yourself when people like that take advantage of you, it’s only on them! I believe we learn through experiences like this so next time we’ll be more alert.

  6. soniya rana August 1, 2017 at 8:34 am - Reply

    hi
    beautiful lady miriam
    i am very glad after reading your post the shocking truth about puskar mela.
    thank you so much .

    • Miriam August 2, 2017 at 5:07 pm - Reply

      You’re welcome, Soniya! Hopefully it will help keep the scammers away!

  7. David from travelscams.org August 13, 2017 at 5:39 pm - Reply

    Great article, India is an extremely diverse country boasting a plethora of sights and sounds rich with culture and heritage. Unfortunately, the country is also home to many tourist targeted scams.
    Do be wary of the fake government approved tourist information centres, milk and pen beggars, begging robbers, student providing free tours in exchange for books, fake products, flower bracelets, paid blessings, picture worthy animal scam, importing duty free gem stone scams and many more!

    • Miriam August 23, 2017 at 10:28 pm - Reply

      Thanks for your input, David. I really liked India, but there are so many scams there so you have to be careful.

  8. Rahul November 23, 2017 at 11:58 am - Reply

    Good to read your post.
    It will help me a lot in my next planned trip to Pushkar.
    Anyone approach you upfront, stay away., regardless of you being Indian or otherwise
    – Rahul.

    • Miriam November 24, 2017 at 9:32 pm - Reply

      I’m glad to hear that, Rahul! Thanks for the advice.

  9. Ben April 15, 2018 at 2:15 pm - Reply

    Just fell victim to this myself a couple days ago. I was insistent that I wouldn’t pay more than a few hundred rupees, but I also didn’t have them cornering me or threatening police. Took off the stupid bracelet later and then got yelled at by another guy when down by the water taking pictures because I won’t give him a donation or go through the ritual.

    Lesson learned, I re-did the bracelet the next day.

    • Miriam April 19, 2018 at 10:23 pm - Reply

      I’m sorry to hear that, Ben. But good for you that you managed to stand your ground!! I know first hand how pushy these people can get, so well done!

  10. Chandan kumar Tiwari October 14, 2018 at 6:07 pm - Reply

    I am indian and i know that scammers are every where at tourism in India. I never ever talk to them. If says anything I ignore and walk away. Better never speak to them. Never ever see or respond them. Just ignore.

    • Miriam November 5, 2018 at 10:32 pm - Reply

      That’s a good strategy! I try to do the same when I see them.

  11. Niraj Bariya November 28, 2018 at 11:28 am - Reply

    Hey Miriam, Sad to hear this ! My native place is just 11 km away from Pushkar city and i have visited this place many times before. I visited this place first time when i was 17 and believe me the locals treated me really bad. Soon i realized that they only approaches and respects the foreign tourists and later my uncle explained that they will scam them sooner or later. It’s not their mistake. Every Indian locals (On tourist destination) thinks that foreign tourists has lots and lots of money and Indian currency is far cheaper so, it’s easy way for them to earn good money quickly.

    Sorry again about your bad experience in India ! Hope you visit this place soon !

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