Goa is a beautiful beach destination with a chill pace and cheap alcohol. But if you’re like me and going there for a vacation, you might be nervous about getting scammed.
The most common tourist scams in Goa are:
- Gem Smuggling Scam
- False Promises at Massage Centers
- Damaged Scooters & Rental Cars
- Personal Rental Car Scam
- No Helmet Fee
- Rigged Beach Games
- Deaf Kids Scam
- Clever Beggar Scams
- Buying Property Scam
- Elephant Photo Scam
- Fake Currency
- Fake Saffron
- Ear Cleaner Scam
- Helpful Taxi Driver Scams
- SIM Card Deals Scam
But by understanding the scams and how clever they can be, you can avoid them and enjoy your time relaxing on the beaches.
Planning a trip to India at some point? Check out my free ebook to help you save time and money, and avoid headaches. After +4 years in India, I’ve made plenty of mistakes, and this guide shares what I’ve learned so you can have a smoother trip.
P.S. I have spent months in Goa and not faced many scams, so this big list will help you stay safe as well!
International Gem Smuggling Scam
In popular tourist destinations like Goa, Agra, and Jaipur, you may be approached by a man wearing a business suit and carrying a briefcase full of gems. Or even worse you may not realize you are being pitched this by a fellow traveler who has become your “friend.”
He will be professional and warm as he pitches you on his money-making proposition. It works because you don’t have to pay anything… at first.
He just asks you to ship some gems to your home country using your duty-free allowance. However, after you ship the gems, a “customs officer” will call you claiming you have broken the law and must pay a fine.
Your new “friend” will encourage you to pay the fine, and that’s where you get scammed. You can read one example of a woman who lost 50,000 rupees on this scam in Goa.
This post is part of my series about traveling safely in India. Next read a big list about all the Tourist Scams in India.
False Promises at Massage Centers
Goa is known for its parties and raves, which can lead some travelers into hoping for other services such as prostitution or drugs.
Some massage centers will prey on these hopes by offering false promises when they pitch young men on the streets. They claim that there may be a “happy ending” or other sexual services offered…
However, you are just going to get a regular massage, and it was just a ploy to get you to buy a massage.
Read more: Commons Scams in Varanasi
Damaged Scooter & Rental Cars
Goa is actually a huge area (3,702 square kilometers) so one of the best ways to get around is by renting a scooter or a car. However, with so many tourists renting here, there are a number of scams to avoid.
The main one is that you will be accused of damaging the vehicle, and will have to pay overpriced charges to get it fixed.
You can avoid this by taking a video of the vehicle before you rent it WITH the merchant in the video. If there is a false claim, you can then prove it with the video.
Just by shooting the video, you can also prevent false claims because a merchant won’t want to have the negative video posted about them on Youtube.
If you do damage the vehicle, you are better off finding an honest mechanic and getting the vehicle fixed yourself… instead of having the company charge you overpriced fees to get it fixed.
Personal Rental Car Scam
Rental cars in Goa must have a specific license, you can tell if it is legal by the license plate. It will have a black background and yellow lettering.
If the license plate has white and black lettering, this vehicle only has a personal license… so it is not legal to rent.
The cops will be looking for these type of vehicles.
If you are caught, they will explain that they need to take you to court and seize the vehicle… of course, hinting you can get out of it by giving them a large bribe.
You can avoid the trouble by going to a respected rental car company and checking the license plate before you buy.
Read more: What Can $100 Buy in India?
No Helmet Fee
The Indian law states that all drivers and passengers must wear a helmet when riding a scooter. Of course, as you drive Indian streets you will see almost no one following this law, so you may not even realize it exists.
The company you rent from probably won’t have a helmet for you either.
As a foreigner, you might find that the police will enforce this law with you and no one else.
You can avoid this by simply wearing a helmet. If you insist on one at your rental company, they are likely to offer one in order to get your business.
Rigged Beach Games
As you stroll the beautiful beaches in Goa, you will find plenty of opportunities to “double your money” with card games.
You may even see other “tourists” playing the games and winning easily.
You can be sure all of these card games are rigged and anyone winning is part of their act.
Deaf Kids Scam
Sadly, begging is an industry in India that makes $1.5 billion dollars a year.
In Goa, one of the most common begging scams involves cute kids who will come up to you with a piece of paper explaining that they can’t hear and need money for their disability.
However, if you were to say “police” behind their back, you would quickly see they can hear quite well and are just using this to guilt you into giving money.
Clever Beggar Scams
There are other beggar scams in Goa as well. A couple that I noticed were:
A beggar without legs is simply burying them in a hole in the morning, then he digs them out every night.
Another convincing scam involves a one-legged old man and his female caretaker. However, if you see them at the end of the day, the “old man” simply had white flour in his hair and his legged tucked up in his pants.
In general, it’s not recommended to give to beggars, no matter how convincing they are. If you want to give, you can find a reputable charity in Goa where you know your money will go to good use.
Read more: Do You Need Travel Insurance for India?
Buying Property Scam
Foreign tourists can’t buy property in India, yet this will not deter some enterprising locals from trying to sell you some.
The scam works because… Who wouldn’t want a beautiful place near the ocean in India?
The salesman will insist it is possible to buy property in India with their help, and after showing you a place you may be convinced. However, the police are watching at least 450 properties for this scam.
After you buy you will be evicted and lose all your money.
There have already been more than 40 eviction notices sent to foreign buyers… leaving them with nothing and the agent with all their money.
Read more: Indian Airport Travel Tips & Hacks
Elephant Photos Scam
Along the roads in Candolim and Calangute, you may see a sadhu with an elephant.
If you stop to inquire or take a photo, you are going to hear a moving story about how the elephant is traveling through the area carrying the “sins of the world.”
They are heading to a temple and need money for food on their trip. Of course, a large donation will be encouraged. If you want to take a photo, you will be asked for a larger donation.
The elephant is just being walked back and forth soliciting donations and isn’t heading anywhere.
Read more: Does India Have Jungles?
Fake Currency Scams
Fake currency notes are a big problem in India, especially in places like Goa where a lot of tourist dollars are spent.
The scam works like this… you pay for a hotel, restaurant, taxi or at a market and the merchant will say that you have given them a fake currency note.
However, in fact… you gave them a real note and they exchanged it secretly for a fake note which they are now giving back to you.
Avoid this scam by watching your transactions carefully. You could also video the transaction or photograph your bills before you hand them over.
Fake Saffron Scam
Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world and makes for a great souvenir in India.
This is why you will find a number of merchants selling fake saffron to tourists. Marigold threads look very similar to saffron, or even thin orange paper shreds resemble the famed spice. Sometimes real saffron is mixed with grass as well.
Avoid this by buying saffron in a government-owned store in a big city like Mumbai or Delhi.
Ear Cleaner Scam
This is a weird scam but along the streets, you may find someone claiming to clean the wax from your ears.
They may claim to use a rusty nail and they may produce stones if you let them.
It’s not safe to have them clean your ears and they can be magicians using a sleight of hand to produce the stones.
Helpful Taxi Driver Scam
It’s a mistake to trust most taxi drivers. Don’t ask them for advice on where to buy goods, which hotels to use, and which restaurants to go to.
Taxi drivers make extra money by taking tourists to emporiums, hotels and restaurants they can get commissions from.
You can bet if the merchant is giving them a commission, then they are going to charge you more.
SIM Card Deals
Some people on the street might offer you great deals on SIM cards for your phone.
It might seem like these deals could save you time, money and trouble, since getting an official SIM card requires that you put in the paperwork, have your forms checked and wait multiple days to be approved.
However, any card you get with these deals will probably stop working in a few days and you’ll likely get a number of calls to the last owner who fell for the scheme.
Read more: How To Use Your American Phone in India
If you’re traveling in Goa you’re going to see a number of scams that can be quite convincing.
By understanding the gem scam, the false promises some massage centers make, taking photos of rental cars and scooters, wearing a helmet, avoiding beach games for money, not buying property, understanding you must pay to take photos with elephants, and more you can save your money for important things like more drinks on the beach 😎
Unfortunately, these are just a small number of the ways you may lose money in India. I put together a post with 80 tourist scams in India that will tell you everything you need to know about this.