You’ve got poo on your shoe! (Travelers beware these scams!)

Taj Mahal Agra India

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).

Muddy Shoes Poo on the Shoe India

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.

Fresh Samosas

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…

7 thoughts on “You’ve got poo on your shoe! (Travelers beware these scams!)”

  1. So, the poo on your shoe is not poo. Its henna. The stuff comes in a tube. I have been in India for 2 months and was just struck by this yesterday. The solution is to let them clean your shoe and wait for them to put it back on before negotiating. Give them as little as possible. I ended up giving 70/INR, about 1.40 USD and that was way too much. Two other guys were working with them and came by at varying times to suggest maximum amounts to give them – the first recommended 400 INR, the second, after he saw that I wasn’t going to give much, tried 200. It is a tough situation because you can’t proove that anyone specific did anything.

  2. I know of a scam in Bangkok that we were told to avoid. At the Grand Palace someone will come up to you before you go in and tell you that it is closed until 2:30 – they will offer a tuk tuk ride and take you to a gem stall – they will then try to get you to buy gems – and bring you back at 2:30 – all the while the Grand Palace is open and closes at 3:30 pm.

    This is apparently quite common and sucks because you really need more than an hour at the Grand Palace to see it’s beauty.

    Just goes to show – learn all the scams in the places you are going to – at least I didn’t have to worry about poo on my shoe!

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