Travel Tips: Avoiding Transport “Scams”
It’s probably the commonest travel complaint on the planet from folk travelling the developing world. Transport “scams”. Overcharging…
And it does relations between locals and visitors no good at all. Here’s how to make your life easier when travelling.
1: Agree a Price Before You Start the Journey.
Would you take a minicab or unmetered vehicle in your home town without agreeing the fare first?
Well, in a country where what some travellers will happily spend on a single beer is close to a day’s wage, not agreeing a fare is a recipe for disaster. How to do this? Well…
2: Find Out the Local Price.
Ask a local friend, someone from your guesthouse or a longterm resident for the fare a local would pay for the journey you’re taking. Use this in negotiations as your starting point. The extra 10p on a 50p rickshaw ride will not make much difference to the average traveller’s budget — but it will make a major difference to the person who’s pedalling you through tropical heat.
3: Pay 10-20% Over the Local Price.
When it comes to haggling over the fare, make the local price your entry point the local price and negotiate the other person down to an acceptable percentage above. 20% will leave most drivers very happy and help negotiations fly by. And it is unreasonable to expect, as someone privileged enough to travel the world, to pay the same fare a subsistence farmer who will never leave the country of his birth.
4: Clarify Whether a Price is per Person, per Vehicle, or All In.
It’s hard to do this if you don’t know the language. But, if you carry change, sign language works wonders. Is it 50,000 dong for one moto or two? Wave 25,000 at each driver and it is absolutely clear, all round.
5: Carry Change.
Change doesn’t just help negotiate price. On shared vehicles, where you know the fare, handing over the right money can really help. In private vehicles, it means that you pay the price you agreed. No more.
6: Maintain a Sense of Humour.
Be warm and friendly when you negotiate. It’s only polite. I’ve found falling about laughing at a highball opening price helps negotiations go faster — and better — but without the warmth it’s a high risk strategy.
7: If it Sounds Too Good to be True, It Is.
Someone offers you a five hour city tour for 20p? They’re making money somewhere. And, since it’s not on the vehicle, it’s going to be something that happens to you en route.
8: Learn the Basics of the Language
Most people appreciate foreigners’ attempts, however pitiful, to speak their language. Basics such as hello, please, thank you, and “I would like to go to” take no time at all to learn and spread a lot of good will.
9: And your Numbers, Too
If you can master numbers in the local language, this will really help avoid linguistic confusions over price — whether real or artificial. (You will also, most likely, get a better starting price.) Alternatively, carry a pen and paper, and write the prices down.
10: If it’s Got a Meter, Use it.
Not always do-able, I admit. But in cities where you don’t know the costs of transport, a metered taxi can really help you out.
11: Though all Meters are Not Created Equal.
When travelling by metered taxi, keep an eye on the meter. Turbocharging them is not uncommon. Keep one eye on your route and another on the map, and ask pertinent questions if it looks like you’re going a long way round.
12: If You Can’t Get a Price You Want, Walk Away.
Negotiations going badly? Head out and flag another vehicle. Go to another rank. Take public transport. Walk. Or, if there’s no alternative, suck it up.
What are your top tips for avoiding transport hassles? Drop me a comment and let me know. And, if you’re new here, please do subscribe to my RSS for more tips and tales.