I’ve been walking everywhere in Hoi An and honestly my feet couldn’t take any more of it. So, I did the thing I’ve been trying to avoid. I flagged a taxi down. Well, to be more accurate, I was hobbling down the street probably looking a little sorry for myself and a ‘taxi’ pulled up alongside me and asked where I was going. I told the driver I was heading to the old town. He told me “300,000, get in!” I was feeling pretty upset at that point so I just got in the taxi (I wasn’t even sure how much that was). Anyway, he stopped on an empty side street and I handed him the money. He then decided that the price had gone up because it took him longer than he expected. I asked him how much more, looking down at my purse. He took my purse and started taking money out of it!! He basically emptied my purse and handed it back to me. I had no energy left to argue, so I just got out of the car and he drove off. It was at that point, when I checked my Google maps, that I realised I was nowhere near where I needed to be. Not only that but I’ve just worked out that getting in that taxi cost me £45.
Moral of the story? Don’t be an idiot Suzi! Don’t get in random cars and wave your purse around. Also, use Google maps so you know where you’re going. Every day is a school day, right?
Like you, many travellers from western countries feel the same way when they are in Asia or Africa. People are used to fixed rules and fares that are not really negotiable. Even if tourists occasionally have to pay more or are being given the run around, prices remain relatively stable.
Especially in Southeast Asia and North Africa things are a little different. Living conditions are more difficult, salaries very low and poverty often very high. Tourism is one of the main sources of income and the good faith and naivety of tourists is well-known.
Many don’t dare to haggle, are intimidated by language barriers or are simply afraid of getting into trouble.
Therefore here are my tips for you, dear Suzi:
1 – Before you fly to your destination country, get well informed about the local taxi rates. In Thailand, for example, there are taxis of different colours. Some of these taxis use a taxometer, others do not. The colour gives you an indication of how safe and expensive the journey will be.
2 – On Google Maps download the respective maps of your travel country, so that you can also orientate yourself offline.
3 – After you have travelled to your destination, you can use taxi apps that give you a fixed price from the start. They also display the name and a photo of the driver and reviews from other passengers. Another advantage is the optional card payment that you can set in the app. This way, there are no negotiations or arguments.Tthe amount is automatically debited once you reach your destination. In South East Asia and India, for example, apps like Uber, Grab and Ola are commonly used.
4 – Have no fear! If you have an idea of the price or can estimate the price for the route, then stick to it and only engage in minimal haggling. The tone is a little unusual at first, but if you are clear and confident you will see that you and your price are respected.
Suzi, keep your head up, your chest out and the rest will work itself out!