How to Engage Touts Scammers and Desperate But Well Meaning Folks While Traveling Abroad

January 12, 2019
No touts at Bahla Fort in Oman. Just a wrapped up Kelli.


I have run the luggage tout and transport tout gauntlet at the old airport in Bali. MUCH different experience today, versus 8 years ago in 2011 in an old, run down airport worked damn hard by shifty, clever, aggressive touts.


I got rolled by a scam artist in Kathmandu.


Someone in Costa Rica charged me $20 for a 5 minute taxi ride, quadrupling the normal price because he knew my feet were the only other transport option.


Each incident did not happen to me, but for me. Huge difference. No traveler is a victim. We choose to leave our comfort zones to experience the world and its rich, fulfilling, fun and sometimes, zany experiences of being blind-sided in foreign lands.


I know folks who avoid traveling to tout heavy spots like Morocco, Egypt and Bali entirely. Bad idea. People are easy to engage – or to avoid – when you know how to behave as a tourist. Follow these tips to blend harmoniously with taxi drivers, tour guides and similar folks – both legit and not legit – as you circle the globe.


1: Accept We Are All Human


The guy in Kathmandu lied to me, saying his services were 100% free and would cost me nothing – repeatedly – then cursed me out after I would not pay for $50 USD worth of groceries for his family when he lead me to a local corner store (famous scam, I later found out) because he, like humans, felt fear. He was afraid, and either greedy or desperate, and made decisions fear-based, versus love-based.


Every scammer or tout who tries to part you from your money fears something or someone. Have compassion. Sure you may be pissed off temporarily, but compassion sets in, and you adopt a different mindset dealing with folks at airports and tourist sites.


2: Hire Ahead and Ignore the Gauntlet


Hire someone online before heading to a tourist spot or airport. 99% of the time, any operator with enough cash to advertise online – like Bali Joe the transport guy in Bali – or to run a self-hosted blog, or with enough skills and know-how to gain endorsements from travel bloggers or Lonely Planet, creates a seamless, pleasant experience. Hire them. Ignore the gauntlet running experience, completely looking away from hounding and howling masses of tuk tuk folks, taxi drivers, tour guides, etc.


3: Ignore the Gauntlet Entirely and Enjoy the Experience Solo in Tout Heavy Cultures


Guys; if you have no option to pre-hire in some spots for whatever reason, and you either need to hire from a batch of desperate, greedy touts or pay the admission and walk it sans guide, drop admission and enjoy a solo experience. Not worth the haggling headache. Plus, touts will make money on tourists who enjoy haggling or who hire guides at all tourist spots.


Why? For the next obvious point…


4: Touts Know Damn Well We Are Humans Too


Desperate, greedy or manipulative touts know 100% that tourists are humans to be treated with respect. All humans possess a conscious. I have zero White-Western Guilt and ignore tour guides, taxi drivers and other folks being rude, dishonest, nasty and manipulative toward me because I sometimes catch them in the act in my loving, call, cool, clear way. I also know; these folks consciously know they are being dishonest or rude. I do not insult them by pitying them as powerless, poor people, which is quite despicable, and de-humanizing.


Example; after landing at Don Mueang in Bangkok I strolled to the taxi desk for a ride to Khao San Road. Going rate was 400 Baht at the time, or $12 USD. One driver intercepted me and offered me a rate of 1000 Baht, or $30 USD, at the time. Being respectful of High-Low haggle tactics but knowing he believed I was a first time Thailand tourist, I smiled, alerted him I’d been to the airport 10 times, and how 400 was a fair price. He smiled sheepishly, saved face and slunk off.


He realized he mis-treated me by lying to me, then, this worldly farang saved face by being polite, honest in that indirect, face-saving, Thai, pleasant way, and he exited stage left.


Never de-humanize touts by seeing them as LESS-THAN. Never let ’em off the hook either. Be polite, nice and pleasant but firm and honest, too. Be kind but clear.


5: Accept that Most Taxi Drivers and Tour Guides Are A-OK


Most are fine peeps totally on the up and up. Even aggressive, pushy types tend to be pretty dang honest. Do not be combative, or nasty, or confrontational, with folks who offer honest prices but fall prey to old school, hawking, business practices.


Intuitively, you know when to completely ignore a mass of aggressive touts. You owe them nothing. Remember that. But intuitively, you know when to zero in on specific folks to haggle a bit, or, to find an honest price and go with their service. The heart knows what the mind cannot understand.


My advice: hire ahead. Any honest, genuine, skilled operator offering helpful service has an online presence or the backing of travel bloggers, or Lonely Planet.


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Ryan Biddulph

Ryan Biddulph is a blogger, author and world traveler who's been featured on Richard Branson's Virgin Blog, Forbes, Fox News, Entrepreneur, Positively Positive, Life Hack, John Chow Dot Com and Neil Patel Dot Com. He can help you become a full time blogger with this eBook.
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