Wednesday, July 17, 2013



There's a certain amount of 'gringo' treatment of tourists and travellers present in the world today.   Some in poorer countries consider it fair game to liberate Europeans, Americans or Canadians of some of their cash.  I'm not talking about crime, I'm talking about taking advantage of the lack of local knowledge and the situation.  It is a fact that by some unfortunate and unfair arrangement,  people in the world are compensated differently and unequally.   This is well known and  the reasons are complex.   The result is that some people consider it their duty or even obligation to ensure redress.   I have come across  situations and have heard of more where tourists, unfamiliar with the country and the language, are taken advantage of.   Conversely though, it seems interesting that these are the same countries where haggling and trying to beat down the price is the norm and for some tourists, outright sport.

I must confess I rarely take taxis.   Really, it's only on vacation and even then I go to lengths to avoid it.  They're expensive!     As I am not an experienced taxi user  the intricacies of the meter versus the flat rate is a mystery to me and I could easily be overcharged.   For some reasons taxi drivers know this.

When I was in Cuernavaca, Mexico, we took taxis everywhere.   These are called radio taxis in that you call ahead for them and this, we were told, was to ensure that we received a vetted taxi driver with some official government stamp of approval as opposed to what was called the gypsy cabs.   These are owned by anyone with a car and a taxi sign they put in the window.   They are cheaper but, we were told, not reliable and driven by potentially dodgy people.   It's easy to be nervous in a foreign country!   My modest amount of Spanish helped.

Taxis are a good topic of conversation.   Everyone has a story.  My recent one though took place in Seattle where a taxi driver informed me that our fare--which probably would have been under ten dollars--was not worth his while, even if it was almost midnight and we needed to get to our motel from the airport.    A colleague told of the time in Greece where a company ran bus tours to a well known site for a reasonable charge but that tourists found out after arrival that it was a one way journey.   A taxi ride of over $100 was required to return to the starting point.   We speculated that the bus company and the taxi company and drivers must have a friendly agreement as to splitting the profits.    

In Egypt, camel rides are provided around the pyramids for a modest charge but after your photograph is taken with your camera, as is so helpfully suggested by the camel herder, there is a $10 charge to get it back--for services rendered--and a similar charge to be helped down from the camel, who somehow is threatening to let loose an enormous expectoration, judging by the sounds in its throat.   Well trained, probably, but there's no way of knowing for sure.

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