Another week inching closer to the release date of my book Everyone’s Advice Is Wrong . . . Including Mine. After the great feedback I received from The List I produced yesterday, I thought I would try something revolutionary- combine the book and a gimmicky list.
Here is an excerpt of Part I: Lesson 4: It Pays to Get Robbed
My favorite part of traveling is arriving at a new airport. Upon landing, I skip the baggage claim as only rookie travelers check bags, endure the invasive procedure at Customs, then appreciate the brief moment of calm before departing through the exit doors, arriving at adventure.
The airport experience provides a great rush of adrenaline. It is worth pausing in the arrival terminal to take in the entire scene:
There are the bank tellers baiting you to exchange money, promising you the best rate with no commissions; the mirage of the information desk that is somehow always unmanned; the limitless number people on hand ranging from those waiting for friends and family to arrive, to the shady actors preying on unsuspecting tourists. The latter are easy to identify as they casually greet you in perfect English, “Taxi my friend?” That is your hint to run.
Now the reward for taking the time to read my writing- the Top 7 list of the worst places to catch a taxi on Earth!
1. Dubai, UAE: Dubai is tiny yet the drivers are new to the city and have no idea where anything is. If they get on the phone and try to call their colleague to ask where something is, get out. Should I take Sheikh Zayed Road or go through the city?
Result: The pretended not to speak English, so I too pretended not to speak English and got out paying what I thought was reasonable, less 10 percent. Not Robbed.
2. Doha, Qatar: Dubai and Doha are as close to Iraq, the land of my ancestors, as I have been. Nevertheless, I knew when I was in trouble when I heard, “Cousin, I just started my shift and I have no change.”
3. Istanbul, Turkey: “Istanbul has too much traffic so I’m not going to be able to use the meter. I’ll have to charge you a flat rate.” It took forever to hail this taxi so I had no choice but to agree.
Of course when I came to the hotel, the Hilton Istanbul, I renegotiated the price then asked for the bellman to back me up.
Result: Not Robbed
4. Shanghai, China: Another excerpt from my book illustrates a problem with taking taxis in China.
I later discovered that hotels have a completely different name in Mandarin than English. Saying “Le Royal Méridien” over and over, softly or loudly, while banging on the protective glass that safeguards taxi drivers from psychotic tourists, is completely useless when the hotel is called “Shang Hai Shi Mao Huang Jia Ai Mei Jiu Dian” or上海世茂皇家艾美酒店in Mandarin characters. Even if the driver could read English, he still would have been confused because there was nothing in the Mandarin name that was remotely close to the word “Méridien”. My apologies to the taxi driver wherever he may be. (Probably working right now, as they work 14 hour shifts with only one day of rest) Quick advice: for those traveling to China, print the directions and the name of the hotel in Mandarin characters and make sure your phone is capable of displaying them as ‘square boxes’ is not Mandarin.
5. Bangkok, Thailand: “If I come one day and there is no traffic, then I tell you there is no more Bangkok,” the taxi driver told me. Ever since then I have repeated that line to taxi drivers who tell me, “Today there is too much traffic.” Another trick I perfected is to sit in the front seat next to the driver and when he says, “Sorry no meter,” I react by turning the meter on myself. That usually gets a good laugh from the driver who now takes me where I want to go at the meter price. However, I’d be a little hesitant of messing with the wrong driver.
Result: Use my method at your own risk to not get robbed/killed.
6. Colombo, Sri Lanka: A tuk tuk with a meter? How could this be? Coming from Bangkok where tuk tuks are notorious for ripping off tourists regardless of their travel acumen, I was surprised to see a meter within this hybrid taxi.
Result: Surprisingly not robbed.
7. Goa, India: “Very busy today, my friend.” There must be a union of taxi drivers from India, Thailand, and Turkey that all were trained to use this same line. Northern Goa is not that big but because it is a party area, it does have a lot of traffic. More traffic equals hire fares whether or not you are traveling with your Indian compadre, Anshuman.
Result: Threatened to be beaten with a stick, paid the fare.
*List is subject to amendments and additions.