I’ve been haggling for almost everything I do for almost 8 months now. I’d like to say I’m getting the hang of it, really cutting prices, and ultimately saving money. When we’ve been going back and forth for awhile and the seller ultimately says that that is their minimum price and I take out less money than that to give to them – I absolutely feel like I’ve won when they shake their heads, give me a look of disgust, or curse me (politely, of course – “Que una lastima”) and then agree to the price because they realize that this money is still a tiny bit more than they paid and they’re still making money on their sale, although for less than they’re used to exploiting Gringos for.
There are many different times when locals expect/ask you to give them money for basically absolutely nothing. Today for example, I was walking to a taxi stand, about 30m in front of me with 3 taxi’s waiting and a man comes sprinting up to me to take me to the taxis, you know, as if I’d have gotten lost in the next 8 seconds myself. I haggle my price to get to the bus station, hop into the car, and then he asks me for money for helping him. Thanks dude, but I think I handled that alright myself.
When we arrived in Morocco, that’s a whole other post itself….but, a bunch of kids eventually helped us get to our accommodation. We were within 30 seconds of it, but it was an absolute maze of streets, we would’ve found it eventually, but they insisted they walk us there and naturally asked for a tip, but we did not oblige as we never asked for any help.
Today, when I arrived at the aforementioned bus station, I was actually quite shocked when no one attempted to escort/hold my hand all the way through the process. I’m well adept at these things these days, and to be honest, other than the chaos – it’s far easier to get to your location in third world countries than first world countries. They see a white person, they guess your location (usually correctly) they point you in the right direction and then someone else helps you out immediately until you’re safely to your bus and baggage stowed away….then you just hope for the best of arriving to wherever you’re headed.
After purchasing my ticket, I went outside, my destination was guessed correctly and eventually the bus pulled in and I threw my baggage beneath the bus (I really miss the days of Central America and having someone run off with your bag and heave it on to the top of the old American school buses to someone else who ties it on top – that was always an adventure.) Anyway, the guy asked me for 10 Durhams, a bit over a dollar, and the three hour bus ride only cost 33 Durhams. I said, “No.” In his best broke English, he said ‘for the luggage.’ Naturally, I said No again, as this is a free service/part of the ticket.
One of the best pieces of advice I can give you when you don’t speak the language is follow in the way of the locals. I next saw the man ask for 10 Durhams from two other locals, while he muttered to them (my translation: “Hook me up with 10 Durhams each for the luggage, I’m trying to scam this guy, I’ll hit you back once he walks away.) They each paid him 10, I still refused. One other person paid and eventually I obliged knowing that I would not be near my baggage and a $1 risk is not worth him trying to steal my bag which I am not within arms reach of. I later saw this same man give the third guy money back as I got on the bus, and I gave him a look of disgust with a hand out saying ‘give me back my money too’ – which he just ignored. I boarded the bus and 10 minutes later, actually saw someone else pay as well and I never saw him refund the first two guys. Either way though, I may have lost out on a dollar or so, but that’s just part of traveling – very often there is a local price and a tourist price, and that is simply accepted worldwide. The knowledge of knowing that my luggage was safe(r) and by following the local custom, I may have simply abided by the rules or I may have been scammed, I’ll never know – well at least until I have more experience in this new country and new continent. For now though, I figured it was better to error on the side of safety at the cost of a dollar, I mean….I am in Africa now after all.