I guess this is the typical perspective from people who grew up in places where they never had an…
Kaiya Tosste
11

Your comment about “bargaining a $2 room down to $1” reminds me of a story some friends in Kenya told me, about a European tourist who tried to insist on paying 10 cents for a 30-cent ride in a matatu (a small van that serves as a short-distance public bus). We all laughed about that guy, because he thought he was bargaining like a local — but locals never try to bargain for matatu rides, because everyone knows what the price is supposed to be. Some matatu conductors have tried to pocket whatever bill I hand them without offering me any change at all (though interestingly, this never happens when my local friends are with me) and at those times I ask for my correct change — no more and no less.

That story about paying $80 for a $5 cab ride actually happened in Tbilisi, though, exactly as I described it in the article. Oh man, my local friends made fun of me for days after that. Similar things have happened to me in Nairobi and other places. That’s why I always talk with my hosts ahead of time, and make sure I know exactly what price range is normal for a taxi or a bus. As long as the driver’s price is within that range, I happily pay it.

At the same time, you’re absolutely right that there’s a certain kind of tourist — an all-too-common species, unfortunately — who stirs up so much resentment among the locals that they react to most tourists with a sort of defensive aggression. I know exactly the kinds of tourists you mean — the ones who try to barter non-negotiable prices that the locals would gladly just pay; the ones who get drunk in hotel bars and treat the staff disrespectfully; the ones who make no effort to empathize with the local people or understand the culture, and who go back home loaded with stereotypical souvenirs, boasting about how “eye-opening” and “transformative” their trip was.

Whenever I see those kinds of tourists, I turn and walk swiftly in the opposite direction.

And you’ve made an important distinction — even though I’m not one of those tourists, this article could be taken by them as an open invitation to go make messes in countries that have, until now, remained relatively free of their infestation. And believe me, that would make me very upset.

I would hope that, if those kinds of tourists do take the advice of this article, they might go to places that are dangerous enough to shake them out of their egotism, and force them to realize that they’re missing the whole point of world travel unless they learn to respect other people and cultures. Or maybe that’s too much to hope for.

In any case, I’ll go on record here:

If you’re a tourist who reads this article and takes my advice, take some time to research the culture and economy of the place you’re headed.

DO NOT rip off the local people.

If a price falls within the locally acceptable range, PAY IT with a smile.

Know which behaviors are rude and DON’T DO THOSE THINGS.

Say “PLEASE” and “THANK YOU” in the local language.

Make local friends and REALLY LISTEN to their stories.

DO NOT treat the country as your personal amusement park.

We’re all humans. Be firm but fair, and treat others with RESPECT.

I’m posting this list as an addendum to the original article. You’re welcome to add your own, and I’ll post them, too.