Thursday 8 March 2012

Dealing with Touts

Many airports, train stations, ferry ports, and even tourist attractions have touts. Touts can be described as those that will try and trick you into a service you likely do not need or to steer you away from legitimate services in favour of selling you a product or service at an unfair price.

Touts work in many different ways and use different tactics to gain your trust, although their methods are basically the same anywhere you go. Always be on the lookout for touts at arrival destinations, regardless of where you travel.

The crazy scene at the Cancun airport - drivers waiting to pick passengers up!
Taxi tout chaos at Cancun Airport

Tricking the Traveler

Touts prey on newly-arrived passengers, taking full advantage of them in many ways:
  • They may not be familiar with the local currency
  • They may not be aware of the typical cost of goods and services
  • They are likely tired and jet-lagged and just want to get to their hotel
  • They may have not booked a hotel and are in need of a hotel
  • They are likely carrying large amounts of cash or wearing expensive jewelry

Be Smart and Identify Touting Activities

This is what you need to know about touts to minimize conflict and stress:

Touts are typical high-pressure sales people.
They latch onto you and do not allow you to make informed decisions regarding your transportation options. They will make a healthy commission on where ever they take you. They will not be directing you to the airport shuttle, the hotel shuttle, or the public bus station. They will most likely direct you to a pirate taxi or an official taxi that is in on the scam.

We 100% guarantee that you will be ripped off
, you may not get to your destination, you will arrive later to your destination than taking an official service, you will be told that your destination hotel is 'full' or 'a bad choice', or 'closed for renovations'. In some countries, following touts and entering pirate taxis could end up with you involved in a serious situation where you find yourself making a significant ATM withdrawal or worse.

Taxi touts suk
Sign at Kuala Lumpur Airport: Say no to taxi touts!

Many airport authorities are aware of touting activities, but few enforce any rules and in some cases the airport was even designed to encourage touting! Some countries are very corrupt, so try to do a little research before your trip.

Discussing a price with a tout indicates your interest and makes them even more hungry. So unless you are serious, never ask the price. This rule also applies to dealing with vendors on your travels.

Not all touts are bad, although most are. In smaller airports situations may arise where official taxi drivers or shuttle drivers themselves solicit passengers. This can get you a seat faster and on your way. It could be a question asked of you, such as "You need a taxi sir?" If your response is "no", and if you are not hassled any further then likely this is not a touting scam -- but use your instincts.

PS: if you want to do more to research ground transportation before you leave home, be sure to check out our 500+ free ground transportation guides to airports worldwide. We'd love to help you arrive stress free! 

Read the other posts in our Smart Travel Advice series:
If you've missed it, you might also enjoy reading this story about how we got our name: Do We Really Hate Taxis?

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