If you’re riding someplace far an exotic and don’t speak any of the local languages, you might get ripped off. That’s nothing new or unheard of – hapless tourists often pay much more than locals, but, as that usually still is quite cheap, it mostly works just fine.
However, if you’re on a long overland journey, budgeting is important, so here’s how not to get ripped off abroad.
Avoid Tourist Traps
This one seems obvious, but often, when we’re tired and hungry after a long day’s ride, we head for the most crowded places for hotels and restaurants and end up paying a lot more than we could. Ideally, try and plan your stays ahead, and always compare hotel prices on sites like Booking.com to get an accurate idea of costs. As for food, always aim for local eateries or street food, as this is usually up to four times cheaper than restaurants aimed at tourists. If all else fails, head to a franchise restaurant like McDonalds – the prices are fixed, and you won’t get ripped off.
If a price for something seems a little steep, ask local whether it’s correct. Strike up a conversation in the market or just out on the street, and ask whether the price is regular, or are you paying a gringo tax. Most people are more than happy to help – sometimes, they’ll even haggle on your behalf!
Speaking of haggling: in most countries, negotiating for a better price is norm. Don’t try haggling in supermarkets, Starbucks, or gas stations, but you can always ask for a better price at markets and family-owned hotels and restaurants.
If all else fails, and the price seems absurdly high, just walk away. Either you’ll avoid paying for something that should be cheaper, or you’ll get a better offer.
Never Pay Bribes
If you’re asked to pay a non-existent “visa fee” at the border, or a crazy steep fine for “speeding” and you know you weren’t, never agree to pay. Paying bribes just escalates corruption, so say no. If you feel the situation is turning for the worse, ask to be taken to the main police station/border officials HQ, ask to see their commanding officer or their boss – in other words, make them understand that you know your stuff and won’t be intimidated. Usually, just the mention of “commanding officer” is enough.