A few weeks ago I wrote about the excitement we feel upon finally booking a flight for that long awaited adventure to foreign lands. There’s that point when all the tension of planning our trip instantly turns in to calm bliss as soon as we click on that “Confirm Purchase” or “Book Now” button.
And then, at least for me, the excitement grows steadily during the days leading up to the actual flight and typically, I am so over-excited during the flight itself that I am unable to do anything but stare into the window and try to count the number of tiny micro-organisms I see floating around in the plexiglass.
It goes without saying, that once the plane lands, my enthusiasm refuses to subside as well, and off I go, giddy with anticipation about the unique adventures that await me in a country I’ve yet to explore.
Unfortunately, this happiness sometimes comes to an abrupt end a mere ten seconds later and I soon find myself wondering if getting off the airplane was such a good idea after all.
“TAXIS, HOTEL ROOMS, MONEY EXCHANGE”…HELP!!
While some countries do offer a pleasant arrival experience, one complete with Welcome Desks staffed by friendly individuals ready to assist you with your transportation needs, many other places around the world are not exactly as organized.
These are the places where, after grabbing our bags and making our way through an indifferent customs inspection, we are bombarded by a mob of aggressive touts, all shouting at us from in front of their booths, all trying to sell us bus tickets, reserve us taxis, exchange our money and book us a hotel room for what they claim to be the best rates we’ll find anywhere. Some of these people will hold up signs or badges with words such as ‘Official’ and ‘Government Agency’ written on them as they try to convince us that listening to anyone else would be a serious mistake.
At this point, we start to feel dizzy and confused and we begin to think that some of these people might actually be telling the truth, even though we’ve been through all of this before and know that they’re not. But those first moments in unfamiliar surroundings warps our minds and typically leaves us incapable of rational thought.
All we want to do is find the official ‘Official Government Taxi Stand’ and be on our way, but we can’t walk more than three feet without another group of people approaching us, using their well-honed tactics to do their best to part us with our money.
WHAT SHOULD A TRAVELER DO?
Here’s a few tips I’ve picked up over the years that help when faced with the above situation:
Just sit down, anywhere! People tend to stop hassling you when you’re sitting down in an airport. Find a bench or even an empty place on the floor, throw down your backpack and take a seat. And once you’re left alone, you can take a few breaths in peace, gather your thoughts and plan your next move. John Bardos over at JetSetCitizen.com once mentioned that he and his wife often sit down for a cup of coffee inside the airport upon landing in a new country. This helps them adjust to the surroundings and get their bearings before setting off into the unknown. I thought it was an excellent idea!
When people approach you either inside or outside of the terminal building, simply reply to their offers of assistance with the line, “No thank you, my friend is picking me up”. I use this all of the time, even though after five minutes it is clearly obvious that my imaginary friend is not picking me up! But by that time, the touts have most likely moved on to a new group of passengers and I’m left alone as I continue to seek out that ever elusive official “Official Government Taxi Stand”. (It can also be a good idea to put your mobile phone to your ear and pretend that you are calling your friend. This makes it significantly more convincing.)
The official “Official Taxi Stand” is almost always located outside the terminal building or if not, then right before you exit, while the highly-inflated taxis offered by agencies are almost always located inside. There’s a reason the unofficial agencies are so pushy as soon as you come through the doors leading out of the customs inspection – if they don’t convince you right then and there to use their services, they’ll lose your business as you’ll discover the cheaper options once you get outside. Also, I’ve found that the official “Official Taxi Stand” in almost every country rarely participates in the active solicitation of business, so anyone who approaches you claiming to represent them is almost certainly trying to get you to book a more expensive option.
Ask advice from people who have no interest in leading you astray. Such people include those working in a cafe, the police or military patrolling the airport, fellow passengers, airline employees and airline crew members who probably have been to this airport dozens of times before. Generally, I’d avoid taking advice from the well-dressed man who approaches you with a generous offer to help you with whatever you need.
Finally, remember that ‘official’ and ‘government’ are words that in many countries mean ‘unofficial’ and ‘non-government associated’, so as weird as it may sound, don’t assume that something is official just because it says so.
And if all else fails, just start doing something slightly odd, such as singing out loud or jogging in place for a minute, and watch as everyone moves away from the strange traveler in fear, leaving you free to roam around in peace until you find the transportation you’ve been looking for.
Do you have any other helpful suggestions for how to handle an arrival into a foreign land? Or any arrival stories to share?