Backpacker Blues – How to Make Being Ripped-off More Enjoyable While Travelling

I spent a couple of weeks getting extremely angry at the prices people were asking for during my trip to Asia. It got so bad that I eventually lost my cool and shouted at someone… over a coconut. He offered me complete silence and no price drop, and all I had to barter with in return was embarrassment. I didn’t get my coconut but I did make the decision to change how I approached this kind of situation before I offended anyone else or wasted any more of my trip feeling angry. It’s not nice feeling like you are being ripped off, but you are in Asia, it basically says that on your plane ticket. It’s going to happen, I promise you, so here are a few of my tips on how to make being ripped off more enjoyable for everyone for everyone involved.

– Ways to avoid it in the first place –

  1. Confidence – One thing that will make someone believe they can get more money out of you is a shaky demeanour, for example: “Eerm, excuse me, how much is this?” I found a big smile and a “Hello, how are you?” sets the relationship off on a good foot. One of the coolest things about travelling is learning other culture. That isn’t just a stall holder in front of you, that’s a local. I found trying to learn things and asking questions built a relationship quickly and helped me get a price closer to what I thought I should pay. Plus I might have picked up some local knowledge or even some new language.
  2. Language – Want to get treated more like a local and not just another bloody backpacker? Learn the local lingo! Small phrases like “How are you?” and “How much is it” go an extremely long way, especially in places where a lot of tourists pass through. This is good not just for hopefully getting a good price on whatever you are buying, but the reactions you will get are brilliant. It’s a strange feeling someone being grateful towards you for speaking their language.
  3. SMILE! 🙂 – Seems obvious, but I sometimes caught myself not doing this simple gesture. Especially after feeling like I had been ripped off a few times already that day. Smiling will make you feel better. Fact.

I found a combination of these three helped me avoid getting a price hike, as well as learning things and loving my trip more. However, there are some people who will try and shake you down even if you confidently smile in their language… So here are some reasons to feel a little better about being ripped-off:

  1. Memories not Money – You may be paying a little bit more for it, but surely the item itself is worth more to you than the money. What would remind you of your trip more? A nice hand-woven bag or the coins you saved by not buying it?
  2. It’s still cheap! – The girl that bought it before you may have haggled herself a bargain, but its still cheaper than it would be buying it at home! Plus the amount extra that they are trying to get out of you is most likely very small.
  3. I’m not a local – This is what annoyed me most. I just wanted to be treated like a local and could see no reason why I should pay more just because I was foreign. What I failed to see though was that I come from a much more affluent country and am a guest in theirs. While that is not their right for rip me off, once I realised I was much better off, I was able to enjoy the experience a bit more knowing that they will benefit from that extra few pence more than I would miss it.

Getting ripped off comes with the territory of travelling, and while you may not always be able to avoid it, I hope you will be more prepared for it after reading this! Next time you are raging about your Rupiah, think back to this and remember to smile!

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One response to “Backpacker Blues – How to Make Being Ripped-off More Enjoyable While Travelling

  1. Pingback: Malaysia – Borneo | alexnorthrule·

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