Wednesday, March 30, 2016

SΩ16 - 3 Tales of Nomad Peril

The life of a modern nomad is filled with adventure & risk. Traveling alone is truly freeing and a rewarding experience. However, I’ve realized that it can be filled with peril as well. In this post I’ll share some risky travel anecdotes. Along with each tale I’ll share some tips on safely traveling alone.

As I stepped out of the airport I was greeted with a gust of smoggy air. Shortly after a man strode up to me speaking in broken English. He quickly escorted me to a nearby taxi. Just as I was about to enter he blocked the door and told me to pay him in advance. Although skeptical I was to tired to argue and handed over the 200 ¥ (~$30/25€). At the end of my taxi ride I soon learned that I had been swindled! The fare was just 20 ¥ (~$3/2.5€)! What a nice welcome to China, wouldn’t you say? As taxi scams come in all forms and are found worldwide the best bet is public transport! If you truly must resort to a taxi, research common fare prices ( or, ask the fare before the ride, request a meter, & pay the driver directly at the end.

A few years later I was off to the World Cup in Brazil. Boy was I nervous about this trip! All my research, even talking to Brazilians, suggested I might barely return alive. Although I landed in the evening, I got on the local bus, which was supposedly going near my hostel. On the bus I met a petite Russian girl. We had a nice chat along the ride and agreed to meet up again. A few days later we met and were off to a nearby beach. When we arrived I discovered her back and both arms were covered in bruises! Apparently the night we arrived someone attacked her and tried to steal her backpack. Lucky the police were close by and saved her. As the days passed in Brazil I began to relax and only ended up getting pickpocketed (~$30/25€) while partying in Rio. The take away from that is to be aware of your surroundings, especially at night. Also, while walking around try to carry the small amounts of cash, for me it’s usually ~$20-40/18-35€. Keep the rest distributed among your personal items.

My most recent tale happened while visiting the last great wonders of the world: the Pyramids of Giza. While exiting the metro to catch the bus a well-dressed gentleman & his son walked alongside me. Coincidently the father was showing his son the Pyramids. He invited me for the drive there. As he seemed so kind, how could I refuse? Our chat was pleasant and he invited me to his home for brunch. Then he ended up going to a mosque prayer, which ended up lasting...1.5 hours! At this point my patience was running thin, as this ‘kind man’ had wasted a large chunk of my trip.
Finally, as we got to the pyramids he said I best take a camel or horse, which I politely declined. As we arrived at the main entrance he asked me for money to pay for gas and brunch. Mind you at the start he said “There is more to life than money”, but that he was a successful businessman. My lesson is that chances are people approaching you near tourist sites or public transport tend to be scammers. In the first few minutes with a stranger find out what they want. If it sounds fishy, just politely decline their ‘kind offers’. Scammers often come off as being too nice to be true! My best experiences have often been with people around 20-30 years old who just wish to practice their English.

So for those who brave a solo adventure, it’s worth it, just make sure to stay safe! As a side note for women who travel to ‘dangerous’ or Muslim countries, I’d highly recommend walking with a companion or friend as you’re easy targets for mischief. Here are my solo travel tips:
  • Try to blend in with the locals. Look like a tourist and you’ll often pay the price
  • Give strangers 2-5 mins & risk more time if they seem 100% genuine (It may be worth it!)
  • Carry small amounts of cash ($20-40/18-35€) & know when to give it up, your life is more valuable!
  • Always remain calm; yet if you feel uncomfortable give a firm, but polite “no”
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