SHAMS, GETTING IN JAMS, AND SICK OF BEING SCAMMED (added 6.2.10)

There comes a point when you are travelling in certain countries, where you are just so fed up with being scammed, something inside you cracks and you simply can’t take it anymore.

This has happened to me many times over, and while these experiences fill me with rage I always find myself back in the same situations, being screwed over, ripped off and reaching breaking point.

I think you need to decide early on in your travelling career whether these moments are significant enough to ruin your holiday or stop you from travelling;  or if you take them for what they are.  A momentary set back, a small glitch to learn from and make you stronger.

My friend and  I had been travelling around South East Asia for about 3 weeks, and were always getting ripped off and being charged the “special foreigners rate” which is always about 2.5 times more than the locals rate.

We had just had the most awesome day going to Lake Toba an immense volcanic lake (the largest volcanic lake in the world). At 100 km long and 30 km wide, measuring 505 m at its deepest point, it is situated in the middle of the northern part of the Indonesian island of Sumatra.

We had enquired about the times of the ferry before we left to ensure that we didn’t get stuck on this island with no way to get home. 

The time came to leave, so we raced to catch the ferry only to be told that the times given to us on the mainland were incorrect and the last ferry had already left.  We were a bit sceptical, but really, how much can you argue when you are in a foreign country.  Besides, we were starting to get a bit worried about how we would get back.

 I should perhaps explain that this island is completely uninhabited so the chances of staying anyway here, apart from in the wilderness were pretty slim.

The ferry man comes up with an idea (to be really helpful and aid the two desperate travellers).  He kindly offers us the chance to privately hire out the entire ferry which will take just the two of us back and cost us about 50 times more than the return trip should have cost us.  What other options did we have?

We pay our money and jump on the ferry with our helpful driver.  The ferry pulls out drives upstream, pulls into a dock just five minutes from where we had originally boarded and turns into the regular ferry again taking more paying customers as we go.

As much as these experiences upset me at the time, when you realise you are upset over the fact that someone scammed you out of 50 cents when that money can feed their family for a day, it helps to understand the reasons behind such actions.

This rationale did not enter my mind when again in Indonesia after several weeks of being scammed and ripped off, I went on a tour that was meant to include a trip over the equator.  When we reached the equator and men jumped on the bus demanding extra money.  Something inside us really snapped.

We refused to pay the extra money out of principal and while everyone was jumping back and forth over the equator taking photos, as we had not paid the extra 20 cents they wouldn’t even let us off the bus – or take photos through the window, as I discovered when I almost had my camera slapped out of my hand for trying.

Yes twenty cents was all we had to pay, all we had to pay to be able to take photos on the equator, quite possibly a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Our stubbornness and pride got in the way and well as you have guessed I did not cross the equator.

It’s the feeling of being deceived that probably leads me to rash decisions like this, I spend my life being compassionate and feeling empathy so much at times it literally hurts me and brings me to tears.  I hate to see people in distress, and if there is ever anything I can do to help people worse off than me, I will do whatever it takes.  I would give money, give my clothes, my time to help, my ears to listen, or my shoulder to cry on.  Yet feeling betrayed by people crushes me and hurts me beyond compare.

Once you recognise this is a part of your travelling life, it makes it easier to accept and move on.  People are what they are, and people do what they need to do to survive.  That is life, and travelling is all about learning and understanding other peoples lives, their struggles, their strengths and their weaknesses and if you can grow as a person while you are experiencing this, what more can you really ask for.

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  1. The only thing is that the 50X more price was very unlikely to be for the family and more likely to be for beer/drugs.

    At the end of the day had the trip ad cost 20cents extra – would that have made a difference to you going on it, no.

    It’s not the total price that bothers me, it’s the ‘hidden’ price.

    • wasitalladream

      Hi, you are completely right – It is never about the extra cost – what is another 20 cents or a few extra dollars? – it really is the hidden prices that infuriate me EVERY SINGLE TIME and it happens so often.

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