Our ship docked in Dubai today. Very often the ship docks so close to downtown that you can walk, but sometimes you have to take a bus or taxi into the city center. The Dubai port, on the other hand, is pure insanity.
We got out and found ourselves in a giant parking lot with all sorts of buses and taxis in it. The mob descended on all modes of transportation, making each unusable. The taxi queue was enormous. Eighty year olds literally elbowed me out of the way to get into the free shuttle to the mall.
We called an uber, but the parking lot is such a maze that our driver got lost and gave up. After that we tried to taxi queue, but all of the drivers were trying to rip us off by about $10. We kept refusing, and we got kicked out of two taxis in a row. Then we called another Uber, and he finally made it there.
It took us a total of ninety minutes just to get on a vehicle out of the port. And we are four very seasoned travelers.
My first impression of Dubai was poor. We went to the mall to see the indoor skiing, and while it was pretty neat to see, I was still a little annoyed by the morning's hassle. Not in a bad mood or anything, but my first impression of Dubai was tainted.
Getting back to the ship was no easier. It involved a packed subway full of very ripe-smelling people, running across highways, calling two ubers, and finally getting a taxi.
We had already booked tickets to go to the top of the Burj Khalifa, so we had to leave again. We decided that we would just accept the $10 scam, take a taxi, and be done with it.
So we walked to the front of the taxi line and got into the taxi. But instead of the scam surcharge, he started his meter at the $1.50 it's supposed to start at. Then he laughed and said that every other driver tries to rip you off, but he doesn't like that sort of stuff. We had a great conversation with him and left the cab feeling great.
We got to the Khalifa and had time to see the fountain show outside, which is very similar to the one at Bellagio. It felt magical. We went to the top of the building, the world's largest, and admired the view. We had a great time.
I don't know for sure, but it really feels like the taxi driver made all of the difference. He didn't even do anything amazing-- he just didn't take advantage of us when he could have. Maybe if we had gotten scammed we wouldn't have been so impressed with the water show, and the tower would have felt like any other building.
To me it was a reminder that little things matter, that doing the right thing matters. Maybe you don't get noticed or thanked every time, but that doesn't mean it doesn't have an impact.
Photo is from the top of the Burj Khalifa. All of the photos from the bottom had to be in portrait mode because it was so tall!
Just a three more days on a two-month trip. I have almost no trips booked in 2016! Time to focus.
As someone who's been traveling more or less full time for the last 4 years, I know this feeling very well. There are some countries we're never going back to because even people we'd developed relationships with over months tried to rip us off eventually, and others we loved to death simply because people were honest and straightforward.
I still remember the feeling of crossing the border from one of these into the other - rapturous joy, as if we'd just quit a terrible job or been let out of jail.
The problem we have now is we want to warn people, but are afraid to name specific countries where we were consistently mistreated (for 5 months, so it's a relatively robust data set), but when you warn people off of somewhere they have in their minds as safe, you come off as a bigoted. We don't really know a good solution, so we just let them go.
Do tell. How about just the good? What are some of your favorite places?
Great details Brandon, which agree with the countries overlap my travel experiences.I ask the locals, the hostel/hotel staff, the restaurant I am - what is a fair taxi fare is for the city I am in. Then I confirm cost with the taxi driver before going. Sometimes these staff will flag down a taxi and agree the price for you in the local language for you. Especially if you tip them.
I had the most issues in Vietnam 2 years ago with one taxi ride at x5 the real price who used a meter but the meter was faked out to run super fast. Last year it was different and most cabs used the meter.
Bolivia was medium bad for taxis until I had lived there a few weeks. Drunk taxi drivers and running red lights seemed to be the biggest issue after that.
Paraguay taxis used meters or had a standard fee to go to airport.
Cambodia is a bit of a wild west like Vietnam.
Thailand is mostly good, though the motorcycle taxis can take advantage if you don't agree the fare ahead of time.
El Salvador seemed to be negotiate your price kind of place.
Most European countries are good.
I think a rule of thumb is look at the Transparence International ranking of the country. If it is high like Sweden then no problems. The lower down the rankings the country is the more careful you need to be to
Sure, I'll list my favorites and out of fairness I'll say the few issues I had in each. Anywhere on this list is somewhere I'd love to visit again for an extended period. And please don't feel that I'm singling out any particular country by omission - there are whole areas of the world we haven't even been to yet.
Colombia is very dear to my heart. In my 11 months there, I was ripped off by cab drivers maybe 4 times (a few more might have tried). Which was well worth it - that's a very low frequency, and I had far more people add to my life there than try to take advantage in any way.
Speaking a little spanish with cab drivers in smaller towns, I would translate for my girlfriend at the time what they said as we got out of the cab, and it was things like "Thank you for riding with me, thank you for visiting Manizales (or wherever), thank you so much for coming to Colombia, have a nice stay, have a nice dinner at that restaurant I recommended, etc." Really kind, heartwarming stuff from someone I'd talked to for maybe 10 minutes. Honestly, in Colombia, even the drunks in the dive bars were pretty cool. I really love that country.
Now that I think of it, there was one time I was at a friend's bar and a few girls were following me around whom he told me to avoid because they might try to rob me. So it certainly helped to know people. Regardless, that was one time in 11 months, and I hung out in a lot of pretty sketchy bars (not my friend's, the women followed me from elsewhere) because I was getting really into the music scene there.
I also had someone sell me a paraglider with an emergency chute that was 20 years old (10 is about the max for safe use), but he was not Colombian.
I love Buenos Aires, too (my only experience in Argentina so far), and only one cabbie tried to screw me in 2 months there. I had no other issues except a drunk local tried to fight me at the Polo World Cup and yelled a lot of anti-american epithets, but I understand it from his side, too. Anyway, he was certainly honest.
I think I was considered kind of uncool by Porteños, so people weren't always super friendly to me, but I love that place anyway. And I'm sure people would say the same about New York. The music, the food, and the expat community were all wonderful, and like I said, honesty was overwhelmingly the norm.
Ecuador and Galapagos were wonderful - we had no issues there and the country is just beautiful. We were there about 3 months I think. Our favorite island in Galapagos has tragically just had construction start on 4 huge hotels, so we're trying to go back for 6 months some time in the next two years before it turns into disneyland.
Romania I spent probably 4 months there and would happily go back for six months of every year. Really kind people who were constantly going out of their way to help us with whatever. Out of fairness, we did have one car rental company pull a very aggressive bait-and-switch and lie to our credit card company, which led to a 6-month fight over $390 (we never rented from them), but that was very, very strange for that country. Most people are extremely kind, inviting, and patient. We made very close friends with the owners of Elga's Punk Rock Hostel in Vama Veche, spent a lot of time in some mid-sized cities, and took two road trips across the country, including the Transvargarian Highway. I would go back to Romania in a heartbeat.
Chile We had a great time in Chile, though we had a lot of work and so spent several months in a northern coastal town and didn't get to see much of the country. Would love to go back and see the rest of it. From when we first arrived in Chile, we were overwhelmed by the kindness of our hotel owner. We stayed at his hotel for a few weeks, then rented an apartment from him for several months, I believe. We had some weird issues with drunk neighbors who made a game of keeping us up all night, but he pretty much kicked them out after that happened. Other people were very cool.
To lump Western Europe together since a lot of people have spent a lot more time there, I spent a fair amount of time in Spain, lived for a year in France, spent a little over a month in Germany, and can't remember a single time when I felt cheated or taken advantage of. Closest I can remember is when I was 14 in France this little gang of kids the same age in Cannes pretended they were going to steal my sunglasses by asking to see them and then riding away on their motorcycle, but this kid I had made friends with gave them the nod and they let me pass. I felt so fucking cool haha.
I spent less time in Sweden and Denmark, really enjoyed my time there, and had no issues. We did have one restaurant in Copenhagen charge us $4 each for tap water without saying anything about it first, which was weird, but I'd happily live in Copenhagen. Even the waitress there was very kind. We had no issues in The Netherlands and Belgium whatsoever, and people in both countries were incredibly inviting. Wow. Out of hearsay, in Amsterdam, there are a number of scams to worry about that pray on tourists, but we never experienced any issues there, and I've been there quite a few times.
Macedonia Oh my God, how we loved Macedonia. Wonderful country. We rented a place on Lake Ohrid for a few months and even though we could only communicate with our Serbian landlords through google translate, by the end of our time there we felt like family. My girlfriend did get a lot of stares in that country, as well as many areas of Eastern Europe, but people were overwhelmingly kind to us. We felt very much at home. Ah, out of fairness, one car rental agency did scam us out of about $100 by changing the contract we had signed to something completely different. That was messed up, and American Express did nothing to help us. Bummer. But that was one experience in a country where people were overwhelmingly kind and inviting.
I enjoyed your comment. A post within a post. It's a BONUS post. :o)
---- Do we know WHY your girlfriend got a lot of stares in Macedonia "as well as many areas of Eastern Europe?" . . . I don't know why and I feel like I missed something.
Thanks! Well, she asked someone in Macedonia, and they told her "you don't look like the people here". She's blonde, and has heritage from Italy and Yugoslavia (which really shouldn't look all that strange to Macedonians). I don't quite get it either, but she definitely gets stares.
In fact, in one of the smaller towns we visited so I could paraglide, it got pretty uncomfortable and she wouldn't leave the hotel without me. Weird stuff. Again, mostly people were very kind, even if they watched everything she did.
Personally, I got stared at all the time in Bogotá, and I really liked it. I knew nobody could mess with me, because there would be so many witnesses (not that anything would really happen anyway). I also am very used to being an outsider at this point, so maybe I'm just used to it.
Todd and I have a tendency to not plan anything. Last year when we went to Japan we had no plans and nowhere to stay when we landed there.
Life Nomadic 2008 is no different.
Before we left I spent a considerable amount of time trying to find a an apartment to rent online. We even worked through Century 21 here in Panama, which turned out to be a colossal disappointment. They found us a place, but then when we got here they skipped on a meeting they were supposed to have with us and then said, "Sorry! He doesn't want to rent it short term anymore."
I needed to get from our office at 153 Townsend St over to Kicklabs at 181 Fremont St. In the elevator on the way down, some colleagues suggested I try Uber.
I'd ridden in their pedicabs at SXSW and figured, why not, so I installed the Uber iPhone app and asked for a driver.
Sofian showed up 4 minutes later in a cream colored Lincoln Town Car (the only cream colored executive sedan in the Uber fleet, he proudly informed me). He was super professional and friendly. The ride cost me $20 -- about 4 times what a cab ride would've cost, so as a cash conscious startup founder I won't be using Uber on a daily basis, but when it's raining out and I can't find a regular cab, or if I'm with clients, then no question, Uber is awesome. And Sofian said he exclusively gives rides through Uber, meaning the startup has uncovered an AirBnB-like way to create entirely new type of taxi-plus type service. Very impressive.