Handling Touts – Advice for Backpackers

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Handling Touts – Advice for Backpackers

A tout is a person who solicits business or employment in an importune manner. A typical example is a driver insisting on bringing you to a tailor shop in Bangkok. Touts can be really annoying. If you stop to talk to each one of them you will not have time to do anything else on your trip.

You can try totally ignoring them or imitating a broken record which repeats the same thing over and over “No thank you, no thank you, no thank you, no thank you.”(preferably in the local language). If they refuse to go away there is no need to keep being nice. Putting up your hand and loudly saying “No thank you!”usually makes them trot away.

Sometimes touts claim to be students who want to practice their English or use some other story just to get you to lower your guard, but on the other hand many times we have met actual students who try to improve their English and they have been loads of fun.

Touts sometime team up and do a good cop/bad cop routine. One may approach you on the street and hassle you. After a while another one turns up who “saves you”from the first tout only to try to convince you to buy something later on. The saviour”is usually very friendly and helpful for a start and tell you “not to talk to men like that”. But do not get fooled by their seemingly kind approach or you will end up in a handicraft store or worse.

You may get invited home to someone or into a shrine. After some general conversation they mention that there is a great sale on which happens to end today and you should hurry to make it there before they close. As you exit the street you are approached by some other people who conveniently confirm the story you just heard. Come to think of it, the person who you got invited to and the persons on the street all had cell phones. Hmmmmmm. They same goes for local festivities or other temporary events that just cannot be missed. As a general rule: everything that at first appears to be offered for free, will in the end claim its price.

If you are at a bar and some annoying people are hassling you, one way of ejecting can be by saying that you are going to meet a friend at another bar and leave.

Do not become paranoid though, the world is full of great and wonderful people. If you think the worst of everyone it will ruin your trip.

Personal Experience – The Sigiria Student Slip-up

Once in a while you get completely tired of touts and bargain offers. But there is also the risk of not putting your trust in anyone, which might limit your travel in many dimensions. At Sigiria, Sri Lanka 2001 I was approached by a group of students who wanted to show me the monument.

At first I was very hesitant, but they insured me it was for free, and eventually I agreed. As a result, I got a group of ten semi-professional guides that showed me around the area. They were very anxious to practice their English and also to hear about Western lifestyle. Try to let the right ones in, and the keep the bad ones out. This is usually easier said than done.

Happy travels!

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