My parents came to meet in Paris and I was horrified to hear that they paid $120 for an $80 cab ride. The problem was that they didn’t have any local currency. They assumed they would be able to use their credit card like we do in the U.S.
As a seasoned traveler, routing out my first few hours of arrival is a must. I may not know which hotel I’m staying in two days down the road, but there’s no way I’m coming through those domestic arrival doors without a plan because there are people waiting to nab me like a fish in a barrel.
Here are a few tips I’ve picked up on the road for getting out of any international airport in the cheapest and most comfortable way possible.
Carry Foreign Currency
No way should you leave the airport without at least $50 worth of local currency. As Americans we’re used to dollars being in high demand, but they don’t magically turn into goods and services once you cross foreign borders.
You can either buy a few local bills before you leave home or hit the ATM inside the local airport. A last resort is using the ever-present cash exchange booths, which will give you the worst exchange rate and charge you exorbitant fees. Even with the fees, having local currency will keep you from getting in trouble on the outside.
Take Public Transport
Most major cities are ready for tourists to come in and spend money, so there is often a quick inexpensive train or bus that will get you to the city center. A quick Google search will reveal the best option for your destination. With your local currency in hand, buying a ticket should be a breeze. As always, watch your bags during these transfers. Local pickpockets patrol these routes looking for disoriented tourists.
Be Taxi Intelligent
If the idea of lugging your bag on public transport is too much after a long flight, go ahead and take a cab, but be prepared.
Ask your hotel or hostel about how much a taxi trip will cost. Before you hop in a cab, pose the same question to your taxi driver. If the numbers are wildly different, choose someone else.
Use Google maps to plan your route and print it out before you leave home. You don’t need to be terribly obvious, but if you have a document that provides an approximate time and route in your hands, scam artists are less likely to choose you as their next mark.
Choose a driver that speaks your native language. It may seem rude, but it’s ok to refuse a taxi driver if you don’t understand each other. Cash negotiations and directions are tough enough when you speak the same language. You can also learn a lot about the city and your surroundings if you can chat with your driver along the way.
Be Kind to Yourself
Travel is about stepping out of your comfort zone. It’s safe to assume that you’ll make a mistake here or there and you’ll have to pay the price, but you shouldn’t beat yourself up about it. Factor a flub or two into your budget. When you travel you’ll find that the memories are worth every penny.