Victim: Danny Lynch
Culprit: Dishonest Taxi Driver
Approximate Location: The Gringo Taxi Route of Buenos Aires
In my opinion the most stressful and difficult part of traveling is arriving. When I say this I am not referring to hopping in your Prius and arriving at your grandparents place in Palm Springs. I am talking about international and foreign country travel. I am talking about traveling that brings you to different cultures, languages, currency, foods, people, and places you have only seen on the drool stained pages of your national geographic.
The first day arriving in these types of settings that are completely new to us is when I feel we are the most vulnerable and susceptible to complications and misfortunes. Being aware of this and having a good amount of traveling experience under my belt you would think I would prepare and plan more for my arrivals in new countries. Wrong. Actually it has been kind of the opposite, my arrival routine has exponentially digressed to scribbling indecipherable addresses and names down in the wrinkled pages of my Moleskine.
A day before I was going to arrive in Buenos Aires, which would soon be the biggest city I had ever stepped foot in, I decided to begin my arrival preparation. Found a hostel. Wrote the address down without a phone number. Closed my notebook.
The next day I boarded a bus in Santiago, Chile that would bring me to Capital Federal, Buenos Aires. 20 hours and 8 peanut butter and jellies later I found myself in a bus station in Buenos Aires. The name of the bus station, the location, and its distance from the hostel, were all completely unknown to me. Not to worry, I just followed the taxi sign until some eager man helped me throw my bags into a yellow car.
I tell the taxi driver the address of the area where I am headed. He does a strange stare into space like he is trying to think if he knows where the location is. After an amazing acting job of pretending not to be familiar with the area he mutters something about a street being closed and he has to go a different route. I am completely aware that this is likely false, but have to accept because I have never even seen a map of Buenos Aires.
During my unexpected tour of Buenos Ares I can’t help to notice the suspiciously large sum of pesos that is accumulating in the little black box that has been rigged to his windshield. The amount of pesos isn’t nearly as shocking as the pattern that the amount increases. Sometimes increasing by a peso and a half and then other times just jumping up by 58 centavos. I am not sure what depicted the amount of how the pesos increased, but I am positive that the meter wasn’t gauged by distance.
Finally we turn onto the street of the hostel. I start to dig into my pocket to make sure I have enough pesos to pay this gentleman, but before I can pull out my life savings he pulls over and quickly tells me the address that I told him doesn’t exist. Due to my lack of planning I begin to wonder if I wrote the address down wrong. I go to my notebook, panic begins to set in because I don’t have a phone number to the Hostel. As I read him the address again he begins to form a creepy grin in slow motion and tells me he thought I said 118 instead of 1118, all while the meter has been increasing extremely efficiently.
Shortly after we arrive in front of my hostel. I look at the meter and it read $69 pesos, I am not really sure how much that is in dollars because I only looked at the exchange rate once before I left Chile. I hand him a 100 peso note. Looking for my change he begins to stumble through a large stack of bills and after a minute or so he looks at my stack of bills and asks me if I can give him two 10 peso notes and he will give me a 50. Although I find it strange that he doesn’t have change in that godfather stack of bills, I willingly hand him two 10 peso notes and he ever so gracefully hands me a crisp 50 note, maybe just a little to crisp…
Looking back it is quite clear that being over charged by an unmarked taxi and receiving counterfeit money could have been easily avoidable if I had done a few small things to prepare for my arrival. First off I should of simply researched taxis in Buenos Aires. If I had done this I would have seen that there are a few taxis operating within the city that have dishonest drivers and bogus meters. Also I would have been aware that these flaws are more prevalent when the cabs are simple and unmarked. Altogether it might have been easier if I had booked dependable transportation beforehand.
As for the fake bill, I definitely would have had a better chance of identifying it if I had read up about counterfeit money in Buenos Aires and ways that it is commonly exchanged. These losses were definitely not big enough to spoil my arrival in such a beautiful place but defiantly will make me prepare more for my next arrival.
Tip*: One of our readers from Hong Kong suggested (paraphrased): “I do a lot of international traveling and am subjected to all sorts of scams aimed at travelers. A nice trick I began to employ is if you suspect that the meter is running fast don’t bother arguing. I don’t know the language, I don’t know the route and I am certainly not familiar with how fast the meter should be running. I am confident however that the hotel concierge or official will be very interested and happy to step in and settle things when I arrive. They will know what it should cost to come from the airport to their hotel.”