Africa Tourist Trap Tips by DAO Top 5 Page for this destination
Africa Tourist Traps: 35 reviews and 62 photos
All across Africa you will see the street tailor. Often just a man with a small table and a sewing machine. Often a very old sewing machine. These guys are amazingly talented. You will see sellers in the markets selling bolts of cloth. These folks can turn them into dresses, trousers, shirts, you name it. They can create anything - including European styled suits. Often they can imitate any design you even just have a photo of. What they are very useful for on your travels are minor repairs. Small tears, hems resewn, just about anything. And any alteration including adding pockets.
Just agree the price BEFORE they do any work.
I didn't in Uganda (3rd picture) and the guy charged me $5 for a hem. The same price I could get at the time in a shop in the USA. Should have been much cheaper.
Haggle! Just like the locals. And don't be afraid to say no and walk away. Small alterations should be very cheap. The cost of living is less and they don't pay taxes. So don't pay the equivalent price you would in say Europe. You both win and you can spend your money with more people on your travels.
THE SHOE KEEPER
This story was originally about visiting Lalibela in Ethiopia. However, taking shoes off and discovering a shoe keeper when you leave a church is very common in Ethiopia. You may find similar situations in oter places as its a 'job' that puts rice on a family's table.
So here is the story!
It’s great. You have to take your shoes off to enter the sacred Churches. The shoe minder protects your shoes. In fact, he moves them at least once when you go through a passageway between 2 churches and come out in a different place. Then there’s the guards as well. They guard the entrances to some of the other sacred Churches. You are safe and your shoes are safe from robbers. All of these guys have picture ID’s around their neck so you know they are legitimate. They expect a tip for your protection.
Wait a minute! Of course they have ID’s. The whole area is fenced off and patrolled. Thieves can’t get anywhere even remotely near you, the churches or your shoes! Yep, this is a job created to give some guys a job. Do give them a SMALL coin or 2. No more. The cost of living is very cheap here and these guys have a never ending supply of other tourists 7 days a week.
At the end of the tour you will go to see Bet Giorgis (the deep cross Church) that is outside the compound. Guess what? Beggars will hound you unmercifully there and there is no guard or shoe minder. They don’t like working there. They like being protected back in the compound! Watch your shoes!
You are looking at pictures of an idiot. This guy hangs around the Bungee Jumping station on the bridge between the borders of Zimbabwe and Zambia at Victoria Falls. He will show you a small cloth with a few copper coloured bracelets inside. He will go on to explain that he has hand-made them as his dearly departed Grandfather taught him as a child. He may even elaborate about how it took years to learn the craft. It is all lies. They are made by machines in factories. There are other idiots just like him all over Livingston (Zambia). I had 2 of them together at one point in town when one of them starts with the ‘Grandfather taught me’ while the guy next to him had identical bracelets held out a few inches away!
Across Africa- take care. If they offer an antique when you can see other copies. Haggle the copy price or walk away.
I took pictures of this guy because he is the worst. He will start by sounding like he works with the bungee jumping people. He does not. He will follow you and will also follow you again when you return over the bridge. He is a major nuisance. Just keep saying ‘NO’ in a slightly loud manner. Most scurry away, not this guy. Do not even speak to him if you see him. And do not buy the bracelets unless you really want them and you should only pay $2-3. If that.
BOTSWANA - CLOSED
Across Africa I keep finding that official Tourist Information offices do not like being open on Saturdays and Sundays. Sundays, maybe I can understand in some countries. Why the whole weekend? Most travellers arrive places on the weekend because many airlines give discounts for staying over on a Saturday night! If you are a Minister for Tourism in any African country – Please open on the weekends! This is yet another reason to have a guidebook and do research before you go.
Think about it. You are entering a Border area and are inside a heavy security area run by the government. There in front of you – before you are allowed to leave the border area – is a Bureau de Change. Can you say monopoly? Only once have I have only ever seen a relatively competitive rate at one of these places, and they charged a fee on top! Not all land borders have them, but heavy tourist & trade areas do.
Unique Suggestions: Only get enough to get you where you need to go if you really need some local cash.
Fun Alternatives: Always research before you go so you know what a good rate is. Then check around BEFORE you go over to get an amount you need until you can deal with banks, ATM’s & Bureaus with competition where you are headed to.
This is not only a Tourist Trap – it is a trap for local people as well and is sadly true in many places in Africa. When you go to the pharmacy (chemists) to get some pills for a cold – they charge you for each individual pill! Despite the fact that the manufacturer never intended this to be so. Then you often have a 100% import tax on the medicines in many countries. Now the price is really going up. I purchased these cold tablets and bought the whole box. That is what you need to get rid of a cold. The price? By the time it was all added up it cost more than it would in the UK! It was about double what the price would be in the USA.
Now combine further that fact that many local people have low wages and they can only afford some of the pills. That means they may often not be able to afford the full course of medicine for illnesses.
This applies even to asprin!
Unique Suggestions: Shop around. Prices vary considerably. Also, you will be charged more for being a foreigner in some places. Be prepared to pay high prices, but you don’t want to be ill or run out of anti-malarial medication on your travels. Also spare a thought for local folks.
All these pictures are of criminal activity. In fact you are looking at an illegal invasion and international border crossing – by me. Why did I not just go through the border post? Because the country (Angola in this case) makes the whole process to long and/or expensive. Why do many African countries have high visa fees? Because some poor countries have no capacity to have personal income tax or even a sales tax, so the tourist at the border gets it in the wallet. Now, you may ask, why then make the paperwork complicated and take forever? Because that creates jobs for people. The longer the process, the more people on a living wage. I appreciate the need to raise revenues, but to a budget traveller it comes across as ‘we may not really want you’ or ‘hurry up and get out’ when the time you can actually stay is close to the time it took to get the visa.
Unique Suggestions: Check this website and make sure you plan ahead:
Countries can and will refuse you and keep your fee if you mess up.
Fun Alternatives: There is no alternative. Unless you do like I did and illegally enter Angola and Zimbabwe. I take no responsibility for any beating and/or incarceration you receive if you try and imitate me.
I have learned this valuable lesson too many times. Agree the price before agreeing to buy and goods or services. In Zanzibar I agreed to buy a beef skewer from a food stall for 50 US cents. I then asked for chicken, ate it and was told I owed $7 ! Bastard. The tailor in Uganda who charged me $5 to hem some trousers only charges locals 30 US cents for the same work. You will probably always pay more, but agree first and never accept the first 2 prices. Once agreed – the deal is done. You cannot renegotiate. That applies to Taxi Drivers (thieving scum) who want to renegotiate when you get there. The price never goes in you favour.
A deal is a deal.
Have you already been 'stung'. Learn not to do it again. Always think before you buy. I hate the tailor in Uganda who charged me what I would pay in America. He loves me though.....
Learn to walk away. Sometimes running is good too. Walking away lowers the price. If you are faced with someone asking $30 for a small box of 4 tea bags and surrounded in a shop by 4 screaming men - run! Yes, this happened to me in Marrakesh. When they start at a ridiculous price they are criminals. Learn to be rude. There is a time and a place.
Across Africa you will encounter friendly children, often in groups. Always friendly and sometimes offering to help, sometimes begging. This tip was written to help you understand some of their motivations and the impact, potentially very negative, you may have on them.
I divide interaction with the kids on my travels into the following groups:
• Genuinely friendly & inquisitive
Congratulations. You are probably in an area not well developed by the Tourist
Trade yet. Many want to just practice the English they have learned in school.
Please stop and speak slowly and encourage their learning. Do not offer money.
If you have a digital camera ask (or motion) if it’s OK to take their picture. Then
show them the result! You have new friends.
• Children asking you to take their picture.
Often a scam. If they ask for money before, say no. They may walk away. Never pay money if they ask afterward. They need to learn the difference between scamming and business.
• Selling things/shinning shoes.
Selling tissues, chewing gum and shinning shoes is a business. They pay for materials and make a small profit. Please do purchase from them outside of school hours. Never overpay. It encourages bad habits.
NEVER GIVE THEM MONEY! If they see this is lucrative they will leave school and will be out there begging for the next 60 years. Do give them food. They cannot resell this and will eat. Even leftovers from your lunch are fine. Many large cities also offer meal tickets you can hand out.
• Children asking for pens
Sometimes this is helpful, unless there is a store nearby selling pens. Sometimes they resell the pens. Be cautious.
• Asking for clothes
If they really need it, take them to a shop. Kid’s clothes are cheap.
• Wanting to guide you somewhere
Tell them upfront you will not pay. They still tend to take you there. If they were generally helpful, only pay a few pennies. Maybe future Tour Guides. Give them to much and they hassle/plague future visitors. And stop going to school!
Made a mistake? We all have. Just be more cautious next time. Food is always OK. It helps. A ball if you have a group of kids doing nothing else will get them off the street. Ask them about school and encourage them to get a good education. They are the future of their country. Just remember you can have a life-lasting impact on these kids. Be careful what you do.
Make a quick assessment. Always be friendly, but if it veers towards any sort of encounter where they may want money from you. Think about it. Is it School time? Are you encouraging them to NOT get an education? Always refuse up front to pay. You can always change your mind. Never overpay. You dehumanise everyone involved and maybe encouraging criminal mentality rather than an inspiring a future Entrepreneur that will benefit their village or town.
And watch out for this character:
• A ‘Guide’ throws the small coins you gave him down or complains about being too small.
Pick up the coins or take them back out of their hand. They have shown you disrespect and see you as a stupid victim rather than a welcome visitor. There is no warmth in their heart. They need to respect money, a hard day’s work and you. Every time I have taken the money back they have persisted in asking for more money, once up to 5 days!
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