Monday, 26 March 2012

Meet the Brothers: An Interview with Todd Romaine

In this blog post, we introduce you to Todd Romaine, one of the two Canadian brothers who was the brainchild behind the website. For the story behind our name, read Do we really hate taxis? co-founder Todd Romaine
in the West Falkland Islands
What one word or phrase describes the type of traveler you are?

TODD: Daring or adventurous

When did you first get the travel bug?

TODD: At the age of 21 I moved to Madagascar for school and this started my quest for international travel. As of last year I have made it to all 7 continents.

Todd in Antartica
What was your most memorable trip?

TODD: My recent trip last year to Argentina, Uruguay, Falkland Islands, South Georgia and Antarctica was probably the highlight of international travels to date. It essentially followed Ernest Shackleton's infamous journey back in 1915.

What's the worst thing that has gone wrong on your travels? How did you recover from it, and what did you learn?

TODD: Was able to get into Kamchatka Territory in the Russian Far East through a contact whom pestered the local customs officer to let me through immigration control. The contact insisted on driving me taxi style into town and was very drunk, swaying in and out of traffic. It was very scary and I was surprised to escape unscathed.

What's your travel style? 

TODD: As I get older I prefer making arrangements in advance but not overkill to ruin spontaneous fun. The best part of the trips I find are the unplanned events that make trips that much more exciting and thought provoking.

What's your favourite airport? Least favourite? Why?

TODD: Favourite airport is probably Minneapolis because it has an easy layout, and Singapore for amenities. I would also say Johannesburg is also out there. Least favourite is probably Chicago because of the great distances between terminals and frequent lost baggage and weather issues.

How do you prefer to get to/from the airport?

TODD: I commonly rent a vehicle and this is my most common preferred travel option to/from the airport on a personal basis. On a professional basis, I generally take taxis out of convenience as my trips are congested and sometimes I do not have the luxury of coordinating bus or train schedules to my final destination.

Todd in Tibet

What was your worst airport ground transportation experience?

TODD: Taking taxis by and large because I am commonly ripped off hence the intent of creating this website to empower travelers like myself. I was accused by a taxi driver in Beijing of stealing his passport and wallet while he exited the vehicle for 20 seconds. A group of villagers surrounded the vehicle and went through our belongings but to no avail. We threatened to call the Police so the taxi driver temporarily calmed down and agreed to drive us back to the hotel. En route to the hotel, it appeared he was having a stroke from the stress and was weaving in and out of traffic. We exited the vehicle by forcing the vehicle to the side and had a considerable walk back to the hotel.

What gear do you travel with?

TODD: Dummy wallet (dependent on country), print copies of hotel and flight information, scanned print out of passport, checked luggage and carry on knap sack. I also take a good camera to locations with low crime rates and a pocket camera for locations where my personal security could be compromised. I also bring along my blackberry to check internet through free wireless connections in airports and hotels. This includes bringing a local adapter.

What's always in your luggage that might surprise people?

TODD: Shoe tree co-founders Steve Romaine (left) and Todd Romaine (right)
at Edmonton International Airport

What's it like to travel with your brother?

TODD: Good but we definitely have a different view point when it comes to money. Steve will stay at the airport bartering with taxi cabs at 2am for the best deal to save money while I am prepared to sacrifice somewhat for the convenience of just getting to the hotel.

Where was your last trip?

TODD: My last trip was two months ago to Cyprus and Lebanon. It was for school and pleasure and unfortunately the weather was terrible, averaging about 2-6 degrees Celsius.

Where do you plan to travel to next?

TODD: Besides routine trips across Canada and the United States, Greenland is the next scheduled trip.

Coming soon: an introduction to the “other” brother...

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Dealing with Touts

Many airports, train stations, ferry ports, and even tourist attractions have touts. Touts can be described as those that will try and trick you into a service you likely do not need or to steer you away from legitimate services in favour of selling you a product or service at an unfair price.

Touts work in many different ways and use different tactics to gain your trust, although their methods are basically the same anywhere you go. Always be on the lookout for touts at arrival destinations, regardless of where you travel.

The crazy scene at the Cancun airport - drivers waiting to pick passengers up!
Taxi tout chaos at Cancun Airport

Tricking the Traveler

Touts prey on newly-arrived passengers, taking full advantage of them in many ways:
  • They may not be familiar with the local currency
  • They may not be aware of the typical cost of goods and services
  • They are likely tired and jet-lagged and just want to get to their hotel
  • They may have not booked a hotel and are in need of a hotel
  • They are likely carrying large amounts of cash or wearing expensive jewelry

Be Smart and Identify Touting Activities

This is what you need to know about touts to minimize conflict and stress:

Touts are typical high-pressure sales people.
They latch onto you and do not allow you to make informed decisions regarding your transportation options. They will make a healthy commission on where ever they take you. They will not be directing you to the airport shuttle, the hotel shuttle, or the public bus station. They will most likely direct you to a pirate taxi or an official taxi that is in on the scam.

We 100% guarantee that you will be ripped off
, you may not get to your destination, you will arrive later to your destination than taking an official service, you will be told that your destination hotel is 'full' or 'a bad choice', or 'closed for renovations'. In some countries, following touts and entering pirate taxis could end up with you involved in a serious situation where you find yourself making a significant ATM withdrawal or worse.

Taxi touts suk
Sign at Kuala Lumpur Airport: Say no to taxi touts!

Many airport authorities are aware of touting activities, but few enforce any rules and in some cases the airport was even designed to encourage touting! Some countries are very corrupt, so try to do a little research before your trip.

Discussing a price with a tout indicates your interest and makes them even more hungry. So unless you are serious, never ask the price. This rule also applies to dealing with vendors on your travels.

Not all touts are bad, although most are. In smaller airports situations may arise where official taxi drivers or shuttle drivers themselves solicit passengers. This can get you a seat faster and on your way. It could be a question asked of you, such as "You need a taxi sir?" If your response is "no", and if you are not hassled any further then likely this is not a touting scam -- but use your instincts.

PS: if you want to do more to research ground transportation before you leave home, be sure to check out our 500+ free ground transportation guides to airports worldwide. We'd love to help you arrive stress free! 

Read the other posts in our Smart Travel Advice series:
If you've missed it, you might also enjoy reading this story about how we got our name: Do We Really Hate Taxis?