Research, Share and ready for NEGOTIATION !!
The very first thing you need to do when you travel is to find out how to get the town or the hotel. You may not think about how important and how frustrate it can be when you are planning your trip.
I do not search or read too much about the places I want to visit for my own trip. I want to leave it to explore by myself and I look forward to surprise. But I do research how to get to the town, how to get around, average cost and map.
I still remember chaos outside of the Peru airport in the dark when I started backpacking outside of Japan and North America where you can easily take airport shuttle bus, public transportation or taxi and nobody bothers you. There were many people grabbing the fence from other side waiting for the business . Once you step out to their side, you will be surrounded by taxi drivers and hotel runners. The taxi driver may take you the place they can get commission from if you do not have a reservation. Sometimes I could not get the place I wanted to. I ended up arguing with a rickshaw driver in India.
Research is important. It does not have to be exact. It is good to have an idea for negotiation. The more you know, the more you feel comfortable and confident. I go to the book store or library to check a couple guide books, search internet, and thanks to my work, sometimes I ask our local operators. If I need to take a taxi, I sometimes ask airport staff how much usually cost before getting out.
I ask other travellers to share a taxi to the town. Especially when I take a long distance bus, I will talk before getting off the bus. I found a group negotiation works better . This is not only saving money but also safety reason as a female solo traveller. You can also share a information about the accommodations. I go to the area where many cheap hotels are so that I can check it around. But I do not want to waste my time looking for the hotels, so I usually have a few lists.
Study and memorize the map is important
You want to look like a local and look confident, look you know where you are going. You do not want to be a primary target.
Knowing the way around gives you a peace of mind
I check where the airport, bus or train station is located in the city or area, so that I know which direction I need to go, East, West, North or South. Also it is good to know how long it takes. So far I never had any problem with the driver who took me to the wrong direction but I think I have a good sense of direction, actually I navigate a taxi driver in Cuba. He did not know the address. Thanks to technology, traveling is much easier nowadays. Google map is great. You can check what it looks like around the neighbour. Well, this case, I just use the map from the guide book which I made marked on where the Casa Particulares ( B&B ) is. ( I usually copy a few pages to save the space in my backpack. )
When you go to Nepal, the taxi driver makes turn from the big street and go into narrow neighbourhood. You may think they are taking to a wrong place and rob you. Don’t worry. That’s the short cut or the only way to get Tamel. Actually, I am not quite sure every time when I go to Nepal, they use that street for last 10+ years.
If you like TV show- amazing race, you may remember the scene that somehow the taxi drivers like to fill the gas after picking up customers. It happened to me including the bus. So you should take this into consideration when you are timing.
Before getting a taxi, rickshaw or other private transportation, especially in India, I ask them to repeat the price. I should speak Hindu but many does not speak English and just shake their heads like a bobblehead doll. You cannot tell yes or no. They may change the price which also happened to me. I feel bad to argue for a little money but I do not like to be cheated or misunderstanding. So I think confirming the price out loud is fair for both of us.
Don’t show your wallet!
Another tip is I always separate money and put a little in my wallet. I prepare the amount I negotiate in my hand just before getting off. So they cannot see how much I have, if they do, I can say this is all I have.
This does not happen all the time but it is good to know and to prepare.
If you do not want to take risks, bother negotiation, handle any bad situation or your first time traveling abroad, taking adventures tour is an option. Especially grassroots style is good one if you want to have a little bit of challenge. They use local transportations and many are local tour leaders, so you can still get the sense of independent backpacking, visit the off the beaten path and you can learn how to travel. But all the hustle will be taken care of. It is nice to have somebody watch your bag when you need to go to the bathroom. Then also add the arrival airport transfer. After the long flight, you can just go straight to the hotel and spend time for sightseeing or just relax.