While cycling into the tourist town of Bahrir Dir, touts abound with promises of boat trips to monasteries and transportation to the local Blue Nile Falls. I park Pandemic The Magic Bicycle in a $3USD guest house, which is cheaper than the campground, and continue through the streets in search of a glimpse of the lake and it’s flamingos. My hat hangs low shielding my face, my sunglasses are firmly planted on my eyes and music blasts distraction in my ears.
The touting calls continue but I am joyfully oblivious, endless entourages of offers linger near the hotels quick to charge a huge tariff of questionable believability. However, Ethiopian touts do back down fairly easily under the efforts of my complete ignorant bliss.
The street side circus approach to conjuring up business is often successful on tourists who actually want a boat trip or an overpriced private car with 3 guides to local attractions. For me taking photos, while not rolling on the magic bicycle is what I would prefer to do with the afternoon, an inexpensive and fun way to capture the beautiful people hard at work and rest. As I take a lunch break, I get to chatting with a fellow traveler about touts and hassles and how to steer clear of a scam.
What A Flirt! The World Really Does Need Less Touts and More Winking Goats
Here are some tips on earning your tassels and avoiding the hassles while travelling
The Helen Keller, I can’t see you, I can’t hear you approach. Completely ignore all offers of tours, boat trips etc from street side vendors. A hat that hangs low, dark sunglasses and or music in the ears helps to block the chatter as well.
The Flailing Lunatic: Act like a deranged lunatic. This could involve flailing your arms, twitching uncontrollably and drooling, meowing and barking may help as well. This approach plays directly into the long standing taboo and superstitious fear of the mentally ill in many countries. It is very fun, if done with a dramatic flair. Also, a favorite of a couple that I met who are driving a Toyota Camper Van from Europe to South Africa.
Go For An Academy Award Winning Performance: Say No and steer clear of these people. If a local would be aggressive, then put on your best academy award winning performance and say NO just as aggressively. Keep walking and say NO as many times as need be, altering the volume higher with each attempt. It helps to learn the word NO Thank You in the local language as well.
It Always Rains At My Parade: I met a solo traveler in China who always carries an umbrella. She simply pops the umbrella open in the face of all unwanted attention, clearing the space and blocking eye contact. She also admitted to occasionally laughing and poking locals if they did back away.
The Snap and Point: In many countries, snapping your fingers and pointing go away, is the equivalent to bugger off. This will often get the attention of good hearted locals who may laugh and/or come to your defense.
The Dude, Are You Serious Method: My most effective tactic to date is simply saying, Dude, I am seriously not into you following me. This is bad business. If you act normal, I might just say hello, but Dude, are you seriously going to keep following me, you must have something better to do.
Despite the present touts of Ethiopia and many countries, the landscape and people are wonderfully photogenic making any minor hassle well worth it.