No matter where you travel in this world – the U.S.A., Africa, Asia or elsewhere, it is likely that you will find yourself in a situation that involves one of the three “B’s”- Begging, Bargaining or Baksheesh.

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IMAGINE THIS SCENARIO.

You are in a very poor developing country and a group of small children approach you and beg you for some pencils so they can do schoolwork. You want to help.

 

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BUT…

Giving handouts to children is not a solution. To the contrary – it creates a culture of begging, encouraging children to beg rather than go to school. And no, the pencils are rarely used for schoolwork – rather they are sold. Begging can undermine the authority of working parents who bring home meager salaries but want to teach their children the dignity of working.

Most importantly, in some countries, children are actually enslaved by syndicates and the plt_pencils_179_kmore money the kids collect, the more children the syndicate purchases. Young children are the most sought-after by these slavers and when they reach the less appealing teen years, they are not valued and are discarded.

 

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BOTTOM LINE.

4-schoolkids2If you want to help disadvantaged children to get an education, purchase pencils, paper and other supplies in the country you are visiting, thereby putting money into the economy, and then donate the goods to a school or an orphanage. Short story. Last year when we made donations to a rural school in Nepal, school authorities advised us that enrollment increased and that the new students stayed in school.

BARGAINING.

Shopping during travel often requires that you master the art of bargaining. Indeed, unless a sign clearly indicates “Fixed Pricing” most likely the vendor expects you to haggle. Frequently, s/he has made a quick assessment of your ability to pay and will set the prices acmusings-shopping-bargaining-sept2016cordingly. Tourists are prime targets. As long as you negotiate in good humor; have done some research and know the street value of your purchase, chances are you will walk away with your item at a fair price. One note of caution – forget your bragging rights. Be aware that by insisting on a very low price, you could be depriving a small shop owner, who earns a pittance and must make a sale, the means to provide for a family.

 

BAKSHEESH

8-extortionIn many developing countries you may occasionally find yourself being extorted for a small amount of money by petty officials. What to do – it can be intimidating.

There’s no consistent answer. Sometimes it’s best to pay a little extra and sometimes it’s best to refuse. I have found myself in these situations on multiple occasions and have used both strategies. In Nepal, an immigration officer insisted my visa wasn’t valid. I pushed back and despite my best efforts, I wasted an hour of my time and ended up paying a small amount for an extension. On another trip, on a back road in Zimbabwe, a policeman appeared out of nowhere and insisted the car’s registration was invalid. No argument by this lone traveler, the bribe was paid.

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If you opt to dispute, do be mindful that it might not work and if you are not successful, keep any feelings of anger well contained.

The best advice it to try and avoid the situation in the first place by familiarizing yourself with local laws and always making sure you have the proper paperwork with the t’s crossed and the i’s dotted.

HAPPY TRAVELS

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