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Published: March 4th 2015
Once I’d arrived in Buenos Aires airport I found that none of the cash machines in the entire airport had cash in them after spending 4o minutes walking around with my luggage trying them all. I wanted to make sure I had more than enough money for the taxi to my hostel in case a taxi would take me round the longest routes possible, which one did. I managed to change some dollars for a poor rate but I had enough for the taxi, just. Once I got to the taxi a porter was waiting by the taxis lifted my rucksack and put it in the back of a taxi for me. Of course as it is the custom I had to tip him money. Grrrr. Three minutes it took for me to realise that this taxi driver was going to drive around every street in Buenos Aires, driving up the metre, causing my fare to be three times what it should have been. I knew as soon as I saw him, he was clearly of Italian descent, and I know how Italian footballers play, so I knew it was going to be ‘one of those taxi rides’ which are common for foreigners to have to go through in Buenos Aires. Most taxi drivers in Buenos Aires, as soon as they hear a foreign accent they see it as an opportunity to drive the metre up as much as they can, and get as much money as possible.
And there, 10 minutes into the ride the excuses began. ‘That street is closed because of a protest,’ ‘there is a diversion here so we must follow this one way route’ ‘Buenos Aires is very busy at this time, especially when everybody is coming back from holiday at the end of February’ ‘these bloody big buses which cut in front of taxis cause the metre to go up’, ‘it’s people driving badly which cause these traffic jams which send the metre sky high’ Well what could I do? I found it amusing because his excuses were so bad and illogical too, so I just responded ‘really?’ ‘isn’t it funny that we’ve passed that road twice?’ ‘do many roads appear twice in Buenos Aires, or is it a magic trick?’ ‘a protest – sure, it happens a lot in Buenos Aires but how strange that there are no people at the protest.’ I’ve been told by other Argentinians that the best way to handle the situation is to say ‘f you are going to take me round longer routes, at least have the courtesy to show me the beautiful areas of Buenos Aires, not the bad areas’ Well this one did, so I felt I couldn’t really complain. I just try and use the time wisely asking lots of questions about Argentina and making notes for my diary. Taxi drivers might finally stop taking me round long routes if I ask too many questions about their culture, about Peronismo, Evita, steak, Maradona, gauchos and tango. Eventually they’ll get tired of talking.
It now takes me three minutes to spot a deceitful person, by studying their body language, what they say and their reactions. By the time I had got all my four bags n the taxi and settled down for the ride it was too late, the 3 minutes had passed and I was condemned to the ride. The second deceitful person I met that day was the hostel owner who I met straight after the taxi ride. As he exchanged money for me at the same time as me paying for one night in the hostel, I believed a while afterwards that he may have charged me the wrong amount. He didn’t give me a receipt so it was impossible to prove, and perhaps it was ME who had made a mistake, not him, so I chose not to say anything. As I stayed longer in the hostel I realised he was being quite economical with the truth to other travellers about Buenos Aires in ways that would make them buy things from the hostel and therefore increased his profits. Some of the tours were a lot more expensive than in the agencies – he would offer a low rate for money exchange and claim other ‘changers’ give fake bills, exaggerating the risk, he offered me and my friend the chance to go to a football match but within 2 hours claimed all the places had been taken. I’m sure it was so he could make pressure us to go on his tours. Later one of the staff charged me 12 pesos for water instead of 10 which I’d been charged by his friend for water. I could tell these were the markings of villains.
I’ve been really lucky so far because apart from these men I’ve met very helpful, honest and sincere people. As I was hungry I headed straight for a Pizzeria very near my hostel where I ate half a pizza and drank a quarter of litre of delicious but strong red wine which relaxed me for the next few hours.
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