I haven’t traveled international in over a year and I just discovered I’m a bit rusty. As many know, my preferred travel style is what I’ve come to call unscripted travel. That means, if it’s reasonable safe, I travel unscripted. Unscripted Travel, is traveling with no itinerary other than an arrival and departure date. Everything else is an unknown. Everything, no hotel plans, no defined agenda other than to have fun, explore, see, meet, see, taste, feel, connect with everyone and thing in the country at hand.
A few days ago I arrived in Lima, Peru having been well warned by numerous friends, the guide-book while on the plane, and my travel smarts from having been taxi scammed many times. Lima is well-known for having a shady black market taxi system. While there is a licensed official taxi system, it’s rampant with black market gamesmanship and gringo’s like me are prime targets in this shenanigans game.
I arrive late into the airport, approx. 11:30 PM. Make my way through customs and immigration with the knowledge I need to get a licensed taxi to not get scammed. Hmmmm walking through the airport there are large signs with massive arrows pointing towards “Official Taxi’s” Oh great, looks like the Peruvian government has helped a gringo out. Got my bags and follow the signs, round the corner and there are a half-dozen taxi stands inside the building, everyone’s dressed the same or at least similar uniforms, and there’s a massive ceiling sign announcing these are “official taxi’s”. Hey, this should be easy, what’s all the fuss I’ve been reading about. I should have known with the immediate onslaught of 3 separate taxi nazi’s jabbering at me to get in their respective side by side line that something was awry. I work my way up to the typical car rental booth type airport counter to a guy asking me where I want to go and he tells me it’ll only be 50. From the little pre-research I’d done I was aware a fair price to get to the area of town I wanted to spend the night would cost me 50-60 Peruvian Soles (the local currency) or the equivalent of 15-20 USD. Wow this has moved smoothly, hand him my credit card, get a receipt and get walked out to a high-end sparkling black town car.
Hmmm, this is not what I’m used to when entering another country. Hell, taxi’s in the US aren’t even this nice. Whip out my receipt and umm, nope I wasn’t being charged Soles, it was Dollars. Two and a half times what the going rate should have been to this area of town.
In hindsight, while I didn’t get directly scammed/cheated by the taxi stand. The airport signs certainly led to the misunderstanding. I’m guessing each line and taxi nazi heckling me to get in their line was an official licensed vendor and legit contractor. Merely each line was for a different class of service. Glad I didn’t get in the Limo line. But they all looked the same, and dumb me, randomly picked the line strategically placed right in front. So, I sat looking at my receipt, grinning at the fact this is the stuff about travel I hate to actually like. But hey, I received a first class ride into town where I stayed at a $10/night hostel. And the adventures begin!