Recently, I was reading an article about tourists in Rome who had called the Italian Polizia after paying the equivalent of $50 for three gelatos and one water.
Even as I read the article I was shaking my head. 1. Because of course any store near the famed Trevi Fountain is going to ridiculously priced; and 2. What exactly were they expecting the police to do? If they had done any kind of research they would know that a few places in Rome were known for their crazy inflation of prices. Instead, they called the police (who did nothing but shake their heads) and ended up looking silly in national newspapers.
It’s really important, no matter where you are or what you are doing, to always get the costs up front. John and I never get into a cab without first asking how much the ride is going to be (in a funny twist, I actually found that the cab drivers in Rome were extremely honest – taking the fastest routes and even lowering the price of the cab after the driver wrongly stopped too early.) In Dublin, we learned that it is also better to find your own cab rather than have the hotel call for you. Had I not had a plane to catch, we would have sent the cab on its way to find our own because the price went up simply because a concierge had called for it.
It’s not always easy to remember. In Crete we were having a fun and relaxing evening, and so we let our guard down when we sat down for dinner and ate the bread they brought to the table before asking how much it is. (Note to all – it is NOT like in the states where the bread is complementary. The bread they bring is always at a cost so make sure to check before diving in!) Luckily, at this particular restaurant, the bread basket was 2E total, but we both were like, of course it’s not free. We learned this when we went to Munich early in our travels and this yummy basket of German pretzels was set on the table in front of us. We asked, and each pretzel was 1E – not bad, but a lesson to always ask first.
The thing is, when you travel in popular tourist areas you are going to be surrounded by people whose income source is your money! So clearly, unless you do a little bit of work before going to these locations, you are going to probably get scammed at least once. The worst part for those people who spent $50 for three gelatos is that it probably wasn’t even any good – the best shops/restaurants are usually tucked away in non-tourist heavy areas and clearly have their prices marked. If you order something without knowing the price up front, then honestly, it’s your own fault. (And seriously, don’t ever pay more than 2E for one scoop of gelato.)
So remember, no matter what it is, know the price before ordering anything, before getting in a taxi or before accepting any kind of service. And if you forget, pay the bill and laugh it off as a lesson learned. DO NOT cause a scene, call the police or alert the media…you will just have a lot of people shaking their head at you.