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TRAVEL HACKS: How to ward off annoying street vendors with style

Travelling is about 99 percent fun and good times. But it's not without an annoying side, such as having to deal with those damn persistent street vendors and touts who just won't take no for an answer!

Travelling is about 99 percent fun and good times. But it’s not without an annoying side, such as having to deal with those damn persistent street vendors and touts who just won’t take no for an answer!

It happens in Bali, it happens in India, and, as I’ve recently experienced, it happens in Morocco too.

But given that these street vendors aren’t going anywhere anytime soon – they depend on travellers like you and me for their bread and butter and that’s fair enough – how can you deal with them in the most effective way whilst still being totally respectful of both yours and their time?

Here are three ways I’ve managed to ward off pesky touts on my travels, learned through hard experience of life on the road.


1. The ignore & look straight ahead


This is probably one of the hardest techniques to pull off with street touts. But not because it requires much effort – not at all. What makes it difficult is that it goes against our natural impulse to respond to random solicitations on the street with courtesy and respect.

Responding with politeness is fine back home, but in some countries, this politeness can be misinterpreted and taken as a sign that you’re interested in potentially buying what a street vendor has to offer. Or it can even be used against you in the hope that their friendly conversation will eventually erode your defences and make you like them so much you feel compelled to buy something off them – nothing like a little dose of street manipulation to brighten your day, huh!

But in all seriousness, I don’t blame them, as it’s their line of work and they need to feed their families. But if you don’t want to be taken for a ride, then simply don’t engage with random offers or attempts at polite conversation on the streets, and just keep on walking. It shows that you’re confident and that it’s not your first time being approached.


2. The head shake


Similar to the technique listed above, the shake your head method communicates confidence and experience, which are very effective defences against street solicitations.

Although it does require a response on your part, it’s minimal whilst still showing respect. This is the technique I use the most when I just want to walk around.


3. The “No thank-you”


Best said in the country’s native tongue, this technique involves a little effort on your part, as you’ll actually have to respond to the sometimes constant requests and solicitations – which can get pretty tiring very soon. But it’s mighty effective, as it wins you brownie points with the locals as it shows that you’ve taken the time to learn some of the local language, whilst also being mighty respectful.

However, it’s not without its danger, as the very act of responding to the random approach can reel you into further conversation. For example, they could say “No thank-you what? You don’t even know what I’m offering…” For this reason, it’s more difficult to pull off than the ignore and look straight ahead technique mentioned above or the simple head shake. But it’s worth trying out, as it will save you valuable time on your holiday.

Unfortunately, using any of these techniques will mean that you’re going to miss out on some truly genuine interactions with local people. But such is life, and trust me: 90 percent of random solicitations on the street aren’t in your best interest anyway…

Do you have any techniques to ward off annoying street vendors? Let us know in the comments below.