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Bartering Prices for a Bus Ticket

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Bartering Prices for a Bus Ticket
Travel Tip

The following is the algorithm that I often use for negotiating bus fares in areas of the world where rampant tourism has created a double tier pricing system where locals pay one price and foreigners a higher rate.

Sometimes this works, and sometimes it doesn’t. In Jordan this tends to work well.

This is just what I do, take what you can from it, or add your own suggestions in the comment form at the bottom of the page.
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Wade from Vagabond Journey.com
in Jordan, May 2009
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This is how I attempt to avoid paying the foreigner price for transportation in Jordan:

  1. I find out the price of the trip before hand. I often ask multiple people, especially other passengers getting on the same bus.
  2. I offer to pay this price straight away to the bus conductor without question.
  3. If he takes the money there is no problem and I get on the bus. If he tells me that the cost is more I look him in the eye and reassert how much I will pay and try again to hand over that amount of money.
  4. If he takes the money then I get on the bus, if not, I ask other passengers in front of the conductor what they paid. I try to make it clear that the conductor is trying to overcharge me and that I want some help. Most people don’t want to get involved in the fiasco and shy away. But, often, the possibility of loosing face sometimes seems to weaken the nerve of the bus conductor.
  5. If he gives in, I pay up and get on the bus. If not, I am presented with two choices: I get on the bus anyway and refuse to pay anymore than what I know is the honest price – though I need to have confidence in my informants and be sure of the price – and battle it out. Or I underhandedly offer him a little more money – but not nearly as much as he originally requested – as a consolation to smooth over the situation.This second option is usually more successful: the conductor maintains his face, as he still got a little more money out of me, and I get a ride for a cheaper price than the foreigner rate.

As a general practice, I found that if you want something from someone in Asia I do not want to trod on their pride. By mildly drawing attention to a crooked bus conductor publicly is enough to challenge his “face” in front of the other passengers, but this must be done gracefully. If I kick and scream, the deal is done, he will just kick me off the bus. If I act as if I may kick and scream while giving him the old stone face, then I may have an advantage. If I hand over a little more money than what I know I should pay – like 50 cents to 1 USD – I find that I am able to restore the “face” of the situation and smooth over the deal.

Sometimes I pay a little extra, sometimes I don’t. It depends on the circumstances and how much I want to get on the bus.

I cannot hide my scrubby white face and rucksack, but I can try limit how much it costs me.

Vagabond Journey.com info on taking public transport
Transportation in Jordan
Taxi travel tip
Turkish Busses
Bus Transportation in Syria

Bartering Prices for a Bus Ticket

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Filed under: Bus Travel, Jordan, Middle East

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 76 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3048 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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