≡ Menu

Conflict Resolution When Traveling Tip

Solve Travel Problems – Walk Away Tip What do you do when you have difficulty with someone when traveling? Do you fight it out, yell, give in, try to come to some sort of conclusion that makes everybody happy? Do you stand in the streets pleading and begging a stranger to comply with logic and [...]

Support VBJ’s writing on this blog:

Solve Travel Problems – Walk Away Tip

What do you do when you have difficulty with someone when traveling? Do you fight it out, yell, give in, try to come to some sort of conclusion that makes everybody happy? Do you stand in the streets pleading and begging a stranger to comply with logic and come to an agreement with you? Do you just give in and let a stranger have whatever they want just because they tell you to, because it seems like the path of least resistance?

I just walk away.

Interpersonal travel problems can often be solved this easily.

Don't fight, just walk away travel tip

When a taxi driver, bus conductor, restaurant, or hotel tries to scam me, rip me off, demand more money than what was initially agreed upon, I pay what I rightfully owe then I turn around and walk away.

They usually don’t give chase.


A moderately priced sushi restaurant in San Cristobal de las Casas has two for one rolls every Tuesday. Half price at this restaurant is an OK price for my family to pay, so we go on Tuesdays to eat a sort of bourgeois meal, to have a little date. The waiters at this restaurant do not seem to like us too much, as it is obvious that we are just there to fully exploit their promotion: we order two of the cheapest thing on the menu, only pay for one, and don’t get a drink or anything else that would up the price and round out the deal in the restaurant’s favor.

This past Tuesday, we ordered two plates of Shitake Maki sushi roles. This restaurant is laid out in a trendy, Japanese restaurant sort of style — there are low booths that hug the walls, the tables are just low laying blocks. The furniture here has been primed for my little daughter Petra to play all over, it is all at her level. She has fun.

A condiment bottle of soy sauce falls to the floor and shatters.

A group of Israeli girls across the restaurant cheer, I give a little bow.

No big deal, it was just a cheap, disposable bottle holding a free-to-use condiment. As the waiter cleaned it up the glass shards and soupy liquid, I apologized and thought nothing of any repercussions — this stuff just happens sometimes in restaurants.

But as I went up to pay for the meal as we were getting ready to leave, the cashier informed me that I would need to pay full price for the half used condiment that we broke.

But condiments are free? If I finished the bottle by pouring its contents on my food I would not be charged, right?

I looked at the cashier as he fumbled about on a computer trying to figure out how much to charge me for the free condiment. I then quickly threw the money for the meal down on the bar in front of him, said sternly, “I will not pay for the sauce,” and walked out the door.

It was that simple. No chasing, no arguing, no trying to come to a mutually beneficial conclusion, I just walked away.

(though I did leave a small tip for the waiter, I am not completely without class)


A common sight in travel is a group of tourists arguing in the streets with a taxi driver, shop owner . . . who is, essentially, trying to rip them off. They stand there like fools and fight, trying to get the other person to see their point of view, “But you said . . .”

There is no reason to respect the authority of, or to peacefully resolve conflicts with, a stranger who is trying to steal my money. I just walk away.

Now, the above anecdote is just an example used to share this travel tip: you do not have to stand in the fray while someone is cheating you, you do not need to make someone see your point of view, just walk away. It is irrelevant if I was in right or wrong in the above circumstance — maybe you feel as if I should have paid for the soy sauce? — as the fact remains that I choose not to pay, and I followed a quick course of conflict resolution that 11 years of travel experience has taught:

I am a traveler, I don’t fight — I leave.

Conflict resolved.

Filed under: Travel Safe, Travel Tips

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3704 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

Support VBJ’s writing on this blog:

VBJ is currently in: New York City

7 comments… add one

Leave a Comment

  • Tina October 12, 2010, 5:43 am

    Hello Wade;
    Say you had already paid for the service and it was not delivered; what would you do then? For example, I asked a question on your site on the 25th of September and paid the 5 bucks you asked for but you never answered the question. In fact I have found the information elsewhere and honestly the money isn’t that big a deal.
    I’ve worked in the service industry too. This isn’t the first time I encounter someone who feels justified letting others pay their way. I try not to sweat the small stuff but I guess I haven’t reached your level of equinamity yet.
    If I were the restaurant owner I would happily sacrifice a bottle of soy sauce just to be rid of you.

    Happy travels

    Link Reply
    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com October 12, 2010, 5:34 pm

      Your question was never received.

      Please be sure that you submitted it properly.

      It would have been good to have contacted me through email so I could explained what happened prior to sending this nasty comment.

      Link Reply
  • Brandon October 21, 2010, 6:19 am

    I agree with the advice of not wasting your energy to make the other person see it your way. This advice can go both ways as well, customer and service provider.

    I am a bartender by trade and while there are thieving bartender, I made an honest living at that legitimate profession.

    When you are a service provider of any kind, you will deal with people who want to rip you off and want something for free. I know how valuable my time is and I will not waste it arguing with a cheap skate who would not appreciate anything for free or discounted anyways, only expect it.

    Whether you are a service provider or customer, remember that nothing is free. Only complimentary.

    Link Reply
    • Brandon October 21, 2010, 6:26 am

      oh and charging for soy sauce is bullshit too.

      Link Reply
      • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com October 28, 2010, 7:38 pm

        Good point, nothing is free, only complimentary. But things in restaurants do get broken accidentally sometimes — condiment bottles, glasses, plates — and it is my impression that this is a part of the overhead of running a business. My wife walked by this restaurant a week ago and saw that someone else had busted a bottle of soy sauce on the sidewalk near one of their tables. Have to wonder if they were charged? haha.

        It is my impression that they just wanted to charge us because we made too good of a use of their promotion.

        Link Reply
        • brandon October 28, 2010, 8:47 pm

          absolutely shit happens at restaurants. To be honest it adds to the personality of a place when things go wrong. To be more specific, how things are REACTED TO when things go wrong.

          I didn’t mean to say they were in the right in any way. They ruined a perfectly good opportunity to make a joke of it and make sure the customer stayed happy. That’s what should have happened.

          I wanted to agree with your point of sticking up for yourself if you are in the right but others are trying to take advantage of you, whatever your situation is.

          It really is pointless to waste your breath arguing because the more energy you put into fighting, the longer the feelings of negativity will linger during the day.

          Like a band aid, just get it over with. I couldn’t agree more.

          Link Reply
          • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com October 28, 2010, 9:01 pm

            Good point about how service businesses can turn customer mistakes around for the better.

            I was not trying to rebuttal you at all haha, I know you’re in my corner, just wanted to add that my wife saw the same thing happen with other customers hahaha.

            Very true, when it gets to the point where you hit a brick wall with someone, it is best to just walk away. Did this today at a place selling computers. This salesman said that I could not try out a floor model of a computer that I wanted to buy. I asked him why he had floor models if costomers could not plug them in and check them out. We fought a little, I told him it was stupid, dug up a store manager, fought a little more, and then walked across the street and bought a computer from a different store haha. Better to just walk away most of the time haha, the world is big and full of possibilities.

            Link Reply