Sunday, May 6, 2012

Traveling America - Tips and Tricks

I live in Europe and I'm not American... but I do like to travel to the USA every now and then (usually two times per year). Mostly business mixed with leisure. When my friends want to go to the USA they ask me for tips and tricks. So I thought I'd write a blog post hoping, that my American friends (as well as my other European friends who also travel to the USA) who read this blog will add their tips in the comments. Please do. I'm by no means an expert.

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Prices in America

Well, American currency is US Dollar and you're expected to use this "green" currency. What you will not expect when you come here for the first time is that pricing in the USA is "different". In Europe the prices you see are the final prices. If something costs 10 EUR, that's what you pay. Our VAT ("value added tax") is included in the price. In the USA the prices don't include the "sales tax" which varies in different states (or even counties) so if something costs $10, it usually costs $10 + ~ 8-10% sales tax which means it costs you almost $11 dollars. And the tricky part is that some shops do display final prices. But only some. Most don't. You'll find out what you'll have to pay only at the cashier.

Prices in the restaurants get even trickier. If you're ordering $10 burger, it will cost you that, plus sales tax plus a tip (aka. "service fee") of around 15%. Meaning a $10 burger will cost you at least $13 bucks. And it's not like in Europe where you give a 5-10% tip "if you like the service" - they expect you to pay 15% every time. If you want to pay the full price for your meal without sales tax and tip, get a $2 hot-dog from a hot-dog stand in Manhattan, NYC :-)

Other than that, prices in America for most goods are lower than in Europe, so once you've understood how the system works and don't feel ripped off by the taxes and tips, you'll enjoy better prices than on the old continent in the Euro-zone.

Renting a car

Distances in America are seriously huge so unless you're going to NYC-Manhattan with great metro-public-transport system, go get a car. Now this part gets tricky as there are many sites advertising great prices but many fail to mention the insurance. The car-rental companies make it even more difficult with various insurance options and it's easy to get lost. My basic health insurance for travels doesn't include car insurance in the USA and chances are your doesn't too, so make sure to purchase CDW (Collision Damage Waiver) with your car rental - it basically means you're not responsible for the car "at all" and it costs from $15-40 per day and many price-comparision web sites failed to mention it.

I've had many strange experiences with renting a car where I'd rent quite cheaply and then see I'd have to pay around $30 a day for insurance. That's why I recommend companies like Alamo where they put the insurance in the price right there. I've also had a car from Enterprise, Budget (where I overpaid for insurance) and others but I keep coming back to Alamo. Whatever company you choose, make sure it's pretty close to the Airport terminal and rent a car for the whole stay. It's very convenient to get from the plane to the car and later drive back and go straight to the terminal. And one more thing - get a big car - usually the price difference between compact and mid-sized or even full-sized cars is minor ($10-$20 for the whole stay) and it's really comfortable to travel in a bigger car.

When driving, mind the signs on the roads, especially when it comes to parking. They have "street cleaning" and some parts of the streets are parking only at certain hours. I learned this the hard way when they towed away my car - this lesson cost me $250. It's cheaper to spend $20 for overnight parking in a big city.

Hotels

As America is a car-friendly country, you can find a motel almost anywhere. Cheap motels (around $50 per night) can be really good at times, most are fully equipped and are relatively clean. If you're not on a budget, I recommend hotels around the $100-$150 price range which are really good. These "Inns" offer breakfast (more on that later) and very big rooms, mostly with flat-screen TVs and big bathrooms (and very often have swimming pools). If you choose "Hyatt Place", "Hampton Inn" or "Holiday Inn Express" you can't go wrong with either of them.

In big cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco or New York City... double or even triple (in case of NYC) these prices. It's a whole different world out there.

The motels and inns usually offer "continental" or "american" breakfast which basically means no veggies, but coffee, waffles, scrumbled eggs, bacon and yoghourts. Your most important skill will be to learn how to do waffles - I love it :-) Even though the breakfast is by no means complete, it's great to be able to wake up, go to the breakfast room and have some coffee and something to eat without dressing up and all of this.

Shopping

You might not consider traveling to the USA for shopping purposes but think again. This is a shopper's paradise. The electronic gear is cheaper (laptops, cams, Apple products) - just remember that there will always sales tax added to the price. Clothing is a lot cheaper than in Europe. As I'm trying to live a lot more minimalistic life now, I've basically given away my old clothes and buy only a little of each type of clothing... and I buy them in the States and I buy them from the best brands (quality-wise, I'm not a show-off :-) in the huge Outlet stores in the USA. Now I really enjoy my jeans, my polo-shirts, my pants, everything. Just find an Outlet Mall on your way.

To compare the prices let me give you an example: An original Polo Shirt from Ralph Lauren costs in Europe 100 EUR. In the States it's about $75 in Macy's, in the RL official outlet store it's $45 and in Marshall's Store (where they have many brands) it can cost $35 (~25 EUR). It's still quite expensive for just a shirt, but I have only a few of these and I love wearing them. Again, becoming a minimalist teaches you to buy yourself good things, but few of them and only the ones you truly enjoy wearing.

If you go to Macy's - you can find great prices there. First off, get yourself an "international traveller's card" - just ask any cashier - it's 10% off on almost everything you buy (after all the discounts) and shop around first in their online store. When you go to their store and see something that costs more than in their online store, they have to match this price. My wife does it all the time. And she loves purses from Macy's :-)

Cosmetics from companies like Clinique or Estee Lauder is half the price (compared to Europe) so if you use them, buy them in the States. I use after-shave from Clinique and it lasts me for half a year (and I shave daily) so I bought two for an entire year worth of shaving :-)

As for electronics gear, this is a paradise for me - they have more gadgets than anywhere else, especially if I need a certain type of thingy for my iPhone or iPad, I'll surely find it here. And I do. Usually Best Buy and Apple Stores are my travel points :-)

Internet connection

Most hotels offer some kind of Wi-fi connection, but it's usually crappy. But it works. Starbucks and McDonalds offer free Wi-fi and more and more coffee shops do that, too. Apple Stores have the best Wi-fi - I'm writing this post at an Apple Store in Los Angeles (in the Grove).

Do you have more tips for me?

That's it for now, in my next posts I'll focus on West and East Coast as I've travelled some here. If you've also traveled to the USA, please share your tips below in the comments! I hope my American friends will also contribute with their tips as they actually live here.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Actively talk to people when traveling… and socializing

Recently I'm traveling a little more than usual: two trips to Japan just this year, one to California, and quite a few in Europe... so I get to meet people on the planes. What I found out is that I need to actively engage more in conversations with strangers than I used to… and I can learn a lot from them.
Meeting

I'm a talkative person

I talk a lot and fast. Whether it's in my mother tongue Polish, English, Spanish or German… I talk a lot. And I like talking… and as with folks like me, we need to learn to listen. I found that recent traveling has been a great exercise for me to do just that - listen to people.

It's so easy to talk about yourself

With so much stuff on my plate recently I have a lot to talk about… but I found out that when I actively shift the conversation to asking good questions the person I'm talking to, I can learn a lot. Interesting, huh?

When people ask me what I do, I used to go on and on about my app, the magazine and other stuff… and now I just explain briefly and ask a question back. Curiously enough, the person next to me is happy to talk about themselves.

Actively remembering to ask question

It sounds strange, but I found out that when I talk for more than one minute I realize it's not what I should be doing… and I quickly try to finish my line of thought and ask a question. It's actually not that easy to ask good questions, but I do try to practice.

I try to avoid subjects like: weather (although you can start with that, the subject will dry out soon) or politics, but anything else is good. Especially to find out what the other person is passionate about.

To learn from passion

My best conversations have been when I managed to ask the right questions to find out what the other person was passionate about. From there it's really easy - the conversation flows naturally and you learn a lot of new things. As I wrote before, passion attracts passion. If I just talked about myself all the time I'd miss that.

Actively asking questions and directing conversation is not easy.

Especially for a talkative person like me. But it's do-able and it's fun. Especially if you end up listening to someone very passionate about their thing. Again, leading a good conversation is a skill and I'm learning through exercise. I recommend it to you, too.

Do you converse with people easily? Do you ask questions? What did you learn lately from a stranger met while traveling?

I'm Michael Sliwinski and I'm an entrepreneur who's also the...
.. Founder of Nozbe.com - a time and project management web application
.. Editor of Productive! Magazine - a global PDF publication on productivity
.. and a blogger as well as a producer of a weekly 2-minute Productive! show.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Unify carry-on cabin luggage size - open letter to the EU Commission

I travel and fly quite a lot. Especially inside of the European Union. Traveling should be fun, but can also be a painful experience... and unfortunately many airlines just add their own touch of bitterness to it all. I've been through most of the European airlines and most of the aircraft that fly here. Now it's time for me to speak up and finally ask the EU Commission to regulate the size of the carry-on cabin luggage.
Carry-on
Each airline thinks it's special

Just have a stroll through the check-in area and you'll see that each airline imposes each own dimensions (see chart) for carry-on luggage. Length? 45-60 cm... Depth? 15-25 cm... Weight? 8-15 kg... it's a mess.

As the most popular low-cost airline in Europe is Ryanair I optimized my carry-on luggage for its dimensions (55x40x20 at 10kg) and bought my pretty expensive (but light) carry-on bag and thought I was set.

There are no standards even in airline groups… yet they sell you the tickets!

Well, apparently I wasn't all that set. Today I'm flying to Tokyo with Lufthansa... and my connecting flight (through their Star Alliance group) is with Spanair. Now this is crazy - these two airlines are in the same group yet my carry-on, perfectly OK for Lufthansa (they have the same dimensions as Ryanair), didn't fit the Spanair's standards (because it's 55cm long instead of 50cm - yet it's 20cm thin instead of their 25cm allowance). You see? Even in the same group they sell you the ticket and can't standardize the carry-on luggage size!

How many bags do you want me to buy?

There are many shapes and sizes of carry-on bags and I think I'll have to suck it up and just buy (again) a carry-on luggage which has close to the LOWEST dimensions allowed by all of the airlines. This is not ideal, but I really just want to be set with my luggage for good.

I prefer to travel light with carry-on only. It's easier, more comfortable and last time I travelled to Chicago Air France with proud support from British Airways lost my checked-in luggage… for three months!

Dear European Commission - you regulated the mobile phone industry - please step up here!

Mobile phone industry democratized connecting people yet the operators in Europe were charging outrageous roaming fees if you travelled from one country to another. They still do, but not in Europe (if you have a sim-card with an European carrier). It's still not cheap to call from abroad but it's not prohibitively expensive. EU Commission stepped up and imposed on the mobile operators new tariffs.

Here's my proposition: 55cm x 40cm x 25cm @ 12 kg

To be constructive about all this let me propose this unified size for all airlines - it's what fits all of the popular aircraft (Boeing, Airbus and others) and it's what lets passengers travel lightly without checking-in the luggage. I'd recommend 12kg instead of Ryanair's 10kg because 2kg is what the lightest bags weight and then there is still room for 10kg of stuff which, experience taught me, is about all you may ever need (even for 2-week long holiday).

Passengers who can travel lightly and don't check in 20-30 kg bags should be rewarded by the airlines and not punished. Airlines should actually embrace this change and teach the passengers to pack efficiently so they can save more fuel.

EU Commission - you've done this before with mobile phone industry - now please step up and help the travelers.

The low-cost airlines (and now almost all the airlines want to qualify as low-cost ones…) democratized traveling and now almost anyone can fly. It's finally affordable. It's time to tell the airlines that while it's a good thing to cut costs, this can be done while still providing a good user experience for the travelers.

When I travel, I want to think about my destination… not the size of my carry-on luggage… and you?

I'm Michael Sliwinski and I'm an entrepreneur who's also the...
.. Founder of Nozbe.com - a time and project management web application
.. Editor of Productive! Magazine - a global PDF publication on productivity
.. and a blogger as well as a producer of a weekly 2-minute Productive! show.

Friday, May 6, 2011

My visit to 37signals Masterclass in Chicago

Earlier this week I posted my video interview with Jason Fried, founder of 37signals. It generated lots of interest and people kept asking me "how it was to meet Jason and the rest of 37signals crew" so I decided to write this. 37signals have inspired me to start my own web app Nozbe, they run a very popular blog and have some really cool business web apps. Let's start from the beginning:
37signals-masterclass
Beginning - how 37signals inspired me to start Nozbe

I heard about 37signals in 2006 for the first time when I stumbled upon their just-launched Backpack web app. I loved it and was a paying customer. The app was great and very versatile but the to-do part was just too simple. It was perfect for what Backpack was, but it wasn't good enough for my own GTD (Getting Things Done) system. I was building my own GTD system at the time just for myself and I drew lots of inspiration from Backpack - where I focused mostly on to-do section... and that later became Nozbe which launched in early 2007.

Don't get me wrong. I still think Backpack is a great product for what it is and I didn't want to compete with that. I was just inspired by Backpack's simplicity and AJAX techniques (Prototype.js created by Sam Stephenson) and decided to build a different, more focused niche web app for GTD afficionados like me. 37signals guys were very supportive for wannabe-startup owners like me and they were explaining their magic and JS techniques on their blog. I drew most of the inspiration from them.

Fast forward five years and I'm running Nozbe four years and it's been very successful. I love running it and I'm building a great team around it. 37signals is the coolest web app company there is and I still read their blog and get lots of inspiration from them.

November 2010 - 37signals Masterclass

Last October David and Jason of 37signals announced they'd be doing a "37signals Masterclass - How we work" in their new offices with only 37 seats available for $1000 USD. Given the fees for recent tech conferences (around $2000+ each) I thought it was a no-brainer and an easy excuse to fly to Chicago and meet the guys.

Important to notice: I'm a typical fan - I've been reading their blog for ages now, bought their Getting Real bookRework book (audio and hardcover), saw all their conference speeches (which were posted online), listened to their podcast... the whole nine yards. I thought I knew all about them so I didn't expect to learn a lot new things in the Masterclass. I wanted to pay homage to my gurus and personally say "thank you" to David and Jason for inspiring me to start Nozbe and for the great lifestyle I now have running it.

As it turned out I was the only participant who came from outside of the US to the Masterclass (and I flew all the way from Europe).

When the Masterclass started and Jason explained what they'd talk about, I was reassured I'd heard all that before. They wanted to talk about their Smileys project, Ryan Singer would talk about designing with forces and they'd analyze some ideas participants have submitted.

Well, I didn't expect it to be that good. Boy was I for a treat.

It turns out, it's different when you're with the guys... following their thought process in real time.

Yes, I've read about the Smileys on their blog and heard Ryan talk about forces... but it was different when they started digging deeper and explaining their thought process behind their decisions. I started to understand their rationale and decision-making a lot better. I started "feeling" them better. This is a big difference. You don't get it when you read a blog post or watch a YouTube video.

After the first half of the day I was blown away. We had a lunch and I had a nice chat with David and later with Jason. It was so cool to get them to know in person.

The second half and the part when they started analyzing the projects we submitted was even better. Now their thought process was even clearer than ever. Ryan was photo-shopping in real time and doing mockups based on audience's designs and we could understand 37signals a lot better. Invaluable.

When Masterclass ended we were given copies of Rework and guys gladly signed these for us:

Rework

Extra bonus - my 2nd visit to 37signals

After the Masterclass I had another great chat with David and Ryan and asked Jason when I can come to do an interview with him for the Productive Magazine (he already agreed in our email exchange before) - it was Friday and the guys were exhausted after the Masterclass so we decided to meet on Tuesday.

On Tuesday I met with Jason and we did the interview and enjoyed it immensely (I think you can tell from the video), later I had a great chat with my Javascript guru - Sam Stephenson and thanked him personally for "teaching me Javascript" through his Prototype.js framework. And as my last bonus I managed to convince Ryan to help me with some UX decision in my new startup idea. As it turned out I had one of the best web-app consulting/mentoring sessions in my life. Thanks Ryan!

I left Chicago empowered and inspired beyond belief

Don't get me wrong - it wasn't cheap to travel to Chicago, pay for the Masterclass fee and hotel (and my new Macbook Air - ok, this one wasn't mandatory :-) but it was so worth it. A lot more than any tech conference (which don't come cheap these days). I learned a lot from 37signals guys and when they do offer another Masterclass this year and you're in the startup game, don't even blink and secure your seat. Reading about 37signals on their blog doesn't compare to actually being with them and following their thought process. It is a real deal and is worth a lot more than their asking price :-)

Again, I'd like to thank Jason, David, Ryan, Sam and the rest of 37signals crew for this opportunity.

I'm Michael Sliwinski and I'm an entrepreneur who's also the...
.. Founder of Nozbe.com - a time and project management web application
.. Editor of Productive! Magazine - a global PDF publication on productivity
.. and a blogger as well as a producer of a weekly 2-minute Productive! show.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Travel light with carry-on only - show #32

You can travel with only a carry-on luggage for a week and even 2-week long business trips. In this episode I'm showing you step by step how to prepare a packing list, what you need and how to pack it into one carry-on (and it only weights 10kg!) Here's my ultimate to-pack travel check list as a #publicNozbe project
Question: How do you pack your luggage? Any tips for me? Subscribe to Productive! Firm | Get the Show: [ with RSS | from iTunes ]

Monday, March 28, 2011

Up-in-the-air style business trip packing

Recently I've been traveling quite a lot, whether here in Europe or also outside of Europe (to Japan or the USA) and in a few days I'm traveling yet again to the USA (west coast, baby!). After trial and error and learning many of my lessons, I think I've finally figured out how to travel lightly with everything I need (or might need).
Up_in_the_air_jason_reitman_ge
Going Zen while embracing constraints: Cabin luggage size and weight

Here in Europe the most used airline is Ryanair (and is the one I use very often) and they have hard limits on the cabin size and weight and they actually check it before you board... and if you don't comply to these limits, they'd make you pay $40+ for "checking-in" the baggage.

That's why in search for my perfect carry-on setup I decided to focus on complying with these limits:

Contraint 1: 20cm x 40cm x 55cm (7.8in x 15.7in x 21.6in) cabin baggage size.

Contraint 2: 10kg (22lbs) cabin baggage weight.

After all, I travel mostly here in Europe and I need to be prepared for these limits most of my time. On long trips overseas the limits are not that tight so I can buy more souvenirs when I'm there :-)

What I can take vs what I really need?

Second thing I found out is that whenever I pack for a trip, I very often pack too much stuff and I hardly ever use it. My last trip to Chicago in November was a great example of this. My carrier, Iberia, lost my checked baggage entirely (I got it back after 3 months) and I had to buy stuff to wear. Apparently it wasn't all that much stuff to buy anyway. I didn't need all that much stuff for my trip so I decided it's time for a change.

Watching the "Up in the Air" movie with George Clooney also inspired me to travel lighter and take only the stuff I really needed. And the simplicity of having only one bag became even more obvious to me. I tried it upon my last trip to Japan and it worked pretty well but I still packed too many things. Learned my lesson again and now I guess I've perfected my system. Tomorrow I'm going for a week-long trip to the Silicon Valley and I packed even better than last time.

Washing stuff is easy - so we need the same things for 1 week and for 2 weeks

That's what I also discovered. When you go for two weeks, you just wash your things more often and that's it. It doesn't mean you need more clothes. Especially that you can buy something new when there... and if you're a guy (like me) you really mostly wear the same things. The key is to wear dark colors and you can mix different shirts with different pants and have various outfits for the entire stay. It's easier than you think.

GTD to rescue - power of one master-checklist for packing

Another thing is that with the frequent travels I don't want to think again what to pack and what not to pack. I want to have one master list that is current all of the time and satisfies 99% of my needs. So after trial and error I came up with this list:

It's a public project, so everyone can use it individually without any Nozbe account, so make sure to use it, share it or let your friends (who have problems packing light) know.

I will use it and re-use it over and over again during my trips (especially business trips) and I've actually recorded a video of how this list works and how to pack into one carry-on. The cool thing is that with this list I have lots of clothes and yet I'm in the limit of the cabin size and weight. Perfect.

How do you travel? Can you add some of your tips for efficient "light" packing?

I'm Michael Sliwinski and I'm an entrepreneur who's also the...
.. Founder of Nozbe.com - a time and project management web application
.. Editor of Productive! Magazine - a global PDF publication on productivity
.. and a blogger as well as a producer of a weekly 2-minute Productive! show.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Friday links: Travel, Remote Working and Pirates

Let's get back with the Friday's tradition of sending you some of the most interesting things I read about this week and this time they relate to traveling, distance and ... yes, startups.
Skitched-20101112-201720

You love him or you hate him, but Mike has his moments and this article is one of them. He captured the mindset of guys taking risks to run their own game... I'd like to think I'm also a "pirate" running Nozbe

I really dig how these guys work. My team is all working remotely and we've grown bigger recently so we're also experimenting new ways to be more productive and more effective.

I love traveling and learning new languages and I've always been traveling a lot without spending too much money on it... this is an eye-opening guide :-)

Talking about me traveling, did you see my yesterday's Productive! Show video recorded over my recent weekend trip to London?

Have a great weekend!
--> me I'm Michael Sliwinski and I'm an entrepreneur who's also the...
.. Founder of Nozbe.com - a time and project management web application
.. Editor of Productive! Magazine - a global PDF publication on productivity
.. and a blogger as well as a producer of a weekly 2-minute Productive! show.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Smartphone vs Laptop on Weekend Trips (to London) - Episode #28

Are you traveling with your laptop everywhere? I am. And I use it very often to check my email, find local attractions, update facebook or Twitter... but I shouldn't where my iPhone (or any other Smartphone - Android, Blackberry) will do the job just as easily...
Question: Are you also taking your laptop everywhere... where a well-configured smartphone would be just fine? Subscribe to Productive! Firm | Get the Show: [ with RSS | from iTunes ]

Friday, October 8, 2010

Processing BIG Inbox after Travel

Ever felt overwhelmed after a long trip with all that stuff that needs to be taken care of? Well, there you have it - it's a beauty of Getting Things Done methodology - process the Inbox to zero. Throw it all on the desk and get it done! Here's how I do it:
Question: How do you get your Inbox done after a business trip? Subscribe to Productive! Firm | Get the Show:  [ with RSS | from iTunes ]

Monday, May 24, 2010

Taxi in a foreign city or country - a feeling of being cheated or robbed... at hello

I'm a fair traveler. I travel 1-2 times to the USA each year and around 5-10 times to different countries in the European Union each year. It all sums up to quite a lot of flying, hotel booking... and traveling by taxi. And that last part of traveling is the least pleasant during my travel.
Taxi_face_on_flickr_-_photo_sh
You just landed in a foreign city or even country.... you hardly know anyone... and the only thing you've got is a hotel address... and you want to get there, you take a taxi...

... and after a ride you feel robbed or cheated. That's your first experience in a foreign place. Not a great start.

It's not always like this, but it's too often like this, let me give you a few examples:

Taxi ride from San Francisco Airport in the USA

I just landed and went through the customs and security which takes forever and they ask you all these stupid questions. It's late at night. I'm leaving the terminal and I'm being stopped by some folks that offer me "cheap taxi" to the city... but since I don't know these guys, I try to ignore them and see a Taxi stop with a few yellow cabs standing there. Great! I'm saved!

I walk to the first one, the taxi driver greets me with a warm welcome and takes care of mu luggage and we take off. I'm comfortable and I feel safe...

... and then the driver asks me if he should turn on the meter or not... He explains how much it's without a meter and how much is with one... and I'm really confused. He's just trying to cheat me! What's the good answer? I don't know the city! If I ask for meter, he can drive around and say it was the shortest route, but over-charge me... if I say without meter, I'm surely being overcharged anyway... and I cannot leave because we already took off!

You get the picture. Not a nice and comfy situation and my first experience in the new city...

Taxi ride from Alicante Airport in Spain

Same situation, I take the "official" taxi and we're taking off. I see the meter is configured at "Rate 3" which means the highest taxi rate... and within the short distance the amount due is increasing rapidly. I'm asking if the rate will change once we've reached the Alicante city limit. No - the driver responds. I'm from a different city, so Alicante is "out of city" for me so it's rate 3 all of the time. So could I have taken an "Alicante taxi" at the airport? I ask. Nope, taxis from Alicante are not allowed on Alicante airport. We are the only ones permitted there.

You can imagine my amazement - the government of Alicante is letting tourists be cheated on taxi fare by allowing only taxis from different city to be at the airport... while most of the people will travel to Alicante to actually stay in ... Alicante.

I have a lot more examples like this... the idea is this - you trust that the taxi will get you to your destination safely, not cheat you in the process....

I believe local governments should really take care of this. By allowing taxi drivers to do what they please and by allowing taxi drivers to cheat on tourists, they are ruining the first experience a person has in the new place. You start off your holiday or visit with a shitty feeling of being cheated... is it a good welcoming experience?

One of the taxi drivers, that charged me 5 EUR for only showing up at my hotel told me they should charge me more because I'm a rich tourist from a different country and I should be overcharged. This driver said it flat out to my face. I was speechless.

There are good and nice taxi drivers

Don't get me wrong - I've had also nice and positive taxi experiences and I met some really nice taxi drivers... but just recently I just had too many bad ones. Hence this post.

Let me offer these 3 solutions:

Solution 1 - fixed fare

On Malta (a small island on Mediterranean) you don't pay the taxi driver - it's a small island and you just buy a "ticket" to travel by taxi to a part of island. You show the ticket to the taxi driver and they get you to your destination. No money exchange, no fuss, no way of cheating a tourist. However I don't know how this could scale to other cities? Maybe with zone tickets? Just like public transport?

Solution 2 - use alternate transport

I used Subway when I landed on JFK in New York City and it was fun and it took me quickly to Manhattan. Be prepared and learn about other ways of getting to your destination. Maybe even your hotel has some pickup service... but sometimes you really need to take a taxi so this method is not always applicable.

Solution 3 - stop caring

I just don't care anymore. If the taxi driver overcharges my fare. I don't care. How much can they over-charge me anyway? 5 USD/ EUR? 10? It's not the amount of money I will cry over. I'm not filthy rich or anything, but these 5-10 dollars are not worth all the energy and frustration it brings of being cheated. One blog post is enough :-)

Last but not least....

Dear local government - think about the fact that tourists or visiting businessmen can feel cheated when they enter your city. Think if this person will want to come back again after such a "nice" welcome experience.

Dear foreign taxi driver - if you want to cheat me and earn some additional 5-10 USD/EUR on me, be my guest - I couldn't care less. I'm just very sorry for you and for the fact that cheating on people is your business model.

Question: Do you care?
--> me I'm Michael Sliwinski and I'm an entrepreneur who's also the...
.. Founder of Nozbe.com - a time and project management web application
.. Editor of Productive! Magazine - a global PDF publication on productivity
.. and a blogger as well as a producer of a weekly 2-minute Productive! show.