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Eight Rules to Avoid Getting Ripped Off on Holiday

22/04/2013 18:18 BST | Updated 22/06/2013 10:12 BST
Alam

I wonder how many of you have been ripped off when on holiday in Turkey, Egypt, Morocco? Sometimes I think getting overcharged is part of travel but it doesn't have to be like that. I am currently on a short break in Turkey and I made up some rules about how to get the most out of being in Istanbul without getting fleeced.

An old man offered to clean my shoes with a toothbrush and an old sponge and then demanded 25 Lira (10 Euro). I gave him two. I realised that if he called the police it would be him in the soup and not me, and this gave me courage. Realising that the Turks have been tricking tourists for centuries I felt no compunction in developing some of my own tactics to avoid getting ripped off.

Disclaimer: these tactics are only possible if travelling alone. You can't behave like this if you're travelling with a wife, girl/boyfriend or kids - none of whom want to be reminded that you can't afford to buy them whatever they want.

SPEND NOTHING in the airport. Not only are the prices double but the exchange rates are usually skewed at the exchange office too. Best bet is to not spend a penny until you've checked into your hotel and worked out the value of the money - otherwise four Turkish Lira for a cup of tea won't mean anything, but the next day you'll learn that the locals only pay one.

GO TO SMART RESTAURANTS and order soup. However posh the restaurant is the soup is invariably cheap. They often supply bread and today in Istanbul I got a free portion of humous too. I paid just seven Turkish lira (three quid). You can make them think you're going to order something big by asking them to leave the menu on the table. If you get really hungry head for the backstreets, find a local restaurant with stainless steel tables and an old man serving and order something delicious by simply pointing at it. The price will be less than half of what tourists pay just round the corner.

DON'T DRINK in restaurants. Fill up with water or freshly squeezed juice in the street for a fifth of the price. Tea and coffee in local tea houses or cafes costs a fraction of what you will pay in tourist traps. All you need to do is learn to say "one tea" ("bir chay" in Turkish) or "bir birra" ("one beer").

WEAR HEADPHONES and listen to cool music. This will enable you to drown out the endless noise of pushy men saying "Sir... my friend...come into my shop". These guys tend to be very observant and as soon as they see your headphones they'll ignore you.

WALK SLOWLY as you browse their shops and stalls. For some reason this makes the pushy salesmen think you're wandering aimlessly, probably broke and not worth hassling.

ACT RICH and nonchalant if you go into a really posh shop, I went into a nice looking carpet shop to look at the amazing rug and tried to ignore the owner who kept standing between me and the merchandise (they can't just let you look, they have to keep saying "you like carpet?"). Irritated, I behaved like a rich kid who was slumming it, allowing him to show me his best merchandise and never asking about price. If money was no object I would be constantly on the lookout for the perfect carpet and wouldn't care how much it cost. I also asked him if he has old carpets, and big ones, and was ready to say "I'll have one for each of my villas".

BLAME THE WIFE. I got out of the carpet shop by taking photos of the rugs he was flipping out in front of me, saying "I'm going to show these to my partner". He stopped when he heard this and said "your wife! She will make the decision. They always do! You must come back with her". I agreed this was a good idea and used the excuse to head for the exit, not telling him that I got divorced in 2011 and am travelling alone.

TAKE NO MONEY when you go shopping. In Istanbul and many oriental locations going shopping is like going to a series of small art galleries - some have amazing stuff. You don't need to buy anything and there is no entrance fee. The salesmen often say "looking is free" knowing that if they can get you in the shop, sit you down and charm you, they'll probably manage to flog you something. Play them at their own game. If I really like the look of something I will take a photo of it. If they try and implore me to buy I tell them "I'd love to but I don't have anything except these coins and my rucksack is so full that your beautiful plate would get smashed". If you see something you really like you can always go back there the following day.