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Get Free (or Nearly Free) Airport Transfers Worldwide

Travelling is fun most of the time but there are points in every travellers journey which are an utter grind. My personal peeve is forgetting to arrange transport from the airport to wherever I’m staying, if I’ve booked somewhere that is. This is normally only a problem for me if the airport is out of the city or out of reach of somewhere cheap to stay.

Now normally one could freestyle it to a hostel or hotel through hitchhiking, blagging a lift or using some form of public transport on the cheap, this would normally be fine but there comes that occasion when you’ve booked a cheap flight, it arrives late into the evening or early morning, you’re hungover to buggery from the leavy party the night before and simply asking for a coke from the flight attendance to get rid of your cotten mouth can become an arduous chore!

Sometimes this can be the best situation and save you some pennies
Sometimes this can be the best situation and save you some pennies

So in situations similar to this, what do you do? Well assuming you’re in such a dire state that camping outside or sleeping at the airport is not an option (packing a sleeping bag and ‘tramping it’ is always my first thought, you need to get to the city where most of the cheaper diggs will be found.

So you’re flight has just come in and you’ve managed to hold in that little bit of sick from the turbulence and bumpy landing, you’ve picked up your bag and checked that no drugs have been stashed in their somewhere and you’ve made your nervous walk through the customs & exercise line trying to give just the right amount of eye contact without looking too “starey” and thus succumbing to a cavity search…

The most likely thing that will happen next is you’ll walk through the arrivals gate and be swamped by taxi ‘touts’ looking to charge your extortionate rates to take you to ‘wherever you want to go’. This can be an absolute nightmare, and if you don’t blend in and have a backpack then your easy prey… So lets take a minute and talk about the best way to handle these pleasent people:

Taxi Touts at Airports, how to handle them

A familiar site at airports...
A familiar site at airports…

Firstly, they are not your enemy, but they can be persistent so the first thing to do is politely decline their offer and make an excuse to temporarily leave, assuring them that you’ll be back in 5 minutes and if their still there you’ll chat to them then. Going to the bathroom, for a cigarette, a coffee (my personal favourite!), will give you some breathing space to get your plan together for maximum enjoyment with minimum price paid.

Give this guy headphones and you’re all set to ignore taxi touts!

If you really want to give them the cold shoulder, put your hat and sunglasses on, snap on your headphones, crack on Metallica full level and shoot for the arrivals exit door! They know what’s happening almost immediately and seem to give you some weird respect for doing it. Maybe that’s just me?

From experience I would say that the average airport taxi tout will charge between 25-50% more than a standard fare which you can get from metered cabs that can often be found just a few meters away at the airport taxi rank. A word of caution though that even ‘metered’ taxis can be (and often are) tampered with by their operators and can actually end up costing you more than a tout! – Always make sure you get a price before setting off, to get an idea I’d get a few ‘quotes’ from the touts, knock off a 1/3 and go see the taxi ranks (or vise-versa if using the Headphones, Cap and Sunny’s approach as outlined above), 90% of them will undertake jobs off the meter. As an extra bargaining tool you can often play one tout against the other to get the best price (John said 100, Pete said he could do it for 90, can you beat that… etc). They all have a break-even point and if they can’t match it then they will leave you alone. If you are feeling confident and don’t mind negotiating with stranges, letting taxi-touts battle over your business is often the best way to go as they’ll cut to their best price almost instantly as they know that they are all using the same tricks…

This could be your 'Taxi'
This could be your ‘Taxi’

From previous experience, taxi touts will look the part, all suited up, polished shoes and well dressed, only to then usher you off (often so you’re not snapped up by someone else who can do it for less) into the parking lot where he’ll introduce you to his 25 year old banged up old cadillack which you’ll also probably have to help him pushing to get it to start.

Now these taxi touts aren’t all stupid, they’ll have you wait for 5 minutes (which ends up turning into 20 minutes) whilst they ‘have a quick cigarette’ which is actually 3 cigarettes chain smoked back to back at a relaxing pace. During this time, small talk will go back and forth to try and lighten the mood whilst his colleagues inside try and round up another few unsuspecting tourists to jump in with you (thus doubling or sometimes tripling his fare).

They can operate at a speedy pace when getting you to their vehicle and often be quite insistant, if at any point you feel uncomfortable, stop and talk to them, explaining your concerns, often it’s at this point you can further negotiate the price before committing to starting your trip, something along the lines of this normally works:

“Hey Joe (call them anything ;-)), I thought you were a Taxi driver and I’d be getting into a safer looking and more road worthy car than this. I think I’d be happier going to another taxi as for the same price it would be a much nicer ride for me… sorry to waste your time, I’m not happy getting into this car”… then start to make a move away (an important ‘step’). They would hate to see someone walk away after they’ve got them this close so at this point it’s time for you to push for an extra 10-20% off the price… “If you can do it for 90 instead of 100 I’ll go with you, else I’m leaving for another taxi”….

“ok my friend, ok…” will normally be the response. Expect them to ask for a tip when you have set off for ‘good driving’, it’s up to you what you do.

A last quick tip before you jump in is to make sure they know exactly where your hostel/hotel is and will take you to the door. Often they will have no idea but know the street name and drop you off either at the street or near the street and give you some ‘simple directions to follow’ – never accept them! If you’re in a foreign city, at night, by yourself with all the posessions around looking like you’re looking for somewhere to go then you’re prime target for muggers, con-artists or other ‘nice’ people that will show you to your hostel and insist on a ‘tip’ at the end of it! Plus also, it could be raining or cold, or even worst the taxi driver doesn’t even know where your hostel is and has just dropped you off down some road because it’s en-route back to the airport… All of this has happened to me in the past and it’s fecking horrid at times! – Make sure it doesn’t happen to you.

taxi_fare_being_exchangedFinal tip: Always pay your full fare at the end of the journey, when you are dropped off at your place of stay. If you pay before leaving then things can get messy and taxi drivers can purposely start ‘arguments’ or highlight discrepancies in the itinerary in order to get some more money from you, or alternatively drop you off half-way to your hostel/hotel and claim that’s what you agreed on, now he’s just saved 1/2 his petrol with a full fare in his back pocket and heading back off to the airport…

Remember, if it doesn’t seem logical don’t do it. You’re in the driving seat, and no matter what they say, if they want your business they’ll have to do it YOUR way!

Making Your Own Shared Taxi Arrangements with People on the same Flight

Now, If you were a smart ol’ boy without a killing hangover and got to the airport early, you could have possibly met the people travelling on the same flight and arranged to share a taxi (and the price) when you landed, even if you’re not going to the same hotels, drivers will more than likely drop at different places for a ‘little extra’ or alternatively you can all get into the center together and if conversation went well they might offer you a place to kip on the sofa or pull out bed for the night (big brucie bonus!) alternatively you’ll now be in the center of town and can make use of cheap public transport options which are often ‘free’ if you don’t buy a ticket to use them and low risk as attendants usually clock off early hours of the evening so aren’t around to patrol.

Booking a hostel with free airport pickup or going with a hostel which is touting at the airport already – The ultimate winner!

More and more hostels are picking people up direct from the airport these days as competition is tough and it’s a way to get some revenue in. I would say around 50% of them are offering this service (obviously depending hugely on Country and Airport) and out of that pool around half will offer it for free if you stay X amount of nights (normally around 3-4) so that they can recoup some of the cost involved with the journey. Hostels that will pick you up for a fee will normally be at a discounted cost (around 50-75% off that of the metered taxi ranks outside the airport).

If you decide to go this route you’ll need to spend a few minutes checking out which hostels do this and which meet your requirements, and then making a booking a few days prior to catching your flight to give the hostel owners time to make arrangements as often they will only check their emails/bookings once a day or once every few days depending on what their situation is like. I have successfully and un-successfully managed to make arrangements for a free lift to a hostel after I had landed but it has meant that I’m waiting around for an hour or two and it puts a lot of undue pressure on the hostel owners in my opinion.

You’ll also find that there could be a number of hostel reps at the airport willing to take the lazy travellers to their hostel. This can be good and bad. You’ll obviously get a free lift to the hostel door, but if you don’t know anything about the hostel already it means it might not be what you’re after, though if it’s late at night and all you really want is a bed then why not? It’s always worth asking about the types of room they have, their prices and current occupancy rate, if they have a low occupancy rate then you could negotiate a deal to stay in a double room with ensuite instead of a shared dorm which will allow you to kick back in absolute pleasure (I’m currently writing this in a hostel in Egypt in a double room with an ensuite after having done exactly this!).

Remember that you don’t have to take only one form of transport to get to your destination. If you’re on a buget and don’t mind the additional time it will take you, it could work out much cheaper to get a taxi from the Airport to the nearest train station and then get a metro to that cheap hostel you found online! Remember it’s becoming more and more common to have internet terminals at airports now which often you can use for free, this can prove to be invaluable if you’ve left your Airport transfer arrangements to the last minute… A few free minutes spent on the internet can end up saving you a whole weeks worth of accomodation costs!

Thanks for reading, I hope it’s helped some of you out here. If you’ve got any tips, suggestions or mad stories relating to this post, please direct them in the below comments box!

Happy travels everyone!
Paul x

Any questions or feedback can be directed to the comments section below and I'll get back to you as soon as I can.  :-D

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About Paul

Becoming financially independent and travelling the world has been a dream of mine since I was young. In 2012 I decided to dedicate my life to travel. I will document my journey through this site.

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One comment

  1. Great article on being a thrift traveler

    Thank you,