“I don’t mean lie…but you could exaggerate the truth.”
-Captain Kirk to Spock (Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home)
Honesty is a good policy but not necessarily the best one when traveling. While you don’t have to be a compulsive liar to travel anywhere, it can often help you with airlines, merchants, and locals not to spill every thought on your mind. Some lies save you time and hassle while others can do a great deal of good for your travel budget.
You don’t have to feel guilty for not being your usual honest self with these common and frequently handy fibs.
1. “I Don’t Have Change”
Whether it’s children begging you for a few rupees in India or a fake guide in Ecuador trying to shake you down for a few cents in La Basilica Church, saying you don’t have change or any money on you is an (albeit obvious) but acceptable lie. It’s certainly much better and less involved than explaining why you don’t want to give the solicitor any spare change.
2. “When I Weighed My Bag At Home It Was Just Under The Limit”
There are a number of ways to work your way around luggage fees but for those times when you’re just over (and didn’t prepare) making it seem like you did may help. Silence is golden, once you’ve made your claim and subtly puts some pressure on an airline employee to let you slide. That is, of course, only if you’re slightly over or not flying RyanAir.
3. “I’m Not Interested”
When shopping or walking past some interesting windows, playing like you aren’t interested in buying something is a good first step to bargaining your way to a good price. This lie also happens to work when you haven’t even considered what is being offered and can make a stroll through many markets less tumultuous.
4. “I Know Where I’m Going”
You don’t have to say you know where you’re going although you may be lost – this lie depends partially on your body language. In many taxis, towns, and bus stations looking like you’re lost invites the unscrupulous to lend you a hand, potentially taking advantage of your directional ignorance. It’s one of 4 common scams in Marrakesh and one you’ll find in many parts of the world – making you better off taking your own wrong turns.
5. “I Don’t Speak English”
English is the universal language making it a common favorite among waiters, shopkeepers, and just about anyone else who wants to get your attention. Sure, most will probably know some Spanish, French, German, and others, but pretending you don’t know any of those thrown your way cuts down on the sensory overload of many busy tourist areas.
6. “I’m Married”
This is a lie much more useful for non-married ladies than men, yet in many places around the world, these two magic words that can keep overly-friendly guys and their comments at bay. To add a bit of sauce to this fib, add that your husband is a local, and apply when needed.
Fudging The Truth Can Improve Your Efficiency Across The Board
Although you don’t have to lie your way through many situations, it certainly can be a more direct route occasionally; which ultimately saves you time to do more interesting things when traveling. Part of being a traveling chameleon is to get past the top layer of distraction you find in most new places. With experience these half-truths become less important in words and manifest themselves in facial expressions and body language; becoming more efficient themselves.
[photos by: Evil Erin (guilty look), Glamlife-studentportal (empty pockets), maccath (checking in luggage), yoshiffles (woman with mouth shut), kissyface (wedding ring)]
Great ones! My biggest one, that I just said 5 times, is no I don’t need a cab. For some reason when cab drivers find me in the bus station I’m suspicious so I always walk out to the cab line-up.
Same here, it seems more reliable and safe that way 🙂
my biggest lie… i always say im travelling/meeting someone whenever someone asks me if im travelling alone… learned it from the same person who taught me the best travel advice i’ve ever received…
I’ve never used that one but intrigues me. I’ll keep it in mind!
I have used 5 out of the 6. Yet thanks for giving me more ammo on the married lie…I had never thought about saying my husband was local!
Plus – I’m constantly lying when I leave an airport…”Mam, you need a ride?”
“No, I have one already”
That, for some reason adds much more punch 🙂
These aren’t lies – they are basic survival instincts…
Honest lies? 😉
Hahaha, this was a cute post! I agree with all of those “lies.”
They do come in handy from time to time 🙂
Another that I think helps with cab drivers is “I have been to this country many times.” That might trick them into thinking you actually know where you are going and make you less of a rip off target.
I like that one – a very applicable one in many travel situations.
I wonder if I wear a diamond ring if all the gorgeous Colombian Model girls will stop hassling me…. in my dreams.
Great Lies – I’m always using the change one and I’ve tried the dont speak english one as well but I need to master my non english sounding voice!
I think I’ve used all these! I like to switch my rings around a bit to “act married” in certain situations like going out dancing with friends, or risking the hotel bar alone on business trips. Fun post!
Amazing what a small piece of metal on your finger can do.
Ha! Great list. Since I do speak several languages, I use the “I don’t speak English” from time to time & just respond in another language. One that isn’t a lie, but stops vendors trying to sell household stuff (hammocks, carpets, etc.) sometimes in their tracks is: “I don’t have a house.” That is unfathomable in many places.
haha, I love the look on people’s faces with that one 😀
Great tips! I think these just about level the playing field when you’re a stranger in a strange land.
…and they come so much easier with some experience. A small step in the direction of blending in.
Agree with #5, for sure. I wrote recently about my experience in Bali having to pay off a cop to avoid a 1,000,000 Rupiah fine for not having an international drivers license while exploring the island on a motorbike.
The second time I was pulled over, I played as though I spoke no English. I acted confused, smiled, started pulling IDs out of my wallet – he let me go with a smile and no fine!
One experience that doesn’t quite match up is dealing with hawkers in Thailand. While not as severe as Bali, you’re often hassled with offers for tuk tuk rides, massages, clothes, tours, and the like.
I found the hawkers were much more responsive when you explained you weren’t interested in Thai.I’m not sure how it’s spelled, but mai yao kap basically translates to ‘not interested, thanks’ and that would be enough to turn most of them away. By making an effort to speak Thai, you gain a bit more respect from the hawker who takes you for not a typical tourist.
A great real-life example 🙂
Left a link that others should read – interesting story and good advice:
Interesting experience in Thailand and one I’ve noticed as well. A few locals words go a long way, if occasionally it invites more conversation 🙂
The sixth lie really works well in India, where they have a lot of respect for marriage and “being married” more clearly takes that slightly awkward element out of so many of the interactions with men – plus it stops the raised eyebrows you get if you tell them you’re late 20s and single…they think you’re downright strange! 🙂
Ah yes, so much of the culture there revolves around marriage; reminds me of many a Bollywood film.
I too have used the fake marriage one and as well the I’m meeting someone/I already have a ride one. I have to get better at pretending I know where I’m going. Recently when I was in a train station in Hanoi Vietnam a man came over to offer to “help” me find my train car and grabbed my ticket out of my hand so I had to follow him. Once we got to the train car he demanded money from me for his help, I guess I looked to vulnerable.
It can be a tough one, because we all have those moments where we’re legitimately lost and need to look around to get bearings. I find that being in motion helps, the hesitation draws attention in many cases.
Can’t believe he grabbed the ticket out of your hand, how much money did he ask for?
Not too much, I think only 2 or 3 dollars but at that point being alone with him in a train car…
This is one of the good things about smoking, actually. Its nothing out of the ordinary to stop and have a cigarette in most places after getting off of a bus/train/etc, and it gives you a couple of minutes to find your bearings and figure out where you need to go.
Now that you mention it, actually smoking does seem like a good ‘buffer’ activity in that instance. Too bad for all the other negative aspects of it.
Indeed. We have to look for those small victories, though!
Also quite good as an excuse to step out of uncomfortable situations, at least for a few minutes.
GREAT blog, haha I realized how I’ve used nearly all of the above only the past few days..!
haha, all at once! Now that would be the ultimate legitimate lie. Where was this?
This is such a difficult issue for me. I basically hate to be lied to, so I have a hard time lying to anyone about anything. Of course, having traveled extensively around Asia, I am now used to the personal questions that are the norm: How old are you, are you married, do you have any children, are you traveling alone, etc. They no longer alarm me because I know it is a part of their culture to ask these things and they mean no harm by it. However, in the instances when I feel uncomfortable, I prefer to just be honest and say that I’m not comfortable answering a specific question.
I’m kind of with you on this one, Barbara, I have to say. When people assume I have a husband (I’m travelling solo with my son), I go along with it, and answer their questions as relates to his father, because it’s far, far easier than explaining a more complex answer, and that’s essentially who they’re asking about (I think).
I’ve explained why to him, because, also, as a parent, you don’t want to raise a child to believe that lying’s OK.
But I answer direct questions honestly, no matter how long they go on for, as I tend to ask direct questions myself, too.
I generally accept help with directions, with the exception of those motorcyclists in Bali who offer to lead you to a destination if you’re looking at a map in a vehicle (and, I’m guessing, expect remuneration at the end). I do tend to spend a lot of time saying woolly things like “No, no, I’m fine”, and “Oh, I’m sorry, No, I’m sorry.”
I also find the phrase, “No thanks, I don’t want it” in the local language much more effective than pretending not to speak English. Folk tend to assume you’ve been there for a while and will generally quit hassling you…
Definitely not a good idea to lie about language in a bargaining situation; but perhaps more so when walking through an overzealous market. It’s one of those lies that doesn’t have to be spoken and can be implied with body language and facial expressions.
I guess…. My son always tells me I’m too soft-hearted, saying “No thank you” in whatever language all the time, and should, instead, just walk on blankly and ignore….
The times I do use these I tend to do so to save time depending on the circumstance. I can understand though situations where it wouldn’t be appropriate to lie.
The best lie I always equip myself with is “am not interested” and “I know where I am going”. Truth is I got lost in Guangzhou, China. Better lost than taken advantage of. I prep with google maps and knowledge on the place am going to.
I get lost everywhere, the “I know where I’m going” is a look I get much practice at since I never know my way. I can turn even the best map into a directional disaster 🙂
These are some very good lil white lies to know & use on the road. Thanks for letting me know.
Just a bit of skirting the truth…only a bit though.
Shhh your giving away my secrets Anil, only of course the married one is true now! 😀
So you weren’t lying all this time, just delaying the truth…or something like that!
In Vietnam I sometimes felt that I was regarded as nothing more than a walking ATM. Finally, after being followed and hounded by a particularly aggressive tout trying to sell me a new wardrobe, I finally lied and said “already bought!” It worked like magic and I used it with much success for the rest of the trip.
With aggressive touts less does seem to be more. Just curious, did Vietnam seem to be especially difficult in this regard based on your other travels or was it just a group of specific touts?
Other favorites include: I am Canadian, I have no cash on me, I have no idea how that got in my bag, I didn’t see that sign…
LOL, especially at “I have no idea how that got in my bag.”
I swear the “I’m married” trick rescued me from shady women atleast twice. One situation in Russia was really getting serious. 😉
haha, I remember that one…!
hahaha! Great post! I use the not interested one a lot, but I’m usually not interested in touristy gift shops anyways. Whenever people ask for money I usually just ignore them.
A good option too, pretending not to see them is a lie in its own way 😉
These are cool. Facial expressions are everything too. No one asks me for anything since I can put on that face at a market. Always get a good price!
haha, market face!