During our short but sweet time in Fiji we saw that we had some extra dollars in our pockets and sun still left in the sky. So after surviving the Kava Ceremony (earlier that morning) we decided to grab some lunch and head back out to see more of this beautiful island.
At the cruise wharf we walked past a few tour operators and found one who was more than happy to take us out to the Fiji mud pools, which was very high on our bucket list. Quick note: Some of the tour guides here operate by making the grunt of the money and then outsourcing the work to taxi drivers.
We have documented before that we think the Fijian people are some of the most friendliest locals that we have ever met during our 5 years of travelling. Unfortunately for us we were instead presented with a Fijian expat as our taxi driver who was not one the friendliest of people in the world … he attempted to scam us a total of 9 times in one hour. Yep you read that correctly, 9 times.
1. Money Exchange
This is where the taxi driver offers to exchange your legal tender with fake Fijian money which is unusable. Though we cannot confirm that the money he had was not legal (as we rejected his offer), we have heard stories about several travellers who have had this happen to them.
Our reply: “All places accept Australian, American and Fijian money, so no thank you”.
2. Death in Family
This was a sad attempt. Our taxi driver informed us (in a very casual tone) that his wife died only two weeks ago and now he can’t feed his family as there is only one income coming through.
Our reply: Not really a scam but trying to make you feel bad so you can tip him more money. This is a tough one but a few “sorry to hear” is all you can really do. Side note – this was done right at the beginning of the tour – great way to set the mood don’t you think?
3. Didn’t receive payment
A great initiative set up at the cruise wharf includes paying the taxi drivers upon drop off. This stops any issues with travellers not getting back to the boat or where the drivers abandon tourists and take their money. So the story was half true when he said he didn’t receive payment but he kept pushing that we pay him now (even though we had already paid the tour operators).
Attempted three times
Our reply: Just say you will deal with the issue when you get back to the boat – he may respond with “they won’t be there” just say “well we will see”. This was never an issue as he never pursued it further and dropped us back on the wharf with no problems.
4. Had to pay to work
He informed us closer to drop off that he has to pay a port entrance of $17.50 to get into the port. This is probably true, but his work costs should not be our issue.
Our reply: “Drop us right out the front of the port” – this of course was not acceptable as the tour operators will not pay him if they do not see us back on the ship.
5. Needed books for kids
I attempted to (mistakingly) lighten up the mood (remember this was all during a total of a 60 minute period) by asking how his kids were going at school. This was met with a very sombre reply that he is too poor to buy them any books.
Our reply: Once again not really a scam but trying to make you feel bad so you can tip him more money. Just say what comes to mind I suppose? Bit hard in this situation, I think we just awkwardly sat there.
6. Wait in car at the end
This ties in perfectly with point 3 where he attempted to get two allotments of money. In this attempt he will show the tour operators that we are safe at the wharf in his car, receive payment and then come back to us and say they didn’t pay him.
Our reply: With a smile on our face we said we would go up to the tour operator with him and talk to them on behalf of the driver… he quickly blurted out “no!”. So as he walked towards the tour operators we just stepped out the car, closed the door and walked towards the boat (not looking back).
Did this make our time in Fiji less enjoyable?
At the end of the day we were in a third world country and the driver thought that we were young and inexperienced travellers. We understand that he was more than likely living in borderline poverty, but in the end everyone has their limits.
This 60 minute window in no way upset us, our made our time in Fiji less enjoyable, this post is not to make you second guess wanting to go to Fiji and we HIGHLY recommend you do come to this country, just look at how beautiful it is. Due to the negative undertones this post carries we almost did not publish this post but in the end we felt that you all should be informed.
All he had to do was smile, tells us a bit about the island and we would’ve happily tipped him.
Have you ever been scammed whilst travelling?
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