Oops: I Really Ticked Off Our “Tour Guide” In Jerusalem

Filed Under: Travel

I’m in Israel with my parents, and we’re having a really great time. I can’t believe it took me so long to get here, but this truly is an incredible destination. I’ll have more on our time here soon, but in the meantime I wanted to share a quick story from our sightseeing today, as I’m curious what you guys make of this situation.

Today we decided to do some independent sightseeing. We had some specific sights we wanted to see, so this morning we got in a taxi to our first destination. The driver spoke great English and was friendly, and sort of poo-pooed the places my mom wanted to go, but at least he made some good suggestions. He convinced my mom that he should be our “tour guide” for the day.

He would charge a reasonable(ish) amount, and would drive us to all the places we wanted to go and explain things along the way. He was incredibly knowledgable, at first came across as a nice guy, and had a nice car, so we figured why not. After all, having someone always waiting for us is better than having to hail a different taxi every time.

Eventually the guy started getting on my nerves a bit:

  • He started talking about US politics, and about how Obama is really Muslim because his middle name is Hussein (and this was a conversation he started, not me)
  • There are specific things my mom wanted to see, and he basically refused to go to some of them and suggested they weren’t worth seeing; while I appreciate when a local gives advice, I wanted to make sure my mom saw what was important to her, and there’s a difference between making a recommendation and outright dictating where your customers should and shouldn’t go
  • My mom is Christian, and I thought it was a bit rude when he started dropping us places and simply saying “these are more Jesus things,” followed by him rolling his eyes; for the record, the driver said he wasn’t religious

During this trip my mom wanted to pick up a couple of things that someone had asked her to bring back to the US (specifically, a mezuzah and shofar), so she asked the guy if he knew of a good place to buy these. She was looking more for general recommendations than anything else. My assumption was that these things would be easy to find on our own, but the guy said “I know of a good place, I will take you there.”

At this point I jumped in. “I really think we can do it on our own.” “This is the best place, I can easily take you there.” Up until this point the guy had given good recommendations, so I said “okay, but this isn’t a place only full of tourists? I don’t want to go out of our way to go to a tourist trap shop.” “No, I only take you to good places.”

It was a 15 minute drive to get there (which is pretty far in Jerusalem), and it was a ways outside the old city. As we pull up there were two huge tour buses there, full of tourists from the US and Philippines. I couldn’t help myself, and said what came to my mind. I’m not sure I would have said anything if he had otherwise been incredible, but leading up to this a few other things got on my nerves (as I outlined above), so I guess I felt I was justified in at least sharing my opinion on this.

“Oh come on, you take us to a shop full of tour buses where you get a commission? I specifically said we didn’t want to go to a place like this.”

He was angry. He put the car in reverse right away, and said “I can take you to your hotel right now. You think I do this for a commission? This is the best place!”

“Yeah, but I specifically asked for a place that wasn’t full of tourists. We didn’t ask you to bring us here, and you specifically said you knew of a great place.”

We went in anyway. It was as you’d expect. Prices were in USD. There was a buffet there for the tour buses. When they quoted the prices, they were giving a “special 20% discount” on everything. We bought what we needed to since it was convenient.

Of course our driver tried to hide that he was getting a commission. When we were done shopping he walked out with us, got in the car, then got out of the car and pretended he needed something out of the trunk, at which point the guy from the shop walked up to the trunk and handed him money. He then got back in the car, and slipped the money in his pocket.

Previously we hadn’t discussed that this would be the end of the tour, but I guess he had made up his mind that he was taking us to our hotel. While his driving was great up until this point, he now drove like a total maniac. He swerved around cars and honked his horn constantly. As we drove back he said to me “you are just a kid and know nothing. You should know when to shut your lips.”

I wasn’t going to respond to that specifically. Little did he know that I was the one taking my parents on the trip and paying for the tour. I simply said “I wasn’t trying to be mean, but I’ve been all over the world, and I’ve seen these tourist markets everywhere. That’s not what we were looking for, and I explained that before we went. I was hoping you had a more local place you could bring us. I’m sorry if I didn’t communicate that well.”

“You want local? You will pay a lot more.”

“Well we don’t mind paying more if it’s good quality.”

“I brought you to the best there is.”

“Okay, so you’re saying the locals get worse deals than the tourists, and pay more for worse quality?”

“I take people there every day and they have no problems. It is only you.”

“Okay, I’m sorry…”

I still paid and tipped as I would have before the whole incident, and he really made me feel guilty for a brief moment.

Now I’m not sure how to feel. Was I off base for voicing my opinion? Should I have just thanked him for bringing us to this hidden gem?

  1. I can’t believe you fell for the taxi as a tour guide scam like a first time cruise passenger. Oh well, enjoy the rest of your trip. Israel is a great place to visit.

  2. Yeah, when I visited that’s the impression I had of most Israelis as well. Not the best. Conversely, Arab Israelis were absolutely delightful.

  3. Personally, I don’t think anyone should ever feel “off base” for voicing their opinion. While other people may disagree with you, there is no reason to stifle your opinion.
    With that being said, he of course is going to express his opinion (as he had done many times that trip it had seemed).
    Some people take the non confrontational route and don’t say anything, some do. It’s a personal choice. Either way, it’s probably going to be the same result in the end.
    The only thing I wouldn’t have done is tipped him, especially after he insulted you. But that’s just me.

  4. This is a perfect example of how business transactions in middle eastern countries are frequently nerve-wracking.

    Also, why you research your tour guide on tripadvisor (or other place).

    Also, why taxi drivers have well-deserved “bad guy” reputations.

    Thanks for posting this. If nothing else, it shows how even seasoned traveleres like yourself can get taken.

  5. Don’t think you did anything wrong. It sounds like the driver was at best a little annoying, at worst unpleasant and sleazy. I’m glad you spoke up, though I wouldn’t have tipped.

  6. After reading this story, I am never going to visit Israel in my life.
    Such a terrible experience…I feel really sorry for you Lucky.

  7. Hell no! Screw that guy. He might have been a good tour guide, but then he lied through his teeth about the market and the commission, AND he wasted yours and your parents’ time taking you out of the city. Screw that guy.

  8. As someone that lived in Israel for a couple years I can say be very careful with the taxi drivers over there. Minimize contact with them and I’d use uber only. In the event there is no uber only use a meter even if they say the fixed price is better.

  9. All I can hear is a bad Robert Smigel Israeli impression. Google Yari’s Autonomics Curb Your Enthusiasm inspirational speech

  10. Ben, never buy Judaica in Israel unless someone you know and trust tells you where to go. Everyone gets caught up in the excitement of buying made in Israel goods while in Israel. My daughter paid $100 for a menorah. Didn’t survivor the plane ride home she didn’t pack it properly. Wasn’t worth the price in the first place. For a tour guide same deal unless friends recommended get a government certified guide….

  11. Sorry you had that experience and hopefully it wont put you off on whats hopefully an amazing visit to Israel.

    Most Israelis dislike Obama and many support Trump/Bush due to his perceived ‘being good for Israel’ but I suppose if you went to Egypt you’d have a cab driver very vocal about his dislike for Trump and love of Obama.

    As for the shopping – as you know, this is common all over the world. You probably didnt get ripped off, but you shouldnt be surprised that you got taken to the tourist oriented store. Same thing happened to be in Thailand and Morocco.

  12. Sounds like the driver was a bad egg and unfortunately took advantage of the situation. I’m sorry, it’s not the norm but some drivers take advantage when they spot a tourist. You had every right to point out you were being taken advantage of. Best place to buy those items are in Meah Shearim neighborhood, prices are all in shekel and the merchants at some stores speak English and are knowledgeable. Hope you enjoy rest of your trip, it’s my favorite destination!

  13. Welcome to Israel. I think you handled it correctly, although I would’ve considered being even more aggressive. (What’s considered rude in the US might often be necessary or expected there. No hard feelings.)

    The thing about Israeli culture is never to be seen as a sucker. If that means yelling, yell. If that means walking away, walk alway. Don’t show any weakness.

  14. Not to be overly dismissive, but I think Garuda Indonesia published a mistake fare. I was looking for tickets for my husband to go back to London for V-day next year, and the first class tickets (return trip) retail at £2154, whereas business class tickets are at £2509.

    I got the results off of Skyscanner, checked through, and sure enough it was about the same price on GA’s official site.

    Thought you’d like to know, since it’s one of your favourite products out there

  15. Come on Ben, you can do better than this. You’re supposed to be a well seasoned traveler yet you fall for this?

    It’s the sort of thing that happens everywhere, all the time and honestly you should know better.

  16. Sorry to hear about your “experience”. There are taxi drivers in Israel that take advantage of tourists, you can read about it from time to time in the Israeli media.
    Most of the people in Israel would assist you and do the best to make you comfortable and welcome, but, as I said, just like in other places in the world, there are rude and disgusting people.

    You should avoid these tourist traps the next time.

    And of course, that’s totally fine that you told him what you thought about him and his service to you. You can complain about him to the Israeli ministry of transportation that supervise taxi drivers.

    Have a great time in the rest of the trip.

  17. @Tom not sure id write off a whole country based off of a sketchy taxi driver. You ever been to New York City?

    @Ben S: Israel is a right-wing country. Years of terror hazing will do that to you. My liberal-at-least-for-Israel family HATES Obama because he was harsh on the expansion of Israeli settlements.

  18. Oops. I forgot the dates. I found those prices when it’s scheduled to leave CGK on 10 Feb ’18, and returns from LHR on 24 Feb ’18. Good luck! Might be good for your KE Skypass account

  19. He did exactly what you asked him not to do, and then threw a tantrum when you called him out. No way would I have tipped after that.

  20. You did nothing wrong. In fact, if it had been me I would much earlier have given him some money and gotten rid of him.

  21. Lucky,
    As usual a great post. I have to say, I don’t really understand, as some have pointed out, why not do some research for a local guide prior to the trip, especially since this seems to be a planned trip. When I take my family to places, such as London or Paris, I take some time and find one local guide for a full days worth of touring. I have had a some great experiences doing this, and have used the guide in Paris on more then one occasion now.

  22. To those of you asking about why we didn’t have a guide arranged, we do have full day guides arranged for four of our days here. This was one of the days where we were going to explore on our own. Personally I don’t like having a guide every single day of a trip, as it’s also nice to be able to explore on your own. So this guy wasn’t meant in lieu of a licensed tour guide, but more as a way to get easy transport between the places we wanted to see on our less structured day.

  23. Official Tour guide in Israel needs to study an extensive course of over 600 hours, spread over two years with close to 100 separate day trips around the country.

    The History of the place is so complex and has so many layers and narratives that not preparing a recommended guide in advance is simply negligence on your behalf.

    You can blame only yourself. A random Taxi driver as a tour guide that picked you up from the Waldorf .

    He must have thought he won the lottery today.

  24. Lucky I love your blog and honestly one of the main reasons I like it so much is that it is obvious you are a really nice, good honest guy….With that said, what the hell is wrong with you? You let this taxi driver talk to you and treat you like that? You should have called him out on it when you saw him getting tipped by the shop and then told him to shut the f up when he spoke to you In such a rude way. …AND THEN YOU TIPPED HIM!!!! Seriously Ben, you can’t be so nice and take crap from people like that…and they only do it because you allow them to. Stop being so nice and polite when dealing with people like that, they don’t deserve it and will continue doing It unless put in their place.

  25. I had a private tour guide when I visited Jerusalem. I told him I would only buy from an Israeli market when we were in the Old City. No commission or other BS with tour buses. I agree that pretty much every country I visit and do a bus tour has these tourist trap shops. I have little to no interest to see those places or buy from them.

    Think this guy just suckered you in so he could make extra money. I would have ended the trip with him much earlier so you could visit the places you wanted to see. My guide had a few areas where he told me to keep walking in Jerusalem and not to enter certain shops but that had nothing to do with him getting a commission.

  26. Lucky – You had the chance to perhaps encourage a better experience for that guy’s next customer by refusing to go into the shop and not tipping. Or maybe even saving yourself some unpleasantness as well by terminating the trip early. Instead you told him loud and clear that he can treat people like crap and still make his money.

  27. I’m a bit surprised you fell for this, as it’s fairly common in a lot of countries. As soon as a cab driver suggests to take me to some places, it’s red flags all over as far as I’m concerned. You should have gotten out the second he started dismissing some of the places you wanted to go to, or told him to go back to the hotel so you could get an actual tour guide. And I would have definitely not tipped either :).
    But to answer the question, you probably did well voicing your opinion, maybe he’ll think twice next time (although probably not lol).

  28. If anything, you should’ve been more firm, though I understand this is often easier said than done and I can appreciate not wanting to stir up confrontation, since I intensely dislike such situations myself. I found myself in a similar situation in Jordan one time and it can really ruin the overall experience. I specifically hate when sleaze and rip-offs are presented as ‘hospitality’. There’s absolutely no way I would tip, especially once the price had been set beforehand. I generally don’t get tipping cab/Uber drivers anyway, unless they really go above and beyond. Enjoy the rest of your stay!

  29. @ Clem — In this case he made some perfectly good suggestions that we followed, and we enjoyed them. He didn’t try to sell us anything along the way. Access to everything was free. This wasn’t a tuk-tuk scam like you’d find in Bangkok. Heck, he didn’t suggest taking us to any shop until my mom asked about it.

  30. Yeah, as some have said taxi drivers here in Israel are notorious for these antics (I guess personally I think that taxi drivers anywhere warrant suspicion, but it’s definitely bad here).

    Please don’t let that encounter ruin your day and your trip to this country! I’m sure you and your parents are having fun, and we’re excited that you’re finally(!) here – WELCOME!

  31. This just seems like a typical taxi cab guide scam/mistake. Happens all over the world. I made a similar mistake in Greece when I was 18 on my first trip without the parents. To me, the reward of having a good local guide, ease of having a car ready and the potential cost savings doesn’t make up for the risks. I just call Ubers/cabs and use tripadvisor/local websites for planning. Sure it is more of a PITA but it saves aggravations like this.

    Also, you article was totally free of bias and reasonable but this seems like a story destined to bring out the Pepe the frog folks who somehow fail to chime in when you have issue with Christian cab drivers (like in Poland).

  32. If you’d be interested in seeing some of the more “off-the-beaten-path” areas down in the more southern areas (Ashkelon, Sderot (the town that always gets bombarded in times of conflict and has bus stations with bomb shelters), views of the Gaza Strip and border, etc.) I’d be happy to show you around with no trickery or tourism nonsense whatsoever.

    Just me: a regular guy, American, lives in the area. I can introduce you to real Israelis, everyday, warm people. All completely free of charge, my pleasure!

  33. Also – parents or not, you HAVE to hit the beach when you get to Tel-Aviv! I think you’ll be blown away (no pun intended:)) It’s really great.

  34. My partner and I have had great luck with Viator, the Trip Advisor spin-off into commercial tours. There are reviews already posted about the guides and you pay for everything via the web, so there’s none of the funny business associated with cabbies trying to sell you on their tour guide skills.

    I think this experience is very telling of how you’re a frequent traveler, but you’re an infrequent tourist; this is a scam everywhere in the world. But, live and learn. That said, you were absolutely right to call him out and speak your mind. He was scamming you, he knew it, you (eventually) knew it. Never be afraid to say “Enough is enough, we’re getting out now.”

  35. I had to pay for a full day safari in Africa even though it was half day.

    At least I fought with the guy and called him a bunch of names. If you know you are not going to win you might as well get things of your chest. Making friends everywhere is overrated. Calling a spade a piece of shit is priceless.

  36. Hahaha you always are such a pussy and just bend over and let ppl f u over don’t you? Time and time again wherever you go… hopeless

  37. Why on earth would you tip anyway? He did what you specifically told him not to do. At the end I would have said “Your tip is the kickback you got at the souvenir shop you took us to after I specifically said not to.” And your headline–“Oops: I Really Ticked Off Our ‘Tour Guide’ In Jerusalem”–puts the blame in the wrong place!

    What I learned from this–if I ever hire a taxi driver/”tour guide” for the day, I’ll negotiate a rate per hour rather than per day, with a (short) minimum time if necessary, so that I can bail if I become unhappy with the driver, which seems to have happened for you rather early.

  38. if at all, you were too much of a good guy and should have cut the trip short much earlier, when you felt he disrespected your family and your beliefs.
    As an Israeli it saddens me that there are a*****s like these who spoil the experience for open minded tourists such as yourself. However, this kind of behavior is unfortunately very common in central tourist areas and I’ve experienced it myself in Rome, Croatia and Vietnam, and learnt over time how to avoid these altogether.
    FYI, tour guides i Israel need a license and have to go through mandatory training and courses to get it. While it afffects their cost, it does somewhat ensure their quality.
    And a word to some of the more bigoted previous commentors who somehow see this either as a reflection on all Israelis or as a reason to avoid visiting the country altogether – please don’t come!

  39. I agree with some of the posts above regarding tourism in Israel.
    I found most Israelis in the tourism industry to be tip-greedy and generally only out to make money off of visitors.

    On the other hand, the Palestinian/Arab guides were generous and honest.

  40. Thanks for sharing the (bad) experience!

    In my opinion, the taxi driver is just a rude person, unpleaseant for tourists.
    Being pleaseant/gentle is universal, his behaviour can’t be explained just by cultural arguments.

  41. Why on earth did you tip him? He got money from the shop owner. There’s his tip. He specifically disobeyed your directions in order to get that money. So why not let him make his choice and deal with the consequences?

  42. I can’t believe you tipped him normally. Tipping is not a right, and by tipping him you’re reinforcing his bad behavior.

  43. You made some mistakes but your driver was a jerk so it was a bust all the way around. I would not have commented on how he took you to a tourist trap for a commission – a bit confrontational. I might have asked for another place pointing out that this one was too crowded. And I wouldn’t have argued with him about anything, it just escalated matters.

    I’m glad you hired a guide for your remaining touring. I went a few years ago with a Jewish girlfriend and I’m Christian so we hired an interfaith guide who was great. I asked to be taken to the Sea of Galilee to be baptized which wasn’t on the plan and she happily arranged it and I made sure I gave a her an enormous tip. Enjoy your holiday!

  44. Ben, you are just too nice. We had the same “taxi driver turned tour guide” experience. I made sure that I reported him.

  45. Why the hell would you tip him? How will he learn? He faced absolutely no consequence for his poor service or unsafe driving. Look, people around the world have very different ideas on politics and race (I recall a perfectly nice taxi driver in Bermuda going off on us about how Caitlyn Jenner is a disgrace — okay, true — and not really a woman — false). So I try not to hold tour guides to the same standards as we would in the US when it comes to those thorny issues. But everything else he did seems ripe for no tip and certainly a complaint. Just very puzzled by this behavior from someone who has traveled so much.

  46. Oh man, that sucks. Not a good feeling! It seems you handled everything well, though. I probably wouldn’t have tipped at the end—the dude directly insulted you! In any case, I wouldn’t dwell too much on it or let it get you down, since that guy is probably miserable and has to live with himself which is the greatest punishment of them all. The best revenge you can have on assholes like that is not letting it get to you, continue being happy, and allow them to stew in their own misery.

  47. I think you were far too nice. I would have refused to buy anything at that tourist trap. But, then, I also would have ended it when the guy made a fuss about taking you to the places your mom wanted to go.

    Why didn’t you take the bus? Public transit in Israel is generally excellent.

  48. Welcome to Israel, Ben. You met a sadly not atypical dickhead. Glad my friends there are cool sophisticated international polyglots but you encountered a real Schmendrick. Why not just walk away from such a troll and insult him right back to his face? I don’t put up with crap like that, especially if I am paying someone for their services. Honestly am glad I didn’t decide to take a cheap Ryanair flight to Eilat — your experience brings back bad memories of my dealing with jerks like this last time I went to Israel.

  49. Sorry Ben but this can and does occur all over the World. I usually will stick to what I have planned and will jot down the names of places that are mentioned if I dont recall them. Then I do my due research and if they seem good ideas hit them another day

    If any guide or in this case cab driver refused to take me to where I said I wanted to go, no problem Id tell them to pull over and get out and grab another cab (and Ive done exactly that numerous times).

    As for the shopping its pretty much a rip anywhere you would go. just stand by most of the Arab shops in The Old City inside Jaffa Gate and watch as the guides get their payoff, even better watch as each guide gives out a different colored disc card so the store knows which guide they owe what to

    As for a tip no way, unless he went into every place with you and explained everything, which I doubt, since as already been mentioned in Israel being a guide is like being a doc and its intensive, with alot of studying and tests and takes at least 1 year. Had the driver been licensed he wouldnt be a plain taxi driver

    Mark it up as an Oops and simply move on

    btw many cab drivers in Jerusalem are Israeli Arabs and most folks who dont frequent the Country/City wont ever know. A Jewish American religious friend jumped into a cab by the Kotel(Western Wall) and told the driver where he wanted to go, the driver made a right turn exiting The Dung Gate, my friend had kittens (its towards the Arab area) My friend asked him why he did that rather then go to the Left, he said its alot quicker (it is) , my friend said you arent afraid of the Arabs or getting lost, the driver said nope not at all I live < 5 mins from here and Im an Arab myself, my friend then had his 2nd litter of kittens

    btw if you wanted to feel being in Israel the WA isnt the place to stay, if you get a chance walk into The King David across the road.

  50. Taxi drivers in Israel (as in many other places) can be a rough bunch, but they are much better now than they were 15-20 years ago.

    Note – You do NOT have to tip taxi drivers in Israel. Israelis don’t. And it’s hard to imagine all the French, Italian and Russian tourists tipping since they don’t even tip in restaurants at home. As an American, I used to always tip Israeli cab drivers until Israeli friends told me that there is no need to.

  51. Why do you Americans even tip when you’re being ripped off and treated like crap?
    I really don’t get you sometimes.

  52. Ah, if you felt uncomfortable you shouldn’t have thanked well (unless you’ve really felt that), nor given the driver a tip. He will then take easy of tourists thinking that he can trap them again as he has just won the game against you.

    This problem is quite usual in many countries, and I’m surprised a well traveled guy like you would face this. NEVER ask a guide or driver for shop recommendations in a touristy place, unless if you want to help their life because you feel sorry for them for their low income, as in some cases they are expected to live their life from commissions and tips just like some restaurant waiters in the US. But I suppose in your case he was self-employed so it didn’t matter.

    If a driver doesn’t take you to places that you want to go, get off at next stop and try to find another taxi. Arguing with drivers won’t be a good idea because they know much better about towns and more importantly your life is on them. Like others have suggested it’s best to do a research before going especially when it comes to what you want to buy.

    Be careful next time…

  53. Typical Israel… It’s very fake friendly until you hit a bad nerve. We had a very similar experience last year, but we got kicked out of the car.


  54. Lucky, love the blog. I think you should read the book “Codependent No More”. You don’t tip people when they’ve been a dick to you. You’re a good guy, you should have better self esteem and be a better self advocate. Also, it’s a little passive aggressive to not stand up for yourself in the moment and then to blog about it later. Wishing you well. Thanks for letting me be completely opinionated and judgemental on how you should live your life. hah.

  55. That sounds awful, and par for the course for a sketchy taxi driver-turned tour guide. Cut your losses and make sure you make it over to Mahane Yehuda at night for dinner.

  56. @Luck, your first mistake was agreeing to let the cab driver be your tour guide in the first place. In general, anytime a random cab driver in Israel offers you anything just say no. Doesn’t matter what it is, whether to be a tour guide or especially when they want to pre negotiate a price up front, it never works out to your benefit. Just say no and if they get aggressive just get out of the cab or, if you’ve started moving, ask them to pull over so you can get out. Basically just match their aggressiveness which in turn will let them know that you’re not someone to be taken advantage of.

    In the future if a driver is giving you real c**p like this one was on the way back to the hotel, just tell him off and get aggressive as need be. I’m not saying that all Israeli cab drivers are rude like this guy was, but for ones that are the only language they speak is that of rudeness and being aggressive. Once they see that you can go “blow for blow” with them, they’ll back off pretty quickly.

    Also in this particular case, if it was me, I certainly wouldn’t have tipped and probably wouldn’t have paid him the full pre agreed to price. Instead, I would have handed him less and said something along the lines of “you didn’t do what agreed/didn’t live up to your end of the bargain so I don’t need to either,” and just walk out of the cab.

    In short, don’t take any c**p from Israeli taxi drivers.

  57. Your gut was definitely right about the shopping area he took you to, and if nothing else, the comission you saw him shadily receive pretty much proves it. Then trying to make you feel bad for confronting him was despicable. I wouldn’t feel bad for this guy at all, and hope you and your mom continue to have a great time!

  58. Sounds typical. Jerusalem is so easy by tram or by foot I never understand doing much by Taxi. Maybe a sudden rain storm trip back to the hotel or a ride up to top of the Mount of Olives. Outside Tel Aviv or Jerusalem the rental car route is the best way in my experiences there.

    If you need a decent OK taxi guide I’d call Moses Taxi & Guide at +972505434463 I’m sure the drivers vary a bit but we’ve always had decent luck with them. I would imagine they will still do some steering to commission shops though.

  59. Unfortunately this is called “world”. This happens in every country. People always find a way to take advantage. You should have told him to take you back to the hotel and start your own tour again without him.

  60. Oy vey! This is why you don’t leave it up to your driver to figure out where to go for (fill in the blank). Always research things ahead of time or ask your hotel concierge for recommendations. If your driver disagrees with your destination, a “we’re meeting friends there” works wonders to discourage him from arguing further.

  61. @ Ben — This is the price you pay for bringing your parents (if they weren’t there, I assume you would have ditched your driver much sooner), and I assume it is well worth it. Enjoy your trip with your parents. They won’t be around forever!

    I can’t wait to hear FCQ’s comments when he wakes up…

  62. Hey, no harm no foul. I agree with one of the comments above. What is offensive in the US is not in the Middle East. Those in the business of making a living off of tourists have a thick skin.
    Keep in mind that in the Old City the souvenir shops all sell the same stuff. Most of it is made in China. Expect to pay too much and just enjoy the experience ! it is built into the price.

    Have fun, avoid politics.

  63. @Ben/Lucky. He said to you… “you are just a kid and know nothing. You should know when to shut your lips.” and you did not put him in his place, AND you tipped him for verbally abusing you!??? For the love of God, what is wrong with you Ben??? You are a successful business man in a niche market. I think you need to believe in yourself a bit more and have some self respect.
    As a side question, did you parents not hear the taxi driver’s comments?
    Also, if the driver started to drive like an idiot, verbally command him/her to drive in a safe professional manner (I recall a number of us giving you the same advice some time ago).

  64. We are very soft here in the US. Any back and forth interaction is viewed as a confrontation, and blows up into a gunfight. Meanwhile in many parts of the world you don’t get any respect until you stand up for yourself and tell someone to f- off. All they do is yell and lie to each other. You don’t even need to know a language to understand the dynamic. And then its over.

    “When in Rome/Israel/Morocco/Bejing”

    However the comment about your parents is also right. I can see not wanting to upset them. So you did fine.

  65. Ben I hope you spoke to some people that have lived their before you went. The area you want to go for Jewish things is Me’a She’arim St and the corner of Natan Strauss St. When you get to that corner you want to turn left. In this are please take caution and dress appropriately. This is where the locals shop including many low income familes that live in the area. Browse around get the prices and go back to the cheaper ones you get. Its normal to bargain so use that as a tool. Its not far from the Waldorf Astoria.

  66. I avoid taxi drivers like the plague. Anywhere in the world. I have had bad experiences here in the US, in Asia and Europe. Uber and Lyft have always worked great for me. And when they are not available….I arrange for a hotel car even if it is more expensive. Case closed.

  67. Yep, yep, happens to us all. My wife and I had the same experience with a tuk-tuk driver in Kandy Sri Lanka. Thought it would be easier to hire one for the day over negotiating with a new one after each stop or taking the bus. Big mistake, he drove like a maniac an hour out of town breathing in car exhaust and hot, dusty air to an elephant reserve/torture place we had no interest in going and where he got a kick back for our entry and was pissed that we didn’t ride an elephant in chains that he would have made more kickback money. Drove even more maniacally on the way back and told us the places we wanted to go were closed. Did stop at some tourist trap gift shop though. We waited by the tuk-tuk until he finally drove us back to town. Live and learn. I’m speaking up and getting out sooner next time this happens.

  68. @Tom: if this is enough for you to never visit Israel you better cave in in whatever place you live and never leave your house. This is called “World” and you have to adapt to it. I can guarantee you if you visit Israel you will have an amazing experience. Just play smart as you should anywhere you go.

  69. Guys give him a break… he was with his MOM! I wouldn’t try to cause a scene with my mom in the car. If it was my mom, she would be completely clueless that we got taken to a tourist trap.

    But the tipping? why!!!! You are encouraging bad behavior. Tipping is based on level of service (and implied that you shouldn’t get insulted), I hope you gave a small tip!

  70. We had a wonderful time in Peru when we hired a cab driver to take us around the Cusco area for the day. He even dropped us off on top of the mountain at the ruins of Pisac, then waited for us in the town below so we could hike down the trail.

  71. @Lucky
    Other sites that might be of interest to your mother are in the see of Galilee (Kineret in Hebrew), specifically in Capernaum.

    There are tons of licensed tour guides in Israel. Go with one of them. If you want, I can try to hook you up with my uncle (licensed) who speaks English and German.

  72. @lucky you prob won’t even see this after all the comments/advice
    But the Israeli taxi drivers figured out that Americans come to israel and spend a lot so theyworked out their game…this attitude friend one second mad at you the next is typical Israeli no offense to them but one minute their all sweet and really nice but the second you offend them they’ll get really mad…experienced it many times over you’ll be best off just taking random taxis throughout the day to each dest for the rest of you’re stay..(till when are you staying ?I’m hoping to bump into you!!)

  73. Amazing. Anyone talks to me like that I go full Ray Donovan on them. Cabbie would be relieved to get me out of the cab and still have all his teeth. I’m exaggerating a bit but the cabbie would have quickly thought “Oh shit, I messed with the wrong guy. How can I get myself out of this?”

  74. This is where being 6 foot 2 and 250 lbs comes in handy. It also helps to scowl a New York “I might just crack you in the back of your head if you piss me off” scowl.

  75. You tipped?!?! Lol.
    And then you wonder why the next guy also gets taken for a ride.

    Here’s a tip for the rest of your trip here in Israel. The second you get into any taxi ALWAYS tell them you need a receipt. That will keep them in line. All receipts have the drivers ID number and info and they are frightened of being reported. They are highly regulated.
    Also, as a side note the concept of commission for tourist referrals is extremely rare in Israel.
    If you happened to get the drivers info feel free to contact me and I can help you report it so it doesn’t happen to others.

  76. Lucky,
    Don’t let this incident to upset you. I think you handled the situation well. In general, in Israel you better use Get-Taxi App for getting a cab, since Uber is not fully licensed yet (due to regulatory issues). The Get service is very common in all big cities. As written above, many Taxi driver can take advantage over tourist. By using an App, you can also monitor the driver’s rating.
    Enjoy your stay.

  77. I don’t feel you should feel guilty at all. All you did was raise your opinion.
    You were clear enough to tell him before hand that you wanted to avoid the tourist full places. He shouldn’t have taken you there.
    Now voicing an opinion is one thing, completely disregarding a tourist’s wish to see something they want to is very different. What got to me is his way of “disrespecting” your mother’s wish to see specific spots.
    I wouldn’t have tipped for sure.

  78. Hi Ben,

    This has happen to me in the past, and probably will happen again. The issue is not the driver, or the tourist trap, this things happen every minute everywhere, but the High expectations you have for a great trip, specially since you are with your parents. I’ve been there. You want everything to be perfect. Also, you need comfort and flexibility since you don’t want your parents to deal with waiting around or getting tired. So don’t be so hard on yourself, I’m sure you felt worst or more angry than your parents did.
    Did you guys spoke German in the car? Maybe the driver got annoyed by that. If he was so stupid to think Obama was a Muslim because of a middle name, can only imagine what else came to his mind. In any case, I’m glad you have this place to relief your frustration and get a lot of positive feedback and calming words.
    Best to you!

  79. Yeah, you got had. But we really took big chances in Taiwan when we took on a tour guide soliciting outside the train station to go up the Taroko Gorge. He ended up being really nice, reliable, and informative. We got very lucky I know.
    We also had a great tour guide out of Bangkok recommended by the concierge at the DoubleTree. In the future, I would work through the hotel to get a reputable tour guide.

  80. I wouldn’t have tipped this guy. Not a chance. I would have kept my cool enough to get back to the hotel but there is no way in hell I would tip this person. If he has an issue with it I would get the hotel staff involved. He insults you and you still tip him and you felt bad? I’m a bit surprised being the amount you travel that you would tolerate this type of abuse.

  81. @Ben: That sucks but I see the majority of your day was worth it. What’s disheartening to me is all the backlash centered around you choosing to be nice to the driver and taking the high road in the end. Kindness is a choice and evidently lacking in too many places, as seen in all these comments. Do what you want. It’s your life. Not disappointed at all.

  82. Didn’t your mother (or father) say anything?
    The trip would have been over right there. Paid the guy whatever work no tip and gotten another taxi or transport back to the hotel.
    What did you gain by staying with him?

  83. Lucky. Forget about it. Bad apple, screw him. Check out Beresheet resort in Mitzpe Ramon. My wife and I are here now. It’s a completely underrated resort with insane views, spa, private pools, amazing rooms, great service, ibex all over the place (!!!!) and a lot to see around here. Just went on an amazing 4-hour hike today. This is real Israel, not the tourist BS in Jerusalem and sometimes in Tel Aviv. I think that they’re fully booked tomorrow night but it’s sooooo worth it if you can come on Friday!
    My offer is still on for going out with us in Tel-Aviv this weekend – hit me up if you guys want to see cool places and meet good people!

  84. My experiences with Israeli TAXI drivers have been extremely bad. I wouldn’t judge the country by it’s drivers though, I met many friendly Israelis one of whom worked at a sandwich shop next to the beach in tel Aviv and lent me his bike and lock with key to bike down the beach. “Just don’t go to my apartment with the keys!”

  85. Ben, Ben, Ben, why did you preface your statement to the tour guide with, i don’t want to sound mean but… and then apologize several times?

    Apologies are used when you’ve done something wrong not when you’re pacifying an asshole.

  86. @vlcnc yes, and that was his point of view. Is he supposed to be able to give it from your POV? If people want it from that perspective, you have to go do it. But it’s absurd for you to call him out for not changing the way he views the world.
    And yes, my privilege as a member of the debt-ridden generation and recent immigrant to the US myself is sooo comforting. Nice assumptions, keyboard warrior. Stop feeling sorry for yourself and giving the rest of us this reputation. We have enough to overcome without the self-deprecation.

  87. taxi drivers all over the world are mostly cheaters and will do anything within their power to get a few extra bucks out of you.

    thank god for uber and other similar services.

  88. Two quick comments, mirroring what everybody else kinda said.
    For a very seasoned traveller, this was the worst possible choice. A ten minute google search would get you a list of recommended guides (and I can attest, some of them are phenomenal. Absolutely outstanding). Israels history is so rich, and complex, a good guide can make a real difference.
    I will never ever go into the taxi driver who’s also a guide thing. That’s asking for trouble.
    If I were you, I’d part ways with him at the market and make my own way back.
    As a separate questions – tip? Seriously? How does that work? I’d personally argue that you were ripped off to begin with, but tip??

  89. I think you handled this as well as you could. A frank discussion of your complaints as the trip ends is most likely to make an impact on him. His anger and erratic driving wasn’t directed at you exactly, it was reflecting his own shame at being called out on unethical behavior. If you had tried to withhold payment or a base level tip (aside, will non-Americans and rich people please stop complaining about our cultural norm of giving extra to those in low wage service jobs) you always intended on giving, punishing him economically, you might have given him justification for hating you. Instead you took the high road that might actually prompt some self-reflection. All these people saying you should have escalated the situation with your parents in the car are keyboard warriors with mixed up proprieties, but you already knew that.

  90. Just for the record: The best place to buy the 2 judaica things (mezuzah and shofar) is in one of the small dedicated shops in ultra Orthodox neighborhoods.

  91. Lucky,
    Welcome to Israel!

    Hang lived in Jerusalem for over a year, I will tell you, if you do not speak up and stand your ground you will get taken advantage of and trampled on. Take it as a learning experience.

    Every one in Israel tries to make an extra buck and Israeli’s are all good sales people. I am sure you notice them in all of America’s malls selling Dead Sea products.

    If you want a local as a guide or for anything else make sure you know people that you can ask that have used them. I can recommend kenspiro.com as he known historian and lecturer. He has a wealth of knowledge about all the sites and has written many books.

    For local shopping you can visit any of the shops on Malchei Yisroel/Me’ah Shaarim Street near Kikar Shabbat neighborhood. Manny’s and Jerusalem Yarlmuka are popular spots for religious and Judaic items. Just make sure that your party is modestly dressed to avoid problems with the locals. You can also find just about anything at the Machne Yehuda Shuk.

    Restaurant suggestions: Cafe Rimon in Mamilla or Ben Yehuda for Dairy. Gabriels and Red Heifer for Meat.
    Feel free to contact me if you need assistance.

  92. @Airways and travels
    You are really piece of sheet, all you comments stupid like you.

    You have many of Israeli fans, most of them will take you for free wherever you want

  93. Welcome to Israel, Lucky! More to the point, welcome to Israelis. Some sabras are prickly on the outside and sweet on the inside, he sounds like he was prickly all the way through.

  94. Serves you right for falling into the oldest tourist scam. It certainly is not a typical Israeli ploy but rather a worldwide taxi brotherhood. You should have cut the tour and walked away as soon as you became uncomfortable. Last but not least speaking up was certainly appropriate. Enjoy the weather…

  95. Agreed. Taxi drivers in Israel are among the sketchiest out there. They are always trying to make a quick buck, even if that includes ripping people off. Speaking from personal experience.

  96. This kind of stuff sadly does happen all the time and I have been caught once or twice myself. In Canada, we are trained to be nice and polite when abroad and sometimes that works against us. I prefer organized tours myself and when I have gone out on my own, it was always after finding a tour guide on one of the well established travel sites and yes, you pay more, but you almost always get quality and a much more personal experience. In those cases – a nice large tip feels great to give even though you paid more because you got personal service. I found the taxi drivers in Israel to be typical of the breed and somewhat more aggressive than average. The taxi drivers in Jordan were a little less aggressive but in both places, North Americans were looked on with a bit of disdain. Hard for us to take, I know, but we are so known for having good advice for all of the rest of the world even though we do not live there or understand fully what is happening that sometimes we deserve it. Chock it up to experience – it won’t be the last bad one but hopefully the good ones will always exceed the bad ones.

  97. This is not just Israel. As soon as I started to read your post I had flashbacks to a bunch of countries I’ve been in where a taxi driver has behaved exactly like that. I traveled around the world in the 1980s with a budget of $10 a day and backpack and I got wise to this kind of thing fast.

    The taxi driver starts by poo poo where the travelers want to go, trying to convince them to go with HIS agenda, trying to convince them to let him be their guide for the day…

    It is annoying because it is NOT about the taxi driver being “just a nice guy, wanting only to offer good advice.” No, it is all about taxi driver’s agenda, which basically comes down to greed.

    Yes he may come across as “nice and helpful” at first but as soon he’s poo pooing where YOU want to go, you have to know that his agenda is to take you to places where he will get a commission. You have to know that his bottom line is his own greed and it is NOT to take you to special places and share his special knowledge out of altruistic motives. And you have to know that he will be begin to get annoying and that you will become less and less pleased with him.

    If a taxi driver even starts down this road with me I say firmly that I am not interested.

    I think partly you were too nice with him because you were with your parents, and partly it may be that you are not in situations like this often because you travel at more of a luxury level. (based on the fact that during my budget backpack travels in the 80s I got wise quickly to this type scam, I am just guessing that the type of travel you usually do allows you to not run into these scams.)

    About tipping, I am an American (living in Italy) and we in the US have a rather ridiculous tipping system and I wish Americans would let go of it when they are abroad. No one in the rest of the world tips the way we are told to in the US. It is NOT obligatory and certainly not warranted in the situation you were in.

  98. He was not a christian so he was a terrorist. And you tipped him !!!!!! You were lucky this was not the day that he should blow up his car between 4 tourist buses with US tourist.

  99. If your mother is a true Christian – honoring the true values of the Bible, what does she really think about your relationship with Ford ??

  100. I love how sharing your experience has been turned into an anti-Israeli (anti-Semitic) platform by a few hate filled pin heads. I too have traveled all over the world, and I’ve found good and honest people more often than I’ve found idiots that condemn an entire people (usually Americans being on the receiving end) because of ignorance, jealously or just plain hatred. I’ve traveled all over Israel and found honest, decent, warm and naturally friendly Israels (Jewish) and warm, honest, friendly decent Arabs in Israel (Israeli Arabs and otherwise) as well. I’ve also found greedy obnoxious assholes in both groups.

    As for what I would have done. I would not have apologized or tipped the “guide”. More because of his editing your site visit requests than being part of the local rip-off-the-tourist squad. I also would not have bought anything from the shop as it only resulted in your tipping him twice for screwing you and your parents over.

    I’ve found that as I have gotten older, I’ve become less likely to avoid confrontation and treat people as they treat me. Even nice guys like you eventually get comfortable and good at letting people know when they have done something wrong. Thanks for all you do and for your excellent columns. To the “world travelers” who don’t like the people who live where they visit, do the country a favor and don’t go back.

  101. Why turn this into a comparison between Israeli and Arab tourism?
    This is a one-off inceident, no different than any other city in the world. Why don’t I hear hate-comparers discussing Israeli taxis vs Polish taxis?

    Not everything has to be an agenda.
    You want to compare?
    Which of the two nationalities spew hate speaches? That’s right. Soooo polite of them.

  102. Lucky so if he was actually a good “guide” up until the point to got to that tourist shop you should’ve straightway when you got there take us back to the hotel as you encouraged his behaviour and now he thinks he can still getaway with it if you had of said no take us back to our hotel he might think twice about doing it next time to anyone else.Though I thinks you were right in speaking your mind when to got to the tourist shop and hopefully put some doubt in his head about scamming tourists.

  103. I would not have tipped him for not listening to me!!! and said so to him..have done this in the past when an uber driver in Liberal Boston started dissing our president TRUMP!!! no nice… Also in most EU countries it’s been my experience that they all love Obama and hate…hate the Bush family and Trump!! I blame it on BBC and the other channels…msnbc/cnbc/CNN/Hln etc etc and not have access to Fox news..getting the left side of it all….

  104. I was born in Israel -served in the army and moved to the USA almost 40 years ago – my children and grandchildren live there and we go to israel a few times each year so I think i have the qualifications to discuss the Israeli taxi drivers
    You may have traveled the world – but the Israeli taxi drivers almost with no exception are a special “breed”
    They know it all … politically they are on the right side of the political map vote for Netanyahu – hate Obama and like the current occupant of the WH
    While you and your Mom had an idea what you wanted to see the taxi driver “knew” what you need to see .. as for the gift shop the taxi driver truely believed that he is doing you a favor by taking you there and he truely believed that you got a good deal and his commission (that is the way he thinks) is none of your business .. so when you commented you hurt is “ego” and the Israeli taxi drivers have huge egos – hence his response
    As for giving the tip – it’s good that you did tip him . if you didn’t you would have got a lengthy tirade that would stay in your mind for many days
    Bottom line – israel is one of the most exciting destinations . You will have great memories – the encounter with the taxi driver will be a small “blip on the radar screen” and when you go back – and I hope you will – you will use the taxi drivers for trips to / from the airport and for short local trips !

  105. Why you used a taxi driver as your guide? I would never do this. Why don’t you just buy a private tour with some local travel agency in the city, you could tailor it to your needs and you would not get all that crap and bad attitude.

  106. I know a lot of Israelis and have travelled inIsrael. In my experience:

    – Taxi drivers in Israel do take advantage of tourists who don’t speak hebrew or negotiate aggressively (this is a must). There are scams here and there. It seems that you were taken for a ride (literally) here. Always insist on a meter rate and tell the driver to use waze.

    -Israelis are very easily offended (as a broad generalization), and some have somewhat reactionary views

  107. @Eliyahu
    “I think you handled it correctly…

    The thing about Israeli culture is never to be seen as a sucker. If that means yelling, yell. If that means walking away, walk alway. Don’t show any weakness”

    I totally agree. But most of the countries in the world are exactly the same.
    My mother, an Italian-American from N.Y. would have certainly been more confrontational and would have told me not to tip him.

    I’m not like that though. I would have done exactly like you and racked it up to a lesson learned, knowing it was more important to me to be too generous than too harsh.

  108. Sorry, you TIPPED HIM? After appalling service where he insulted you, was disrespectful and didn’t do what you wanted. I’m pretty much speechless, I just can’t fathom why on Earth you’d pay him extra for him insulting you. Sorry, just don’t understand the logic of that at all!

  109. You are way too nice Lucky and I respec you so much for that. You obviously had the right to voice out an opinion and you did it well, plus you still tipped! I would just get caught up in the head of the moment and would not react so nicely. Those people do these things most of their lived as a job, they would know the tricks to make us feel bad anyways. I don’t think this specific experience speaks for everybody or the whole tourism in Israel though. Sorry you had to go through all that especially with your parents.

  110. It is hilarious to hear the story that I think everyone who has done independent travel has experienced. Our first and almost identical experience was in Cairo where we wanted to go to GAZA, the museum and the grand souk. So I cleverly hired the local taxi waiting on the street and bargained our day trip. We eventually saw the backside of the Pyramids, a papyrus shop, a leather shop, another shop where we just stayed in the car until he moved on. Never got to the souk, the museum and the restaurant that we wanted to go to. At the end of the day a “policeman” gave him a “ticket” as he returned to the hotel so he asked us to pay it. Ha! But we did tip him lightly.

    But it was a real experience. That’s Cairo and that’s what it is all about. They screw you with a smile.

    So next time we return with a stopover in Cairo we negotiate a trip to the souk at the airport with a guy who is really with it and understands exactly what we want to do and quotes a reasonable price. As he is taking us to the parking lot to get into “his” taxi he swiftly does an arabesque and we are left with a driver who has no English and has no idea where we want to go or what to do.

    Yup – that’s Cairo and the Egyptians are fun people who smile lovingly as they screw you. No matter how clever you think you are they are always a step ahead.

    I suppose that’s part of the fun of travel.

    Next time I think I will just rent a car. …. no, maybe that’s not a really good idea…

    Quote of the day “If we were meant to stay in one place, we would have roots instead of feet” (Racheal Wolchin)

  111. I’m sorry but you sound like a total wimp and pushover. You need a big man to protect you.

    #1 rule of traveling, don’t use a random taxi driver as a tour guide.

  112. Welcome to Israel, comrade. The last Bolshevik Outpost, with a unique blend of both Levantine AND Eastern European corruption combined. The nation still runs on under the table payments, baksheesh and bribes.

    I have lived here for 25 years. There are good guides, but I would caution readers to stick to Anglo Saxon ones and get referrals from natives first.

  113. YAS BEN YAS!!!! Im so proud of you for having an attitude and actually replying back to the guy in a taking-your-stance way. Good for you!


    YOU TIPPED HIM AFTER ALL THAT?????????? my goodness gracious. Tipping culture is horrible, leave it behind in the USA and dont tip, specially to people like this guy.

  114. Lucky, It sounds like you handled it well. I’m looking forward to your trip report.
    I’ve always wanted to go to Israel, but haven’t yet convinced anyone i want to travel with to go with me.

    @Kalboz Thanks for that youtube link. I’m now going to waste hours watching food videos. 20 seconds into the Israel video and i’m drooling.

  115. Lucky – appreciate your hard work and am a huge fan, love to learn from your advice and admire your business acumen. As an Israeli/American, and someone who loves both the US and Israel and travels to Israel every 6-8 weeks, I certainly wish you would have had only 100% positive experiences while in Israel.

    As others have noted, Israelis as a whole are incredibly warm and friendly. But cab drivers, more often than not, are a shady bunch. But the really issue here, with all due respect, is the American naivety, that is so easy to take advantage of, and is the laughing stock of many in the world. As a whole, Americans are viewed as “suckers” who believe anything and are easy to manipulate, and many in rest of the world know it. You hiring a cab driver, letting him dictate where to go, apologizing, then tipping him is a pretty good representation of this strange, yet common, American behavior. Hell – I wouldn’t even take a taxi-driver-led tour and let a cab driver decide where to take me in New York City – let alone a foreign country where I did speak the native language.

    On the other hand, being naive, non-confrontational, “a sucker”, etc… does make it easier to live life and move on when issues like this arise – so who really knows or can say who is right?

    At any rate, I thank you again for your work, and wish you an incredible rest of your trip. I hope you end up loving Israel and all it offers as much as I do. Should you need anything at all while in Israel, please do not hesitate to ask.

  116. I’ve been reading your blog for years, but this post made my blood boil at YOU! Why in earth did you tip him? Why did you let him drive aggressively with your mother in the car? Why did you let him disrespect you?????

    Have some cojones man, stand up for yourself and your family!

    You should have torn him a new one. Instead, you apologized and tipped him!!! Unbelievable!!!!!!!!

  117. The guides I had in Jerusalem were wonderful. When your experience started heading south, you should have severed the relationship.

  118. Lucky, you are gem! Thank you for rising above and keeping your dignity. You have nothing about which to be ashamed. You are a good and decent man. You have added good karma instead of tearing down the universe with more negativity. I love you, man. Please don’t change!

  119. What Tom wrote is something i feel also (@Tom November 15, 2017). I hope i nerver in my life will travel to a middle east country. To me they are more like beggars and thieves.

  120. I am British and I have visited Israel 3 times, I found many Israelis in tel Aviv and Jerusalem to be abrupt and a bit arrogant. You are an experienced traveller ( as I am ) and you just got caught by a ripoff taxi driver . I would not have bought at the shop once I saw tourist buses and buffet and I would have found another place . I would also not have tipped him.
    I never take taxis with smiling drivers from outside hotels , they always seem to be a rip off. Some may be fine , but I like to be sure .

  121. Young man you need to take an assertiveness training class! You take your parents on a trip and there were places your mother wanted to see and the taxi driver tells her no? Honestly? At that moment I would have asked for an explanation and then instructed him to pull over and I would have gotten out without another word!
    I am amazed your mother didn’t rip him a new one! I sure would have in a heart beat!
    As for a tip, he got his tip from the shop owner that ripped off your mom!
    Ido not believe in being rude but with someone like him I have no problem making acceptions!i
    ( by the way, you certainly “stirred” the crowd with this report!)

  122. No! the young man needs to travel in economy and live in hostels to learn assertiveness.

    The young man has only encountered yes men in first class and hotel suites that the Yong man does not realize that he travels in a bubble. Well traveled is not what I would call that.

  123. @ Kenneth

    “I never take taxis with smiling drivers from outside hotels , they always seem to be a rip off.”

    Sometimes travel is about adventure – for example, choosing some glorious 1950s convertible parked outside a Havana hotel and seeing what happens. Adventure means risk. Sensible travellers assess risks against benefits.

    But there’s a time and a place. And doing that someplace where I don’t speak the language is much higher risk.

    And some locations attract sharks: the worst shark pool I’ve encountered was at the maglev station in Shanghai; you’re exhausted from the flight to China, have just taken this thrilling ultra-fast train from the airport into the city, but the terminus is in the middle of nowhere. You have no choice but to take a taxi. And, mysteriously, none of their meters work…

  124. I don’t quite agree with some poster saying that you should never hire a taxi driver as a tour guide.
    Although it is certainly not always the best choice, I have gotten really good deals with this method. This is usually because the taxi drivers are much more inclined to haggle with you, since the competition is so high.
    When I was in Mauritius this year, I saved about €30 (its not a fortune, but hey – its a lunch) a day by taking tours with our taxi driver of choice. His english wasn’t perfect as a professional tour-guide, but he was really friendly and tried to realize our wishes as as best as he could.
    As all of us are seasoned travellers here, I am sure we can pretty much figure out if we have a sleezy or cooperative driver within the first ride.

  125. Liars make a show of taking offence in the hope that you’ll abandon the question while defending yourself.

  126. What horrible treatment by the driver. In Jerusalem we used taxis all of the time and politics was a subject brought up by Arab and Jewish drivers (not us). We simply stated we were not religious or interested in politics. The views expressed fell into tribal lines but it stopped expansive discussion. Taxi drivers have to be treated with emphatic firmness. In a city with abundant supply, I would have stopped the tour at the first sign of discomfort and paid only for the portion received. Such behaviour breached the verbal contract. I would not have tipped. I never use drivers as tour guides. Rarely do I use tour guides. We were fortunate in Jerusalem to find one driver we got on especially well with. He charged fairly, spoke excellent English and had a lovely car. We hired him to take us to Masada then to the border to Jordan. There was mutual respect. His knowledge was offered freely and he helped us get tickets with no extra charges. In Africa and the ME, I have come to accept that the taxi negotiating process is often fraught and and unpleasant. Travelers just have to accept that but never leave common sense behind or let a driver make you feel uncomfortable. You were simply too polite and too nice here, I’m sorry to say. Look on it as part of an otherwise exhilarating experience. Israel is an incredible country.

  127. Lucky,
    I don’t take taxis in cities that I’m not familiar with anywhere in the world. Taxi drivers in general have a bad reputation for being rude and ripping off foreign tourists. I’ve also heard about tourists being robbed by them, and in extreme cases being killed after the robbery in 3rd world countries which I won’t name here.

    I usually take the bus and subway/train. In cities where Uber is available, I use it when I want to avoid overcrowded buses and subways during peak hours. And if Uber is not available, I hire a limo by the hour through the hotel’s concierge or Blacklane’s app/website. The personal security of myself and my family isn’t worth the risk of trying to save a few bucks by taking those cheap taxis and tuk-tuks!

  128. I just don’t understand you Americans some times…why would you tip FOR BAD SERVICE?

    I might be wrong but isn’t the origin of the word tip To Insure Proper Service? (Could be wrong). In a way you’re just letting him get away with this next time.

    I have been to Israel about six times and always enjoyed it, but the only time I have had truly “hustle’y” service is from taxi drivers, especially in Jerusalem.

  129. Sorry, but I cannot fathom why you tipped him? It sounds like an appalling experience and a total ripoff.

    I would certainly have googled guides rather than take a local taxi driver, but in any case at the end of all that you should have demanded a discount not given him a tip. You are being too nice to the point of being taken advantage of.

  130. This is why Ben is, and always will be, just another points and miles blogger.

    Ben as an actual traveler? Not so much.


    You are only reinforcing bad behavior. If they stop getting tips, stop getting people to pay them to be a ‘tour guide’, the bad ones will go on to another scam.

    I agree you had to pay what you agreed to, but, never tip for bad behavior or bad service.

  132. I very likely would have decked the guy. He would definitely have gotten his tip. I’m going to Israel with the fam in March. H/t to Dan’s deals.

  133. We were in Jerusalem in March of this year. The taxi cab drivers charged us double the fare for driving us around town during Sabbath. We didn’t have a choice because public transportation all shut down at sunset on Friday and don’t reopen until Saturday night. Most of the shops and restaurant started to close after 1pm on Friday. We were fortunate to stumble upon a Chinese noodle joint on King Salomon Street; otherwise we would be hungry on Friday night.

  134. The irony of you getting upset at him for making an alleged commission on your purchase when you promote credit cards on your blog and mostly likely also receive a commission. You probably could have chosen your words better when talking to him given the context and potential for him to drop you off in a bad area. Lesson learned.

  135. “Obama is really Muslim because his middle name is Hussein”. He sounds like a trumpite. Ugh.

    Ben, please stop tipping bad people like this, it just means they’ll never learn their lesson. I wouldn’t have paid and would have got other transport to the hotel.

    Would you tip a waiter in an American restaurant if they were a nasty person?

  136. Man. That guy would’ve had a worse time with me. Next time be just as rude and for god’s sake don’t tipp someone who treats you like sh**.

  137. In Jerusalem a great many of the cab drivers, though Israeli citizens, are not Jewish and hate tourists whose presence they see as supporting Israel. I must have taken hundreds of cab rides in Jerusalem and the cabbies have ranged from the most wonderful humanity has to offer- angelic, honest and selfless to Islamic terror supporters, one who gleefully yelled “itbach el yahud” (slaughter the Jews) to passers bye. It is illegal for anyone without a Tour Guide license issued by the Ministry of Tourism to guide. Israel is an awesome destination you should visit again and again there is just so much to see and do but as anywhere you find humans there will be some bad ones too. Fortunately in Israel they are easier to spot- they often are …, well it’s not PC to state so suffice it to say that they don’t like “infidels” but their bark is worse than their bite.

  138. NEVER TIP when you receive hustler -type style of “service.” He was obviously a shyster. The taxi cabbers turned “tour guide” was a huge red flag. Lesson learned.

  139. Lucky, while I enjoy reading your blog, its quite irritating to see these articles where you you receive bad service, and then choose to roll over and play dead. Its understandable that while youre on a trip with your family, your contributions to the page will drop, but it seems to me that in this case you are just posting something for the sake of driving up interactions.
    If you cant learn from your mistakes, you are doomed to spend a lifetime repeating them.

  140. Did you actually say those things? I’m struggling to see how someone could possibly be assertive enough to outright challenge someone and tell them that they are ripping them off, yet so submissive that they hand over a voluntary tip at the end.

    I know the American tipping system has completely screwed up how most Americans view tipping, but come on…

  141. First mistake, not to book a professional tour/guide. Of course, they too might have included one gift stop, but at least would not have behaved like jerks. Second mistake, to tip. Forget the bad part, learn a lesson, and move on.

  142. Ben, your articles on Lounges/ plane flights are brilliant and I enjoy reading them every other day. But mate, you got scammed. And you apologised, and felt guilty, and paid, and tipped. After all you witnessed…Why??

  143. He’s likely more a points and upgrade miles getter than a real traveler -hence, why he fell for this old trick. Or maybe did it intentionally to drive up intranet traffic?

  144. I thought you did really well right up until the point you tipped him. Jeez, Ben, tipping ain’t compulsory you know.

  145. Ben, I’m sorry you had that terrible experience. He was out of line and totally took advantage of you and your family. Good for you for being direct and letting him know you in-satisfied. However, he was a cab driver and not a licensed tour guide. In Israel tour guides must pass a rigorous tour guiding course before they are ever allowed to take tourist. Besides becoming experts on the history of the region, and all religious sects, they learn cultural sensitives of different people. You wrote this blog post telling your experience of someone who has never passes any test besides a driving test (which is questionable based on his driving) to be on that level of service and professionalism. If nothing else I would have hoped you would encourage your readers to use licensed tour guides in foreign countries that are reputable. I think this sets up a poorly deserved image of Israeli tour guides who are nothing but professional, courteous, and knowledgeable.

  146. Hey Ben

    I think it’s pretty straightforward, the guy tried to rook you (swindle you).

    However, you maintained your dignity, went out of your way to avoid a conflict and suffered for it. I think you were the far better person and, this is not meant to be patronising, but I think your parents must have been proud of you. You certainly have my respect because you did everything to ensure the experience didn’t spoil their trip.

    Sure, tomorrow, the guy will probably try to exploit someone else but your priority was your parents’ enjoyment. Let someone else risk giving him a lesson in honesty and kudos to you.

  147. I probably would have said something like, oh, look at all the buses here, it is probably going to be REALLY crowded and we wanted to go somewhere that was more low-key and relaxed and maybe haggle a bit. Can you please take us back to wherever.
    Also when paying, I might have tipped him like half what you would typically tip, and say, oh I think the store owner covered the rest of our tip right?

  148. I was laughing when reading the trip in Jerusalem. A typical situation on many tourist places. I am a little surprised you said yes to the taxidriver. Honestly, I think I would be able to do the same, sometimes with luck, sometimes without. It is the nice risk of travelling.
    I hope your mother could see the places she wanted to see, in a good atmosphere.

  149. I don’t understand something. You agreed beforehand on a price, were somewhat unsatisfied with pushy service, driver got a commission and you still tipped him?!? What is the reason?! From the story he clearly tried to exploit you (and he did) and he still got something extra from you?!

  150. I’m sorry to hear about what happened Lucky. How distressing for your mum.

    No, you were certainly right to have expressed your opinion, as the driver was being quite rude in voicing HIS opinions. I would have asked to be taken back to the hotel at that point.

    And. You shouldn’t have tipped him, ‘cos now he thinks that he’s in the right, when clearly, he wasn’t!

  151. Hey Ben don’t worry I’ve had experiences like this before. Some “tour guides” have the exact routine and they know exactly how to push someone’s buttons and seem honest and get really insulted when it’s all part of the scam. I had a taxi driver come up to my friends and I in the West Bank who spoke good English and we said we didn’t need a taxi and he suddenly shouted in a slightly solemn voice “Why? I’m not a terrorist!!” This is an example of exactly what you experienced. This is the sort of thing that would push an American’s buttons, but was clearly part of a scam so my friends and I avoided him. It’s ok Ben now you know, and you’re armed with the knowledge to avoid something similar in the future.

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *