Hassles, Bargaining and Beggars

In many destinations worldwide, dealing with the day-to-day hassle of touts, street vendors and the constant need to bargain is just something you will have to get used to, especially in North Africa and the Asian Sub-Continent.

Beggars are a more universal problem: hell, there are quite a few even in the richest countries. Nevertheless, beggars differ quite substantially in the less developed world. With a large proportion of its population living in poverty, even those with homes and jobs, those who do beg can be considered in dire straits: they are often women, children and the ill or disabled. Your heart strings are easily tugged by child beggars and the very poor or unfortunate: landmine victims, those with multiple sclerosis or polio, victims of earthquakes or other recent disasters. Those are just a few examples - the point is guilt can get the better of you. You live in comfort and have everything, compared to their nothing. But such feelings of benevolence cannot be sustained, such is the volume of human misery around the world and you soon, in many cases, become impervious to it. Those who set off on a third world trip with notions of philanthropy will soon be overwhelmed and cut short.

In developing countries you will, whether you like it or not be perceived as far wealthier than you probably are and most beggars, street sellers or whomever, will have difficulty in distinguishing the different budgets and aims of different travelers - which is maybe a nice way of saying everyone will want a piece of you. This is tough, since when traveling in poorer countries you will feel guilty and would have to be pretty cold not to recognize the gulf of wealth between you and a beggar or someone flogging items on the street. However, it is constantly tiring, dehumanizing and a major pain to be constantly treated like a walking bank. Likewise your compassion is tested when your trip is compromised by sometimes constant hassle and when you consider that begging can be big business.

Children are often begging because they have been sent out to do so, often in gangs and some beggars directly target tourists. Reiterating what you'll find below in the responsible tourism section, do not give to beggars that are specifically targeting tourists and especially not to children (not pens, sweets or anything) something most travelers flaunt. Of course compassion is required, but it can more effectively delivered through some of the ethical considerations (below) and also by giving in small quantities where locals give (make a point of giving if you have not been asked) and/or to schools plus recognized charities. In the long run however you can (and probably will) just get very worn down by beggars - read on how to deal with hassle.