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Website helps travellers avoid transport scams.

Originally published in the Regina Leader-Post, 30 September 2009

By Lisa Monforton, Calgary Herald

Chinese taxis wait for their turn in a massive queue for passengers at the No. 3 Terminal Building of Beijing Capital International Airport, Photograph by: Teh Eng Koon, Getty Images

Jet-lagged after a 12-hour flight from Vancouver, Todd and Steve Romaine landed at the airport in Bangkok.

With the added irritant of Todd's luggage having gone AWOL, the pair made their way outside to find a taxi in a human sea of fellow travellers trying to do the same.

A cab driver quoted them a price--two times the going rate --and they began to argue with him, much to the frustration of the lineup of customers behind them who were all too willing to pay double.

In his frustration, Todd blurted, "I hate taxis!"-- an outburst that would eventually become the rallying cry of the pair's hobby website, ihatetaxis.com. "It's meant to be jocular," says Todd about the site launched a couple of weeks ago, but the brothers are serious about its intentions.

"I'm trying to empower the traveller," so they don't get ripped off, says Todd from his home in Edmonton.

When they started to look around at options travellers have on this topic, they discovered there was an e-void, in a mostly convenient world of booking everything from flights to accommodations and even attractions online.

Between the two of them, the brothers have travelled to more than 50 countries, and found the one constant in their travels was not getting a fair shake on ground transportation from the airport to a hotel.

It's at this point, says Todd, that travellers are vulnerable. They're tired, in a strange country and may not speak the language.

They may well know the going rates for taxi fare, but when faced in real time with the situation, negotiating might not go as planned, since many cabbies in developing and non-developing countries operate on a barter system.

Ihatetaxis.com,billed as a "travellers' transportation guide on arriving stress free," reporting ground transportation options at more than 200 airports around the world. It's meant to be a one-stop centralized data base on all transportation options once you arrive at your destination. The other motivating factors are safety and environmentally friendly options such as mass transit or even by bicycle, says Todd. The site also provides good basic city and country guides, plus up-to-date medical and currency information. The site is kept current with a full-time staff in Canada and South Africa, which gets its information through travellers who've just visited a particular country, but also by searching the Internet and communicating with various companies and airport authorities.

So far, the site has garnered visits from 86 countries and sees about 200 to 300 hits a day, likely by word of mouth, says Todd, because the site is not yet registered on Google, but it soon will be.

Eventually they hope to become the go-to site for travellers by simply typing two words on a Black-Berry or laptop: the country and the word "taxi."

So while the brothers are trying to save people some headaches and a little cash, they say their aim is entirely noble.

"It's not about making money, it's about helping our fellow travellers and giving back to people who are being taken advantage of."

Meanwhile, be forewarned. In Todd's experience, Cairo and Rome are the worst countries for catching a cab at the airport. And the best? Right here at home in Canada and in the other Commonwealth countries.

Source: http://www.leaderpost.com/travel/Website+helps+travellers+avoid+transport+scams/2043350/story.html

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