Quem tem boca vai at? Roma is a Portuguese exprssion that means you can get everywhere (or ar least to Rome) by asking. Rome isn?t very hard to reach, because all roads are leading there, but this is not a Portuguese expression. The expression sums up the main difference between the way I?m travelling here in Brazil and how I travelled in India.
India is a very safe country and armed robberies are almost unheard of. But they have different ways to part a tourist from his money: commission. Any question is an opportunity to make a little extra money. Where?s the bus station? is interpreted as Don?t you know someone who has a shop in the general direction of the bus station. If you don?t make very clear you?re not in for this, a simple taxi ride might lead to a full afternoon of shopping. Hotels you want to go to are closed, burned down or fully booked. But the cab driver knows just the right place for you. The only safe questions are questions like: Is this the bus to Delhi?, if you?re already boarding the bus.
An other trick is to grossly inflate the prices. Since everything is ridiculously cheap, most tourists won?t even notice it anayway. Under these circumstances the Lonely Planet is more likely to get you where you want as your mouth.
All the stories about crime and corruption in Brazil, might lead you to believe that no Brazilian can be trusted, but this would be very unfair. Almost all Brazilians are very helpful, friendly and honest. I haven’t experienced any overcharging or short changing. Copacabana is swarmed by hawkers who sell football shirts, maps of Brazil and number plates (!?). A simple nod or no is enough to discourage them. No spectacular chases on the boulevard and the sand.
People are always willing to point you in the right direction, and if you look particularly lost, they might even take you there. Not once have I been taken to a shop on the way there. So just learn Portuguese, and you don?t need to use maps any more.