Taxi strategies to beat the scams

As much as possible, I try to stick to public transportation: buses, subways, etc. But sometimes you just absolutely have to take a taxi.  This Forbes Traveler article has some tips on how to avoid scams.  It also has a slideshow of The World’s Worst Taxi Rides.

Here are some of my personal tips for taking taxis:

–Try to find an official taxi stand or taxi counter. The taxis there will be official taxis that are regulated by the government, so they’re usually okay. Stay away from “Gypsy” cabs and illegal taxis.

–Hail a moving taxi. Any taxis that are loitering around are more likely to be a rip-off, especially at airports and luxury hotels. A moving taxi is more likely to be a regular one with regular prices.

–Walk into a nice hotel and ask the clerk to call a taxi for you.  Or check your guidebook for the phone numbers of reputable cab companies and call one up. It might be more expensive, but your personal safety is worth it.

–Have small bills and spare change. Before a big night out, I try to buy something small from a convenience store or supermarket, to break a big bill.  Useful for taxis and for settling the restaurant bill with your friends.

Do you have any taxi horror stories to share? Post them in the comments.

Posted by | Comments (6)  | January 2, 2009
Category: General

6 Responses to “Taxi strategies to beat the scams”

  1. » Taxi strategies to beat the scams :: Vagablogging :: Rolf Potts … | Scams, Frauds and Schemes Says:

    […] Here is the original post: » Taxi strategies to beat the scams :: Vagablogging :: Rolf Potts … […]

  2. Eva Says:

    Small bills are useful not just because drivers often won’t have correct change! My only taxi scam was in Istanbul: we used a larger bill to pay, and the driver gave us several bills in change. Later, when we tried to spend the bills, we were told they were invalid currency. They were old Turkish lira, and we hadn’t been able to notice the difference…

  3. Enduring Wanderlust Says:

    In most cities, especially in the developing world, it’s essential to negotiate the price before getting into the taxi. Most taxi’s don’t have working meters or the drivers refuse to use them. Also, it’s important to be sure you’re clear on the currency being discussed. I had one driver in India claim that we agree to a price in Euro’s. After we laughed very hard…we gave him exact change and walked away. Having the right change is a great point, Rolf.


  4. Kimberly Says:

    If you are familiar with your surroundings and know the shortest route possible, I find it is best to tell the driver the route you wish to take. When I lived in Northern Virginia, I would have to taxi home from the metro at night and I lived a bit off the beaten path, so I always said how to go…needless to say, some won’t listen and I had a driver get lost in 4 different NoVA cities just to get me home. He tried to make me pay the ridiculous fare, and I refused, since I told him the best route. He was also a pedophile who constantly talked about book ideas for 12-13 year old boys.

    Other good advice is to read the taxis rules and regulations that should be clearly posted on either the window or the back seat. Familiarize yourself w/the fare rules for extra people, extra stops, etc.

  5. Ronin Says:

    in Singapore i found very hard to find taxis on late Friday nights – most of the drivers were heading home – i have to wait 30 minutes until i finally caught a taxi

  6. Jonathan Says:

    Hi Guys,

    Nice to meet you here. I went to Istanbul for a conference last week. Before I go, I read the tips. But for only once I took taxi, I encountered the most serious scam, of couse not mentioned above at all, and still I don’t think that scam makes any sense. The taxi driver not only charged for more money, but also were taking me to a place far away from my destination. I would like to share my story with you all.

    In my last day in Istanbul, I wanted to go to Spice Market/Egyption Market to buy something. It is quite near to conference venue (Hilton Istanbul, near Taksim). I planned to go by walk as it was a short distance, but I only had 1 hour to go that day, so I decided to take a taxi to go there faster. I was advised from my friends that I must fix the price before getting on the taxi and without using meter, because if I used meter, taxi driver would surely go around making the trip longer and there was nothing I can do.

    So I took a taxi just arrived at Hilton Istanbul (it was a normal yellow car, but I didn’t notice the company of the taxi), I fixed the price with him before getting on the car. It was 25 lira. I knew clearly that he asked for higher price, but I was in a hurry and I thought that he would take me to destination faster, so 25 lira was acceptable. I was quite relaxed at first. Ten minutes later I found something wrong because it shouldn’t be that long. So I used my iPhone Google Map GPS function, and then I identified that he was going around and driving towards south (Grand Barzaar direction, but I’m not sure whether he was going toward there). I explained to him that I was going to Spice Market/Egyption Market, not Grand Bazaar, showing my Google Map, he said he knew where the Spice Market/Egyption Market was, but when I asked why he is driving to opposite direction (showing with Google Map), he started to pretend to be confused, just saying we would arrive soon, just there, in 3-5 minutes. Then I said you were taking me to a place far away from Spice Market/Egyption Market, he said he knew where Spice Market/Egyption Market. Then I said I need to take a flight in 1 hour, he said Spice Market was not a place I could finish shopping in 1 hour. Right before he was going to cross the bridge, Galata Kpr., I said I must get off the car, and he said OK it’s fine. I didn’t have time to confront with him, so I paid 25 lira. Then I finally get off and walked back a long distance. I didn’t dare to take another taxi.

    So the whole thing confused me is because he asked for more money, and still didn’t take me to destination. Till now I don’t understand where he was driving towards. My friends gave several guesses, kidnapping me, going to a shop his family opened, or going to a very far place and charging much more money to take me back. I think only the next people who take his taxi can find out.

    From my own experience, for many scams, there is no solution at all. Many of the solutions proposed are not useful because the taxi drivers know how to cheat. If you use the meter, he could drive longer. If you fix the price without meter, he can take you far away. If he is not going towards your destination, there is nothing you can do, because he is driving, not you. If you want to call the police, unless you know the number of the car, otherwise how could police find you. Therefore the best choice is to avoid taking taxi, rather taking public transport and walking. Some taxi drivers, they are thinking about how to cheat everyday, and not that easy to deal with, you must know.