How to Love Taxi Rides and Avoid Taxi Scams

Written by Marco Morawec

Topics: Featured, Travel Advice

Catching a taxi is a fast and convenient way to get around. For that convenience you have to pay a bit more and most times this extra cost is worth it. I usually take public transportation to stay below my $25 a day shoestring budget, but sometimes I just love to take taxis. Especially when I have to be at an epic surf spot early in the morning before the onshore wind blows the waves to a mess, I arrive late at night in a dodgy part of town and feel like my martial arts skills are not enough to keep me safe, or when I need to get to the emergency room and I’m to exhausted to walk.

What I absolutely don’t understand is the way taxi drivers try to make an extra bit of money from you. At first I thought this is a every once in a while thing, but after traveling for years I start believing in a consistent pattern.

So after dozens of loud arguments, aggressive shouting, money throwing and a near fist fight over a few pesos, dinars or dirahms I am extremly cautious getting into any taxi while on the road. It us not only the money that you’re loosing. You also loose your good time when you have that nagging feeling settling inside your stomach after obviously being ripped off.

With that in mind, take a minute to read my most favorite taxi scams and stay on the “I love taxis forever” side of things.

Have no change
Right, no change to give me after I handed my friend a bill that is probably a days worth of his fares. First, always have change and small bills ready. If you don’t have change ask before getting into the taxi if the driver has enough change for your type of bill. If you did not do this and sit there with the prospect of loosing a bunch of your money, simply leave and say that you’ll look for change and will be back soon. That move alone often times makes change appear out of nowhere. Believe me taxi drivers try this trick a lot!

Turning the meter off (and refusing to turn it on again)
This happened to me in Costa Rica after I had a great chat (in Spanish) with the driver about our families and lives. Always check the meter before you step outside the car. In addition, tell the driver how much the ride costs right before you leave the car. Otherwise your taxi driver friend might turn the meter off and ask you for a friendly 30 percent tip without you even knowing it. Pay attention!

Stating that the agreed upon price is per person, not the total.
The oldest trick in the book and easily avoided by making a fool out of yourself and asking five times that the price is for everyone and everything (luggage surcharge is not only happening in airlines). It is super annoying and you’ll feel silly for asking that much. Sometimes you will even reach the drivers patience, but believe me it’s much better than having a loud argument on a busy street with a local taxi driver stating that the fare of $5 needs to be paid by all four passengers.

Drive a few circles to kick up the meter
This is a tricky one if you are visiting a place for the first time. But pulling out a map and asking a few times where we are and why we are going this way and not the other will make it too much of a hassle for most taxi drivers to drive in circles without you noticing. So they simply wait for the next tourist who does not pay attention. Again, it’s better to make a fool out of yourself asking a thousand questions than paying double what you should pay.

There you have it, my shoestring traveler lessons from riding taxis all around the world. Keep them in mind and love your next taxi ride.

Now it’s your turn, when was the last time you had a good or bad experience riding a taxi?

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10 Comments For This Post I'd Love to Hear Yours!

  1. Kristin says:

    Very good advice – I think you covered most of the angles taxi drivers play. Carrying small bills is critical not only for taxis but for shopping as well.

    • Marco Morawec says:

      Thanks for the good comment Kristin! I totally agree, having small bills and also coins is very important when traveling. But remember that a lot of South American locals kind of stockpile small coins and you end up not having coins for public transportation…so you end up hoarding coins too and play the funny coin hoarding game.

  2. Nice tips for India and South American like countries :)

    What happened to me in the US about 60% of the time, was cab drivers telling stories about relatives in hospital, hoping to get a bigger tip.

    • Marco Morawec says:

      Aloha Frank! I can totally relate to your comment and the stories you heard, since I heard similar stories all over the world. Safe travels!

  3. Andreas says:

    Aloha Marco!

    Another great post from the most savvy international budget traveler I’ve ever met. This is the only blog I know that offers intriguing anecdotes from the most unexpected corners of the world while also sharing tips on how to save money that are absolutely unique and make you think to yourself, “Wow, I would never have thought of that!”

    Keep up the adventures, my friend!

  4. Amer says:

    You’re totally right. Everytime I travel with a taxi I’m slightly ready to be scammed. Sometimes I worry too much in the wrong city. In Dubrovnik taxi drivers are very honest but since I just got back from Sarajevo, I brought all of my doubts with me. Despite that it’s always interesting when you use taxi. In my recent trip and article to Albania, my taxi driver brought me to wash his car and we had coffee. He still kinda scammed me in the end but it was a great experience anyway

    • Marco Morawec says:

      Hey, if you get a great experience out of a bit of a scam than everything is alright in my book and the scam was worth it :)

  5. Graeme says:

    They like to charge extra for bags. they like to charge extra because you are white (they will often yell at you telling you they are not your slave). Making you pay for gas aka gas is extra… Just make sure you agree on the price before you get in the cab.

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