Taxis in Sulamainiyah, Iraq

How To Avoid Being Ripped Off By Taxi Drivers

Derek Travel Tips & Advice 132 Comments

Ripped Off By Taxi - Taxis in Sulamainiyah, IraqIt happens. Travelers get ripped off. And it happens often.

One of the most common ways of getting ripped off involves taking local transportation and sometimes it seems as if we spend hours every single day trying to negotiate taxi or rickshaw or tuk-tuk fares wherever we go. And somehow, no matter how hard we try, we almost always end up paying infinitely higher prices than locals.

Of course, as soon as we find ourselves being ripped off by taxi drivers or once we learn that we paid much more than other travelers for the same journey, we are oh-so-quick to place all of the blame on the evil taxi or tuk-tuk or bicycle rickshaw driver who took our money.

After all, didn’t we approach the driver with a smile on our face, hand them a piece of paper with our destination scrawled in local script and then, just as our guide book instructs us to do, attempt to reach an agreement on the price before we entered their vehicle?

Yes, that’s exactly the steps we are trained to take and yet, we repeatedly find ourselves frustrated when the driver quotes us an extraordinarily high price for what we believe to be an extraordinarily short journey. Twenty-five dollars for a ride to the market? Come on, that’s a ripoff! It’s a good price sir. That’s ridiculous, I’ll give you five dollars. Five dollars? Impossible. Twenty dollars is my final offer. Are you nuts? No sir, fifteen dollars and we leave now. Fine, let’s go.

Eventually, too frustrated and tired to participate in this argument any longer, we accept the inflated price, climb into the vehicle and then proceed to spend days afterward moaning to every other traveler we meet about how everyone is trying to rip us off.

THE MYTH OF THE BROKEN TAXI METER

After eleven years of traveling, and I do admit that I only figured this out quite recently, I made a discovery that, for the most part, instantly eliminates the chances of me paying non-local, heavily inflated prices for transportation, no matter where I am in the world.

What I noticed is that it is only foreign travelers who approach taxis, tuk-tuks and rickshaws around the world and actually attempt to negotiate a price before even getting into the vehicle. If you take a moment to look around you, the locals in most places do not follow this method. Instead, they simply enter the taxi or step into the rickshaw and tell the driver their destination.

And off they go…with that all-too-infamous broken or missing taxi meter that all of us travelers are constantly reminded of, miraculously working just fine.

When’s the last time you’ve seen a local involved in an angry argument with a taxi driver over the fare? It almost never happens.

Why? Because there is almost always, despite what our guide books tell us, a fare system in place, even in the most undeveloped and chaotic cities of the world. Meters are used with more frequency than we’re led to believe and when there are actually no meters, there are typically government-set prices that drivers are required to charge.

Unfortunately, we travelers automatically assume that such a system couldn’t possibly exist in a place like India or Thailand or Syria and that the goal of every taxi driver must naturally be to rip us off. So we stroll up to the passenger side of the taxi, pop our head into the window and ask “How much?”, immediately indicating to the driver that we don’t know the first thing about how the local system works.

At that point, not surprisingly, the taxi or rickshaw driver might see this as an opportunity to earn some extra money and hence the higher than normal fares that we are forced to pay. They know we’ll agree to some random price in the end and that random price is going to be a lot higher than the local fare.

Ripped Off By Taxi - Auto Rickshaw in India

A RECENT EXAMPLE

During my recent trip to the Middle East, I found myself at a restaurant one night with a handful of other travelers in the Syrian city of Aleppo. In between mouthfuls of hommus, tabouli and grilled eggplant, the conversation turned to taxi fares. The other travelers all complained that it was impossible to get a decent rate for a ride between two points within the city. They all spoke of paying 300 or 400 Syrian Pounds ($6 or $8 USD) for each ride after negotiating with drivers.

At one point, I asked them why they didn’t just have the driver use the taxi meter. “There are no meters in the taxis” was the immediate reply.

Well, every single taxi in Aleppo, Syria has a working meter and upon discovering this myself while taking a taxi ride with a local friend, I never had any issues with taxi fares at all. Whenever I needed a ride, I simply jumped in the back seat, informed the driver of my destination and paid the metered fare. A typical fare for a fifteen minute drive across the city was a mere 20 Syrian Pounds (40 US cents) and not once did a taxi driver try to tell me the meter wasn’t working or try to charge me a higher price.

Not a single other traveler I met in Aleppo had ever paid a metered fare.

Ripped Off By Taxi Drivers

HOW TO PAY THE LOCAL FARE

Whenever I arrive in a new destination, before even stepping out of my hotel, guesthouse or hostel for the first time, or even the airport if I’m arriving by plane, I always make sure to ask a reliable local how the taxi system works. Such reliable people include the staff in the guesthouse, the official information booth at the airport or any other local who has no interest in leading me astray.

Do the taxis and rickshaws use meters? Do they have flat rates? How much should it cost to reach my destination?

With that basic knowledge, I no longer have to stick my head into a taxi window while pointing at a page in my guide book that explains how much I should pay, or in other words, announcing to every taxi driver in the region that I want to negotiate for something that is generally not negotiated for, which will always be a losing situation for us travelers.

By giving the driver a friendly nod and getting into the vehicle without asking ‘how much?’, I’m in a much better position to enjoy a peaceful ride for a local fare. This tells the driver that I already know how much the ride should cost and that this is not my first experience (regardless of whether or not it is) using a taxi in this city.

Not only does this save money, but it saves time and even more importantly, it saves us from all of that unnecessary frustration that we carry around in response to being ripped off by taxi drivers every time we need to go somewhere.

IT WORKS ALL OVER THE WORLD

In the past two years alone, I’ve put this method into place while traveling through India (yes, even in places such as Delhi the taxis and rickshaws have and will use their meters), Thailand, Mexico, Central America and more. And the number of times that my attempt to use the local system ended up in an argument over the fare could be counted on one hand.

Of course, if we attempt the local method in a heavily-touristed area like Khao San Road in Bangkok, then we shouldn’t expect much success. When we are surrounded by hundreds of other travelers all willing to lead themselves straight into the trap of being ripped off, chances are the taxi driver we approach will prefer to wait for the next person to come along. Instead, if we walk five minutes away from such a touristy area, the situation will be much different.

Along with receiving the local fare, we might actually interact with our driver as well, as opposed to holding a life-long grudge against him for leaving us no choice but to accept the inflated price that, in reality, we brought upon ourselves.


Any taxi experiences to share or advice to add? What method do you use to try and avoid paying higher fares while traveling?

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Comments 132

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  3. Fahad

    I would look for all the other possibilities like public transport or if really necessary to take a taxi, I would rather go with Uber.

  4. Mrs. E

    I have gotten into the taxi and said, “Why am I being charged different fares for the same exact destinations” and “why am I being told that the meters are broken, should I call the service and see what we should do”? Usually they have a complete look of disbelief about being confronted and they always say” Gee, I have know idea”. Also, the fair for that day is minimal, so I guess it works, the day it doesn’t work I will actually call the cab company while I am in the cab and confront them as well. If that doesn’t work I will call the Police, if this sounds a little harsh, it is meant to be, at least they will all know my game and I will never, in the future, cheat me. FYI, cabs in my area are not hailed, you call the service for a cab. If I am forced to I will take names of drivers, license numbers, license plate numbers and take them to Magistrate Court, one thing for sure is they will not forget me and as far as them taking revenge, I dare them. If I had the money I would let it ride, to a certain extent, but in my area, if you take a cab, it is usually because you don’t have a car or we are calling for a designated driver. My husband is disabled, I don’t have the extra money to be gracious. Also, maybe it will help other riders get an accurate fair.

  5. Brian

    I’ve gotta say, I disagree here.

    I have traveled in Central and South America on four different trips now and you cannot just get in, act like you know where you’re going (or maybe you do know), and hope you get a normal rate. If you do that, you’re forced to pay whatever they say at the end of the ride. I got charged $5 in Ecuador for a 12 block ride and couldn’t do anything about it because it was 10 at night. You have to negotiate or you’re gonna get hosed.

  6. Dan

    I’ll only get in a cab when I’m in a hurry, lost, or with a group; I prefer to rely on cheaper modes of transportation like trams, trains, buses, and ferries when available. In my years living in Turkey, I find here that the best things is to do here is to find a driver willing to run the meter. Often pre-negotiated prices are double what the metered fare would be even if it is rigged.

    I once got half-way to my destination insisting that the driver run the meter and when he flat-out out refused I told him to let me out, he did, where he picked me up (of course I didn’t pay him anything). I then got in a cab that agreed to run the meter, that driver ended up enjoying some fast food with me and getting a long ride, fare and tip. G’speed!

  7. JJazz

    I agree. I just moved to New Jersey US and I needed to go 2.9 miles back to my house. I asked how much they said $20. I said run the Meter. He yelled at me for like 2 mins so I left. Next cab wouldn’t run the meter either and I ended up paying the $20 just cause he was polite. Is regular cab fares really less than $2 for every mile? I’m definitely going to try this again till they run the meter

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  12. Rina Rumahorbo

    Hi…

    I hope u already wandering around in Indonesia, especially Jakarta (the capital) since the last time u published this article… Because in my country (Indonesia), we r sooo clever so we can also make the meter worked in our criteria…;) If u can understand what I mean… We call it “argo kuda”, who run as fast as the horse… And that’s not only applied to foreigners from other country which visit our country, but it also applied to the same nation who come from other area… Because “we don’t know the local rate”… That’s the real issue here…
    That’s why, when I am abroad, I kind of worry that the clever idea of my people in my home country already spread universally to other country, and I don’t trust to any meter on taxi, tuk tuk, or whatever… While I also don’t wanna have any conflict when I just entered the vehicle, pretending I know the rate, while I am actually not, and by the time I dropped off from that vehicle, I argued with the driver…
    So, the saver way for me is when I don’t know the distance nor the place yet, I asked the local people about the rate… The locals who also passengers..
    When I know the distance already, and the rate and appropriate amount, I keep asking the price first, and when the driver mentioned the highest price he wants, when it’s too high, I just leave him… When it’s not too high, then confidently, I will negotiate with him…
    It’s only my thought…

  13. Chris Barnes

    Good advice. Like most things, it’s all about confidence. If you come across as a confident and friendly person, you’re less likely to get ripped off. The moment you have your head in a guide book or newspaper sized tourist map with a sheepish look on your face, you become a target.

    Also, if the driver ever asks if it’s your first time in the country, never, ever ever ever ever say yes. I always tell them it’s my 3rd time and i study/have friends/family here and you’re less likely to get ripped.

    It doesn’t always work, i sometimes find it’s better to just laugh it off, most of the time you only get ripped a few extra $ in your own currency, it’s not the end of the world!

    Keep up the great blog!
    Chris

  14. Paul D

    This isn’t just a problem in third-world countries. I just experienced the same thing in Atlantic City, NJ. Trip was 2 or 2.5 miles and when I finally arrived after several wrong turns by the driver he announces “$25.00”! Of course the rate on the side of the cab says $1.39 per mile.

    When I complained to Yellow Cab to report him, I got a reply from the President of AC Yellow Cab saying the meter is only used within Atlantic City and since my trip went a few blocks outside the limits it is up to whatever the driver wants to charge! When I asked how each trip was a negotiation since I had never experienced that before, I told me that I was “insulting”

  15. Andrew Wilson

    So, effectively what you are saying is treat taxi drivers in any other country in the same way you’d treat a taxi driver in your own country (in other words like human beings) and they might treat you with respect too?

    Surely not? 🙂

    1. gil

      The thing is that there are people who are obviously not locals, you might have noticed that some people will hopelessly look different and it will obviously point out that you are a visitor. The situation gets worse when you don’t even speak the local language. Some might jump at the chance of ripping them off thinking they can’t argue at the end for the fare since they’ve already reached their destination. Especially when you are tired, late at night, effing cold, the shitty public transport doesn’t go there after certain hours, etc.

  16. Ghosterman

    Going to Bangkok this fall, and what you’re saying is after I land, get the basic info from the info desk and just get in a taxi without saying anything (‘the friendly nod’)? Because it feels like that when I arrive at my destination the driver will try to charge me the tourist price anyway, even though I then mention the price that he should charge me? I would then again be stuck with negotiations…

    1. Wandering Earl

      @Ghosterman – In Bangkok, there are official government taxis outside the airport that you pay for ahead of time. Then you take the ticket they give you and hand that to the driver. You don’t actually give any money to the driver at all.

      1. Anand Subramanian

        The official BKK airport taxi system is a big ripoff. I have been to Thailand 5 times so far. The official airport taxi rate is almost double than the actual fare. I know the rates now after visiting few times. I know how much to negotiate for. But, if you catch a taxi outside, it may stop after few mins and transfer you to a different taxi. Definitely, I would not advise if you are using the taxi at night.
        Also, just believing the taxi meter everywhere is not a good idea. I am originally from India. I know how taxi meters work there. I still get ripped off sometimes and get ridiculed when the taxi driver thinks that the price is not right or too cheap. But, I just carry on and find a different taxi or auto in India. Wandering Earl, probably got ripped off by the Taxi meters few times too but he probably did not notice. The price even after rigging probably did not matter much to him. But, I can guarantee that the price he paid was way more than usual local may have paid for the same trip. I can guarantee that more than 70 to 80% taxi meters in India are rigged in all major cities. I face the same problem of facing the taxi rate negotiation even though I grew up in India and visit every year.

        1. Wandering Earl

          Thanks for your input Anand and you are right, I’m sure I got ripped off just as everyone does while in India for transportation. But when I’m able to travel 30 minutes across Delhi for 30 Rupees, I’m happy as opposed to the normal foreigner fare which would be 150 Rupees for the same trip.

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  18. Vincent Vanzetti

    I’m currently in Kuala Lumpur, and they have a great system of fair metered taxis here. The only problem is, a lot of drivers know they can get more by negotiating. So the average conversation goes like this:

    Me: Zouk Club, please.
    Driver: Ok. Twenty ringgit. (It would be less than 10 with the meter)
    Me: No, use the meter, please.
    Driver: No, no meter, sorry.
    Me: Ok (exit cab)
    Driver: Ok, 15!
    Me: (Still walking)

    As you wrote, I assume that most drivers have determined that it’s more cost-effective to wait and find a gullible tourist who will go off-meter than to break down and use the meter for a regular fare. Sometimes as I start to get in the cab I’ll see a baseball cap hung over the meter, a sure sign the guy won’t use it, so I move on to the next one. In more touristed parts of town, I sometimes need to try five or six cabs before I find one willing to use the meter.

    One last note: Another problem with the meter is that it gives the driver a strong incentive to “take the scenic route”, running up the meter by taking advantage of your lack of knowledge of his city. I experienced this a lot in the city that I lived in recently in eastern Thailand. Once I figured out the general fare prices for the city, I sometimes preferred to take negotiated tuk tuks rather than the metered taxis, since I knew the former wouldn’t try to take me on some ridiculous Nautilus maneuver through the city backstreets.

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  21. Vito

    It is funny, before I started to travel, I read too many times in travelers websiter or blogs, the advice about “negotiate the price” with the taxi driver before get in.

    I’ve been living in the Philippines, and I’ve have to say, you are completlly right, the best thing is just research information, in internet, with the locals to do not pay the “tourist” price, also the map, check the zone, look de distance, and learn the name of the streets and the “popular” stores or buildings around the place where you are going, because first…yes, you can just take the taxi, or tuk-tuk, but first thing, they look you and they know you are foreigner, sometimes after they listen to you like “you know very good the place where you are going” they act like “they don’t know the adress”, so “that is their 2nd chance to see if they can scam you”, there is when you must start to say another streets or “reference point” to make them understand…. “not with me dude”

    And of course, always the smile and politeness will help us.

    Very nice blog! it is really very helpfull for the “new backpackers”.

    I hope you visit south america one day, I advice you the south of my country, Chile.

    Regards!

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Vito – Glad to hear this method works in the Philippines as well! And I’ve actually been to Chile before, and loved it 🙂

  22. Lien

    I recently got back from Peru and Ecuador. I used taxi quite often in Lima and Quito and i found out that the best way not to get rip-off in these city is to ask the people at the hotel front desk/restaurant/shop to get an idea how much the fare should be from one place to another. This worked well for me. In Lima official taxi has a registration number on the side of the car but some reputable business has their own ‘taxi’ connection and these are safe too.

  23. Kelly

    I agree that the best advice is to ask a local. An ounce of knowledge beats a pound of strategy.

    I’ve met rigged meters in Russia, Poland, Estonia and Egypt, and my wife got hit with one in Thailand. I never trust the meter, and frankly I would prefer to come out badly in a fair negotiation than face the rock fight that invariably comes at the point when I suspect, but can’t prove, that a meter is rigged.

    If you’re not prepared to face the occasional rip-off, taxis may not be for you. If you’re up the the challenge, however, I recommend this: Always be prepared to use a forceful and persistent “no” when you believe you’re being taken. Don’t waiver because of the possibility that you could be wrong (and indeed you may be), just be confident and say “no” to any price you suspect is usurious, meter or no-meter. I have found that a confident, forceful “no” often discourage drivers whose intent lies in petty thievery, and pushes the price down into the band of reasonability. However, if the driver still insists on the price, then it’s likely the price is fair(ish), or, somewhat less likely, the driver is a louse. Good fun either way!

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  25. lobby ludd

    For me one tactic is…….DON`T GET PALLY WITH TTHE DRIVER….don’t engage him in conversation. Sit there in steely silence. Don’t give yourself away as a tourist. Watch him, the meter, and look at the fare notices, his id etc……make him feel he is under observation. Don’t be keen to be a nive guy.

    (from an ex UK cab driver)

    1. Earl

      @lobby ludd – Thanks for the tip and that does make sense to me. I tend not to chat with taxi drivers too much myself and also try my best not to appear as if it’s my first time traveling across the city.

  26. Joel Tillman

    What do you suggest in this scenario?????: You get into the Taxi and tell the driver where you are going. He is quiet for a moment before telling you the price. You get out of the taxi after he says no to using the meter that is sitting right in front of you. So you go to the next taxi and do the same. He also pauses for a moment before telling you a different price and also refusing to use to meter. In both cases they will not leave until a price has been negotiated.

    This happened to us in the Philippines on every occasion but one. We were so flabbergasted by this that we had to resort to just asking the price through the window like you mentioned every traveler does above.

    1. Earl

      Hey Joel – That’s an interesting situation and the key would be to know ahead of time what the expected price for your journey should be in places where meters are either not used or completely ignored. With this information you can then tell the driver that you know the local price. Then, when you get out of the taxi, there will be a greater chance that the driver will call you back in and give it to you for the price (or close to the price) you mentioned. The more information you know ahead of time (and you can obtain expected taxi fares from locals in the hotel or others you meet), the better off you’ll be in such cases.

      1. Joel Tillman

        That is what we wound up having to do. Problem is, at least in the Philippines, that we would have to go through 5 or more taxi’s before they would accept that we knew the local price and start driving to our destination. It never really bothered us that much but I can see where it would for people just wanting to not worry about hassle.

        1. Earl

          Hey Joel – It can definitely be a pain and in the end, in some countries, the difference is not so much so it might be better just to pay the slightly inflated rate. Sometimes it’s just not worth the effort!

  27. Michael

    Technology can help here. I use a nice iphone app (mytaxicontrol) that can calculate the fare in advance and works as a real-time taximeter. Cheating becomes quite impossible with it. It even checks if the driver has taken the shortest route. The only thing is that your place must be within the 150 (or so) cities it covers.

    1. Earl

      Hey Michael – That app does sound helpful, although I have a feeling that most of the places travelers would really need that information aren’t included in those 150 cities! It’s usually cities and towns in the developing world that are the most challenging in terms of taking taxis and that kind of information would be very difficult to know, especially in places that don’t have set rates. But I certainly do think that would help a great deal in those 150 cities!

  28. Athena

    That sounds like it takes a lot of trust, but I’m curious to try it the next time I travel. It’s funny, because I felt I was a total ‘pro’ at taxi/tuktuk/rickshaw regotiations during my travels. It usually goes:
    Me: i’m going ‘here’.
    them: $this much
    Me: $this much – 50%
    Them: No
    Me: Bye!

    My perfect willingness to walk a block or walk away entirely usually results in a fair enough price. That said, when I was staying in Dehradun, India, i would take those Autos with half dozen other people, give them some money, get some change, and I never negotiated. The assumed since I was there I knew what was going on. I never thought of extending the method to other transport. How do you deal with cycle-rickshaws or Motos that don’t have a meter? What do you do when you arrive and things become tense or even threatening?

    1. Earl

      Hey Athena – The old ‘walk away’ trick does often lead to a much better price and I use that as well. With cycle-rickshaws, there is still a generally accepted (if not somewhat official) price for these as well, as there often is for motos even if there is no meter. It’s just a matter of talking with locals to find out what these prices may be ahead of time (although I do tend to pay higher rates for cycle rickshaws given the work involved). And I’ve never really had to deal with much of a threatening situation upon arrival. If I know the price I paid is right, I will just walk away if the driver starts to argue. If I have some doubt, I may give the driver a little more money but that rarely happens.

  29. Bill Larson

    Hi Earl,

    I’ve traveled quite a bit and always negotiate with taxi drivers if there is no meter. And after one experience, I also make sure that the price is a total price and not a per-person price that gets sprung on you when you get to the destination. However, my worst experience was in Istanbul and this happened twice. If the fare is say 29 lira and you give the driver a 10 and a 20 lira note, they take it, move their hands down and switch the 20 lira note for a 2 lira note, hold it up and tell you that you made a mistake. The first time I fell for it, the second time I refused to give the driver more money and he ended up driving off in a huff. After that we started using mass transit.

    1. Earl

      Hey Bill – I definitely see how both options can work for people. I’ve just gotten used to the no-negotiating, just get in and go method which has worked well for me over the years. But of course, every country has their own tricks to be on the lookout for! That’s quite the scam you describe in Istanbul. Luckily, once we fall for such scams once, we rarely fall for them again!

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  31. Sharni

    Hey Earl,

    Very good advice and subsequent discussion points. However, I have to disagree with you where you wrote “When was the last time you saw a local in an argument over a fare? It hardly ever happens”. In both Beirut and Damascus, on 5 different occasions in total, my local friends got into an argument with the taxi driver when he tried to charge us roughly double the metered fare or refused to give us our change, often citing things like: “I need a ‘coming back’ fee because this place is very far from the centre of town”, or “The meter prices haven’t been updated”.

    I suspected that, because there was me as a foreigner in the taxi, and my local friends were speaking only English with me in the car, maybe the taxi driver assumed that my friends were long-term expat Lebanese/Syrians who were just coming for a visit and wouldn’t know the correct fare to pay. But no, my Beiruti and Damascene friends confirmed that it even happens a lot when they’re in taxis with just themselves, and typically the only way to end the argument is to either 1) insist that you only possess an amount of cash that covers the price said on the meter, and forcefully hand this money to the driver and exit the vehicle, or 2) negotiate a compromise, paying higher than the metered fare but not paying as much as the driver demands.

    So you can even be swindled sometimes when you’re a local, the meter is used and you DO know the proper fare! Sometimes you can’t win!

    However, I also wanted to note that I can sympathise with taxi drivers a lot, and why they’d be inclined to try to get more money where possible. Think about it, and how shitty their job can often be: (to give a Melbourne-tinged example) they’re usually doing very long hours, say back-to-back 12 hour shifts 6 days a week, into the wee hours, often having to put up with unintelligible and boorish and/or racist drunks who vomit all over the seat, run away without paying, or occasionally assault the taxi driver (causing many Melbourne taxis to have the driver enclosed in a cage barrier or screen for protection). What’s more, the driver has to give a large cut of his earnings to the person who owns the taxi fleet (if the driver isn’t rich enough to own the taxi himself), which doesn’t leave much for the taxi driver to take home to his family if business is slow. It must be a tough life for them, so I can understand the behaviour of those who try to garner a higher fare.

    As a result, whenever I bitch about being charged a few dollars more for a taxi fare, I try to put it in perspective and realise that I don’t have it so bad. Besides, vendors in bazaars/markets the world over also typically demand MUCH higher prices than the proper price/worth of products when you’re a tourist (even after vigorous bargaining), yet they don’t seem to be anywhere near as universally loathed as taxi drivers!

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  33. Bruce

    The best route I have found is to enlist a local when you arrive if there is any major disagreement and you didn’t commit to a fare beforehand or the fare has change for some reason (sometimes it is for a legit reason). I’ve done this quite a bit around the world. Locals know whether you are getting ripped off or not and are more than happy to tell the cab driver off. The benefit with this approach is that I also feel confident that I am not ripping the cab driver off either (which can happen).

    Most enjoyably I’ve done this in in Bangladesh where normally once an argument starts over the fare, half a dozen locals would stop to see what was going on and then all get together and discuss what a fair rate would be for the trip.

    1. Earl

      Hey Bruce – Thank you for sharing your advice and that does seem to be a logical method of dealing with taxi rides while traveling. Locals can be of great assistance and often are able to act as the perfect mediator, ensuring that both sides are satisfied with the fare in the end. And I remember too the crowds that gather around in Bangladesh (and India as well) when any argument, or even transaction, is taking place. You can sometimes just step aside while they sort out the issue and then just hand over whatever amount they decide is fair!

  34. Darren Alff

    My strategy for not getting ripped off by taxi drivers is:

    1) Avoid taking a taxi if possible. I will walk super long distances if I have to. haha.

    2) Find out approximately how much the fare should be before I even approach a taxi cab driver… and then ask for the price before I even get in the car.

    That’s my one and only strategy for dealing with taxis.

    1. Earl

      Hey Darren – Thanks for sharing your input. I also don’t take taxis too often, although sometimes I just don’t have the time to walk those distances 🙂
      And finding out the fare ahead of time is always wise. If the taxi driver is the first person we ask, we’re often in for some long negotiations that will still end up with us paying more!

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  36. Priyank

    Hi Earl,
    I don’t think I was ever cheated by a taxi because I rarely take them and if I have to, I use the tip you mentioned – ask someone who knows before. If traveling in a shared system such as a combi or marshrutka, I am quite comfortable at simply handing over a sufficiently large bank note. With several people around, its nearly impossible to get cheated. Plus if you are not acting like an obvious tourist, the driver will charge a proper price. Several places have pre-paid taxis and in India certainly I see the common man using them.
    The only time I was “ripped off” was in Israel – when the driver handed me a 10 agorot coin instead of 10 shekel coin (1 shekel = 100 agorots) and I thought it was a new coin design. haha..

    1. Earl

      Hey Priyank – Riding in combis are much easier and I tend to hand over the money while there are others on board. And it also helps to ask another passenger how much it should cost.

      I guess you learned your lesson in Israel about checking coins, although that is an easy way to rip off travelers considering that we use so many different currencies and its quite easy to get confused at times!

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  38. Sam

    Great tips.
    In Budapest they used the meter but it still had the previous fare showing to begin with…

    In Shanghai I got off the MagLev train and looked for a taxi. Was immediately approached, but hesitated and started to bargain…

    This led to other drivers coming over and and a bidding war ensued to see who could offer the lowest price. Of the 10 or so drivers the original offered the cheapest (a fraction of original quote)

    However on arrival he wanted a lot more. Didn’t flinch when I reminded him of new quote however and accepted that.

    On departure though, the manager of my (cheap) hotel called a taxi for me, and got a quoted price. When the taxi turned up he had a quick chat to the driver…

    All good at payment time except we’d passed several stopped cars, people, and reversing cars on motorways…

    1. Earl

      Hey Sam – Thanks for sharing those experiences. I have seen what you’ve described in Budapest in other parts of the world as well, so now, one of the first things I do is to make sure that the meter starts at 0 (or whatever the base rate may be) before starting the journey. There’s just so many tricks to keep up with that it’s understandable we end up paying more so often!

  39. ayngelina

    Here’s my trick. I write the address down on a piece of paper, usually after I get off a bus I ask someone how much it should cost. I write that price underneath the address. They may ask for a tad more but never outrageous prices.

    1. Earl

      Hey Ayngelina – That’s an excellent tip. Having the price written down will surely make the driver think twice about trying to charge you something absurd. Also, it helps to have the numbers written in the local language as well (if they use a different alphabet) so that the driver really knows you’ve taken the time to find our what the official price should be.

  40. Sabina

    This sounds like a completely great and effective method of using local taxis, Earl. I guess I’m going to try it, although I’m hesitant. Might they think I’m just too clueless to negotiate a price before I get in, and then they’ll still try not to set the meter, meaning I’ll have to argue with them anyway? That is a rhetorical question. When I was living in Sharjah, UAE (an extremely conservative Muslim emirate – basically it’s like Iran) I always just got in the taxi, never, ever asked drivers to use the meter and they always, always did. I figured it was because they were afraid of being hung (literally) if caught cheating or stealing. But maybe it was the fact that I just got in. I think it was the former reason, though. 😉

    1. Earl

      Hey Sabina – I’d tend to believe that you’re right and that the system in Sharjah required taxi drivers to use their meters. In some places, and for whatever reason, that’s just how it is and taking a taxi is not a hassle at all. Usually, in other places where I simply get in and expect the meter to be used, if the meter is not turned on before the taxi starts to move, I remind them to use the meter. If they refuse or start to give me the run around, I just open the door and begin to get out. Nine times out of ten this convinces the driver to use the meter and they end up calling me back into the taxi!

  41. Michael

    What do you do if – it’s metered and you know how much it is but the taxi driver decides to take you on a ‘tour’. If you don’t know the area, you may not even notice. Once paid 500 Baht for a ride in Bangkok and the way back cost me around 100 baht. Both were metered. I knew it was too much but he didn’t really understand what I was trying to say. I paid and took it as it was because arguing with him was becoming a mission. I guess I could have done like one of the commenter’s done which was pretend to call the tourist police. It happens.

    I don’t understand the system Thailand has. It’s really all mixed and each area has their own system. Try asking for a meter in Koh Samui and let me know how well that goes for you. You’ll walk, I guarantee it. A ten minute ride will cost you 500 Baht while the same distance with a meter in Bangkok will cost you less than 100 Baht. It’s legit too because they all have set price cards from each destination although on the taxi cab itself says metered – but they don’t use it.

    Like you said, it helps to ask a local how the system works and do a little research to avoid getting ripped off.

    It’s all just part of traveling.

    1. Earl

      Hey Michael – Even when I know that meters are used, I tend to ask a reliable local beforehand how much I should expect to pay for a certain ride. And usually, all it takes is one legitimate ride to gauge how much all other rides should cost with a meter, assuming I glance at a map, or carry a map of the city with me.

      It makes sense that a touristy place like Koh Samui avoids using meters as there’s a good chance that drivers can convince someone to pay a higher fare (or whatever the inflated tourists rates are on their official price cards), so there is no benefit to them using the meter. Especially in touristy areas, most of the foreigners are willing to pay whatever they are told and those who are not on a short holiday or don’t have extra money to just throw around, simply lose out. If you can walk away to a more local part of town, then this should solve the problem but of course, on an island, this is not so easy to do!

  42. Audrey

    Like you, we almost always go for the meter and it usually works very well to our benefit (i.e., a normal fare). The only exception was Hanoi when the meter must have had a special button for foreigners and the rate was about 5x what we had paid for the same route the day before. We didn’t pay what was on the meter, but still paid more than the regular fare. After that, we’d just get out if we saw the meter was going crazy.

    We also find that emailing/calling ahead to guest houses to find out how much transport should cost from the airport/bus station takes out a lot of the guessing. We found rickshaws in India quite frustrated that we knew the going rate, but they always took us anyway. Information offices at airports can also usually provide this information. I remember one time in Porto, Portugal the taxi driver tried to charge us double the going rate by explaining we had to pay for his trip out to the airport. We laughed it off, paid him the normal amount – the guest house owner gave him a verbal beating.

    1. Earl

      Hey Audrey – Emailing or calling ahead to guest houses is an excellent piece of advice. Any step to ensure that we don’t walk out of the airport without any knowledge of how the taxi system works is quite essential in avoiding inflated rates.

      And it seems that everyone’s negative taxi experiences all come from Vietnam! I had no idea there was such taxi-scheming going on in that country. The rickshaws in India can be definitely frustrating and I think often times the drivers just count on us being frustrated to the point where we’ll eventually accept a highly inflated price in order to end the battle 🙂

  43. Dina

    In a few cities in Indonesia that I’ve been, the good precaution is to ask what’s the reliable taxies in the town/city. Normally the recommended taxi brands have meter that is functioning. Seems that they keep it that way to maintain the brand reputation.

    We are not taxiing much at all when we have to pay from our own pocket during the traveling except when we were in Dubai, where taxi is dirt cheap and the road is to hot to walk. But from my experience in Indonesia, even as a local, if the price is not set before the the taxi starts moving, in the end of the road you are kinda obligated to pay whatever price that he “suggested” because you have used their service.

    My conversation with taxi driver prior to trip usually goes like this:
    Me: how much?
    Taxi: (this much)
    Me: No way, that’s too much. It’s usually this price
    And if the price is correct, he will agree with it.

    Or more simple than that:
    Me: this place, this much
    Taxi: ok!

    Works for both taxi (without meter) and becak (Indonesian tuktuk). Simply walk away toward their competitor if not. Big chance they will chase you to give the price you want. Better than losing customer.

    1. Earl

      Hey Dina – Thank you for that info on Indonesian taxis! It’s funny because I’ve rarely run into problems when I get into taxis without negotiating, as long as I know what the approximate cost should be ahead of time. This way, I just hand over what I know it should be, the driver realizes that I understand the system and that’s the end of it.

      But in some places, I can definitely see how negotiating beforehand seems to be the accepted practice. Whatever the method, it’s always good to know how the system works before approaching any taxi driver!

  44. Layne

    Earl, thank you for your post. I drive a cab in New York and I was all ready to be indignant after reading it – but you obviously give drivers the benefit of the doubt, which I (& my colleagues) really appreciate (I think this attitude also contributes to your quantity of positive taxi experiences – it all goes back to that old idea of ‘you get what you give.’)

    Anyway, a quick tip for not getting ripped off if you land at JFK or La Guardia. Do not under any circumstances accept a ride from guys who are soliciting you inside the terminal (Unless you’ve hired them in advance, they will totally rip you off). Go to the marked taxi stands outside, where the dispatchers will put you in a metered yellow cab.

    1. Earl

      Hey Layne – Thanks so much for the comment and for that advice about JFK / La Guardia taxis! I know quite a few overseas visitors who have ended up using the services of unofficial taxis in JFK and paying dearly for it in the end. And my quantity of taxi experiences is definitely much, much greater than my negative experiences. I can’t even count how many times taxi drivers in many countries have offered their assistance, given me free rides or simply acted as the perfect ambassador of the city I happened to be visiting at the time.

      I just had a quick read over at your site as well. Very interesting idea and I look forward to trying out some of these cabbie-favorite eateries the next time I’m in NYC!

  45. Akila

    Earl, Great post though I don’t completely agree when it comes to India. My family is all from India, in particular Chennai, and though they have lived there for 40+ years, they always negotiate with the auto drivers before they get in because the auto drivers will try their best to rip even the locals off. Average rule of thumb: you want to pay about 60% of what the auto driver initially quotes in Chennai.

    We also never had a problem getting metered taxis in Bangkok – we just asked them first off whether it was meter and 7 out of 10 would agree to the meter.

    1. Earl

      Hey Akila – Thank you for sharing that info about Chennai! I just know from experience that in cities such as Delhi, Mumbai and Calcutta, getting into the auto rickshaws without negotiating seems to work best for me. Of course, once I get in, if they don’t turn on the meter I ask them to do so and if they refuse, I simply get out of their vehicle. Although surprisingly, this rarely happens.

      But that’s really good to know about Chennai as, no matter what the local method is, knowing what to do ahead of time makes a huge difference in how much we pay!

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  47. Kim

    Why in the world did I never think to just ask a local how the taxi system works? Great advice, once again. This will be my plan of action as we travel around the world next year.

    1. Earl

      Hey Kim – I think when travelers are planning their trip or even when we arrive in a new destination, we become so overwhelmed with trying to adjust or think about our new surroundings that we fail to notice some of the more obvious solutions to the obstacles we face. Hopefully this method will work well for you on your upcoming adventure!

      And glad to see you’re breaking out in dance out of excitement for your upcoming trip. Travel has a tendency to cause such behavior 🙂

  48. Tadek

    Very interesting topic. I’m from Poland and would not be sure if for visitor a taxi meter is reliable measure for taxi fare here. There are different rates for: night drive (x2), zone (I mean when you are outside city boundaries, the rate is double because driver needs to come back to the city). The taxi driver switches meter between zones manually. Needless to say there are shorter and longer routes, and even if you know them a bit, the driver can always convince you that there is terrible traffic on the other one, or roadblock or whatever…
    So even going with meter you can be charged up to 4 times the normal price.
    IMHO setting the price upfront is the safest way.

    1. Earl

      Hey Tadek – Thank you for commenting and sharing this information about the taxis in Poland! That’s the thing, every single place has a different system so even if it is best not to use the meter and to set a price up front, it is very helpful to know this ahead of time. I think the important thing is for travelers, no matter where we are, to learn exactly what they should do before trying to take a taxi. Telling the driver to use the meter when it is normal to negotiate is as equally a bad idea as trying to negotiate when the driver should be using the meter! But at least now we know how it works in Poland 🙂

  49. Jason

    Some sound advice there Earl. It’s always to your advantage to act as if you’ve been living in the country for quite some time and know the system. Be confident and assertive, even if you’ve just got of the plane. Many taxi drivers in airports will ask is it your first time in the country (including most Western Countries), never say yes to this, as even if there is a metered system as you’ll go via the cape to get to your destination. In bus stations and airports I will never go with anyone that approaches me, but make sure I approach them, but most importantly Earl you forgot to mention to your readers they should never get into a taxi in Bangladesh with 4 large and dodgy looking taxi drivers……..

    1. Earl

      Hey Jason – Hahaha….you are right sir, I did forget to mention that piece of advice. That one taxi ride turned out to be the most expensive of my life 🙂

      And I agree about always approaching drivers and not using one that approaches you. I’ve also found it much easier to get a good rate by walking a couple of blocks away from the bus or train station. Getting away from the drivers who look for people that they can take advantage of is always a good idea.

  50. Theodora

    Using the meter is great, in places where there a) are meters and b) the meters aren’t bent. In Vietnam, you’re often better off negotiating a fee than using the meter, precisely because meters can and are fiddled to run fast.

    I tend to establish from a local what the correct fare should be. That could be someone I meet on the bus to the bus station, someone who works at my hotel, or a friend I’ve made in the relevant country.

    I tend to use that at my starting point, which leaves me paying a 10-25% foreigner tax as they negotiate up, but I’m honestly not bothered by that.

    1. Earl

      Hey Theodora – I guess even finding out ahead of time that the meters are ‘fixed’ helps a traveler avoid paying extremely inflated prices. Sure, we may pay a little more in the end, but that fare is much less than had we not known how the system (or lack of) works 🙂

      And you’re the second person to mention the fixed meters in Vietnam so it does seem to be a real problem over there.

      1. Theodora

        I’ve also come across it in the Philippines, and it’s popularly supposed to be common in Bali. I think it can be an issue in Tel Aviv, too.

        No easy answers. But getting a local to tell you the ropes really helps.

  51. Migrationology

    Good method Earl,
    I use a similar method for eating street food, if you don’t happen to see someone else paying, to notice the actual price.
    I never ask how much, but instead usually hand the vendor a small-ish bill. The vendor potentially knows I know how much it should cost and then gives me the right amount of change. For instance: I know my meal should cost around $2 (not totally sure), hand the vendor a $5 bill without asking the total and wait for the change.
    This method, similar to your taxi method, has worked well for me around the world.

    1. Earl

      @Migrationology: That’s an excellent method for eating street food. It makes perfect sense as the key, whether it is with a taxi driver or a street food vendor, is to simply give the impression that we know the actual price. Usually, this is enough to ensure we pay that local price. And I’ve also found with taxi drivers that if you don’t know the exact fare, to always wait for change as well. Drivers tend to have a look at you in the mirror to see if you’re expecting change or not.

  52. T-roy

    Man I will be the villain here and say “No Way!” lol If i die and go to hell (which i assume I will) I will be condemned to drive a taxi while eating airplane food for all of eternity! hahaha This might explain a lot about me though! 🙂

    It’s always relative to where you are at when it comes to taxis i think and there is no one simple approach. Take Ecuador for example; during the day they use the meter and are pretty fair but at night you must negotiate the fare. I can’t tell you how many times when I would go somewhere with my girlfriend in Quito and we’d get a taxi a night, that at the end she would be mad at the driver bc it was to much. My response was always “Well you didn’t agree before hand and now you have to pay whatever he says, your dumb fault!” which didn’t make things better (esp for me). If she had agreed before hand the amount, then she could have said “Yes” or “No thanks” Some guys would want $5, but if asked enough you would find a guy who was fair and give it to you for $3.

    Thailand is another example where like in Bangkok it is the law to use the meter but we all know that 1/2 the time they won’t or refuse and quote for a price instead. I lived there long enough to know better but I ain’t Thai (and yes Thais would bitch about it to) and my work around for it was this. I would get in (always the front seat), tell them the place I wanted to go, then would whip out my cell phone and act like i took a picture of their ID card on the dash. They would look at me like I was crazy and say “Why you do this frang???” My response was quick and direct “In case you not fair taxi, I tell Tourist Police!” 9/10 I worked and had no problems.

    Again, it all boils down to where your at, what city. Colombia is a perfect example. Every major city is different on how they charge. Medellin always uses a meter and if they don’t, you should get out and find a new taxi but Cali/Cartagena you have to negotiate 1/2 the time with taxis before hand before they will take you. If you don’t, then good luck to you at the end of the ride.

    I know you get around man and tons of travel experience under your belt but to just say “Get in and be confident, things will work out”… well I would personally say that is a little crazy. I’ve tried that before and most times I always get screwed. If i don’t know what the fair price is or if they actually use the meter, then I’m going to ask if they use the meter, if not then agree on something that seems fair to me. Later I’ll know what is what.

    If anything, i never had a meter run “high” on me because it was rigged (that I know of) but i have gotten the scenic tour lots of times with meters. When i see that, i just say stop and get out. Screw them if there going to drive me around 10 extra minutes just get make the fare higher. Anyways, we could go back and forth on this all day… it’s the never ending subject! lol

    1. Earl

      Hey T-Roy – Alright, alright, calm down! I get your point 🙂 The point that I was trying to make was the need to learn the local system and get an idea of local fares before you head out and start taking taxis. So if the local system, such as it seems to be in Ecuador at night, is to negotiate, it would still help to know ahead of time what the local fare should be. I’m not saying that if the local way is to negotiate you should jump in the taxi without asking the driver how much. I was trying to say that whatever the local system is, whether it is using the meter or negotiating ahead of time, then that is the system we should follow in order to minimize the risk of paying a much higher fare!

      But thank you for sharing all of that information about those destinations. Taking a photo of the driver’s ID seems like a good move. I’ll have to try that the next time I’m in Thailand!

      1. T-roy

        🙂 I’m cool as John Travolta on a Saturday night man! lol If you come to India, we’ll debate more and get to see each others methods in action. My current method for taxis right now involves an automatic weapon, 3 topless women, a 9 iron gold club and a bucket of ice. 70% of the time, it works every time my friend! lol

  53. Connie

    I don’t know where I got the stereotype that taxi drivers always rip people off. I think this even in my home country where I’m familiar with the area! I take taxi’s when I need to but for the most part, when I’m traveling, I stick to local transportation like metro, buses, trains, etc. It’s more challenging but I like to think of it as part of the (mis)adventures of traveling. =)

    1. Earl

      Hey Connie – Yeah, it is strange how almost everyone has such a negative view of taxi drivers. I also can’t really remember any particularly terrible experience that led me to believe it either.

      Using local transportation is almost always worth the extra challenges involved, even when bus drivers try to charge us higher fares from time to time 🙂

  54. Aaron @ Aaron's Worldwide Adventures

    Interesting tips. The same is actually true with New York City taxi cabs. Locals always know that you never even tell the driver where you’re going before you get into the cab!

    I did have one experience though in Hanoi where my taxi driver had a rigged meter. I didn’t even realize it until my return trip, when my fare was suddenly considerably less on the meter.

    1. Earl

      Hey Aaron – Now that’s an interesting point. I guess if the driver has rigged their meter, there’s not really any way around it if you don’t already know how much the trip should generally cost. Hopefully such drivers are far and few between.

  55. islandmomma

    I was badly ripped off in Nice in the south of France (my assumption that everything there was super-expensive probably made me fail to question the fare)a couple of years ago. Taking the same journey the following day I had an honest driver, so I realized the difference. A French friend told me to always ask for a receipt when in France. Any price loading is “black” money, so they have to charge the correct fare if you ask for a receipt. Obviously this only works in western countries I think.

    1. Earl

      @islandmomma: Thank you for sharing that piece of useful advice! Asking for a receipt seems like quite a good idea to me and I’m sure that it eliminates the chance of being charged a higher fare in quite a few western countries. I will take note of that myself for the next time I’m in Europe!

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    1. Earl

      Hey Scott – Thanks for the comment! It’s amazing that almost every ‘broken meter’ actually works perfectly if you get the driver to use it 🙂

      And when I was in Mexico I discovered that most towns that don’t use meters do have official set rates instead, so once you learn those, taking a taxi in that country becomes much less of a hassle.

  57. Shane

    Good advice. We usually skirt the issue by walking or taking the bus. Despite several bad experiences not all cabbies are on the make. Though it is a being a bit of a dump, I’ll always have a soft spot for Asuncion thanks to the taxi driver who I twice accidentally handed a note ten times too much for the fare and twice was handed it back. Bless.

    1. Earl

      Hey Shane – Walking or taking the bus certainly does solve any fare issues. And that’s a great story about the cab driver in Asuncion. Drivers get such a bad reputation all over the world but as you’ve experienced, those reputations are not (always) warranted. Thanks for sharing!

        1. Earl

          Hey Shane – Ok, so I guess those two positive taxi experiences were well outnumbered by negatives ones. In that case, good luck with your battle!

  58. Globetrottergirls

    I think most travelers get ripped off by taxi drivers – we’ve experienced it countless times on our trip so far (I could tell more than one story!). Knowing the local fares before getting to a place definitely helps, but even then we were told by a driver sometimes that the prices ‘had gone up’. Funnily, the next day with another driver, we paid the lower fare again. But in the end we are talking about a difference of a few cents only, so we can’t be too bothered about it (it’s more the principle)… Usually we ask the staff in hostels that we stay in how much the taxi fare is, or other travelers who have been already to the place we’re going to.

    1. Earl

      @Globetrottergirls: It’s just so easy to make travelers believe anything (such as the price ‘going up’) considering that we are in such foreign surroundings and just don’t know how things work. Sorry to hear you’ve had a few of these experiences on this trip, but like you said, sometimes the difference of fare is quite insignificant. But surely you girls feel like locals down there by now? 🙂

  59. Sam

    This has been in the back of my mind since you mentioned it during our meeting in Aleppo, but I haven’t put it in to practice yet, so thanks for the reminder. Also, how long ago was that picture of you in the rickshaw taken? (And as Alan said above – check that fro!)

    1. Earl

      Hey Sam – That photo of me and the rickshaw was taken in 2005. And the fro above is nothing compared to the photo I’m about to post in a week or so 🙂

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  61. Christy @ Ordinary Traveler

    Great advice about asking locals what you should pay for a ride. We also do this. I have to disagree about not confirming the price before you get in though. This may work in some cases, but once you are in the vehicle they are free to charge you whatever they want. I recently wrote about my experience taking Guaguas in the DR and was reminded about confirming the price beforehand.

    1. Earl

      Hey Christy -Thanks for sharing your input! I can definitely see how not agreeing on the price may seem useful. For me, I just find that if I know the local price ahead of time, then it works well when I hand over that amount at the end of the ride. If the driver demands more (which has rarely happened over the years), I simply explain that I know the local price and that usually ends the argument. Most of the times that I’ve tried to agree on a price beforehand, I end up having to negotiate and therefore paying a higher fare.

      And I just read your Guaguas story which sounded like quite an experience 🙂 In those kind of shared transportation situations, I normally pay my fare mid-ride while there are other people in the vehicle. Drivers and money collectors are much less inclined to cheat travelers when the vehicle is full. It also helps to only keep the exact fare in your pocket and hide the rest of your money so that all you have to pay is what you are supposed to!

  62. Natalie

    Lots of people here will complain to me that they have been ripped off when it comes to Taxis. I ask them how much they paid and then explain it is the normal price as it is set within boundaries. They then express surprise when I explain to them the cost of petrol here. However they have already told twenty plus people that they have been ripped off and create a air of contempt towards taxi drivers. Just do as you say and ask around before hand.

    I also think the term ripped off is used too loosely by some people. After listening to one woman, I asked her if she realised that she had been complaining for the last ten minutes about the equivalent of twenty cents. Being short changed and being ripped off is two different things.

    Love your taxi picture BTW.

    1. Earl

      Hey Natalie – I couldn’t agree with you more. People do throw around the term ‘ripped off’ (just as I did!) even when they are talking about such small amounts. I actually dislike the term quite a lot, most due to that negativity that you mentioned that is spread around so quickly simply because we feel slighted. It’s always so easy to blame something on the taxi driver.

      And I’d be willing to bet that a lot of the time people think they’ve been ripped off, they actually weren’t at all!

  63. kandyce

    i wonder if this works in smaller towns in india? when trying to get from point a to point b in hyderabad, we often can’t find literate drivers or drivers who know where it is we’re going (it is a fairly obscure place we stay), or drivers who refuse to go to where we stay as it’s too far away (and they try to get us to pay for there AND back for the driver, as he’d never find anyone traveling back.)

    anyway, i’ve seen this work in egypt. sometimes we got yelled at, but most often it worked. i’m still skeptical about india, though, as we aren’t often in delhi or mumbai, but rather hyderabad or somewhere even smaller.

    1. Earl

      Hey Kandyce – While I have used this method in smaller places around India as well (such as Mysore, Udaipur and Cochin), I cannot say I’ve done it in Hyderabad. However, I would imagine that it would work there too as I’d be surprised if there weren’t any set prices (official or unofficial) that govern how much drivers charge locals there. Even in the smallest of towns there is generally a set price for rickshaw or taxi rides. The difficulty often lies in simply trying to find out what those prices are 🙂

      I would try to find a reliable local to ask who might be able to let you know exactly what you should expect to pay. And then you can just jump in and hand over that local fare!

  64. Jill - Jack and Jill Travel The World

    On common destinations (airport – downtonw, for example), it’ll be useful knowing what the average cost should be. In Indonesia there was once a case when a taxi company fiddles with the meter to make them go much faster than it should (so both locals and tourists end up paying more).

    Often what we do is also to simply ask if the meter is running. If it is running, than paying the metered price is definitely easier for everybody involved.

    1. Earl

      Hey Jill – So you’ve found meter fixing in Indonesia as well? That is a tough problem to avoid unfortunately. But for the most part, having the driver use a meter usually ends up with travelers paying lower fares that are at least a bit more closer to the local rates!

  65. Andrew Murray

    LOL great advice Earl. I’m going to try this out. It seems so blatantly obvious now that you’ve put it down in writing. I’ve got so bad at this I don’t even get into a taxi at home without first agreeing a price :-/

    1. Earl

      Hey Andrew – That is what happens. What we tend to do on the road we tend to do at home as well, such as negotiating with taxi drivers 🙂 Hopefully you’ll have some success with this method as it really has made a huge difference for me. Just the fact that I don’t view every encounter with a taxi or rickshaw or tuk-tuk driver as an all out war, is all the proof I need!

  66. Skott and Shawna

    Hey Earl,

    So often I hear of advice that says you SHOULD negotiate beforehand. I like your advice a little better, but what would you suggest if you simply get in the cab, tell them where you want to go, and they do not start the meter…should we request they start the meter before we leave? Have you ever run into this problem?

    1. Earl

      Hey Skott and Shawna – If it is a taxi with a meter and the driver refuses to turn it on, I simply open the door and get out. On the few occasions that this has happened, the driver typically calls me back in and finally turns the meter on, as the normal fare is better than no fare for them. That threat of a lost fare, unless you’re in a super touristy area, is enough for them to reconsider!

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  68. Aníbal

    Hi Earl, I usually come here to read your blog entries, they’re very useful and amusing!

    I’m from Uruguay, but I would like to tell you about my visit to Chile and its taxi fare system (at least the one operating in the North of the country).

    Up there you have TWO types of taxis, the one’s called “colectivo” (as in “collective”) and the regular taxi. The first one has a flat fare of barely one dollar, but whenever you stop one, first you have to tell the driver where are you going and then he’ll tell you to hop in or not. Why is this? Because the driver probably has other persons aboard! See, the ‘colectivo’ ‘collects’ people, no more than three simultaneously, and drives them as long as their destination is on route with the others! If your destination is near one of the other passengers one, you’ll be able to take the ride.

    The other system is more expensive (roughly four dollars), but you don’t have to share the car and it’s also with flat fare. Plus, those cars are WAY nicer than the ‘colectivos’, that’s for sure!

    Here in Montevideo we have meters, and even though it could be thought of as a little expensive service, since Montevideo is rather small, tourists usually don’t complain about it. Most of our taxi drivers are honest and won’t charge you pluses for being foreigner, but not all of them speak/understand English as good as a tourist could speak.

    I’d like to share with you a video of Uruguay; I checked your visited countries and, even though you have already been to Uruguay, I noticed you’d like to learn how to surf and we have a great place to do that! Punta del Diablo (it’s in Spanish, so you can practise the language as well!): https://uruguaynatural.tv/video/691863174001

    Hope you drop by again some other time!

    Cheers from Uruguay!

    1. Earl

      Hola Anibal – Thank you so much for sharing that useful information about the system in Chile! I’ve encountered ‘colectivos’ in several countries around the world and I’ve always thought they offer a great transport system, especially considering that there is no negotiating involved.

      And I’m glad to hear that the taxi drivers of Montevideo are generally honest! It’s always refreshing to hear of such a thing as usually we only talk about taxi drivers negatively.

      Thanks for that link about Punta del Diablo. Looks like quite an amazing place to do some surfing so perhaps I should add it to my list of places to visit this year 🙂

      1. Aníbal

        You definitely should! Especially during November, preferably December, when it’s still off-season but the weather is great. February is also a great time to drop by the town.

        There are plenty seaside resorts all across Rocha’s coast (“Rocha” being the uruguayan state where Punta del Diablo is).

        Now that you’ve got my e-mail, feel free to let me know if you’re coming down here, I mise well join you for a day or two!

        Cheers!

        1. Earl

          Thanks Anibal! I look forward to joining you for some surfing 🙂

          Whenever I do make it down to Uruguay again, I will be in touch!

  69. Anil

    Knowing what the average fare is for the most common rides you’re likely to encounter right away (e.g. airport > hotel) is critical to not getting ripped off. Without that frame of reference you’re easy game.

      1. Earl

        Hey Phil – Asking the price ahead of time seems so obvious and simple but it’s also so easy to forget to do! But that one questions does ensure that we don’t have to deal with ugly taxi negotiations so it’s worth remembering.

    1. Earl

      Hey Anil – It is critical indeed. Stepping foot outside without that information is only asking for an unfortunate taxi experience.

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