How to Avoid Taxi Fare Rip-Offs

Photo via Flickr Creative commons - kennymatic

I Hate Being Taken for a Ride.

For some reason being ripped off by a taxi driver is one of my biggest travel pet peeves. Lost luggage? Stuff can be replaced. Took a wrong turn? I love to explore. Wedged in the middle seat on an 8-hour flight? Well hello, neighbour. Does that shellfish you bought on the beach smell a bit off? Meh, I could stand to lose a few pounds. But try and take me the long way home, or charge me an extra $5 for no reason? Rage!…or at least about as much rage as a non-confrontational Canadian can exhume. Even though the monetary amount is usually quite small, the fact that I have been duped boils my blood. I hate Taxi fare Rip-Offs.

On my recent trip to Dallas, this seemed to happen often and it put a bit of a stink on the overall experience of our visit. We covered a lot of distance in cabs and, after some frustrating trial and error, figured out how to better handle the situation and alleviate some of the stress. Let me share these lessons with you:

Know Ahead of Time

Photo via Flickr Creative Commons - Guwashi999
Photo via Flickr Creative Commons – Guwashi999

Where possible, check online or in an up-to-date guidebook for what transportation should cost to/from popular locations at your destination. A quick search online can save you money and potential altercations at your destination.

Most airports post local transportation information on their website and will include either cab rates to/from the airport to specific areas or a link to the local transportation authority website. Many cities regulate cab rates which include what special taxes and fees a driver can charge and what the meter can start at. Most meters have different starting rates based on the time or day of the week. Knowing this ahead of time can save you a few bucks.  This information is usually available in the cab as well but knowing ahead of time is recommended.

Ask Around

If arriving in a new city via air/rail/sea look for an information kiosk and ask how much the taxi fare should be to your destination. Also, ask if the fee includes or excludes any extra fees or service charges and if the rate is based on a meter or a flat fee. If there is a taxi stand at your location ask the attendant for this information.

Some places have Uber while others don’t. Research this before you go and ensure you always choose a legit firm. Make sure you know what to do in the case of Uber accidents too.

If taking a taxi from your hotel or hostel ask the concierge or a hostel worker what you should expect to pay. If you are leaving a restaurant or bar ask the host or bartender.

Know The System. Trust The System

Asking your trusted source how the local taxis system works can help big time. Almost all cities enforce meters in taxis, tuk-tuks, and even rickshaws. They are there for a reason so use them. Haggling about the price before getting into the cab can result in being overcharged – and rightfully so. How many locals do you see negotiating a price before getting in cab? What about in your hometown? Knowing that it should only cost X amount to get to your destination is your leverage. Get in with a smile and make sure the meter is on and starting at the correct rate. If the driver says the meter is broken or refuses to use it you can get out of the cab as it is a good indication that you will be overcharged.

Photo via Flickr Creative Commons - tinou bao
Photo via Flickr Creative Commons – tinou bao


Confirm the Price

Armed with your knowledge confirm the price once the meter is running. Make sure to clearly understand:

  • The fee includes all taxes and fees (tolls, surcharges etc)
  • The fee is a fixed rate or meter rate
  • The starting fare (if on the meter)

Letting your driver know that you know it should only cost X amount can drastically reduce your chances of getting taken for a ride.

If you are in a city or town where cab fares are unregulated or don’t use meters, you may have to negotiate the fare down to what you were told to expect. Do this before getting in the car.

Consider Other Options

For the same price or for slightly more you may be able to take a town car from your point of entry to your destination. Town cars are usually nicer and more comfortable rides and, if travelling in a group of four, can be cheaper than taking a taxi. Airport or hotel shuttles are also an option but really only feasible traveling alone or as a couple.

I’m stating the obvious here, don’t get into cabs that are not a part of a legit company. Cars should have a clear indication of the company or valid driver operation should be on display.

In small towns and cities in Asia hiring a rickshaw or tuk-tuk driver for the day (or duration of stay) can be the way to go. Again, knowing what it should cost you ahead of time is key in negotiating a rate.

Photo via Flickr Creative commons - Bev Goodwin
Photo via Flickr Creative commons – Bev Goodwin

If you arrive at your destination and the fee has ballooned past your trusted ballpark estimate remain calm. Let the visions of you barrel rolling out of a moving vehicle subside. If you are travelling in a group have one member go into your hotel/airport/restaurant etc.. and ask a reputable source what the fee should be. Chances are the cab driver will cave to your price as it is not worth the hassle for him or her to wait around.

This was the case for one late-night trip in Dallas where the driver tried to charge us twice as much as what we had paid earlier for the same ride. I stayed in the car while one of my friends went to ask the front desk of our hotel if the “late night fee” was legit. When the driver realised what we were doing he quickly changed his tune.

You can also take down the company’s phone number and say that you will call them to clarify the price. Again, chances are the driver will cave.

If All Else Fails

Leave what you know it should cost and get out of the cab. Otherwise, pay. Remind yourself that it is only a few dollars (for the most part) and, as long as you are safe, consider it a part of travel. I have read many travel bloggers and writers budgeting tips on travelling through less touristy areas and most include money specifically set aside or allotted for bribes, scams, and/or being robbed. It is, albeit sad, a part of travelling to certain corners of the world. I have a hard time with this but at the end of the day arriving safely at your destination from someone you just met is all that really counts.

Cover photo via Flickr Creative Commons – kennymatic

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22 replies on “How to Avoid Taxi Fare Rip-Offs”
  1. Avatarsays: Victor Scott

    Thanks for posting this Shaun. Good info and you are not alone about it being a major pet peeve. I HATE getting ripped off, no matter the price. Could be $2, could be $200. It is the principle.


  2. Avatarsays: Tara Hains

    Agreed! What is worse than getting ripped off while traveling is getting ripped off at home! I was shown “the scenic route” last weekend to a friends place in the burbs only to find out I paid $15-$20 more than I should have! Guess I should have paid attention LOL

  3. Avatarsays: Rob Danza

    NY cabs are the worst for ripping people off. I have had more than my share of issues. Like you say, it becomes just a part of New York.

  4. Avatarsays: Christy Jane

    I usually take town cars to avoid the hassle of dealing with cabbies and getting scammed. A little more but you are right, they are nicer and piece of mind for me is worth it.

  5. Avatarsays: Agness

    Great tips! I hate being ripped off by taxi and tuk tuk drivers and it’s so common in Asia. I easily get frustrated and decide to walk instead. I agree, knowing the price before you get into a taxi is crucial + you need to be tough with them and go hard on them when haggling. They often have no mercy!

    1. Avatarsays: shaun_robertson

      I find they have a little mercy once you get away from touristy areas. They usually have no need to haggle when they can just wait for someone at busy tourist spots.

  6. Avatarsays: Lonnie Herbert

    I HATE being ripped of by cabbies! I am always so skeptical when I am in a foreign place! All because of one or two bad experiences.

  7. Avatarsays: Tiffany

    Great tips! Another good thing to do is to look at google maps and know roughly how to get from your starting point to your destination – so if the taxi driver suddenly takes a weird turn, you will notice. You said you’re going to Istanbul soon, be aware of Taxi drivers pretending to have no clue where they are going. After a few frustrating experiences involving huge detours, we ended up sitting next to the driver with maps on our phones, basically telling the guy when to go left and when to go right. That seemed to work.

    1. Avatarsays: shaun_robertson

      Good tip Tiffany and thanks for the heads up in Istanbul! I am going to be testing out an international sim card and am getting free data around the world so that will definitely help keep me sane!

        1. Avatarsays: Tiffany

          I didn’t take too many taxis, just when I had to move big things around or a couple time when I just didn’t feel like making the effort to go find public transportation. I mostly walked in Istanbul, just because I like exploring. But the public transit is good and cheap – there are trams, ferries, the subway – it’s easy to get around. The taxis were by far the biggest headache, just because they required so much mental effort. I had to keep an eye on the driver while trying to figure out the way through that confusing traffic with my map – while the guy who actually lives there seems to have no idea where things are in his city.

  8. Avatarsays: Haily Woodward

    I always get the price up front but can see how that might not be the best idea now. Thanks!

  9. Avatarsays: Dreammarket

    Thanks for every other informative web site. Where else may just I am getting that kind of information written in such an ideal way? I’ve a undertaking that I’m simply now running on, and I’ve been at the look out for such info

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