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 middle seat on a 8-hour flight? Well hello neighbor. That shell fish you bought on the beach smell a bit off? Meh, I could stand to loose 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 quiet 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
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 time of day or day of 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.
Another place to check prior to arriving are online forms. This is a great place to get an idea of what to expect price wise by someone who has already been to your destination.
If arriving to a new city via air/rail/sea look for an information kiosk and ask how much 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.
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 bar tender.
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.
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 meter)
Letting your drive 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 then 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 traveling 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 apart of a legit company. Cars should have clear indication of 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.
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 traveling 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 relized 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 apart of travel. I have read many travel bloggers and writers budgeting tips on traveling 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 traveling 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