That Taxi Driver is Probably NOT Your Friend

Taxi drivers.  You’ve got to love them.  It doesn’t matter what country you are in.  They always have a unique trinket dangling from their mirror and are happy to provide you with lots of advice on wherever it is you are traveling.  Especially so if they pick you up at the airport and you have a big backpack or you’re dragging some luggage behind you.

Unfortunately the first person you usually meet in a new country isn’t always the most trustworthy.

You hop in the car and tell the driver where you’d like to go.  Often times they respond by telling you that hotel is booked, it’s dirty, or unsafe.  If you don’t know any better, you might believe him and let him take you to a place he recommends.

Of course what he doesn’t tell you is that he is getting a commission for taking you to that place.

This is the oldest trick in the book and happens more often than you might believe.  Just last week I had it happen to me.  Twice.

So how do you avoid this? First of all, stick to your plans and know what you are getting in to.  If you are arriving somewhere late at night, it’s probably a good idea to book accommodation for your first night.

Another trick is charging you a flat rate versus using the meter.  This hardly works out in your favor.  Some places I have been (Morocco for instance) generally don’t use the meter and offer you a flat rate before you get in.  My experiences were fair and the prices were very cheap.  Recently in Costa Rica though, we agreed to pay 4,000 colones (about $8) for the three of us to be driven across town to a restaurant late at night.  We had a tough time finding a cab so we just agreed and off we went.  After dinner we flagged down another cab and headed back to our hotel room.  He turned on the meter and it came to 1,000 colones.  We realized we were ripped off the first time and always insisted on using the meter from then on.

All this negative talk about taxi drivers probably makes me look like a pessimist.  In reality, I’ve had some great conversations with taxi drivers and they are often very nice and enjoy meeting foreigners.  Especially if they want to practice your language.  I’ve had full conversations about American politics, tourism and the economy–all in various, and probably butchered, languages.  Often they can be insightful and entertaining, looking for somebody to chat with just like you are.

On the other hand, I’ve been ripped off (usually for such an insignifigant amount it’s laughable) and attempted to be taken advantage of.  So be careful and have a plan.  Don’t let a taxi driver boss you around.  They usually will take “no” for an answer very easily so insist on going where you want to go.

Have any funny (or horror) stories about taking taxis around the world? Share them in the comments below!

Photo credit: daveknapik

3 Replies to “That Taxi Driver is Probably NOT Your Friend”

  1. I’ve actually had nothing but good experiences with cab drivers in other countries. In Spain our cabbie even got out of the cab and tried to help us find our hostel on the streets of the Bari Gotic.

    But I have plenty of horros stories from the US.

    The last time I was home in Detroit, my husband and I decided to get dropped off at the bar and either get a ride with a sober friend or take a cab home. This is Detroit. Everyone drives. So when we asked the bartender to call us a cab he looked at us like we were insane and then told us it would be almost an hour.

    When our cab finally arrived, we thought the driver looked a little crazy. He was babbling on about how when you work the night shift you see all kinds of crazy things, and you get tired but you can’t take drugs to stay away. Dan and I kept exhanging what-the-heck-is-talking-about looks and I kind of noticed that he was driving eractically but I thought maybe I was just a little tipsy.

    As we pulled onto Dan’s parent’s street (where we were staying)sirens starting blaring and light started flashing behind us. Halfway down the street our cabbie stopped. We could see the house so we threw $15 (why did we pay?) at the cabbie and started to get out. The police officer yelled at us to get back into the car, then approached the driver’s window and said that they had receievd a call that there was a cab driver swerving on the road. We explained that we just lived a few houses down and the cop allowed us to get out and walk. As we made our way down the street, we turned back to our cabbie attempting to walk a straight line, and failing miserably.

  2. My rule is to use the public transport EVERYWHERE, including in my home country. I prefer to travel slower and wt a map but at least i know i don’t get ripped off. Even at home, I grab a can ONLY if it’s impossible to walk or get public transportation.

  3. i work at a hotel close to an airport. We have a free shuttle for our guests, but a lot of times people at the airport will ask the taxi drivers if the shuttle is running (it runs 24 hours) and they’ll say no. Then of course these people end up paying the driver $10 to take them to the hotel when it’s free.

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