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4 Tips to Survive Any Taxi Ride

Potential Mates

Even in your home country, taxis can be an intimidating prospect. Will the rates be ridiculously high? Will they try to run up the charges by driving around areas that you don’t know? Simply hailing a cab can even prove impossible on a busy rainy night. Hopefully these tips can help you survive that rain-drenched wait for a driver to take you where you want to go.

Make sure they turn the meter on.

One of the most common tricks is when a driver offers a “special rate” or says the meter is broken. This is so common that it is illegal in the US to give rides with a broken meter, so don’t get in a cab with someone who says theirs isn’t working. Most other countries want to give you a special tourist rate as well, so insist on going by the metered rate. There is no way they want to make less money, they just want it to seem that way.

Always be the decider.

In travel-heavy areas like an airport, there will be a cab area with a long line of taxis being matched to their prospective riders. There will also be drivers walking up to tired and weary travelers before they get in yet another line, trying to offer them alternatives. These alternatives are generally a horrible idea. The rates are awful, the cars are unknown, and they tend to be illegal, which isn’t the best situation to put yourself in when arriving in a new country. If anything seems off about a driver, move to the next in line. You have no obligation, so trust your instincts.

Ask the concierge.

In any major downtown area, you can be fighting countless unseen taxi-grabbing ninjas that will swoop into the door you just opened. Simply step into the nearest hotel (the fancier the better) and ask the concierge to hail you a cab. Their reputation is on the line every time they help someone, and they have long-standing relationships with cab drivers. They will be able to get you a cab or at least show you the best place to get one.

Talk to the driver.

These people are in a small box all day, and a lot of passengers avoid contact. Be friendly. Offer them a piece of gum. Ask about their day. They will be thankful, especially if their native language isn’t yours. Telling them about yourself makes you human, not just another jerk to get money from. This is also a great opportunity to find out about local customs and get some inside local history on the town. Taxi drivers have a unique hyperlocal perspective on how things have been changing, and typically have amazing stories.

I will never forget one cab ride I took years ago when I visited San Francisco. The driver was blaring his band’s demo CD on the blown taxi speakers while shouting a detailed history of the clubs in town over the last 20 years, including which ones he had played and what scandals were going down in the back rooms. Each hill we topped sent us flying off the ground, crashing down into the next track on the CD as he turned up the volume and shouted a little louder about what happened after his concert in 1994 at the club we just passed.

Do you have any great tips or stories to share? Post them in the comments!

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  1. […] to get to a small town in India, never flying or stopping long enough to sleep well, I was taking a taxi to the hotel. I was completely exhausted and ready to collapse in a sea of plush bedding, though I would have […]

  2. Cab drivers are one of the most under utilized resources in a city. It is almost always a missed opportunity for great stories and tips about the city. Easy questions I ask all the time:

    “Tell me the craziest thing that has ever happened in your cab.”
    “Tell me about the last famous person you drove around.”
    “How have you seen this city change?”

    I have seen a guy play the guitar and sing with his dog while driving, heard stories of sex in the back seat (!) and countless tales and perspectives of the city. I’ve even had a few wait for me to get into my house before driving off.

    Cheers to the cabbies!

  3. Chris Dame says:

    So true. It’s always good to get in good with the people who make the blood of a city pump. Thanks for the tips!

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