We all need to take a taxi occasionally, sometimes in foreign cities. So, you should be aware of common taxi scams and know how to avoid them. Here are some common taxi tricks and some suggestions for dealing with them.
Whether a local in town or a tourist in the city, taxicabs offer various forms relief: shorter way to destination saving you time or from troubles. But trouble could be lurking around if you are not aware of these tricks taxi drivers may employ.
1. Most expensive routes disguised scenic routes.
A common taxi scam is to take the longest and most expensive route. Look at a map and have an idea of distance and direction. If something seems wrong, ask the driver to explain. Drivers are less likely to do this trick if you seem aware of his ulterior motive. But it’s easier to avoid this when you take the prescribed taxi stands instead of the unlicensed ones who offer ‘discounted’ rates.
2. Taxicabs don’t have loose change.
Drivers may claim (maybe truthfully) that they can’t change your large bill. Carry small bills and coins.
3. Drivers doing the bills switcheroo.
Some drivers are skilled at switching large bills with smaller ones, then claiming your gave them the small one. Use small bills and count them out one at a time.
4. Drivers making extra charges.
Some cities permit taxis to charge for extras like luggage, toll fees or additional passengers. But some don’t or charge you for something you’re not supposed to pay — credit card payment fee, for example — so know the rules and be prepared to take alternatives to avoid getting ripped off.
5. That hotel has closed.
A driver may claim that the hotel you requested has closed (or is no good) and offer to take you elsewhere. As convincing he may sound, know where you’re going and insist on going there.
6. Drivers showing extra effort.
Make no mistake, honesty and being helpful should be a common characteristic of a taxi driver. But dishonest drivers know how to appear helpful and pleasant. (Otherwise they wouldn’t last long.) They start asking about certain things which an unsuspecting passengers usually won’t mind. But this can be a bad precedent especially if you are a stranger in the city. Don’t let appearances lead you into taking risks.
7. Credit cards carry a transaction fee.
Not every taxi is able or allowed to accept a credit card or charge extra for such convenience. Know the policy in advance before hopping in, and better yet, prepare small bills and coins in case you think the extra charges are over the supposed limits.
8. Driver is not a licensed taxi driver.
It is possible that you’re hiring a private motorist, or worse a criminal, moonlighting as a taxi driver. A driver doesn’t want to lose a license for a few dollars. Know what a license looks like, and be sure it’s there before getting in. Take note of the name and number, or photograph it with your cell phone. To avoid running into this risk, do not be swayed into paying less from drivers peddling outside airports or railway stations. Remember, there is a premium to pay when choosing this mode of transport.
9. Stopping by for gas.
Some cab drivers pretend to be running out of gas just as you are in the middle of a trip. Do not easily buy his ideas until you see the dashboard, if it’s working. Better yet, check it out before boarding especially if you anticipate your trip is going to take several minutes.
10. Faulty or non-functional meters.
Sometimes taxi drivers arrange a ‘better deal’ if you pay a prearranged amount, or if his meter is not working. If there is no meter or if it’s not working, settle on the price before getting in. Write it down and have the driver sign it. Otherwise, look for another cab.
11. Prepay but do not pay extra.
Many airports offer pre-paid cab service. If it’s available, use it and keep the receipt handy. Even if you have a pleasant ride, tipping is still discretionary so don’t be coerced into shelling out extra if you don’t feel like doing so. Again, checking out the driver’s name, car plate and license number before boarding the cab is always a wise move.
12. Check journey receipts.
Save your receipt to report a problem. If you paid by credit card, check the receipt against your statement.
13. Running away with luggage.
Don’t pay the fare if you still have luggage in the trunk or on top of the cab. The driver may take off with it (even unintentionally).
There are countless forms of taxi tricks, but these are the common ones. If you want to avoid being taken by taxi scams, follow these suggestions. Most importantly, prepare and be careful.