Do taxi drivers prey on tourists?

How would you like to get ripped off today? / Photo by twicepix

It happened again to Peter Lawton last week. He got scammed by another cab driver, he says.

He’d caught a taxi to the airport in San Jose, Costa Rica. When he arrived, Lawton, who is from Albuquerque, N.M., didn’t bother counting the change.

“I trusted the driver,” he says. “I was screwed for about $12.”

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Verifying he had the correct change would have required calculating the exchange rate between the Costa Rican colón, which is worth about 20 cents, and the greenbacks with which he’d paid the driver. But Lawton says he was tired and just wanted to get on the plane.

Do taxi drivers prey on tourists? The question is bound to offend the cab drivers who in their spare time love to troll sites like this one. Welcome, fellas. And no, I’m not talking about you. You care enough about your industry’s reputation to post a comment here. I wish there were more like you out there.

I’m talking about the other cab drivers, like the one Lawton encountered in Buenos Aires a few years ago — again, on his way to the airport.

“The cabby seemed pleasant and quoted me a 135 peso fare,” he says. “It was a long drive. When we arrived it was dark.”

Lawton handed him 200 pesos and asked for a 50-note. But when he tried to buy dinner with it, he saw that it was counterfeit note.


(Incidentally, Lawton says the rip-offs don’t just happen south of the border. He says he was snookered for an extra $10 by a New York cabbie as a youth when his parents put him in a tax to the airport. The driver gave him a “scenic” tour of Manhattan, which he hadn’t asked for.)

Today’s taxi scams are more subtle. Instead of charging city rates, they’ll switch the meter to more expensive suburban rates when you’re not looking. The mastermind behind one such scam, accused of defrauding more than 2,500 passengers of $11,690, was arrested last year in New York. It was reportedly the biggest taxi-cheating ring in history.

“I’m tired of the rip-offs,” Lawton told me.

Me too.

Like Lawton, I’ve had my own taxi troubles in the past. The most notable one: I was fired as a columnist years ago for defending cab drivers’ rights to not pick up passengers in a dangerous neighborhood. (My politically-correct editor thought I was out of line. We had a little disagreement, and I got the pink slip. Her loss.)

I’m also on the record as taking a dim view of the opportunistic taxi operators at Newark airport, who charge a flat rate for rides into New York — cash only. If you don’t have the $64, no worries. There’s an ATM with a hefty surcharge conveniently located next to the stand.

Can you say “rip-off”?

Fortunately, I discovered an app for my iPhone called GroundLink, which offers a car service for roughly the same price as a cab, and I’ve never looked back.

Taxi scams can take many forms. One of the most common ones is the “per person” charge. That’s where you agree on one price, but when you get to your destination, the driver changes his rate because the initial quote was based on just one passenger. A little misunderstanding. Language barriers can make this one easier to pull off.

Other taxi shenanigans include the ones Lawton experienced — the “scenic” ride and the wrong-change scam. And finally, the driver can simply change the price, jacking up your rate from a reasonable fare to a few hundred dollars. Since you’re in a foreign country, they assume you’ll pay without questioning. (Often, visitors do, fearful they might face a caning after spending a weekend in a Third World prison.)

Actually, there are easy ways to avoid getting taken by a taxi driver. If the cab doesn’t use a meter, agree on a fare before you step into the vehicle, and make sure you ask if it’s per person or for the whole group. Use your smartphone to route your map, and if the driver veers off course, say something.

Pay with a credit card or with your cell phone. (In Frankfurt, Germany, you can use cell phone micropayments to settle up.) If you can’t do that, then use exact change to avoid the possibility of receiving bogus currency.

And most important, never keep your luggage in the trunk. If you have a disagreement with the driver, he’ll keep your personal belonging hostage until you pay up.

65 thoughts on “Do taxi drivers prey on tourists?

  1. Ummm. EVERYONE preys on tourists. By definition, a tourist doesn’t live there and so usually won’t know the streets, how much things are supposed to cost, etc.

    Thanks for the helpful tips, but I’m not sure I agree with “never keep your luggage in the trunk”, though. Most of the time when I’m in a taxi in a foreign country, it’s because I can’t use public transport. Oftentimes, there’s no way around it.

    Here are a few extra tips: The smartphone may be a bit too discreet. Pull out a map and pretend to follow along the route. Also, get into the habit of copying the taxi number / cab driver’s name down. It might be overkill, but it shows that you have a way of identifying him later. Not only does this help to keep the cabbie honest, you’ll need it if you happen to forget something in the cab.

    That being said, taxi drivers in many countries earn a pittance. So I’m not sure I totally blame them for trying to scam a few extra bucks, however distasteful it is to us… (Whenever I get scammed, it’s usually more of a blow to my ego than my wallet.)

    1. Here’s another tip.  We were in Rome a couple years ago and learned this trick:

      When the cab dropped us off at the hotel, we collected our luggage and asked the front desk clerk if the 60 euro the cabbie wanted was fair.  He said no and came out to help.  After a heated conversation with the cab driver, the clerk asked us for 35 euro which we gave to the clerk.  He then told us to go into the lobby.  We watched as they argued in Italian, but after a short while the cab driver took the 35 euro.  The clerk came back into the lobby and kind of shrugged and said, “sorry about that” and then checked us in.   

      1. I think that’s a good idea when you’re taking a taxi with the hotel as a starting point. But if you’ve already agreed on a price with the taxi driver, it’s kind of lame to now get someone else to try to negotiate on that price after he’s already provided the service. The time for negotiation is before you get into the cab, otherwise, it could get ugly. When I make hotel arrangements, I normally ask how much a cab is from wherever I’m coming from. I’m sure the airport info desk would be able to supply a ballpark taxi rate as well.

  2. I think taxi drivers most certainly prey on tourists, though I think the majority of them are honest, but not all.
    I was born and raised in NY, and know the TLC rules quite well.  In fact, my grandfather was a cabbie.  Yet several times I have picked up a taxi in mid-town, said LaGuardia and been told, “Sorry, my meter is broken, I’ll just charge you a flat rate, it’s usually about $(Insert number between $60-100).” Even in the worst of traffic, I’ve never paid more than $50 for a ride to LaGuardia with a working meter.  Of course I mention they are required to report the broken meter and get repairs, and then offered to pay $40, and I’ve been kicked out.
    I also agree with Chris’s trunk analogy, only had that happen once, and it was a Gypsy cab, I’ll never take them again.  The taxi line was incredibly long, and the driver was working the line.  He quoted me $40 all-in.  So I took him up on it.  When we got to where we were going he said $80, I asked what about $40, he said that was per person.  He wouldn’t open the trunk until I coughed up the extra money.  And you can’t report a Gypsy cab.
    Sadly I think I was taken for a ride many times in Chicago, I don’t know my way around there very well, but I have had a few drivers take obviously out-of-the way routes and now I always make sure to get a map first and tell the driver how I would like them to drive me.

  3. I’ve been around the world and have encountered both honest and dishonest taxi drivers. Never had a problem in the United States, but that’s more likely because I rarely use a taxi stateside (on rare occasion in Vegas)

    When I have been “ripped off” it’s usually because I haven’t been on my game. I prefer to think of it as a “tourist tax” and the taxi driver needed the money more than I did.

    Here’s my advice:
    1) Do your research. Before you get into a taxi, have a clue as to what the actual rate is. The hotel concierge is a good research and they will give you a general idea of what the rates are. That way you know how much to negotiate in advance.
    2) Use local currency if possible. If you pay in greenbacks, you’re sort of asking to get ripped off
    3) Carry small bills, so that you can pay as close to actual rate as possible. This also prevents possible strong handed tactics to demand extra tips at the end of the ride
    4) If possible have the hotel concierge negotiate for you. The hotel concierge can also write down instructions and pick-up times (if hiring a driver for the day) in local language, so there isn’t miscommunication. Often the hotel concierge will have a friend or connection with a specific taxi driver, who doesn’t want to jeopardize their connection with the hotel by being dishonest towards a guest.
    5) In an airport, if in doubt, check with security or access control officer to make sure you are using a licensed taxi driver.
    6) During the ride, act as if you know the area. Again, this involves doing your research. When asked “Is this your first time here in …..” I always reply with some variation of answer that says I am visiting family or a friend and come here occasionally
    7) Make sure your fixed rate includes EVERYTHING. Once I was charged a few dollars for “use of air conditioning”!

    I realize that things change, but in my experience, the most honest (and fun) taxi drivers I’ve ever encountered was in Turkey. Had a nutso driver in Nassau that was memorable that was nick-named speedy. Thought I was getting ripped off in Malaysia once when I thought I was getting the scenic tour, but the taxi actually went to correct route. He just smiled when we got there (and that’s how you earn an extra tip).

  4. I’ve had this happen in Vegas multiple times. You go to the hotel from the airport and the drivers want to take you all around the city to get to where you need to go instead of just heading down the street that leads right to your destination. You learn the correct routes once you drive around and also pay a flat fare for things like the rent a limo service. they take you the cheapest and most direct route. I’ve also noticed that if you hand them say like a $20 for a $14 ride, they take their sweet time about getting you change, thinking that you will just let them keep it. We’ve even had one guy just pocket the $$ and then start screaming at us when we asked for our change. This was after a ride from hell in which our group though we were going to die in this guys car. 100* plus, no A/C, swerving in traffic, almost hitting people several times, etc… No thanks.. Tips are supposed to be for good service.

  5. I voted no.  Because the type of taxi driver that does this attempts to prey on anyone not paying attention.

    I’m also trying to figure out why receiving a counterfeit note from a cab driver makes him the scammer. Unless the OP has evidence of a counterfeiting operation that was going on in the cab, how do you know he wasn’t given the bad note and simply passed it on?

    1. Let me make sure I understand this.  You voted that “taxi drivers do not pray on tourists” because the only drivers who do so just prey on those who are not paying attention?!  So it is the tourist’s fault for not knowing the shortest route to his hotel in a strange city?  The dumb tourist made the poor cabbie do it.  As for the counterfeit notes, you certainly can’t know if a particular driver is aware or not aware that he is passing on counterfeit bills.  What is known for sure is that giving counterfeit change to tourists is a known cabbie scam in certain parts of the world.  The point is that in either case having the exact fare is a useful tactic for tourists.

      1. What I thought Chasmosaur meant is that taxi drivers prey on anyone they can get away with it on, not just tourists.  I would agree as they have tried to prey on me in my own city where I wasn’t a tourist. So I believe it’s a valid point.

        1. Sorry, you missed the point.  He voted that cabbie’s don’t prey on tourists because cabbies only prey on people not paying attention. He made no reference to tourists or otherwise. This doesn’t make sense.

          1. 1) I’m a she.

            2) Of course cabbies prey on tourists. (I sincerely hope they don’t pray on tourists, as that would be a big old intrusion on personal space).  But cabbies preyed on my husband when we lived in DC, too.

            Because even though he’d lived there for several years, he doesn’t pay attention.  He would also take cabs when he didn’t want to drive home after one drink too many.  Not a sloppy drunk, but not completely clear headed.

            So he can sheepishly tell you stories about cabbies driving him blocks out of his way to increase the zone coverage or giving him a $1 instead of a $10 in change. 

            I also used to volunteer at a hospital, and used to discuss with cabbies and patients exactly how their trip home was supposed to go.  You could see the light going out of the driver’s faces when they realized they weren’t picking up a patient who wouldn’t notice they were going to be driven around the suburbs for a while.

            A crooked taxi driver is a crooked taxi driver.  They look for opportunities – tourists are of course the easiest prey, but they’re not going to skip trying to con a local who is an infrequent, insensible or unknowledgeable taxi patron, either.

            3) I didn’t know the counterfeit bill thing was a scam, so apologies. And now I know to look for that.  It’s just I always make sure to have tons of change before I step into a cab so they don’t have to make it – I feel I’m more likely to hear that they can’t make change than intentionally pass me a fake bill, so it wasn’t on my radar.  
            But still – I was passed a counterfeit bill once from a grocery store.  It was not a conspiracy.  It was a good counterfeiter.

          2.  Hey, no problem with any of the above.  Just don’t see how you could vote “no” that cabbies don’t prey on tourists “because” the type of cabbies who do only prey on people who don’t pay attention.  The reasoning just doesn’t compute for me but, whatever does it for you.

          3. I just feel like it’s an unclear statement.  Cabbies prey on the unwary – that isn’t just tourists.

            I guess I’m just being semantic/pedantic/somesortofic.  Comes when you sit on the couch with ice bags on your legs for months on end 😉

    2.  a “hot” scam in Israel a few years ago was giving change in “old” sheckels, after the country changed to NIS…

      1. I was in Israel when they changed currencies from lira to old shekel (1980). The bellboys and taxi drivers thought I was very “generous”. Stupid me. Note this is not the new shekel (circa 1985).

  6. I have had good and bad experiences.  The best is when it is a controlled situation.  I took a cab from the Nassau airport to paradise island.  The fee is set at $35 for the ride, and the cab driver was nice enough to take the scenic route at no extra cost when we said it was our first time there.  He pointed out a lot of places we saw upclose later on his recomendationThe worst seems to be when there is no direct regulation or ovesight and the temptation just gets to be too much for the drivers.

  7. True story.  We lived in New York City and husband is British.  He came in from a flight and told driver the address.  Driver apparently thought he had someone in the cab who was “new to the city.”  As he is driving in the wrong direction my husband in his BEST BRITISH accent told him he knew the way and really would not pay extra for a guided tour.  Problem OVER.

  8. Use your cell phone to take a photo of the taxi driver license. Sometimes you might even surrepticiously (sp) take a picture of the driver. I think putting your luggage in with you is ridiculous. If you are that scared then stay at home.

  9. Yes this is possible, just like going to a camera store or buying your curios close to a landmark. If you are concerned about this, get your hotel to arrange transport. Often you pay the hotel. Yes it might cost a little more but you probably get treated better too. As for the change, how many who complain are honest when a driver gives them too much? If available where you are traveling, Über is a very good option. Limo treatment at lower than limo prices that you pay fir through the app. Great alternative in a growing number of places…

  10. I voted “no” because there is just too much information available to avoid being “scammed”. The Internet provides you the ability to not only access cab fares in advance of your trip to any city but also provide the names of the legitimate cab companies and you can also determine the shortest route to your destination by way of Google Maps, Map Quest, AAA, and a host of other sights. If the travlerer is “scammed” it is because he did not do his homework and allowed himself to be taken advantage of. I know, it happened to us in Rome several years ago. After a long train ride from Zurich we arrived in Rome late in the evening and was approached by  a friendly cabbie who offered to take us to our hotel for $20. After driving through several winding streets he pulled up in front of our hotel, deposited us and our bags and refused to accept a tip. What a nice guy. The next morning, refreshed, we stepped out of our hotel to begin exploring the city and walked a half block to the corner and when we turned to our right the first thing we saw was the train station. All we could do was laugh and take note that we needed to be more familiar with our surroundings.

    1. But to be honest, wasn’t the taxi better on your first night there?  No messing with suitcases on the train, no wandering around looking at a map trying to find your hotel.

      Like you, that might have been a “Doh!” moment for me as well but, like you, I’d have moved on from it.

      With the prevalence of travel apps for phones and tablets now, though, I think experiences like yours will become less and less.  But you did get to meet a nice local on your first night – sort of a Welcome to Rome! 

      1. I’m not complaining about the ride, the driver, or the experience. It was not only a learning experience but a story we often share with friends and look back on with good memories. The world is populated with both good and bad people. When you’re traveling you have to be awareconstantly otherwise you are an easy mark for those who are inclined to do things to make your trip less enjoyable. Right?

  11. In France and Spain they sure do.  No way they’ll ever put an end to it either.  Fortunately, the public transit in both places is good enough that I don’t take cabs very often, if at all, whenever I travel there.

  12. The worst places I’ve found for this are India in general, and Hanoi. The last time I was in Hanoi I had one driver who tried to take the scenic route AND had a rigged meter. When I saw how fast the meter was running I insisted he stop, and got out, and refused to pay. He threatened to get physical, but when I started insisting that he call the police he backed off and left.

    In India I mostly take rickshaws, and they will rarely agree to use the meter. When they do, you have to be constantly alert to make sure they don’t take the long way round.

    Of curse, the best taxis are the black cabs in London

  13. I’ve had a hotel get me a cab in Mexico three times recently, and I asked the hotel each time what the cost would be (for a trip to the airport).  When the “cab” arrived, it was a private car with a “civilian” driver.  All three times, the driver asked for more than the quote, sometimes lots more!  I refused to pay anything but what was quoted, and the driver accepted this.  However, next time I will have the hotel call a “regular” cab.  I’m surprised it took me three lessons to learn to do this!  I’ve commented on this in my reviews on Trip Advisor and  Not good publicity for the hotel, I’m sure, but they need to know.  I agree that taxi drivers earn only a pittance, so perhaps they feel it’s their tip. I don’t like to tip involuntarily, however.

    1. 10+ years ago I stayed at a 5-star in Mexico City, and every morning I took a hotel cab into the city center, and later took a “normal” cab back to the hotel.  The “hotel cab” was actually a hotel employee with a hotel-owned car, and it cost about 5 times as much as the “normal” cab did. 

      BUT during the period when I was there, another American tourist was killed when he got into a fake “normal” cab (robbery was evidently the motive).  This was why at least back then, the hotel-cab mark-up was totally worth it! 

  14. Oddly, my wife and I were returning to our hotel in Costa Rica. In the taxi, the driver, with two others in the front seat with him were really yukking it up to intimidate us. He opened the glove compartment to show us a revolver; they laughed. Being scared, is an understatement. We got to the hotel without bullet holes in our gut.

    Another hair-raising experience on a business trip was in North Africa. The taxi driver took me to my destination and demanded a large over payment. As I was arguing, the taxi was surrounded by angry locals. Fortuantely, it was right under the window of my business colleague, who heard the noise, looked out the window, rushed out and put a wad of money in the drivers hand and pulled me away, and admonished me for my ‘stupidity.’

    These experiences are manifold. My advice, if you find yourselves in an untenable situation, pay the money and run. It may very well be, “Your money or your life.”

    In Mexico we were traveling down a steep mountain road at a very high speed. The taxi driver put the car in neutral to save gas. I yelled and scared the hell out of him to put the car in gear, and he did.

     Life is a roller coaster, to say the least.

  15. While I believe the majority of cabbies are honest, I also believe – if there’s a way to scam another person, someone will use it to the nth degree.  Unfortunately, we live in a world becoming more and more dishonest by the day.

    However, I’ve had only two cab experiences in my life, so…

    Sligo – arrived at the train station with no way to get to our hotel. Also needed to tour the countryside for photos and to get some shots of Lissadell and Yeat’s grave. Met a fantastic cabbie who drove us around and turned the meter off when we were at sites. He also gave us a running commentary of the area, even stopping for tea (on him) at Lissadell. My son and I agreed the $200 I paid him for the afternoon (including tip) was more than worth it. Six hours of private touring?

    On our last day in Ireland, the cab driver who took us to the airport from our hotel was also great, with the ride (about 20 minutes, give or take) for 20 Euro and it was the last bit of euros we had. We just gave him the last of our euros, excluding ones we’d tucked away as a keepsake, leaving him with a tip of about 5 Euro. He was happy, we were happy.

    1. I have had wonderful taxi drivers in Ireland.  One time, my colleague and I hired one for the week to take us back and forth to work.  On the day of our departure to go back to Newark, he arrived at our hotel with coffee and donuts set up in the taxi (it had fold out tables).   We were so touched at his thoughtfulness.

  16. Tourists are among the most gullible people in the world. You have the I don’t care what the cost is to the “I just got ripped off, what am I going to do now?” idiots. The Newark incident is easy to handle…there are no “cash” charges alowed. I visit my son their monthly. I fly to Newark and from LaGuardia. Secrets of knowing the cab fares. I would simply get the plate or medallion number and call the cab company from the number posted on the side of the cab – resolved. Now traveling aoutside of the country takes some travel agent advise. NEVER expect change, travel with the local currency, small bills, and know what the fare will be before you get into the cab. Always use a concierge, front desk employee, or business associate to order the cab. You are establishing a trail. They tried to scam me in Punta Cana last year on the way to the hotel. I simply called the bellman over and asked if he would summon the police – resolved. Scammed is your middle name and but it still takes an Asta savey travel agent to avoid these scams.

    1. That was a really interesting article, Tony.  I hadn’t heard of this happening.

      It’s sad, really, that this passenger has ended the life he held so dear over a measly $204.  I guess he thought it was worth it.

      1. When the news broke out in our local TV (New York City), I thought it was a joke and I was just daydreaming about Eddie Murphy’s movie Trading Places. The case is now in my local courthouse (Stamford, CT). Too bad I’m not in jury duty.

        A lot of people don’t consider how dangerous it is to be a cab driver. So sometimes it’s good to look at the other side of the equation.

        As for the investment banker- maybe he thought he was “too big” to be charged with a stupid crime.

  17.  This happened to me in Naples.  Caught a taxi outside of the train station and gave him the name/address of my hotel.  We went on about a 10 minute, $20 euro drive around the city.  I got out, and saw that the train station was across the plaza from the hotel. 

    I’m not bitter about it – I should have done my research and if anything, it makes for a good story.

  18. I have used taxis all over the world and generally they are nice, helpful and honest.  The one place that I consistently encounter attempts to pad the bill is in Miami on cab rides from the airport to the cruise ship docks.  It is a fixed rate and it seems like every time I get a cabbie who wants to use the meter and to take me via Miami Beach or Coral Gables.  I had one cabbie in Mexico City, who when I mentioned that I had seen the same cathedral 3 times in the last 15 minutes, decided it was better to let me have the ride for free than chat with the police.

  19. Got to tell you my own fault experience in Russia. I always tell people to always take a cab from the Taxi-queue. Well, this time I had to ransfer from the domestic airport in Moscow to the international one, way across the city. I knew it was about one and one-half hours and more than $100.
    This guy started blowing in my ear as I was wheeling my lugage toward the Taxi-queue. “Where are you going”, he asks, “to the international airport” I respond. “I can take you there in an hour for $100”, he says.
    I accepted and he leads me out to a BMW (look-a-like) in the parking lot. He puts my bags in the trunk. We take off and in about twenty minutes he asks for his money. I agree to give him half, in rubles since I had already changed money.
    He was disappointed and I thought “What have I done”; now he starts drinking out of a paper bag. Then he uses his cell phone several times. I’m thinking he’s calling his buddies telling them where to meet us to rob me.
    I finally see the Airport sign, we’re almost there; but then he turns into a residential neighborhood, and I think,”Here it comes”. We emerge and there’s the airport right in front of us. I am so relieved, we stop and mI pay him the rest but he asks for a tip. I say “No tip, give me my bag from the trunk”. He says “No tip, no bag”. So I fork over another $10. Whew. 

    1. See, this is what I’m always afraid of…I always wait to pay until I get my bag. If they ask for payment I tell them my wallet is in my suitcase and get out with them and then pay them when they hand over my bag. 

  20. That’s why I like Dulles Airport. Only *ONE* taxi company is allowed to pick up passengers at the airport…and they are fully vetted by the airport. So there is less chance of having a problem. Washington Flyer would not do something stupid to make a few bucks that would jeopardize their contract with Dulles airport!

  21. I’m with Icarus.  You’re a walking target when you’re travelling.  Know as much as you can before you go andif you get scammed, chalk it up.  Just no point in fretting about $20 when you’ve spent $2K on a trip.  I love the idea of blatently writing down the driver’s info … might make the driver pick on the next guy instead of you.

  22. YES, EVERYWHERE. I had a overnight layover in Madrid so I found a nice hotel near the airport. My plane arrived very late so there was no shuttle to the hotel and no way I was walking 2 miles so I tried to find a cab. 3 cabs refused to take me because they didn’t want the tiny fare. Finally, I got a cab to agree and he made some statement about late night surcharge…I said whatever let’s go. We get to the hotel and the meter displayed  4 euros due. He insist I pay 29 euros because of “late night surcharge”. I told him in my best half english half spanish, I will pay what’s on the meter or I walk into the hotel and call the police and let them decide. He accepted my 4 euros and drove off angry.

    In Buenos Aries, I had a cabby try and tell me my Nuevo Pesos were no good and I had to pay in American Dollars. Again I argued and suddenly they were okay.  

    This list goes on and on…I’m extremely vigilant when I get in a cab and luckily haven’t been taken for a ride so far. 

  23. I’m living in Rome, where taxi fraud is so rampant that when I read Chris’s headline, I thought, “that’s a rhetorical question, of course?”

    Here, to curb the worst abuse, they’ve had to establish a flat rate from the airport to the center of town, and post a big notice of it around the airport taxi-stand, right in your face.  It’s either 40 or 45 Euros (can’t remember)–often people were being charged hundreds of Euros before the rule was established. 

    Even so, we still hear occasional stories of the Japanese tourists (hey, they’ve got TONS of money, right? so why not bully THEM?!) being charged 500 Euros for a taxi ride of a few blocks.  [Also simple pizza lunchs that cost 500 Euros, and horse-buggy rides around the block at the same price–for some reason, Italian thieves seem to connect “Japanese” and “500 Euros” often.]  Those are the tourists who take the time to file a report with Italy’s bureaucracy-from–hell, so imagine how many others just pay it and say nothing!

    Less dramatic fraud involves simply upping the meter before you get in.  The meter SHOULD read 2.80 if you get in a cab that’s sitting at a stand, during the day.  But how many of Rome’s tourists know that?  My students have told me many times of getting in and seeing that it was already set at 7.50; last week, visiting friends got in one that was set at 3.10–guess that guy’s thinking is that every little bit adds up!

    One thing that definitely helps bust fraud here, and may work elsewhere too: right when you get in the cab, tell the driver that you will be wanting a receipt at the end of the trip.  They have to put their cab number on that receipt, so if they rip you off, you’ve got ’em in writing–and they know that. 

    1. It was 40 euros in 2008 – and boy, was THAT the fastest I’ve ever been driven to the airport!  I figure they get by on quantity – faster they dump someone who knows what the flat rate is, the faster they can pick up another customer.

  24. Explain this. My clan went to Madrid for Christmas (2010). We got 4 taxis from the stand outside MAD airport, all going to the same hotel in Madrid Centro. We departed almost all of the same time since we distributed the luggage across the 4 cabs. We got to the hotel at different times. We compared the taxi charges – they differed more than 6 Euros from each other (min 23 Euros). Hard to figure out how that happened.

    1. You could have all got on the metro right in the airport and been downtown too for the cost of one of those taxis. Sometimes after a long haul flight the last thing you want to do is juggle with luggage on the Metro. I know Madrid so well now it doesn’t bother me. 

        1.  Also, I got pick-pocketed on that very subway ride from the Madrid airport to a hotel downtown.  Going on the subway with bags and exhausted from a trans-Atlantic flight makes you an ideal target in a city with a lot of that kind of crime.

  25. How does one get scammed at Newark Airport? There is a taxi stand booth where you prepay your fare according to listed fare zones. When you get into the taxi, you copy down the driver’s name and licence number onto your fare receipt. When you arrive at your destination, scenic route taken or not, you don’t owe anything. A tip is at your discretion. There is a $5 service charge for using a credit card at the booth.

    One time, a driver was forced to overshoot my fare zone by a good distance in order to u-turn to where my car was parked. I knew that had to happen and gave him an extra large tip for it. He was so appreciative, he took me to my car in the lot and stayed there until I was in my car and on my way. (It was very late at night, too late to take my regular shuttle van.)

    In Rio de Janeiro, I asked the driver of a metered taxi, hailed on the street, to take me to the airport hotel. I knew it was rush hour and was very surprised when there was no traffic. Well, he took me to the Airport Hotel, to me, an honest mistake. I told him I wanted to go to the hotel attached to the airport. We not only got stuck in rush hour traffic, we sat still, not moving, due to a tie-up, for an hour and a half. Two hours later, we arrived at my hotel. I think the driver was just as unhappy as I was, but I took out my Portuguese dictionary, and we spent the time trying to communicate with small talk. When I paid him, I told him to keep the change, normal tipping in Brazil. He said, “Really? Thank you.” He did not expect that gratuity after our ultra long journey and his error. I know that my fare was reasonable because, despite the stationary time, I paid less than my prearranged, prepaid, non-metered taxi ride from the airport into the city.

    I guess I just believe that the bad apples are in the minority.

  26. It happened to us in Lisbon when going from the airport to the Holiday Inn Express, 10 minutes away.  The taxi added an extra charge for luggage.  We complained to the front desk and they were very sympathetic and said they were aware of the scam and trying to do something about it.  When we took a taxi from the hotel into downtown Lisbon that afternoon one of the desk people came to the taxi and made sure that we were to be dropped off where we wanted and pay what was on the meter (plus tip).

  27. It’s one reason I avoid taxis as much as possible. It would be interesting if I ever saw a travel advisory in a guidebook or website that said, “Taxis in this place are always honest. You don’t have to worry about it.” At many airports there’s a counter where you can buy a ticket and use it for taxi fare. No money changes hands with the driver. A few weeks ago, a guy approached me in the airport wanting to offer me a taxi ride. I always avoid those guys. I went to the ticket booth and bought a ticket. The clerk pointed at the guy who had approached me: “He’s the driver.” Oh, well. At least I then knew he was legit, not one of the fly-by-night parasites that plague so many airports.  At hotels, I normally ask the desk to call a cab for me and ask them what the fare is. On the street, if there’s no meter, I ask the fare before I get in. If there’s a meter, I insist on it being used.

  28. Are we taking about USD$12 ? Not even real money.

    In Australian no one wanted to be taxi drivers. Where the minimum wage for an adult is about AUD$15 to $20 (about USD$16 to $21), we imported 1000’s of Indians & Pakistanis from Punjab state, gave them work visas & sent them off to work.

    They earn probably AUD$5-$7 an hour, without tips (Australians generally don’t tip, as our minimum wages & salaries are generally so high, at least compared to minimum wage in the good old USA.

    If I was earning $5-$7 an hour, I’d be looking at anyway I could to bump that up.

    Peter Lawton if you can’t afford $12, don’t get a taxi & GET A LIFE !!!

  29. I got scammed by a taxi driver in Houston on a business trip. When I got in the cab, she told me there was a $4.50 surcharge for paying with a credit card – fine, I’m getting reimbursed anyway. I got to my hotel and she tells me the total is $57 or $58 something. I asked her if that was inclusive of everything except the tip, and explicitly asked if the credit card surcharge was included in that amount and she said yes. I signed the receipt and tipped her so the total was $70. I check my credit card a few days later, and guess what – the charge on there is $74.50.

  30. Yes they do. A few years ago, we went to cancun and booked a car beforehand with a huge corporate chain. When we go to the car rental, we suddenly needed a credit card with 1000 limit on it to rent the car (NOT DISCLOSED anywhere.) We didn’t have one so we then needed to take a cab to our hotel 25 miles away. The fare was $80 ONE way for two people. Had we booked hotel transfers with our hotel (which we did to go home) the cost was 28.00 TOTAL. We were completely ripped off and knew it but had no choice.

  31. Stories:
    1.  I use to think I was being “taken for a ride,” in Zurich until I once rented a car and tried to drive myself.  Zurich has the most arcane system of one way streets that make it impossible to drive directly from one place to another.
    2.  After offering a 15% tip to a Bruxelles taxi driver and meticulously counting my change, I found out the next day that the driver had given me old Belgium francs that had been recalled and these were completely useless.
    3.  I had a street map with me while in a taxi in Rome.  I corrected the driver and insisted he take the direct route which I pointed out.  He shrugged and obliged.  The street turned into a set of stairs; we had to turn around and I let him drive.

  32. When I was in Italy I handed the cab driver the correct amount and he went around to the back of the cab and returned saying I did not give him enough money.  I reluctantly gave him more money because it was my first time in Italy and I wasn’t sure what to do.  Next time I will count the money as I put it into his hand.  Live and learn.

  33. Some taxi companies see tourists as their “bread and butter.”
    Many prey on this group. There are some reputable companies.
    I am proud to have worked with and for Saddle Up Taxi located in Manville, NJ. Saddle Up Taxi is legitimate and operates with integrity.

    Also, 4A Transportation Services is a car service which I am the founder and president. We charge a flat rate, which is all inclusive to all clients.
    In addition, our clients receive light refreshments at no additional charge.
    Most clients receive Godiva chocolate covered strawberries.
    Never, Never will any of our clients be preyed upon or scammed. If our clients are not completely satisfied we offer a 100% money back guarantee.
    In addition, we accept all forms of payments. Cash, checks, debit and credit cards are accepted.
    For each untrustworthy company; there are probably twenty trustworthy companies. Thank you for allowing me to share with you today.
    if you have any questions my email address is [email protected] or 908-922-4765. Have a marvelous day!

  34. Taxi drivers at the Lisbon airport (I lived in Lisbon for several years) are famous for ripping people off, tourists and natives alike. One of the few effective counter-measures is to insist on a recibo oficial (official receipt), a somewhat complicated form that includes all pertinent information (origin, destination, fare paid). Requesting one alerts the driver to your intention of filing an official complaint and will often rectify the situation immediately.

  35. I must say a very well compiled post on the important legal, financial and operational preparations that a car rental startup needs to take before it launches. Once start-ups do get finished with all these activities, there is another big challenge waiting for them and that is to get noticed, get the word out to gain visibility, and win clients and retain them.

    Ask any successful business startup and they will tell you, the first stride towards success starts with creating a corporate identity – knowing your target audience very well and then composing a message that speaks uniquely to them. And the first creation of that attempt is almost always a professional logo.

    Displaying your logo, company name, message (tagline) and contact information near a busy road, lawn signs, on your car window decals or door, business card and flyers will quickly introduce your business to targeted customers for a very small investment. Exhibiting the logo on all forms of signage will facilitate the community to remember the service you provide.

    Having a good logo is essential, especially when using it on signs. Speaking of good logos,rent a car logo I found during the research for writing a blog post for a client.

    I am in no way endorsing or promoting the website but it is quite attractive because of the colors it has used in car business logos. Also, the company has categorized the car rental logos according to the genres of the business.

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