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Tips For Travelers on How to Avoid Taxi Scams
Taxi drivers are among the biggest scammers in the World and naive travelers are their preferred "juicy target".
To avoid taxi scams, you'd have to get rid of your "newcomer face" and get prepared for the ride - you'd have a better chance for not getting ripped-off.
I've put together a list of things you can do to avoid getting ripped-off by taxi drivers. These will improve your chances, at least...
One particular situation in which you can't do much is when the taxi meter doesn't count correctly.
If it has been manipulated, then it will track the wrong amount of miles/km or it will display the wrong amount to pay.
Source: © Morgufile.com/lensicle
The first most memorable taxi scam pulled on me was Madeira taxi scam experience.
In the article I explain how the driver brought me on a too long adventurous trip around the city and in the end just pushed a button on the taxi meter, which resulted in almost doubling the price!
I've had a number of other weird experiences, many of which occurred in Morocco - one of the worst places for traveling by taxi. There, you'd normally have to bargain the price before departure. There is no taxi meter!
Here are a few taxi scam-proof techniques to use:
Only go with REAL taxis
Countless "fake taxis" (unmarked vehicles) exist, especially in 3rd World countries. Many are "just some guys" waiting at the airports and train stations with their private cars, sniffing for passengers, asking everyone carrying luggage whether they want a taxi.
Don't go with them. Either order a taxi at an office at the airport/train station or, ask your hotel to call one or go directly to a vehicle that actually looks like a real taxi.
And of course, there are a number of smartphone apps for ordering taxis.
The process of ordering and asking the price
As said: it's best to order the taxi instead of just "picking one". Hotels usually are among the best place to order taxis.
Or, use a smartphone apps - the most notorious and controversial being Uber; but there are countless others, many local taxi companies have their own apps.
Then, make sure you know how much it costs per mile/km/ride. It should be stated somewhere: either on the vehicle or on a piece of paper inside it or, just ask the driver. Even ask him in the beginning: how much he thinks it would cost from "point A to point B".
Prepare small notes, coins for paying the ride
The biggest mistake is not having small amounts of money when it comes to paying. Some drivers will simply "pretend" they have no change and send you to some nearby shop to exchange your larger bills - while your luggage stays in the taxi. The more time you spend looking for change, the more they might tax you in the end.
If you only have a large bill, make sure you say out loud how much it is: "Here's 50 dollars" - I do this every time I buy something, not just with taxis. And I usually show the note when saying its worth and only then do I give it away.
Check the taxi meter during the ride
While taking the ride, take glimpses at the meter not only to check the current price, but also to see how it changes from one price to the other.
You'll notice if the price shown by the meter suddenly "jumps".
A common taxi scam is to set the meter to suddenly increase the cost when the taxi driver either hits the break or changes gear. Most often you'll notice this when the taxi stops at red light and starts again. Normally, the price shouldn't jump unusually high.
Act like you know the place
Of course, the driver will immediately notice you're not a local - but you shouldn't behave like it's your first time there and you don't know the roads.
Even if it's your first time there, behave as if you know the place pretty well.
One way is to study the map a bit prior to taking a taxi. Then, give away hints about which way you'd like the taxi to go or, just mention a few square names, street names you expect to encounter along the road.
"Help" and "extra charges"
Should you find out about extra charges, make sure you don't pay them.
For example: my Funchal taxi driver lifted up my bag and put it into the taxi's trunk. Then later he charged me extra 3+ EUR for "helping with the luggage".
Don't let them help you with anything, just board and disembark. Put your luggage in by yourself.
Should you see any mention of extra charges displayed in or on the taxi vehicle, then don't hesitate to ask the driver before departing.
If you are not aware of the cost of certain "additional services" or if the "extra charges" aren't displayed anywhere inside or on the cab, then simply refuse to pay them in the end. Just pay the fare and leave.
If anything goes wrong, get out!
Don't let yourself be driven to madness - if you notice something very wrong, then ask the driver to stop and get out. Remember: they work for you and you are not obliged to finish the trip.
Just make sure you don't get out in the middle of a shady slump, but a place with intense traffic, where you'd expect to easily find another taxi.
Source: © Morguefile.com/Seemann
Taxi Fare Finder is a tool that gives you approximate costs for selected taxi routes around the World.
I've also found Rick Steve's advice on taxi scams in Europe especially useful.
Of course, they apply most to Europe. But the tricks and scams vary from country to country.
Some of the biggest taxi scammers are in Morocco, Italy, Portugal and the Balkan countries.
About the Author:
Escape Hunter, the young solo traveler in his early 30's explores the World driven by curiosity, thirst for adventure, deep passion for beauty, love for freedom and diversity.
With a nuanced, even humorous approach to travel, an obsession for art and design, Escape Hunter prefers to travel slowly, in order to learn and "soak up" the local atmosphere...
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