How often did I get the advice to take a taxi to be safe. It started as a teen, because we didn’t have a car I often took the last bus home, and walked the last 20 minutes. When I went overseas again I had the well-meaning, but un-aware, advise me to make sure I always took a cab.
In fact I’ve been bloody lucky. You do sometimes need to take a cab. Just ocaisionally its the cheapest option. Once waiting for the Airport Bus in central Melbourne, I had a cabbie approach us and offer to take us to the airport for less than the bus fare. No worries, in we hopped, and he was good to his word, I think he just wanted to get out to the airport for a rush of in-coming passengers.
Taxi’s aren’t the safest option often. Think about it -you are getting into a cab with a driver who you don’t know and with no witnesses. I think I came close to being kidnapped once, and it was a cab ride in Northern Peru. I’d hooked up with another couple and three of us shared a cab to the airport the next morning. I knew the route though (having tried unsuccessfully to get a ticket the previous day) and the route this driver took didn’t seem right. He also seemed to slow down and be looking for something (or someone more likely). The couple were oblivious, but I was suspicious, and my Spanish was OK, so I kept talking to him, asking him where we were, and why were we going this route. He sorta grunted at me, but eventually we did get to the airport. I think his accomplice wasn’t around, or maybe he got scared when I put on a (fake) confident and fluent persona.
If you have the choice I often prefer a tuktuk or rickshaw – it makes for better photo opportunities, but you are also out of reach of the driver. You are definitely at risk from traffic accidents, but not from groping or worse from the driver!
My Top 21 Taxi Tips
- In most of the western world you are expected to negotiate the price up front. Its a very good idea to have a rough idea how much the trip should cost. Don’t ask a nearby bystander (he’s probably a cabbie too!). Instead ask your hotel, or a local restaurant. Find out in advance not on the day!
- If you do find a good driver at a fair price – keep him. I found the rickshaws in India to be overwhelming in their persistence, until I hired one for the day – everyone else left me alone and I got a much better deal. In the end he took me to the train station the next day too.
- As a woman alone, be careful. NEVER sit in the front passenger seat. And if it feels wrong – get out as soon as possible, even if it means hoping out in the middle of the road.
- Which is why you should never put your luggage in the boot (trunk). Keep it with you so you can exit fast if required.
- Most airports in third world countries will have some form of pre-paid taxi option. This is often slightly more expensive, and a lot safer than just catching a random cab from out the front.
- Pick up your hotel’s card, its useful when you can’t remember where you’re staying (don’t laugh, its happened to me), and if there is a language barrier they are usually bilingual.
- Have exact change particularly if you are bargaining the price up front. Having agreed to the price the driver will NOT have change.
- Do not expect to pay in anything but the currency of the country. Change at the airport on arrival if you have to.
- In London the black cabs can be either incredibly cheap or outrageously expensive. We took a black cab for a short trip in central London late on a Sunday night – and it cost less than the tube would have – but only because there was no traffic. Usually its cheaper to catch a min-cab, or make sure that you can get into town using public transport (which you almost always can).
- In Australia and New Zealand you will find something called a “shuttle” – this is a shared mini-van service which you pay for on a by seat basis. Cheap for solo travellers, often cheaper than a cab for couples. They run to and from airports, you’ll find one outside on arrivals, you’ll need to book one to return. Reliable and recommended.
- Always expect to pay more at night, a lot more if its late enough for public transport to have ended.
- If the driver is using a meter – the most common scam is to put it onto “night” rate. Worth trying to figure out what that looks like so you can object.
- Your hotel has not moved, burned down, or changed name since you booked it, yesterday. Really, it has not, despite what the driver says!
- Neither is the museum you want to go to closed for repairs or for an obscure local holiday. Unless of course you want to go to his brother’s tourist shop.
- Yes you may well have to pay for the toll roads, this is common in Thailand for example. It will probably still be a cheaper trip if you are on the meter though, because the toll road will be so much faster.
- Sometimes when the driver says he can only get close – he’s actually not lying. When taking a cab to a central hotel in Sevilla, Spain, the driver explained carefully that he could only take us close. I was sure I had the translation right, but it didn’t make much sense until we got there, the streets of the old quarter were really,literally too narrow to get his (small) car down! He did offer to carry our bags to!
- Its OK to hire a cab in order to cross the street! You won’t be the first foreigner to do this in Saigon! Alternatively – just shadow an old-person across the road – they’ve done it before, and survived, you may well do too!
- You SHOULD pay more for an air-conditioned taxi than a open-sided, uncomfortable, noisy and slow tuktuk. But not in Phuket, for some reason the tuktuks think they are worth more than a regular taxi!
- Don’t get a cab from the lineup outside of the best hotel in town and expect to get a good deal. Better places are where the locals use cabs; markets, hospitals, schools.
- If you want to buy boys, girls, drugs, camels or day trips – your taxi driver is probably not the best contact – though I was offered most of those on a brief trip in Cairo once!
- Yes a taxi can be a motorcycle. In Vietnam we had booked a hotel and were met off the bus by the hotel’s own motos – a girl driving the one for me, a boy driving the one for my male friend. They balanced the packs on the front and us on the back and we arrived safely! This is a very good reason why you should travel light!