So you’ve arrived at the airport in a foreign country, got through customs and now you need to get into town. How do you go about finding a trustworthy cabbie?
The best option is always to look for an official taxi rank or for registered taxis outside the airport or your hotel as they have a reputation to keep up. These cabs may cost a bit more for this privilege but you can usually rely on them not to rip you off – too much!
But if there aren’t any good ones around you may have to dip your toes into the murky world of local taxi drivers. Here are a few tips to help you avoid some of the potential pitfalls:
Trust the meter
Taxis have meters for your protection as they allow you to see exactly how much your trip is costing you. If your driver offers you a ’special price’ to go somewhere under the guise of doing you a favour, be careful – he could be trying to rip you off.
Oops, the meter’s broken
If there’s no meter or if it’s ’broken’ – it’s not a taxi, it’s a rip-off mobile. Walk away.
Has it got air conditioning?
This could be vital, particularly if you’re in a hot country as you may get stuck in a traffic jam for a long time and just winding down a window may not cut it.
Sorry, it’s closed
A classic taxi driver ploy is to pretend that the destination you want to go to is unavailable in the hope they can show you some ’alternate’ sights to see. They’re playing on the probability that you don’t know where these other places are and so will tolerate them driving you around in circles. Check the availability of your destination first online or at an information desk and choose only drivers who say it’s open.
Point blank refusal
Sometimes a taxi driver may just simply refuse to take you to your destination. Try not to take it personally as it may just be because of traffic issues. Your destination is requiring them to drive through the worst of the traffic snarl at the busiest time of the day, and in places like Bangkok that can mean absolute standstill. Just keep asking around until you find a driver willing to take on your fare.
Sometimes these are for real as many cities have toll roads and some hotels and airports charge taxi drivers extra to park outside their premises. Where possible try to verify extra charges that may apply with airport or hotel staff.
Okay, so those are the main issues to look out for. Is there anything you can do to avoid problems?
Learn some language
It doesn’t matter where you are, a few local words go a long way. Local people always appreciate you speaking in their language and it also makes it hard for them to say; “sorry, I didn’t understand” when you tell them to “go left” in their native tongue.
Read a map
Sure, you don’t want to have to immerse yourself in a city’s geography just to go visit a museum. But a little schooling could pay off in the long run if you know your destination is north yet your taxi is headed south.
Okay, so maybe this isn’t appropriate advice if you’re off to a black tie ball at the Embassy. But if you dress like a million dollars, then everyone is going to try and take you for a few of those bucks, no matter where in the world you go.