If there’s one form of local transportation that you’re almost guaranteed to find in every part of the world, it’s taxis. While not every destination will have a public transport system or rental cars available, you can be pretty certain that there will be at least one taxi company in operation.
Taxis can take you pretty much anywhere you want to go in a destination which makes using them to get around almost as flexible as having a rental car.
However, it also comes at a cost. While relying only on taxis to get around can get fairly pricey if you’re going to a lot of places, the bigger risk comes from getting taken advantage of as a tourist. In many destinations around the world, taxis have a bad reputation for overcharging tourists and sometimes, it can get even worse than that.
Most of the time, you should be fine getting into a taxi in another part of the world, but it’s still important to be prepared and know what to expect so you can avoid running into any stressful or dangerous situations.
On this page, I will tell you everything you need to know about taking taxis while traveling as well as how to avoid getting taken advantage of so that the next time you have to take one, you’ll be well-prepared!
By the way, another method of local transportation that is similar to taxis, but not as risky, is ride-hailing. I highly recommend using it in your travels as an alternative to taxis when you can. Check out my Guide to Ride-Hailing to learn more.
Here are the 8 things you need to know about taking taxis while traveling:
1. There's more than one type of taxi
You may be used to seeing the standard four-door sedan taxi as well as the limo and maybe even minivan taxis at home, but in other parts of the world, there are many other types of taxis too.
One of them is the tuk-tuk which is a motorized open frame 3-wheeled vehicle typically found in developing countries with tropical climates like those in Southeast Asia, South Asia, the Middle East, and Africa.
Another type of taxi you may run into in those types of countries is the mototaxi which is a taxi service provided on a motorcycle or scooter. They are often cheaper than tuk-tuks or other types of taxis and they can only carry one person so if you’re traveling in a group, you’ll have to take more than one. The drivers provide you with a helmet and you sit behind them as they take you to your destination.
In addition, in some parts of the world you may see water taxis. The most famous example would have to be in Venice, Italy where there are no other vehicles so it’s the only way to get around the city (apart from walking), but they also exist on island nations when there are nearby islands that aren’t serviced by ferries. They can typically carry more people than a standard taxi.
2. You should only use licensed taxi services
One of the most dangerous things you can do is get into a taxi that isn’t licensed. Every country and city in the world regulates their taxis differently and there is no universal sign for licensed taxis, but there are things to look out for.
For example, an ID number on the taxi, a radio for the driver to talk to dispatch, a meter (if in a country that uses them), the driver’s ID somewhere inside the car, and the name of the taxi company and their phone number displayed prominently on the body of the vehicle. If the vehicle is missing any of these, you should be skeptical of it.
In addition, if the driver finds you instead of you finding them, there is a very good chance it’s an unlicensed taxi. Anyone that approaches you asking if you want a taxi should be avoided as they are most likely trying to take advantage of you.
As a general rule of thumb, just trust your gut. If the driver or their car looks sketchy, don’t get into it! It also helps to do your research beforehand to know what the licensed taxis look like compared to the unlicensed ones.
The best thing you can do is to go to the nearest official taxi stand to get your taxi. They can usually be found at most airports and train stations. If there isn’t one near you, order a taxi via your phone. If you’re not in an English-speaking destination, most hotels can also do this for you as well as the staff at most tourist attractions.
Always double-check the taxi that pulls over for you by asking them what your name and destination are to make sure the one that pulls over is the one you ordered.
3. Taxi rides should be private rides
When taking a taxi anywhere in the world, you should not be taking it with anyone else. If there is someone else already sitting in the taxi apart from the driver, do not get in as it can be dangerous.
And similarly, if the driver stops to pick anyone else up, do not stay in the car. Even if they claim it’s a family member or something like that, your best bet is to get out and get another ride. You don’t know what their intentions are and they could be working together to mug you, or worse.
When you do get in a taxi, the best place to sit is right behind the driver as that way, it’s easier for you to keep an eye on him and harder for him to watch you. Don’t sit in the front or diagonally from the driver in case he has bad intentions.
4. You may have to pay flat rates in some places
While most destinations’ licensed taxis will have meters, there are times when even the official taxi services operate on predetermined flat rates. It’s important to be aware of what to expect in your destination so a little research to find out how the taxis operate before you arrive is extremely helpful.
In addition, resources like Taxi Fare Finder help to know what types of fares to expect.
If you are in a place with flat rates, always agree on the rate before getting into the taxi. If the rate that a driver gives you is way higher than what the average fare should be, you’ll have to negotiate.
A good tactic is to walk away every time the driver makes an unreasonable offer. They will lower their offer and once it reaches a good price point for you, accept it. In some places, you will be expected to pay a slightly higher rate because you’re a tourist, but as long as it isn’t too much higher, you shouldn’t fuss about it.
5. Even meters aren't safe sometimes
Even if a taxi has a meter, it doesn’t mean you’re in the clear. Sometimes drivers will tell you it’s not working and if that’s the case, you should decline the ride and find another one. Other times, they will just try to convince you not to use it. Be assertive and insist on using it because the meter is one of the best ways to ensure you don’t get taken advantage of.
That being said, you still need to be vigilant even if the meter is used. Meters can be manually set and some drivers may choose to change the rate it’s set at to be higher than the official rate. Research what the rate should be in advance and question the driver if the rate is set to a different amount.
If the driver doesn’t change it to the official rate, get out and look for another taxi. And keep an eye on the meter to make sure that the driver doesn’t change the rate back to the higher one in the middle of the ride either. This is something that is common in Prague, but can happen anywhere.
In addition, keep an eye on the route that the driver takes. A lot of drivers might try to increase the total price of the ride by taking the long way, thus letting the meter run. The best thing you can do is carry a Travel-Ready Phone with a Prepaid SIM Card so you can check the route on Google Maps before you get in and compare the route the driver takes with the route from Google Maps.
And if you really want to make sure the driver doesn’t try any funny business, ask if he can follow a specific route and give him the directions from Google Maps to guide him.
6. Watch out for payment scams
When it comes time to pay, you gotta watch out for a few other ways that a driver will try to take advantage of you.
One way they do it is by telling you cash only, even if they have a card machine. If you don’t have the cash, they will drive you to the nearest ATM so you can take cash out, nearest being subjective to them. This ride to the ATM will continue to increase the total price of the ride if it’s metered.
And even if they do let you use the card machine, some of them will try to charge you more by adding on extra “taxes” that don’t exist or by asking if your card has tap and getting you to tap the machine at a higher price before you’re able to notice it.
The best thing to do is always check the total on the machine and ask to do a chip and PIN payment instead of a tap one. Make sure the machine doesn’t have a card skimmer on it by tugging at the point where you insert your card.
Paying by cash can be safer in that regard, but there are still things you need to watch out for. Always try to carry small enough change so you can pay the exact amount and not have to hope the driver has change because he can easily claim he doesn’t, letting him pocket the difference.
Also, make sure you know what the local currency looks like because the driver may give you change in another similar looking, but less valuable or even expired currency, hoping that you won’t notice. Another thing that might happen is the driver takes your note and swaps it out for a fake one without you noticing and then claims that you gave him a fake one, making you give him even more of your money to pay for the ride.
Try to research what taxis are like in your destination before you get there so you know what tricks you need to look out for. It’s also useful to find out if it’s normal to tip there or not so you don’t spend even more than you need to! You can find tipping information in the Destination Guides.
7. You aren't safe until you have your luggage
Finally, even if you’ve done everything else right and avoided all of a driver’s scams, the last thing you need look out for is your luggage.
If you put luggage in the trunk, it’s unlikely, but still possible that a driver could choose to simply drive away with your luggage once you’ve gotten out of the car. If he was really intent on scamming you and you managed to block all his attempts, this could be his way of getting something out of you.
It’s best to prevent this altogether by keeping your luggage in the back seat with you, but if you’re ever in a situation where you do have your luggage in the trunk and you have a bad feeling about your driver, ask him to help you with your bags when you reach your final destination as this will force him to get out of the car.
And when you get out of the car, leave your door open as it will also deter the driver from simply driving away.
8. See if there's a taxi app for your destination
One way to avoid some of the issues I brought up in the previous 7 points is to use a taxi app to get your taxi. I highly recommend having a travel-ready phone with a local prepaid SIM card so that you can get a taxi from anywhere.
Most of the apps operate in a similar way to ride-hailing apps (which I recommend even more), letting you see where your driver is, the route he should take, how much the ride should cost (even letting you pay via the app at times) and other details. Having your ride recorded on an app also increases your overall safety.
There are many taxi apps out there and every city and country might have its own so you should do your research to find the best one for your destination, but the best ones that cover a wide range of cities are:
- Grab for Southeast Asia
- Curb for the USA (use the referral code k37e39 to get $5!)
- Ola for India (use the referral code B3BDZPU to get extra bonuses!)
- Cabify for Latin America
- Careem for the Middle East
- Free Now for Europe
- Bolt for Europe, Africa, and a few other destinations (use the referral code Q4US3G to get extra bonuses!)
And that’s all!
Taking a taxi can be a stressful situation if you’re not prepared, but if you use all the tips I have given you in this guide, you shouldn’t have any issues.
Let me know if you found these tips useful in the comments below and if you’d like to learn more about what is, in my opinion, an even better way to get around in any destination, check out my Guide to Ride-Hailing!