Friday, 27 April 2012

Taxi Rates & Fares: Airport Taxi Advice

GDIF 2011 - 41
The fine art of taxi fare negotiation
Photo creativecommons: garryknight on Flickr
Most travellers take taxis from the airport to their hotel or final destination after arriving at the airport. We at have also taken countless numbers of taxi rides to and from the airport, so we offer the following advice for smart travellers to arrive as stress-free as possible. Most disagreements with cab drivers occur over their taxi rates and fares, so being prepared will help reduce these discussions.

Before You Depart the Curb

Note the cab number
  • Load only your large luggage in the taxi's trunk or boot. Keep all valuables with you when you get into the taxi. This is to ensure that if there are problems later, that you at least have your valuables with you. 
  • Make sure that you have agreed to either a fixed fare or a metered price and the currency to be paid in. Ask if there are any other additional charges that you should be aware of (additional passenger fees, luggage fees, toll fees, airport fees, etc). If you do not agree on the taxi rate or the taxi fare before starting the ride, then this will likely become a disagreement at the end of your cab ride. 
  • Memorize or record the taxi number and driver's name (the number may just be on the outside of the taxi). If you are able to get the driver's name then record this as well and of course say 'hi' to him (that way he knows that you know his name should any problems arise). 
While in the Taxi

Keep your eye on the meter - no sleeping!
  • Keep a very close eye on that taxi meter in the front if you have not negotiated a fixed fare. Do not sleep or anything else. 
  • Why of course you have been in a New York Taxi, Las Vegas Taxi, Bangkok Taxi, London Taxi, Beijing Taxi, or Nairobi Taxi before. Just a few months ago, right? Yes, you are a regular traveller to the city. Oh, you have never been here before? Well let us just take the long road then to your hotel! 
  • If you have a GPS, pull it out and watch the tracking. If the cab driver is doing loops then question him and show the GPS track. 
  • If the negotiated fare is suddenly re-negotiated, stick to your original price. Ignore any confirmation from yourself on the new price. If this becomes a problem then have the taxi driver stop and get out. If you have luggage in the trunk, make sure the taxi driver either gets out and opens the trunk or one person stays inside the cab while the other unloads all luggage. We recommend not paying the driver anything, but this likely will be a discussion. 
  • If an official rate card is given to you by the driver during your drive into town and the price is re-negotiated, then ignore this as well. It doesn't take too much effort to print off a few cards and laminate them to try and trick people. 
  •  If there is an option to take a toll road, then leave it up to the driver to decide ("you decide") unless you know better. Like the rest of us, taxi drivers hate sitting in traffic and although it likely means a higher fare for them, this is not a pleasant way to do it. For tolls, you may either pay them directly or have the driver pay them and then the price is added to the fare. We recommend that you pay the tolls as then you have a lesser chance of getting scammed and of course this also gives you a good method of breaking a larger bill. Regardless, pay attention to the toll prices signs when approaching the payment booths.
When You Arrive at Your Destination
Have small bills and coins in hand
  • Have the cash ready in hand for payment, including a tip if you wish. Keep it hidden. See below if you are going to pay with a credit card or debit card. 
  • Get out of the taxi and take all of your luggage. Have it all ready to go (i.e., backpacks on your back, handles out, etc). 
  • Hand the driver the money and walk away and do not look back. 
  • Taxi drivers sometimes claim that the money given is not enough or try to impose some additional changes on you. By being ready to go, having asked before departing in the cab, and by handing the money over and walking away the taxi driver has less of a chance of pulling this scam. If your luggage is still in the trunk or you are not ready to go then there is a good chance of this scam developing. 
  • If the taxi driver is very insistent that you have underpaid him (e.g., he follows you into the hotel lobby), then just make sure that you didn't short-change him or forget an extra charge (e.g., taxi desk at airport charge or a toll booth). Discussion of the problem in the hotel lobby or other public place will likely help you, not the driver, as people there likely know if a scam is in progress. 
  • Taxi drivers never seem to have change, but will gladly take that big bill of yours. If you do not have enough change then tell the driver wait and go into a hotel, restaurant, or other establishment and get some change. Breaking a big bill at the airport prior to taking the taxi will help deal with this situation. 
  • If the taxi driver drops you nearby your destination, such as a couple of blocks away due to "bad traffic", "difficult area", "road closed" etc then be aware that this is most likely a scam in progress. The driver will then likely demand a rip-off fare as you cannot just go into the hotel and ask someone what the appropriate fare is or have someone at the hotel talk to the driver in the foreign language. In this situation, demand to be taken to the hotel front door (the better approach to side-track this scam) or just pay what you think is fair (which will never be enough). There is a good possibility that an argument will occur, but stand your ground. You can always WALK to your hotel and if the driver follows you demanding money, then you know it will likely be settled before you get to the front of your hotel. This is much less likely on metered fares, but still there might be extra fees demanded for "luggage" or other likely nonsense.
Paying With Plastic (Credit Cards, Debit Cards)

If you wish to pay your taxi fare with plastic (credit card or debit card), we recommend the following to avoid problems later on. All of us at have had issues with paying with credit cards in particular.
Don't let your credit card out of your sight!
  • Ask if the driver will take plastic prior to leaving the curb. If the side windows have "Visa", "Mastercard", "JTB", "American Express", etc then likely the taxi driver will take your matching credit card. 
  • Some taxi drivers prefer cash over plastic as there is no paper trail. By paying cash they avoid a commission to be paid to their employer or franchise and better still avoid paying income and sales taxes. If a taxi driver insists on cash, even though they can take plastic, then there is no reason why you cannot ask for a discount on the taxi fare. 
  • Be aware that the credit card machine "might be down", but this is almost always a scam to have you pay cash. All taxis that take credit cards can process them manually on paper and it is not your problem if they are out of paper or the machine "is down". 
  • Never let your credit card out of your sight and ensure that it is swiped only once. If it is swiped more than once, get the cancelled or declined printouts from the machine for each swipe. The taxi driver might be double or triple charging you. This problem is reduced with chip credit cards. 
  • There is ABSOLUTELY NO REASON for the taxi driver to need the CVV code from your credit card. This is the 3-digit code found on the back of Visa and Mastercard cards and the 4-digit code found on the front of American Express cards. This code is used only for online purchases where the card cannot be presented. If the driver records this number, then you risk having your card used fraudulently later on. 
  • Save all of your receipts from paying with plastic for up to a year or longer. If problems occur later on, then you will need them to fight the charges. 
  • Be very aware of what you are signing with your credit card. Some taxi companies and taxi drivers use a third party to process their credit card charges, but YOU are charged the processing fee! This fee could be quite significant, with one U.S. based company charging USD 6 for taxi ride fees of USD 50-100 or more. Always read the paper you sign to avoid a nasty surprise on your bill.
Hopefully you will be lucky and get a great taxi driver, with no intent to rip you off. They do exist. But don't count on it. When you are in a new place - especially a new country with all the new sights and sounds that come with it (!) - your guard may be down and you are more likely to be taken advantage of. Take a few minutes to get your bearings before getting a cab, remember these tips, then enjoy the ride - with one eye on your driver, of course!

PS: if you want to do more to research ground transportation before you leave home, be sure to check out our 500+ free ground transportation guides to airports worldwide. We'd love to help you arrive stress free! 

Read the other posts in our Smart Travel Advice series:
In case you have missed it, please read our post: Do We Really Hate Taxis?


  1. Helpful and one of the best guide I saw for blogs.

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. Very interesting blog, It's your personal decision regarding taxi service, but I like taxi service because it's a convenient mode of transportation.

  4. Though taxis gave us a lot of conveniences, they also give us headache in different ways. Like most of our taxi drivers who adjust the flat rate since their customers came from airport.

  5. Hello, You made an excellent point here. Taxis are very convenient to use, except, of course during traffic. I myself, experienced some of the above situations. While most of taxi drivers are honest, a few does the opposite, especially if know you got big bucks.

  6. All your points are valuable and the passengers must do it.

    Airport Intel Travel Tips


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