|A taxi in Chicago|
Here's how it went down: a Chinese student, speaking little English, lands at Chicago O'Hare Airport. His destination: the University of Illinois (there is a bus service, but taking a taxi should cost, at most, about $300). The student was approached in the airport by a taxi driver, told there were no more buses running that night, and his only option was a taxi. For a cool $1000. The student agrees, and off they go.
But that's not the end of the story. We're not sure if somehow the driver caught wind of the fact that the student had a lot of cash on him, or perhaps he caught a glimpse of it, or maybe he was just a nasty dreamer, but whatever the reason, when they arrive at their destination, the driver demands $4,800 (and, no, that's not a typo!). Well, the student "only" had around $4,200, so he gave the driver all the money he had.
Our advice: NEVER trust an offer of a taxi or limo from someone who approaches you in the airport.
The practice of approaching customers to secure a fare is called touting.
Touts prey on newly-arrived passengers, at airports and train stations, taking advantage of them in many ways. Touts prey on new arrivals because:
- They may not be familiar with the local currency
- They may not be aware of the typical cost of goods and services
- They are likely tired and jet-lagged and just want to get to their destination
- They are very likely carrying large amounts of cash
Related reading: Dealing with Touts
Instead, go to the official taxi stand, or read up on your destination ahead of time to learn options for where you can catch a cab (IHateTaxis.com was created for this purpose - check us out!).
While we most often see stories about taxi touts ripping travellers off outside of North America, it can happen anywhere. So, get street smart, and know how to protect yourself.
We feel for the student who, in this case, really didn't know any better, and was willing to trust someone who he thought was helping him (the driver told him there were no more buses that evening). If you know a foreigner who is travelling to visit you, always advise them the best way to get a taxi, and what not to do, to avoid being scammed.
Related reading: Airport Arrival Advice
With regards to the recent Chicago scam, you can read the full story here.