Travel is often highly rewarding for the soul, but when it comes to taxis, they can generally have a detrimental impact on the pocket. Travellers are often most vulnerable within the first hours of entering a new country.
The first point of contact is usually with a taxi driver to get you from an airport to the desired location. Unfortunately, there are many reports of taxi drivers charging extortionate amounts for what should be a simple trip; tourists being taken to ATMs and forced to withdraw money to cover the ride, or even taxis driving off with luggage onboard, but not the passenger.
Here are a few tips to ensure you have a safe trip:
Save Emergency Numbers:
A crucial element of travel planning is to save any emergency numbers, such as the police, for the country you are visiting. Additionally, keep any contacts, such as close family or friends, on your phone in case. You never know when you may need to reach out. When travelling by taxi, especially if you are alone, it is a good idea to text someone when you are on the go and confirm safe arrival.
Ask the Hotel to Book a Taxi
If you are arriving late at night or early in the morning, ask your hotel to book a taxi ahead of leaving the airport. They will have better local knowledge of the best and most reputable taxi companies, particularly if you are visiting a country or location for the first time.
Airport Taxis – Debating the Inevitable
Airport taxis often mean sky-high tariffs, but when you have just stepped out of the airport, what is the alternative? Try to do some research before you leave as to what official taxis look like. If you haven’t gotten the hotel to book one for you, ensure you only use an authorized and licensed taxi. Some airports operate a queued system for taxis. Rather than chancing your luck, patience can be a virtue by waiting in line for an official taxi rather than hailing an unofficial ride.
Know the Price
Through the hotel, social media in the locale and with travellers’ forums, try to find out how much a ride will cost from the airport. At least being forewarned is being forearmed against the driver trying to exaggerate the price. If it does conflict, then call someone out from your arriving hotel to discuss the matter. At least by involving them, they may get the driver to agree the cost.
Keep Spare Cash
In most circumstances, cash is still king for taxi rides. But having large denominations and especially taking a ride at night, your chances of getting the correct change are seriously diminished. So keep small denominations of the local currency, and don’t flash the cash, as it may give the driver the idea of boosting the price, knowing you could afford it.
Turn the Meter On
Official taxis will have a meter that you should insist be turned on. If the meter isn’t running, they could charge anything they like. If they refuse, then get another taxi that will. However, if there are none on meters, agree on a price before getting in the cab, and confirm again when you get inside.
Use GPS to Track a Trip
You can use an app to check the route on your phone and let the driver know. That will enhance your chances of a safe and efficient trip and a more realistic price of the ride as well. If they seem to be taking the long way around, call them out on it, as the impact is on you financially.
Check a Taxi’s Credentials
Before climbing into a taxi, check a driver’s and their company’s credentials are easy to see. If necessary, note the car plate number, and photo the credentials on a smartphone. If any issues arise, you have the evidence.
Once in a taxi, ensure you sit in the back to avoid inappropriate contact. You can keep an eye on the driver, and you have two exit points instead of one if need be. If the driver begins a conversation and you are travelling alone, tell them your partner is waiting at the destination point. Always be vigilant to your surroundings.
If you have to have your luggage stowed in the rear of the taxi, don’t pay for the ride until the luggage is safely back in your hands. If you are travelling as a couple, one can stay in the vehicle while the other gets the luggage. Alternatively, insist on the luggage being with you in the back seat if it is practical.
In our experience taxi drivers are friendly and polite, but there is always the potential of coming up against a bad one. At least these tips will ensure you can get to tour destination safely and with the minimum of disruption.
Andy Probert is an experienced freelance business travel journalist and PR specialist.