How to Hail a Cab, Tip Your Driver, Stay Safe, and Save Money When You Take a Taxi While Traveling
If you’re planning a trip, you are probably thinking about the local transportation options you’ll have once you arrive in your destination. You could rent a car, take the train, or rely on buses or ride sharing services to get around.
If you’re considering taxi travel to get to and from the airport, and get to the destinations on your travel itinerary, there is quite a bit you need to know. That’s where this in-depth taxi travel guide comes in!
In this guide I’ll cover:
- The pros and cons of relying on cabs to get around while traveling,
- Tell you the best ways to hail a cab or arrange a taxi in advance,
- Cover important safety tips that will help you avoid dangerous situations when traveling by taxi in foreign countries,
- Tell you how to tip your taxi driver, and
- Highlight the best ways to hail a cab in 21 popular destinations around the globe.
Let’s get started! Click on a topic in the article outline below to jump to a specific section of this article, or just keep scrolling to read our entire taxi travel guide.
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Pros & Cons of Taking a Taxi While Traveling
Like pretty much everything else we do, there are advantages and disadvantages to taking taxis during travel. Let’s talk about these below.
Advantages of Using a Taxi to Get Around
There are many advantages to taking a taxi to make your way around your travel destination. These include:
- Getting back to your hotel or other accommodations in the evening is much safer if you take a taxi (a reputable one, of course). This is especially true if you’re in an unsafe area or a neighborhood that might be quite safe during the day but not so at night. If you plan to drink, it’s a must! One caveat: never get drunk while traveling, especially if you will be alone. Being intoxicated to the point of incapacitation will put you at the mercy of your cab driver. Travelers have ended up in terrible situations or even dead as a result of this mistake.
- A trustworthy taxi driver can give you directions and bring you places you might have trouble finding yourself. This means that you won’t have to get lost as you drive around in a rental car by yourself. The driver can also give you valuable tips and information about the destination and its different areas and neighborhoods.
- It’s often a quicker and easier mode of transportation than taking local buses or trains. This depends on the location, however. Some large cities have especially excellent public transportation services. Find out how easy (or difficult) the public transportation system of your destination is for visitors and tourists to navigate.
- If you’re ever choosing between taking a taxi or public transportation, a taxi offers an advantage if you are carrying bags or anything heavy. An example of this could be after a shopping trip. If you don’t plan to rent a car for your vacation and had taking public transportation in mind while making your way around, you should put aside some money to take taxis for situations like these.
Disadvantages of Using a Taxi to Get Around
There are some important things to consider before you decide to rely on taxi travel to navigate your destination. It may not be the best choice for you, and here are a few reasons why:
- You will have to ask around and do research to make sure that the taxi company and driver you choose are safe and credible. Finding yourself in a fake taxi can end up being an extremely dangerous situation in many countries. You could be robbed or attacked. Be fastidious about checking out every taxi that you get into. Don’t let yourself get careless or sloppy as your trip progresses and you get used to your surroundings.
- Taxis can be very expensive, especially in popular travel destinations. You will also need to tip. Do research to find out the customs and expectations for tipping in the destination. The expense of taking a lot of taxis during your travels will quickly add up and potentially take a big chunk out of your travel budget, giving you fewer resources to do other things.
- Taking a taxi will give you less control over when and where you go than you would have if driving a rental vehicle. As a result, you might find the process of taking taxis a bit stressful, especially if you’re traveling in a country known for being less safe than other destinations.
How to Arrange a Taxi while Traveling
There are basically three ways to get a taxi to take you from point A to point B. They include:
Call a Taxi Service
In general, the most secure way of securing a safe taxi in most countries is to call the number of the taxi service company.
An airport taxi service is another convenient option when you’re arriving in your destination. With this option, you can count on taking your first taxi ride with a driver who can offer a great deal of knowledge of the area.
If you’re staying in a nice hotel, however, there may be a free shuttle service included with your stay. Inquire about this when you book your room, as this can save you some money and it’s the safest way to get to and from the airport in many destinations.
If you use an airport taxi service when you travel back to the airport at the end of your trip, you won’t have to worry about missing your flight – these guys (and girls) know the traffic and routes, and will get you there on time, every time.
Airport Taxi Ranks
You can alternatively simply secure a taxi at the airport taxi ranks after you arrive.
Make sure, however, that you find out beforehand what you should look for to make sure that the taxi you get into is a real one from a valid company and that the driver is a trustworthy person.
Some airports have a real problem with this, and international travelers who aren’t fluent in the native language are targets.
Do research in advance to ensure that you can keep yourself safe. It’s likely that you will have to worry about both fake taxi drivers, and that you may have to negotiate differently with drivers in each destination to secure a fair deal.
I recommend that you visit some reliable travel forums like Tripadvisor and ask people who have traveled there before what you should know and what to watch out for.
Hailing a Taxi in the Street
Depending on the destination that you’re visiting, you might be able to safely and easily hail taxis on the street.
Before even thinking about doing this, however, do research on taxis in the location and what you should look for to make sure that you’re getting into a safe taxi with a licensed taxi driver.
I recommend you know:
- The names of major cab companies,
- What the vehicles look like, and
- If rates are negotiable or firm.
You can ask for information on this at your hotel, as well – something I recommend if you’ll be including taxi travel in your itinerary to get back to your hotel or to get from one destination to another.
A little lower on this page I offer some tips on how to go about hailing a cab in 21 different countries and cities which are popular destinations and in which travelers are likely to take a taxi at one point or another during their stay.
Important Taxi Safety Tips for Travelers
It’s easy to find yourself in tricky and even threatening or downright dangerous situations when traveling. That’s why it’s so important to know and remember important safety tips.
Let’s go over some helpful safety tips for travelers here.
I’ve split this section up into two sections:
Before You Start Your Trip
There are a few things you can do before you start your trip to make sure you’ll be safe while traveling by taxi in your destination.
Do Your Homework
Research, research, research! You really can’t do too much research when planning a trip and when making decisions as you go. Make sure that taxi companies you choose are reputable.
Be Aware of Local Customs
Find out everything you can about all local customs and laws. If you wear inappropriate clothes, act in a disrespectful way, or exhibit a taboo behavior, you will most likely to end up in difficult situations.
Travel with Someone
If possible, plan to have a travel companion. It’s always safer to make your way around with a travel partner instead of on your own.
Know Who to Call in an Emergency
Find out the number to call in an emergency in the country you’re in. If you’re traveling domestically you may already know this number, but if you’re traveling to an international destination, be sure that your phone works, and learn how to dial local numbers and the local emergency line before you start your trip.
Have a Working Phone
Along these same lines, I recommend that you secure a local SIM card with data to use for your smart phone while on your vacation. When you do this, you should be able to use GPS as well. This will help you find out whether your taxi driver is taking an unnecessarily long route or going in an odd direction.
Know the Language
Try to learn as much of the local language as you can, especially common words and phrases. Get a portable book of these phrases, if you can. There are some decent translation apps out there as well.
While On Your Trip
After you do all of your homework in advance, there are several important things to remember to stay safe while traveling by taxi on your trip.
We’ll cover all of these here:
Never Give Your Luggage to Someone Else
Never let anyone carry your bag. This includes taxi drivers. In some places, such as airports, you might find a line-up of taxis outside with drivers eager to take your bags and carry them for you. Stand your ground and refuse to give up your luggage. You never know who might try to steal your things. Always keep your hands on your bags while you’re in the taxi, as well.
Check with Local Experts When You Arrive
Online research is great, but nothing beats talking to a local expert or official when you arrive in your destination. I recommend that you ask other people how safe a certain taxi is.
You can ask reception at your hotel, locals you might meet, security at the airport, or more experienced travelers you encounter during your trip.
Also, make a point of asking whether the taxi is safe to take both during the day and at night. There might be a difference.
Don’t Get Intoxicated
This seems like a no-brainer, but when you’re in Italy and the Chianti is flowing it’s easy to lose track of how much you’ve had to drink. Don’t go overboard with drinking! Being intoxicated or drunk can put you in a precarious situation, even when you’re in a taxi.
It’s my advice that you stay away from drugs entirely when you travel, or if you must partake, that you do so in the safety of your locked hotel room.
Keep Expensive Gear Hidden
Don’t show off your gadgets. Only use your electronic devices when you have to. You don’t want to seem as if you’re showing them off, and advertising that you have lots of expensive equipment can make you a target.
Don’t Go it Alone
If you don’t have a travel companion, think about finding someone who will be a travel buddy of sorts as you make your way around. Get to know this person well before you give them any trust, however (we’ve all seen Taken, right?).
Know the Neighborhoods
We all know that some neighborhoods are safer than others. I recommend that you understand as much as you possibly can about the safe and unsafe areas of the destination before heading anywhere. Avoid traveling to unsafe areas, especially at night. You don’t want to find yourself completely at the mercy of your taxi driver, and this could end up being the case if you’re entirely relying on them for information and know nothing about your surroundings.
If You Can, Call a Cab Instead of Hailing a Taxi
It’s best to call for a taxi rather than just hail for one. One reason for this is that certain independent taxi companies are in league with thieves.
When you call for a taxi, ask the dispatcher what the cab number will be. This way you can check to make sure that the taxi sent to you has the appropriate number. Ensure that the name of the taxi company and its phone number are visible on the vehicle before you get in.
Calling a taxi rather than hailing one is also a good idea because that way you will know that there should be a record of your call and the taxi you are entering with the company.
Keep Your Windows Closed
Try to keep the windows closed when you’re riding in a taxi. This is because thieves can sometimes try to reach into the car. If you’re on a roadway with few stoplights or other reasons why the car would stop, you can let the windows down a bit more. Make sure, however, before you get into the taxi that the windows will open in case you have to at some point. Also ensure that the door handles in the backseat work.
Avoid Occupied Cabs
Never even consider getting into a taxi when there is already someone in the passenger area. This is very dangerous, no matter what they say the reasons are. This situation has led to many travelers being attacked or even killed around the world.
Know Your Destination
Decide on where you’re heading before you get into the taxi. And if it seems like the driver is driving in the wrong direction, get out as soon as you can. Simply toss the money owed to where the driver is and get out.
Never Sit in the Front Seat of a Taxi
Always sit in the backseat. You want to make yourself the least accessible to the driver as possible.
Sitting beside the driver in the front seat can make you very vulnerable and can lead to a dangerous and frightening situation.
Do a Quick Visual Check of the Vehicle
Always ensure that the taxi has door handles, a badge, a meter, and a radio. You should also look for an ID badge for the driver displayed in the vehicle. This is required almost everywhere.
You shouldn’t get in the vehicle if you don’t see this or a radio. Ensure that the interior door handle in the backseat works before getting in, too. You could end up kidnapped if you fail to do this!
Have a Sense of the Local Currency
Be familiar with the local currency before taking taxis. You should do this before you even reach your destination, in fact. Be aware that dishonest drivers may give you worthless bills or coins in your change. Also, if you have no familiarity with the currency, you will have difficulty handing over the right amount in the first place.
Verify That Cab is Legit
If taking a taxi from a rank, make sure it is an official taxi rank. This will help you stay away from the danger of unregistered taxis.
Check the vehicle and make sure that it has all the required markings and that your driver has his or her license displayed inside. There should be a working radio, as well.
Ask a Local What a Fair Rate Will Be Before You Speak with a Cab Driver
Get an idea of how much a taxi will cost before getting into the taxi. You can do this, for example, by asking a hotel concierge or a trustworthy local. When you get into the cab, you can even casually and politely mention what you have been told about the general cost. This will make the driver realize that you’re not someone he can fool.
Meter vs Flat Rate
Never consent to a flat rate. Most taxi drivers asking you to agree to a flat rate are doing so to charge you too much. Always make sure that the meter is working and on.
Plan Ahead to Avoid Misunderstandings
Be ready for dealing with the difficulties of not speaking the local language. Try to get business cards with the address information of places where you’ll be going by taxi.
You could also ask someone (such as a hotel receptionist) to write down all the information of the place you’re going in the taxi in the local language. That way, all you have to do is give this to the taxi driver.
Always ask your driver if they know the place you want to go before you get in. If they seem unsure, find a different vehicle.
Tips for Tipping Your Taxi Driver
There are numerous places around the world where tipping a taxi driver isn’t expected.
This tends to be true in spots where taxi drivers are paid on an hourly basis or even get a salary. In these situations, the drivers probably don’t depend on tips for their livelihood.
Still, it’s a good idea to research local customs before you depart. Find out if drivers expect a tip, and if they do, what a standard tip is.
In my opinion it’s always best to provide a fair tip to service workers as you travel. They play a critical role in how enjoyable your trip is, so if someone is helpful and friendly and makes your trip a little better, I recommend tipping them (if you can), even if it isn’t customary to do so.
That said, you’ll need to do research on your specific destination to find out whether tipping is necessary or expected for taxis there.
Some countries have a specific rate that most people adhere to. For example, in Berlin, Germany, the tipping rate is generally 10%. The custom in Austria is the same. In Belgium, you’re not required or even expected to tip, but it’s pretty common to round up the fare to the nearest euro. This is the situation in Bulgaria, too.
Tipping isn’t a custom in Australia, so you might find your taxi driver a little confused if you try to offer one. In some countries, taxi drivers will even refuse your tips. This is what many travelers encounter in China.
How to Hail Taxis Around the World
Hailing a cab and taxi travel etiquette is different wherever you travel.
To help you prepare for taking a cab on your upcoming trip, we’ve assembled some tips for hailing and hiring cabs in 21 popular destinations around the world.
We hope this list is helpful to you as you plan your trip!
Hailing a taxi is very easy in New York City. Just step off of a cub and hold out your arm. You can tell whether a taxi is available by the light on top of it. If the center is lit and the medallion number very visible, that means that the taxi is available. A taxi is off-duty if both the medallion number and the side lamps are lit. If there are no lights on, that means that the taxi already has a passenger and is heading to a destination.
There are many taxi stands in Rome, Italy. You can find them by the large orange sign with the word, “Taxi.” Before getting into the taxi, make sure that it is properly equipped with a meter. It should also have the city’s coat of arms with the letters “SPQR.”
Unfortunately, many taxi drivers in Rome tend to deliberately take longer routes in order to charge more. If you feel that this is happening, say something.
If Buenos Aires will be your destination in Argentina, you’ll find that it’s quite easy to find taxis on the city’s main avenues and streets. The cabs are black and yellow in color and they have a red light with the word LIBRE. You can hail a cab by putting your arm up in the air. The most popular taxi company in Buenos Aires is Radio Taxi. You can call Radio Taxi to book a taxi in advance.
Traditional black cabs are ubiquitous in London. You will know a cab is available if the word “TAXI” is in lights.
In Sydney, you can often hail cabs on the street. There are also a number of taxi ranks in different parts of the city.
If you’re going to Barcelona in Spain, you can easily flag down one of the taxis that circulate the city streets. You can look for a taxi stand, where you might have to wait in a queue for a bit for your turn. If you want to flag down a cab on the street, it’s especially helpful to be visibly holding a churro while waving.
It’s best to ask your hotel to call for a sitio taxi (radio-dispatched). You could also ask them to set up a turismo taxi for you. This type of cab will usually not only pick you up but also wait for you and bring you back to your hotel. Never hail a cab in Mexico. You can find one at a taxi stand, though.
Morocco: If you’re traveling to Morocco, you’ll be able to flag down one of the city’s petit taxis while on the street. If you want to book a taxi through your hotel, you’ll need to go with a grand taxi. This service is a little more expensive.
In Paris, you can find taxis at the taxi stands found on city streets. You can also hail a cab. Make sure that you see a sign with the words Taxi Parisien on the roof of the vehicle before you get in. The cab should also have a license plate that says it’s a taxi, as well as a working meter.
If you’re going on a vacation in Bali, you should know that only one taxi company there is permitted to pick up travelers at the airport. This is the Ngurah Rai Airport Taxi. There should be a fixed fee from the airport. Make sure that the driver is wearing a blue-patterned shirt.
Taxis in Tokyo are green in color. They are easy to flag down. If there are green lights, that means that the vehicle already has a passenger. You need to find a cab that has a red light as well as the word kanji. This indicates an empty car. You’re your hand in order to hail the cab. Ensure that you’re able to give the driver the address transcribed in Japanese. A phone number for the destination is a good idea, as well.
It’s easy to find a taxi in Lisbon. You can simply hail them from the street.
Taxis in Bangkok, Thailand tend to be bright in color. You will probably have to negotiate on a price before your taxi driver starts driving, though. This is especially the case when getting a cab at the airport. Be very cautious when taking a taxi in Bangkok, as their cabs are generally considered one of the most dangerous in the world.
It’s popular to take a taxi for crossing over the Danube in Budapest. Cabs in this city have a yellow registration plate and the word “Taxi.” If you want to save money, you should ask your hotel to call the taxi rather than trying to flag one down on the street.
To take a taxi in St. Petersburg, Russia, ask your hotel to book a taxi with a reputable company. Make sure that the company they choose is listed among the reputable companies you find when doing your research. With taxis in this city, your fare will be decided upon booking. In general, the minimum you can expect to pay is around $10, which usually covers about 5 km. Don’t flag down cabs in the street. It can be risky if you’re not familiar with the city and/or lack a working knowledge of Russian.
It’s easy to find taxis that you can hail down in Cape Town. Make sure to do your research and ask around first about companies and other information first, however, in order to stay safe.
In Berlin, you can flag down a taxi if you haven’t called one by phone or don’t want to pick one up at a taxi rank. If you’re going to an evening venue such as a club or theater, you might find taxis waiting outside. Before you get in, make certain that you check to make sure that the driver is a real taxi driver with a license displayed in the taxi and that there are markings and a number displayed on the vehicle.
If you’re traveling to Hong Kong in China, you’ll find that there are many taxis in the streets there. If you’re not in a restricted area, you should be able to flag down a taxi in the street. The taxis in Hong Kong are usually clean and climate controlled.
Taxis are very popular in Dubai. If you’re a woman, you can use a ladies-only cab service.
Always make sure that your hotel calls the cab for you and that they choose a reputable company when in Hanoi, Vietnam. Ensure that the meter is working properly once you get in the vehicle. If you have doubts about whether this is the case, go back into the hotel and ask someone there to verify what will be charged.
While taking a taxi in Prague is generally not a very expensive matter, you should be aware that many of the drivers try to rip off tourists. This is one reason why it’s best to book through a radio taxi service (for example, AAA Taxi) rather than trying to hail a cab on the street.
Is Taking a Taxi Right For You?
All this information has likely made you realize that taking a taxi while traveling isn’t as simple and straightforward as you thought.
There are a few things to remember when deciding if taking a taxi while traveling is your best option:
- Expect to pay for convenience (taxis generally cost more than other transportation options).
- Be responsible and do your homework (your safety is up to you).
- Know the language (issues with communication are more likely when taking a cab).
If you check these boxes and have the money to hire a cab to get around while traveling, it’s a great (and convenient) option which can save you some time.