Taking a taxi in a foreign city can be a nerve-racking experience. Tourists are often easily identifiable by locals and cab drivers and can be taken advantage of if they are not careful. Stick to these rules when you are using a taxi in any city so you can safely arrive at your destination and still have money left to spend on souvenirs.
Agree on a Fare
Agreeing on a fare is an important rule for foreign cities that do not use meters. Do not get in the cab until you have negotiated a fare with the taxi driver. Tourists are especially susceptible to inflated rates so if you want a fair price, you may have to argue for it. Negotiating after the ride won't do you any good, especially if the driver pretends not to understand English. Make sure the fare is set ahead of time and don't let them tack on extra fees for heavy traffic.
Carry Lots of Small Bills
Don't assume that a cab driver has or will make change for you. If you agree on a $10 fare, don't hand them a twenty dollar bill. Make sure you have a variety of bills and coins in the local currency and only agree on a price that you can pay for exactly. Otherwise, you may be giving the driver an unexpected, generous tip.
Get Directions First
If you are staying at a hotel or hostel, ask the hotel staff for general directions to your destination to make sure the driver doesn't take the scenic route and try to charge you extra for the additional miles. Ask the staff member to write out your destination in the local language so you can hand it to the cab driver. It is also a good idea to grab a business card with the hotel's address on it before you head out. You can hand this to a cabbie on your way home so there are no questions about where you need to go or language barriers to overcome.
Don't Always Tip the Driver
If you have already agreed on the fare, that should be the price and you do not need to tip the driver just for getting you to your destination. However, if the driver is exceptional, feel free to break this rule. There are some excellent cab drivers that truly deserve the gratuity.
Only Use Licensed Cabs
All countries have illegal cab drivers that usually offer cheaper rates. These services, however, could result in downright dangerous situations. If you are in a country that offers licensed cabs, choose this service over another. These taxis usually have a special license plate or stickers on the cab. Ask the locals in the hotel what to look for.
Keep Your Bag With You
Unless you have a large number of people in your party or you are hauling around an over-sized suitcase, bring your bag into the back of the cab with you. This will help you make a quick exit should the driver turn sketchy or argue over the fare. If you have all your belongings in hand, then you can hand him a wad of the correct amount of money and walk away. This would be much more difficult if your bags were in the trunk. Also, if you have to use the trunk, retrieve your items before you pay the cab driver.
Be knowledgeable about the local transportation before you visit a foreign country or even a major city within the United States. Know how to interact with the taxi drivers, get support from your hotel and do not be afraid to say no to a cabbie. There are many excellent taxi services, like Safety Taxi LLC, that will treat you fairly. Once you find one, stick with it for your visit and enjoy the rest of your trip!