Using public transportation is a great way to get to know a new city and save money while on vacation. Sometimes, however, it just makes more sense to hail a taxi. Perhaps it's late at night and you don't feel comfortable on the subway. Or maybe you're running late thanks to a jetlag-induced nap. Whatever the reason, taking cabs in new cities – both foreign and domestic – can pose challenges if you're not familiar with how things operate in that locale. The last thing you want is to get taken for a ride – figuratively speaking – and wasting money on a cabbie that is taking advantage of you. Nor do you want to get lost because of innocent confusion between you and the driver. In order to stay safe and successfully get from Point A to Point B, be sure to keep our taxi tips in the front of your mind before anyone turns on the meter.
Know Where You're Going: You can't expect your driver to know exactly where your destination is based solely on the place's name. What is a popular restaurant for some might be an obscure eatery for the driver tasked with delivering you. Be sure to know your destination's address and any other useful information, such as cross streets and nearby landmarks.
Utilize the Concierge: Few people know cities as well as hotel concierges. A recent study by Hotels.com suggested that travelers in Tokyo go so far as to have the concierge write the hotel's name, address, and even a small map on a card that can later be handed to a cab driver. I can attest to this firsthand, as I was saved one inebriated night in Japan by a small card designed to be shared with a driver to ensure the passenger's safe return. There's no shame or insult in handing a cabbie a map. It might just be the only thing that gets you back to your hotel.
Know the Meter: Before you go to any new city, consult a guidebook, ask friends, or speak with someone at your hotel about taxi fares. Know exactly how much it costs once the meter is activated. Ask your hotel to estimate fares to destinations such as the airport (there might even be set rates) and business districts. The more information you possess, the less likely it is that you'll be scammed. Make sure that your driver activates the meter before he gets moving.
Note the Taxi Number: People leave things in cabs all the time. Cell phones, briefcases, babies, you name it. Make a note of your taxi's medallion number in case you need to track it down later.
Tipping Culture: In most places, tipping drivers is customary. Consult your hotel's staff for suggested tipping rates or just do what makes you most comfortable.
Be Polite: Have a preferred route? Want your driver to turn down the radio? Feel like making out with your new friend from the bar? Taxi drivers are hard-working people providing you with a much-needed service. Make requests politely, articulate your desire to take a certain highway or avoid a specific bridge without raising your voice, and resist the urge to do anything in the backseat that you wouldn't do in a public place. Would you want someone else getting grimy in that backseat right before you got into the cab?
Have any taxi tips of your own? Share them in the comments.