It’s easy to get duped by common taxi scams when you arrive at the airport. You’ve just been through a flight and are in foreign place. Your guard is naturally down, and you’re vulnerable to scammers. In this video/post, we’re going to talk about taxi scams and how you can avoid them!
My experience being scammed
When I was in college, I did a summer semester abroad in Italy. I was very excited about going, and when I arrived in Rome, I was approached by someone at the airport terminal asking if I needed a taxi. Naively, I said yes. The next thing I knew, I was in a black unmarked car heading to my hotel. What should have been a $40 taxi ride ended up being $80. What I realized was that this was a private driver who probably singled me out as a naïve traveler. In a way, I was lucky. I had heard horror stories of travelers being robbed or threatened after entering these fake taxis. I tried to negotiate the fare down. Though when the driver started to yell, I quickly paid, grabbed my bag, and ran into the hotel.
Since then, whenever I travel, I’m always wary of people approaching me as I exit the terminal. I hate to be pessimistic and cynical, but I just assume that most people waiting outside the airport or at tourist spots aren’t looking to help me out of the goodness of their heart. I am sure there are some folks who are truly there to help others. Though my guess is that most are looking to take advantage of lost or vulnerable travelers.
Consider this a public service announcement: When you’re traveling, don’t accept a ride from anyone who approaches you at the airport. It’s safer and probably less costly to go to the official taxi area or line.
Additional tips and considerations
Here are some extra things to keep in mind:
1. Ask for the cost before entering the taxi:
Taxi drivers or the airport workers who manage the line should be able to tell you how much it costs to go to your destination. Oftentimes, the rate to common tourist areas is already pre-set. You taxi driver will also be less likely to try and scam you if you already have a price in mind.
2. Looks for official logos and licenses:
Make sure the vehicle you are entering has official markings and licenses posted. If the car looks like a private vehicle, then I would suggest walking away and asking an airport worker where you can find the official taxis.
3. Carry smaller change if possible:
One annoying scam that drivers will sometimes try is to say that they don’t have any more small change. Unless you feel like a tip is warranted, I would suggest asking the driver to come with you to the hotel lobby or a store so you can break your bills. Also, I sometimes carry a few smaller US dollars in case they are willing to accept it.
4. Research your options before you arrive:
It’s common for hotels or tours to offer rides from the airport, either for free or at a pre-negotiated rate. It’s worth researching before leaving on your trip. Also, you can often find information on the taxi situation and rates on sites like Trip Advisor for your specific destination.
5. Consider using a ride-sharing service as an alternative:
In some countries, ride-sharing is quickly becoming a valid form of transportation from the airport. When I traveled to Thailand, I actually found that both Uber and Lyft were operational in Bangkok. There are some complications with this though. You need to have an active internet connection to access the service. Also, you’ll need to determine (and potentially communicate) the pick-up location. Lastly, there are often language barriers. See our video/post on getting ride-sharing service abroad for more information and tips.
Do you have any interesting experiences with fake taxis or even real ones? Please share them below in the comment section.