I love to drive but driving in foreign countries where you don’t know where you’re going, don’t speak the language, and have little access to GPS doesn’t always make sense. I’ve driving in baja and South Africa. Everywhere else we take local transportation: tuk tuks, the train, the bus, Uber, and sometimes taxis.
I hate taking taxis because I feel like they are usually out to scam people, especially ignorant out-of-town folks that don’t know any better. We’ve traveled a lot and become pretty road hardy but it’s due to making lots of mistakes. Here, for your enjoyment I present our worst times in a taxi.
#1 Sao Paulo, Brazil
When our son was one year old, we all visited Brazil. We were excited to finally see Rio, Salvadore de Bahia, and Sao Paulo. We got around okay mostly walking and riding the bus but the ride to the airport was the true adventure.
We asked the Hilton to call us an early morning cab thinking it would be safer than trying to hail a cab on the street. When the cab arrived, we loaded our luggage and took off … slowly. It was taking too long to get to the airport and the signs made it seem like we weren’t going to most obvious way. When I asked the driver about it, he shirked it off and kept driving in the same direction … slowly. By the time we arrived at the airport, I was seething. I took a look at the meter, hopped out of the cab, grabbed my bags, and handed him the money as I mumbled under my breath.
He told me that we had to pay DOUBLE what the meter said! WTF?! I rarely yell at people, and I certainly don’t yell at people in foreign countries where I am a guest but … whooo! I told him in no uncertain terms that we would not be paying double and that he could kiss my grits. Lol He said that he was going to call the police. I told my partner to grab the baby, I grabbed our bags, and I dared him to call the police. My partner was so surprised (he doesn’t speak Portoguese or Spanish so I’m not even sure he really knew what was going on) that he just stood there for a beat. I was almost to the doors when I yelled for him to, “COME ON!”
We entered the hall and I was terrified that the police were hot on our heels. I tried to quickly get in line but as the only brown skinned people in sight, I knew we wouldn’t be hard to find. Surprislingly … no one came for us … or they didn’t find us. Lol I don’t think the taxi guy called because he KNEW that he was trying to scam us. I’m glad I stood up for us and I’m super glad that we made it onto our flight with no problems. Lol
#2 Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Few things are worse than hailing a taxi when you have no idea of how far you’re going to how much it might cost to get you there. When we arrived in Playa del Carmed off of the ADO bus at the 5th street station, that was our exact situation.
We had flown into Cancun around 6pm and by the time we cleared customs, found the ADO bus terminal, and boarded the bus it was starting to get dark. After a short hour drive, we walked out of the tiny bus terminal onto a busy 5th street facing a 7-Eleven and a McDonalds. We each had a toddler strapped to our chest and a backpack on our backs. We saw a taxi stand about 200 metres to our right so we headed that way. Once the taxi driver figured out there we wanted to go (thanks crappy AirBnB host with no address) he quoted us 180 pesos (almost $10). We kinda knew we were being robbed because … it was a taxi stand next to a bus terminal but it was also late and we had our babies and we wanted to get settled. Of course, the taxi driver dropped us off at the wrong complex on the wrong street (it was only a 3 minute walk difference but still). We met the AirBnB host in the parking lot and he proceeded to tell us that it shouldn’t have cost more than 60 pesos (about $3). *facepalm* It’s not about the amount of money, it’s about someone getting over on you. Ugh.
#3 Las Vegas, Nevada
This was on of our earliest blunders. We flew into McCarran airport and caught a cab to our hotel on the strip. Since we didn’t know where anything was, it took the cabbie driving in opposite directions for 6 minutes, and the meter increasing every few seconds, before I realized that something was wrong.
When I asked him about it, he played it off like he didn’t know what I was talking about so I told him to let us out … right there … on a backstreet .. at night … in Las Vegas. Lol Good thing I had just purchased my new DVF rollerbag ’cause there was a short hike to the hotel. Lol
#4 Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
This is the oldest trick in the book. We caught a cab and told the guy our destination. We asked him how much it would be (you GOTTA know BEFORE you get in the cab) to take us. He quoted us a price and we were off. While driving the cabbie asked us if we were looking to buy souvenirs. When we said sure, he responded that he had a friend that had a shop. Of course he did. He drove us to the shop and we looked around a bit. We hopped back in and headed to our destination.
After pulling up to our destination, the price was more than we agreed on. When I asked him what gives, he said that we had to pay for driving us to the shop he suggested that his friend owned. *blank stare* After I let him know that he was unscrupulous and I wasn’t gonna pay nada … I gave him the few extra dollars anyway. It wasn’t really about the money, it was about the respect. That extra few pesos really meant nothing to me as an American (I think the exchange rate was like $1 to 87 pesos or something crazy) but I wanted him to know that he hadn’t cowed me.
Things really haven’t been so bad, but I just want folks to know what’s out there. What’s the worst time you’ve ever had in a taxi? Let me know in the comments.
Be safe and happy traveling!