Taxi Scams Around The World

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The other Friday the taxi driver that took me from the Maglev station here in Shanghai to the Park Hyatt hotel, tried to “take me to a ride”. I have used taxis high hundreds if not thousands of times, but can recall being trying to be ripped off only handful of times.

Here are examples from Lima, Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo, Mexico City & Shanghai.

Lima (Peru) – Completely Wrong Foreign Exchange Rates

On my Lan Peru flight from Los Angeles to Lima I had asked one of the flight attendants what is the typical taxi fare from the airport to the JW Hotel in Miraflores. Cannot remember the exact figure anymore but it was something that sounded reasonable.

In Lima the taxis don’t have meters so you always need to negotiate the fare beforehand. If you are foreigner, your fare is typically higher than if you are local. Try always getting a local to negotiate the fare in your behalf.

I and the taxi driver agreed about the fare to the JW hotel in pesos. Some guy hopped to the taxi on our way to the hotel, and requested that I pay in USD’s using the (completely) wrong exchange rate sheet that he was showing to me. I declined several times and told that I will pay the agreed amount in the currency we (driver & me) had agreed. BTW the exchange rate was off 10 to 15 times. It would have been VERY expensive ride to the hotel. Finally they must have come to a conclusion that I wouldn’t fall on their tricks and we continued the ride to the hotel. The taxi driver told me that the guy was his “boss”.

Buenos Aires (Argentina) – Exchange Given In Self Printed Money

OK. This one I didn’t catch. I had a waiter running after me from a restaurant where I had paid using pesos. Some of the notes that I had left were fake. Basically a taxi driver had given me some fake notes as a change. Late at night when it was dark and this is probably quite easy to execute.

Sao Paulo (Brazil) – Taxi Using a Fake Meter

In this case I had to get the airport police to intervene on the fake meter issue. All the normal taxis in Brazil have the same meter. The fare by distance/time is exactly the same regardless what taxi company you are using.

The taxi fare from the Renaissance hotel to the airport was about twice what it should have been. I called the taxi driver about the issue but he was not giving up. I had to get the airport police to intervene on this issue because I flatly refused to pay the inflated rate. Probably most of the people taking the taxi to the airport are in a hurry, and I am most of the time too, but this time I had time to play this game.

With the help of the police we were able to come up with the figure that was agreeable.

Mexico City (Mexico) – Claimed That I Gave Smaller Notes

Getting a cab in Mexico City can be sometimes bit difficult if you happen to stay in Polanco. There are plenty of more expensive taxis, but not that many of the cheaper ones.

I was taking a taxi from the W to the Zona Rosa. I had just withdrawn money from the ATM and all of the notes were in the same denomination. After paying for the cab and waiting for the change the driver insisted that I had given him a small note. His English was actually quite good and he eventually gave me back the correct change.

Shanghai (China) – Another Fake Meter

Apparently the Maglev station has become a new place for all the “creative” taxi drivers in Shanghai. I was suspecting something when the first taxi didn’t want to take the Chinese group, but would rather help me when I was second in the line.

The driver managed to miss the Park Hyatt entrance and was leaving me close to the entrance but on the sidewalk. The fare on the meter was 201 RMB. This was somewhere between 6 to 8 times more than it should have been. Two weeks prior the fare from the Fairmont Peace hotel to the airport was less than 200 RMB, and from the Maglev station to the hotel about 40.

The taxi driver tried to insist that I pay the 201 RMB, but I wasn’t taking any of it. Gave him the 40 RMB and told him to get lost.

Conclusion

It is always good to have an idea how much the taxi fare should be. Ask the hotel, flight attendant, airport information center etc. if you are in a country where you haven’t been before.

1. Avoid everybody that offers you a taxi in a general arrivals hall. Use the normal taxi stand.

2. In some countries taxis that linger around the hotels/places of interest used by westerners try to rip you off.

3. Try to catch a cab on the street

4. Ask them to use the meter – and make sure that they use a correct rate. In some countries they have different rates for day/night.

5. Don’t be afraid to ask the taxi to stop and get out if meter is not used or you feel uncomfortable with the driver. I have had drivers turning on meters only after I have asked them to stop for me to get our

6. Local currency in small notes and try to give as close to the amount as possible.

Most of the taxi drivers are honest and hardworking. There are always few that try to take advantage of tourists and non-locals. Using common sense when taking a cab is always a good idea.

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