Taxi Travel Tip
I like to enjoy the countries that I travel through and come away with good impressions of the people. Thus being, I try to take taxis as least often as possible. I would often much rather walk for hours than enter into negotiations with taxi drivers, who occasionally have the tendency of trying to scrap unwarranted nickles and dimes out of a traveler’s purse. This is just how I programed myself- I don’t mind walking, I like figuring things out for myself – so there is often little need for me to take a taxi.
90% of the time I take a taxi there are no difficulties – no hassles, no arguments, no milking of the meter, no cheating. The remaining 10% form some of the more begrudging times of my travels.
Taxis in Syria.
The following is the standard operating procedure that I use to help ensure that I am not “taken for a ride” by taxi drivers
1. I try to find out from a local person how much the cab fare should be from point A to point B. Knowing this information I can either offer the driver the projected amount in advance or I can better gauge if the meter is being milked.
2. I either make a deal up front as to how much I am willing to pay or I make sure the driver turns on the meter. A meter alone is not a fool proof indication that I will not be cheated, as the driver can sometimes set the meter’s rate or drive me around in circles for as long to run up the price. If I know how much a ride should cost, I can begin questioning the driver when the meter goes above this amount. If I make a deal up front about how much I will pay, I do not pay anything above this amount. Often times in tourist areas, I prefer to agree on a price before getting in the cab as this seems to be an easier option than fighting with them to turn on the meter.
3. Carry small money. Some taxi drivers pretend that they do not have change if you pay with a larger bill than your fare. If you have small money you can subvert this trick before it is started. If you don’t have any smaller money then refuse to get out of the cab until the driver finds a way to make change. They usually always have small bills to make change with or, if they really don’t, an honest driver will someone who can.
4. I use a compass to ensure that I am going in the right direction. If I arrive in bus terminal that I know is to the west of a city and I want to go downtown, then I know that there is something is wrong if the taxi takes me north or south for a long time. Using my compass also allows me to take bearings on major roads and landmarks in a city.
5. I usually try to avoid taking taxis straight from bus or train stations. These locales seem to be haunts for dishonest drivers. It makes sense: if a taxi man wants to rip someone off, then they need a passenger that is not familiar with their surroundings, and there is no better place to find such a target than at a transportation hub where clueless people come into town all day long. So rather than going with the mob of taxi men who hang out at stations, I walk a few blocks and flag a random taxi down in the street.
6. I show that I will not be an easy target to rip off. I confirm the price – often writing it down in a pad of paper- or make sure that the driver resets the meter. I also try to watch were I am going.
7. Never put your bags in the trunk. When I can help it – whenever I am not traveling with a group of people that fill the car – I never allow the driver to put my bags in the trunk. The driver controls access to the trunk and he knows that he momentarily dictates what happens with possessions that I want. It is not uncommon for drivers to hold traveler’s bags ransom if they are trying to scam you out of money. Allowing a taxi driver to lock away your gear gives him massive leverage over you. When I travel, I try to be as self-contained as possible – I want to be able to move whenever I want. By allowing a taxi driver to separate me from my bag is to put my nuts in his vice.
I want all of my dealings to be clean when traveling, so I hang onto my own bags and travel as a single self-contained and completely mobile unit. I do not want to have to depend on anyone else, I want to keep every thing as simple as possible. It is far simpler to hold onto my own bag than it is to involve a taxi driver in its transportation.
When taking a taxi I want to pay the price that I owe in exact change and get away as quickly as possible. I do not want to enter into a potentially combative situation with another person having leverage over me.
I hold onto my own luggage when taking taxis.
Taxi in Syria.
When a person tries to blatantly and forcefully cheat me it creates an emotional response that somewhat sickens me. When I have good experiences with people it gives me a good impression of their country, when I have bad experiences it inevitably gives me a bad impression. Traveling is 90% about people, not places. If the people of a country provoke an emotional bookmark that is dark and begrudging then this extends to my impressions of the country as a whole. If I have to jump through hurdles and and be on guard against being cheated every moment that I am in a place, then I am probably not going to enjoy that place very much. To increase the possibility that I will come away from a place with a good impression, I try to avoid the people who could blacken my impressions.
On a global scale, taxi drivers form one of the least honest profession on planet earth. I have met many good taxi drivers who I joke and talk with as they drive me around their city. Sometimes they serve as self-appointed mini tour guides, sometimes they go above their call of duty to make sure that I know where I am going and what I am doing. The majority of taxi drivers I found to be good, but their is also a hefty slag element in the profession that will do anything that they can to cheat, lie, and get every measly cent of cash they can out of me.
I try to do what I can to limit this from happening.
I like to cultivate good impressions of people and places, so I use care not to invite problems that will make me think otherwise.
Make sure the taxi driver resets the meter before being taken for a ride. If he does not push the button in the above photo you will be paying for both yours and the person before you’s fare. Not resetting the meter is a common trick that taxi drivers try to pull on travelers all over the world.
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Taxi Travel Tip