How to Spot and Avoid Taxi Scams Abroad

If there is one thing that the ordinary traveler dislikes about traveling, it is the possibility of being scammed by a taxi driver. In 2018, a taxi driver in Paris made headlines when he tried to scam a Thai couple by overcharging them by almost 50%. The passengers reported the matter via social media, after which local authorities tried to investigate it.

Taxi drivers around the world have gained a notorious reputation for scamming tourists. It may not be fair to associate the entire profession with such generalizations, but the harsh reality is that some cab drivers prey on the vulnerability of tourists in an unfamiliar city. When you aren’t familiar with local geography or the local currency, it’s easier to fall victim to scams, and some cab drivers take advantage of this.

No one likes to be taken advantage of, especially not when enjoying a vacation. Although there is no sure way to avoid getting scammed completely, the following tips can help you stay ahead of the game.

8 Ways to Avoid Taxi Scams

Check the Route Via GPS

Cab drivers often take the scenic route to hike up their fares. You can easily avoid this by using a GPS tracking app to view the directions to your location. Be aware that there may be several routes to the same destination, and the shortest route is not always the best one. Sometimes cabbies will take a longer route to avoid rush-hour traffic. Use popular navigation apps like Google Maps to guide you on traffic conditions and the best possible routes.

Carry Small Change

A common excuse for taxi drivers is not having change for larger bills. Make sure you carry smaller bills and change in the local currency to avoid paying more than the actual fare. Another way cabbies swindle customers is by giving change in counterfeit notes. Make sure you have done research beforehand so that you can better detect counterfeit money.

Write Your Destination in the Local Language

Sometimes your cabbie may not be at fault, and may have genuinely misunderstood your directions due to language barriers. This is especially prevalent in non-English-speaking countries, like China, where the local names may be entirely different from their anglicized versions.

To avoid this, write down your destination address in the local language, along with the phone number. You can ask your hotel front desk to help you do this. If you are coming directly from the airport, make sure you have communicated with your hotel beforehand and received directions in the local language.

Photograph the License Plate

Before getting into a cab, always make a note of the license plate number and share it with one of your acquaintances. Unfortunately, issues with cab drivers are not uncommon. Noting the license number is immensely helpful if you need to register a complaint.

Ask the Locals

You can always approach your hotel front desk or the local traffic police to help you understand what to expect with cab fares. This way you will know when you are being overcharged. There are also certain websites that you can use to calculate taxi fare from point A to point B.

Watch the Meter

Check the cab’s meter and make sure the distance is set to zero before boarding. If your driver makes an excuse that the meter is not working, choose another cab. If none of the cabs in the area have a working meter, ask around for estimated fares and agree on the price beforehand.

Another way cab drivers defraud customers is by insisting the units shown in the meter are in dollars and not in their local currency. It important be cautious and not give in to such gimmicks. Most of the time, if you refuse to budge, the driver will accept the actual fare.

Get Your Luggage Before Paying

Cabbies have been known to drive away with their passengers’ belongings. Wait until you are safely outside with your luggage to conclude the payment. In case of any hassle, share the license plate with the local authorities.

Act Like a Local

Many times, cab drivers will indulge in seemingly innocent conversations just to manipulate their customers. The taxi driver might make endless small talk only to drop you off a few blocks away from your intended destination. The sooner they realize this is your first time in the city, the better their chances are of scamming you.

Sometimes they will take you to a different location altogether, saying that your requested destination is closed. Other times, if the fare is already agreed upon, they will drop you off long before you reach the destination. They will come up with all kinds of excuses, from roadblocks to traffic rules. The only way to avoid this is to act as if you are not a first-timer. Use the Internet to get information whenever you suspect you are being duped.

Rideshare App Safety

These days there are many reputable cab companies worldwide. Their rates are usually standardized, and there is far less chance for drivers to manipulate the routes. However, even in such cases, there have been reports of scams that one should be aware of.

The most common scam in ridesharing apps is cancellation. You book a ride and it shows the cab almost there, but not moving. You try to contact the driver and they don’t pick up until the time for free cancellation has run out. The driver gets paid for the cancellation, while you are stuck with a penalty.

A simple way to avoid this is to contact the driver within the first minute of booking. If they don’t respond, cancel the cab and book another. If you have already run out of free cancellation time, report the incident to customer support to get a refund.

Another way ridesharing apps scam passengers is by asking for extra payment for toll fees or airport fees. The fare shown on your app includes everything. So, if your driver asks for any extra payment, show the fare breakdown at the end of the ride. Once again, don’t forget to report such incidents to customer support.

How Can I File a Complaint?

If you suspect you have been duped, register a complaint with the local authorities or the cab service provider. To do so, you will need:

  • The license plate number
  • The ID details of the driver (most times the cab will display an ID number on the back of the driver’s seat)
  • Details on your destination
  • Time of boarding

It is much easier to file a complaint against a cab booked through ride-sharing apps than one hailed on the road. This is simply because drivers need to register their details with the cab company and their movements can be tracked. Any complaint against such drivers is liable to result in a loss of their job. Remember to report such incidents as soon as possible, so measures can be taken immediately.

Final Words

You are sure to find scammers and frauds almost everywhere you go. However, that shouldn’t discourage you from traveling. A good way to avoid taxi scams is to opt for public transport wherever possible. It may not be as convenient as a cab, but it’s definitely cheaper, and can be safer. Another important way to protect yourself is by purchasing travel insurance. A proper travel insurance plan can provide necessary financial protection for numerous scenarios you may encounter while traveling abroad.

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