I’ve never been a huge fan of the taxi. I’d much prefer the ability to rely on my own two feet, a car, or even public transportation over putting my life in the hands of one stranger – one on one – with no witnesses. That may seem a bit over the top, but I’ve heard too many horror stories about taxi rides at different locations around the world to rest comfortably during even the shortest of rides.
Our imaginations may be getting the best of us most of the time, but we’d certainly hate to have a terrible taxi experience while attempting to enjoy a spectacular foreign vacation. Therefore, we recommend making alternative travel arrangements in the following areas!
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Phnom Penh is a friendly and laid back tourist destination, but hailing a taxi is an experience you won’t particularly enjoy. You won’t have as much trouble getting a taxi as you will getting rid of your driver once you reach your destination. Many drivers insist on becoming your personal tour guide, of course collecting fares for each destination they deliver you to along the way. Before you head to Cambodia ask your travel agent to recommend a few good transportation companies or you might want to try a rickshaw. You can easily hire a driver for an entire day for a minimal cost and without the scary stalker experience.
Imagine hopping into the back seat of your Indonesian taxi cab to head back to your hotel after a day of exploration to find yourself being mugged – not by a random thief, but by the taxi driver himself. Taxi drivers in Jakarta are known for leaning their seats back to pin you in the car while their partners jump in the other side to search your body for valuables and hidden money. No thanks!
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
We thought big oil was bad in the US. In Kuala Lumpur most of the taxi companies are somehow affiliated with one politician or another, all of which are greedy, rude, or simply unethical. Even if you can get a taxi you won’t have the luxury of a working meter and there’s no guarantee you’ll make it out of the cab having paid a fair price. No use calling the authorities, either – they’re not usually around.
Mexico City, Mexico
Do not be fooled by the apparently popular fleet of green VW Beetles that masquerade as taxi cabs. Mexico City taxi drivers are famous for taking you not to your destination, but to the nearest ATM. Taxi thefts are so popular even the Department of State has issued a formal warning.
It’s not that the taxis in Bangkok are unsafe. You probably won’t even get robbed like you would in many other areas. The problem is that the roads here are so congested with cars, buses, and bikes you’ll probably never make it from point A to point B within a reasonable amount of time. You’d probably get to your destination faster on foot, though the waterways traveling north and south are a viable alternative.
There’s really no excuse for hailing a cab in Moscow. The city has such a well-mapped public transportation system, with both Russian and English signage, you shouldn’t need a cab. If, for some reason, you have no other alternative, make sure you are getting an authentic cab and not one run by a gypsy. They’ll take their time getting across town and their inability to speak English will make it difficult for you to haggle when they try to charge you an extraordinary rate.
Sao Paulo, Brazil
The city of Sao Paulo is three times as crowded as Los Angeles, so attempting to reach any sort of destination during peak travel hours will leave you with one vision – stopped traffic. There are plenty of taxi cabs available and they have a reputation for being safe, but you’ll be stuck in traffic for a very long time unless you travel early or late in the day. A fun alternative, if you can afford it, would be an ATM Helicopter ride.
The taxi cabs in Manila have meters, but you’re going to have a problem getting your driver to turn his on. Instead he’s going to attempt to negotiate a flat fee to take you to your destination, and more often than not that flat fee is going to be unfair compared to what you would pay if he turned the meter on. Don’t even get in the cab unless the meter is turned on.
New York City, United States
New York City is famous for its taxi drivers, who are usually friendly and know the area well. Problems occur when you have to hail a taxi to take you from JFK Airport to – well – anywhere. The airport dumps traffic on to the Van Wyck Expressway which is a notoriously crowded six-mile stretch of road. The only upside is that all of the cabs leaving JFK charge a flat $45 rate so you won’t be penalized for sitting in traffic – and you will definitely sit in traffic.
As terrible as these taxi rides may seem, there are usually safe and pleasant alternatives. Most areas have legitimate taxi cab operations that you can make arrangements with before your trip even begins. In some countries you can hire a private car with a driver on a daily basis for less than it would cost to take a cab. No matter where you go, keep your eyes peeled and listen to your gut. If something doesn’t seem right, wait for the next cab and try again!