After nine months of traveling around the world, we experienced our fare share of taxi scams; based on what we experienced and from talking to friends, here are the top 8 taxi scams around the world:
1. Manipulated Meter (Ho Chi Minh City)
As our taxi driver picked us up from the bus station in Ho Chi Minh City, he was well aware our bus ride from Cambodia probably meant we were new to Vietnam. As he put our stuff in the trunk, we insisted he use the meter to which he agreed.
As we took off to the hotel, we knew it was only 3-5km away based on our earlier research. However, I didn’t research how much it should cost! As the drive went on, we both noticed the meter moving sporadically. The 20,000 Dong starting rate seemed ok (that was only $1 US), but we noticed it jumping up in large increments. Every time we looked away, it seemed like the meter would jump even higher. As he pulled up to our hotel, he stayed a block away to make sure the hotel wouldn’t bust him. Oh yes, he took us hard. What should’ve cost us around 80,000 Dong ended up at 500,000 Dong ($25 USD)!!
How to avoid this taxi scam: Make sure you know approximate taxi amounts for your impending ride by Googling your trip or trying an online site like Taxi Fare Finder. Next, keep an eye on the meter as some drivers actually have a button or controller they can use to jump the price when you look away! If the price jumps too sporadically, you might need to take action by telling the driver to stop in a safe spot and paying the amount you researched earlier.
2. Driving around in circles (Las Vegas)
This one is one of the easier rip-offs for drivers to pull with tourists who are new to a town. They’ll often take the long way to your destination to rack up higher fees and hope you won’t notice.
How to avoid this taxi scam: This one is a little harder to deal with because some drivers might know a city better and take a route Google doesn’t know about. However, you should research taxi costs beforehand; if you have GPS on your phone, map out the directions and watch the route.
3. Using a fake taxi fare chart (Chiang Mai, Thailand)
Touts and taxi drivers love to scam you by showing you an “official” price on a chart. As soon as we got off the bus in Chiang Mai, Thailand, the touts ran up to us to show us their chart with our hotel name on it and how much it would cost. It seemed official, but they were trying to get more out of us than what we needed to pay.
How to avoid this taxi scam: We ended up paying about 100 Thai Baht ($3 USD) less by negotiating our own rate with a different driver. We walked past the touts with their official “charts” and talked prices with a couple of different drivers before settling on a fair fare.
4. Blatantly Lie on Price and not use meter (Bangkok, Thailand)
When our driver picked us up from the Bangkok International Airport, his meter was covered up by a towel in hopes we wouldn’t notice it wasn’t on. I told him where we were going and he responded “600 Baht”. That didn’t sound too far off, but there wasn’t any way I was going to accept his first offer. Instead, we insisted he use meter and as we pulled up to the hotel, the total reached 450 Baht.
How to avoid this taxi scam: Make them use the meter! If they refuse, threaten to get out of the taxi.
5. Don’t know the address so pick someone else up (Hoi An, Vietnam)
Once again in Vietnam – most notably between Da Nang and Hoi An – we avoided this common scam via research on Lonely Planet. The driver will pick someone else up along the way, confessing that he doesn’t know where to take you, and the new person will more than likely speak good English. However, instead of a helpful local, they’re actually trying to get you to go to their tailor shop or guest house/hotel and it seems they’ll make it pretty uncomfortable if you don’t.
How to avoid this taxi scam: You’re paying for your taxi and you have the right to refuse entrance to anyone else. Try to have your hotel name, address, and map printed off beforehand. If they get in the car and you can’t stop it, politely refuse their hard sales and make sure the driver drops you off at the appropriate location. You can also arrange a driver beforehand with the hotel – something we tried to do in most places.
6. Don’t have any change (Hanoi, Vietnam)
Taxi drivers love to pull this easy trick because it usually means a nice tip. They especially love to do it most when you’re rushing to the airport and have no time to waste. After you pull out your large bill, they’ll slyly respond they don’t have any change. This happened to us in Hanoi and I had to go into the airport, buy something small, then rush back out to pay him!
How to avoid this taxi scam: Try to have smaller bills when you know you’ll take a taxi. If the discrepancy is large, you may even have to go buy something at a nearby store to receive change to pay the driver with.
7. Currency confusion (Istanbul, Turkey)
Taxi drivers in some countries are magicians. This is especially true in Istanbul, Turkey where drivers are known for taking a 50 Lira bill from the customer and quickly switching it out with a 5 Lira bill and then accuse the customer of underpaying them!
How to avoid this taxi scam: Make sure you check your bill before handing it over to the driver. Repeat the bill amount as you hand it to him and create an “awkward pause” to make sure he/she realized you know the bill. If the driver tries to pull the trick on you, refuse to give him another payment and threaten to call the police.
8. Counterfeit Note Scam (Buenos Aires)
From my friend Bret: “We were taken by a taxi driver in Buenos Aires. I gave him a 100 peso note which he took, looked at, and then said ‘No, no….Falso! (counterfeit)’. I was perplexed and handed him another 100 peso note which was good and he gave me my change. It wasn’t until later, when talking with the lady at the hotel desk did I learn that the taxi driver had taken the genuine 100 peso note I gave him originally, quickly switched it out with a fake one he had on his lap, and gave the counterfeit one back to me.”
How to deal with it: Take a good look at the bill you’re handing the driver and watch closely for shenanigans and if the driver tries to pull the trick on you, refuse to give him another payment and threaten to call the police.
Have you experienced any other taxi scams from travel around the world? If so, please add them in the comments!