It is no wonder that our society is many times described as an “Urban Jungle” for “Survival of the fittest” infested with scams designed to suck at your hard earned cash. Thus, knowing about and learning how to beat scams is utmost for one’ÃƒÆ'” ”’Ãƒ’Ã’Â´s survival in this world.
Taxi Scam #1: Over-Paying
Over paying your cab is the most common form of scam. Taxi drivers may charge more than the going rate, especially to tourists who are not familiar with the area. While travelling through Nicaragua from Rivas to San Jorge I was charged $0.80 for a 10-minute taxi ride. A friend of mine that was new to the area ended up paying $3.00 for a taxi going the same way (and she thought it was cheap!)
Taxi Scam #2: Taxi Meter
In many countries taxis are regulated by the meter. While in Slovakia my friends and I got a taxi to a particular club. The taxi went for 25 minutes in roads without traffic while the driver was distracting us with jokes we did not think as funny. The taxi ride back home was only 5 minutes long and costed less than a quarter of the ride to the club. Thus we confirmed our suspicions that we had been taken around in circles till the ‘ÃƒÆ'” ”’Ãƒ’Ã’Â´friendly cab driver’ÃƒÆ'” ”’Ãƒ’Ã’Â´ decided the taxi fair was sufficient!
Taxi Scam #3: Taxi Plan Alteration
Whilst in a taxi going from the bus station to my hostel in San Jose, Costa Rica, the driver asked me:
“Have you got a reservation at this hostel?”
“No” I replied, “but should be ok as we are in the low season”
“Often hostels are full, let me ring them and check out to avoid the long journey ride”
The taxi driver called and said that my hotel was full, passed me the phone and the person at the other end confirmed what he had just told me. I picked another hostel from my guidebook and the same story repeated itself. So I picked another hostel which he said they were not answering the phone. Left without options, I succumbed to his offer of taking me to a cheap hostel he knew. It turned out the hostel was in the most dangerous part of San Jose. I overpaid my first night at the hotel because the taxi driver gets commission for these deals and worse still was that prostitutes entered and left the place with clients in this stinking hotel. That same day I called all the three hostels, all had sufficient room and said nobody had called them earlier!
Taxi Scam #4: Taxi Abduction
By far, the most dangerous form of taxi scam, mostly common in Mexico City and Managua, Nicaragua. A fellow traveller arrived in Managua quite late in the evening and got a taxi from the street to a hotel. The cab went for 5 minutes and pulled to the side of the road where two massive guys climbed in, one from each side. They demanded all his valuable possessions and beat him to make sure they got everything they could. He was later taken to an ATM machine and forced to withdraw the maximum amount for the day using his both credit cards. He was later stranded in a street that seemed like a ghetto, thus waved a taxi and got in. On his way to the hotel the taxi pulled again to the side of the road and two new guys jumped in, one from each side! He realised what was happening and said in his best Spanish,”listen guys, this already happened to me tonight and I absolutely got nothing left”. They could see the marks on his face and subsequently the taxi took him to his destination.
How to avoid a Taxi Scam: Prevention is Better than Cure
Several variations of these four taxi scams are performed all the time on unsuspecting clients. Avoid scams by knowing where you are going, where to get a safe taxi and knowing the typical taxi fares. Such information is available at hotels and in guidebooks but you can ask in a restaurant while paying your bill or even local people.
Stay away from a taxi driver that appears to be too pushy. Set the price before getting into the taxi based on the information you obtained and if the meter is to be used, ask for a rough price of the trip. If this appears way more expensive then your quotes, decline immediately and if the taxi price is slightly more expensive you can try to negotiate it down to what suites you.
In zones of dangerous taxis, always get your taxi from a safe taxi stand or get the hotel receptionist to order it for you. Avoid stopping and climbing into the first taxi that passes by on the road even if it is cheaper. Ideally share a taxi with friends or if you are alone you can always pretend to be in the middle of a phone conversation with your friend. Remember that your safety is worth more than money.
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