Not every city is navigable on foot or with public transportation. On occasion, you’ll have to take a taxi to check every box on your list. Before you go, check out if public transportation is safe. A startling example of why not to travel by taxi at night in Ghana from the FCO:
“…foreign nationals have been attacked and robbed while travelling in taxis after dark”
General taxi safety:
- Have your hotel call one for you, or at least tell you which ones to take and which ones to avoid.
- New cabs are a good sign overseas; they probably have better safety equipment and are most likely in good shape.
- Wait until you’re in the taxi with the door shut to announce your destination to the driver.
- Make sure cabbie closes trunk before you get in – know all your stuff is coming with you.
- Make sure cabbie gets out first. If you hop out of the cab at your destination they can easily drive away with your luggage.
- Look for door handles on opposite side before getting in. Someone can slide in after you to block you in. Don’t get trapped.
- Lock the doors – both of them. No guests – “Seat’s taken”.
- Depending on the country – roll up your windows to avoid things being thrown inside the car.
- Make a note of the registration number before getting in – text it to someone.
- In the airport/train station/bus station don’t accept rides from anyone who approaches you.
Taxi Jedi Mind Trick:
As soon as you get in the cab use your cell phone OR fake using your cell phone to call someone and let them know that you will be arriving by cab, and provide the cab number, license plate number, or other id for the cab.
Every country is different; so do your homework, ask a local and get a heads up on the cost of a cab ride. Cabs at hotels generally charge more since you probably don’t know the area. Walking a few blocks can get you a much cheaper price if you’re negotiating. Obviously you want to know which taxis are reputable before doing this.
Make sure the meter works and that the driver is willing to start it. If not, you can get out OR negotiate a price beforehand. Some cabs won’t have meters, be ready to negotiate before you leave.
Renting a taxi for the day:
Lots of cabbies overseas will rent themselves out for the day. Some guides will offer a guided tour which includes transport for the day. Negotiate a good price and in the end trust your instincts when booking one of these.
Taxis aren’t only for getting to town from the airport; they can be a great way to practice travel safety and sometimes the only way to see the sights in country. Do it smartly and you’ll stay safe, save money and get all those boxes checked on your to-see list.