1. Meter mischiefWhen you board a taxi, always be sure to pay close attention to the meter reading. If the amount displayed before you start your trip seems excessive, your driver may be using a night time or holiday fare. Alternatively, you may notice your fare price jumps substantially at one point in your journey. In this case, the meter may be rigged. Deceitful drivers may also claim their meter is broken, or conceal it, and then ask for an excessive fare.
How do I avoid taxi meter scams?An easy way to deter would-be meter scammers is to make it obvious you’re paying close attention. When you enter the taxi, jot down the driver’s registration details, which will usually be displayed next to the rear view mirror, and also take note of the starting fare. If anything seems out of place with the meter, or it isn’t operating, raise this with your driver before indicating where you’d like to go.
If your driver has been dishonest with the fare, they will often stop a few buildings back from your hotel. Scamming drivers don’t want to be seen and exposed by hotel staff, so always request they stop out the front, and raise any concerns with hotel staff.
2. Route rip offsDrivers taking an unnecessarily long route to get the maximum fare is a common taxi scam around the world. Most of the time this scam is designed to have you sit in traffic, or clock up a few extra kilometres so you pay a higher fare. However, sometimes taking a scenic route can leave you in more danger. Taxis and tuk tuks in Southeast Asia have been known to stop in secluded locations and demand valuables, leaving passengers in a dangerous and vulnerable position.
How do I avoid route rip offs?Again, the best way to deter opportunistic taxi drivers is to make it clear that you are paying close attention. Displaying a map on your phone while driving is a perfect way to do this. Even if it’s a map from another country, your driver will think that you’re paying attention to the route they take and see that you’re not an easy target.
3. Luggage lossesLosing your luggage overseas has to be one of the most frustrating and upsetting things to happen while travelling.
At every moment of travelling, it’s so important that you treat your luggage like you would treat your wallet or your phone. So ask yourself, would you place your wallet in the boot of a taxi while you stand on the sidewalk?
Luggage scams are another common way taxi drivers can deceive unwary travellers. This can be as simple as driving away while you load your bags into the boot. More calculated plans include having an accomplice steal your bags while the driver distracts you. When you notice your bags have vanished, the driver offers their insincere condolences.
How do I avoid luggage losses?Always keep as much luggage with you in the back of the taxi as you can. While larger bags will need to go in the boot, request that your driver loads them in for you and keep your door open to deter a getaway. Always keep an eye on your bags, and never leave them on the street and out of view while boarding the taxi. Also be sure to keep your most important possessions, like passports, in a day pack that stays securely locked and with you at all times.
Opportunistic taxi drivers are an unfortunate reality of travelling overseas, but with these precautions you can ensure you avoid falling victim to common scams.
Also remember that it’s not always worth arguing over a small sum of money, it’s better to lose some money and keep yourself and your fellow travellers safe. So if you find yourself in confrontation with a taxi driver over a few dollars, it’s probably easiest to walk away.