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Taxis, can't live with them and can't live without them.  Read our article for some insights on using taxis abroad.  We provide recommendations on  how not to be taken for a ride, how to communicate your destination, and other  tips that might be useful to you on your next taxi ride abroad. 


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Travel Advice/Travel Tips -  Taking taxis

Taxis can be the boon or bane of travel. In some places, taxi use is hassle free (London) and in other areas, the taxi drivers may have a reputation for overcharging and poor service  (Athens).  A few general rules will help you to avoid unpleasant surprises: however, if you are taken by a taxi driver, chalk it up to experience, resolve to learn from the situation, and go on enjoying your vacation.

Taking a taxi in a foreign country can be a challenge if you do not speak the local language and the driver does not speak yours.

  • Be sure to have mastered the phrases to tell the driver your destination and the very necessary phrase “how much?”
  • If you are traveling in a non-English speaking country, and your hotel has a concierge, give him the name of your destination and ask him to arrange your taxi.
  • If your hotel does not have a concierge, ask someone at the desk if there is a particular way to pronounce or refer to your destination.
    •  If you are having difficulty with the name,  ask him or her to write it down and show the paper to the taxi driver.


Before you leave your hotel, ask the staff to give you estimates of the cost of a taxi to your destination and whether there are surcharges for groups or late evening travel (if applicable).

  • Write these numbers down and use them as a guide to avoid being overcharged.
  • Small tips are appropriate for good service and may be customary for taxis in particular locales.
  •  Once again, ask your hotel staff what it customary.

When you enter the taxi, check to see if it has a meter.

  • If the taxi has a meter, ask the driver to switch on the meter, unless you have agreed on a firm price before hand.
  • In some locations, asking once does not result in starting the meter, so ask a second time.
  • Also, make sure that the newly turned on meter does not have an enormous fee on it at the start of the voyage.
    • It has been our experience that some drivers will try to scalp travelers one way or another.
  • If the taxi does not have a meter, tell the driver where you want to go and establish the fee before you depart.
  • If the driver is unwilling to set a price, consider finding a driver who will.

When you reach your destination, be sure to carefully count out the fee, tip (if a tip is appropriate), and carefully select the denominations of coins or bills that you will give to the driver.

  • Unscrupulous drivers will give you incorrect change or claim that you did not give them the appropriate amount, palming the larger denomination bill that you gave them and exchanging it with a smaller one.
  • If the cab did not have a meter and you did not pre-negotiate a rate (a bad practice), ask the driver to write the price on a note pad and pay him on this basis, if you are unable to understand the price in the language being spoken.

If you are out and need to direct a taxi driver to a new destination, circle it on a local map and show it to the driver.

  • If you do not have a map, tell the driver the name of the attraction and the section of town where it is located.
  • During a long layover at Lisbon’s airport on the way back to the U.S., we decided to take a brief sightseeing tour of the Jeronimos Monastery, which is known for its beautiful cloister. When we jumped in the taxi, after saying hello in Portuguese, I asked in my best Portuguese (which is none too good) to go to "Mosteiro dos Jeronimos" but I was not getting the job done. Then I remembered that the Monastery was in Belem and rephrased my request to "Mosterio dos Jeronimos en Belem". We took off with a jolt and arrived at our destination a few minutes later.

If you are staying at a local hotel, be sure to take a slip of notepaper with you that includes the name, address and telephone number of the hotel (a hotel note pad with Logo and address are ideal) for the return journey to the hotel.

  • If the country you are traveling in does not use a Roman/Latin based language, you may want to ask the hotel staff to write the name and address of your destination in a script that a non-English speaking driver would understand.

In Europe, you should keep your budget in mind when taking taxis to the airport, as in many places the new, international airports are far out in the countryside. Milan’s Malpensa Airport, for example is located twenty-eight miles to the northwest of the city.

  • A taxi from Milan to the airport will cost approximately 80 bucks (and more for additional passengers and luggage)
  • You can take a dedicated airport express train from Cardona station in downtown Milan that will drop you in the center of the airport for around ten dollars.
  • Most major European airports have efficient, relatively low cost trains that services their suburban airports.

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