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Anyone who’s traveled has experienced the difficulty of negotiating transportation in a new city. Whether you’re trying to hop on a local train or figure out where the hotel shuttle pickup is, getting to and from places within your destination can sometimes feel like half the battle.
Taking advantage of a taxi can be a quick and simple way to get around, but are taxis safe? Are they safer than Uber or other peer-to-peer ride hailing services?
Here are six quick safety tips for navigating your taxi situation while traveling so you’ll never feel uneasy in the back seat.
1. Have it professionally arranged
There are still locations where taxis reign supreme over rideshares and public transit. In this case, you’ll want to do your best to have a taxi arranged for you. Locals to a country are more likely to know the trusted taxi companies, and businesses such as in-airport taxi services can help you find a driver with ease.
The same can be said for hotels; many times, front desk agents are able to call for rides with their pre-arranged cab companies. Some higher-end hotels provide their own car service, an amenity that can be included or added later to your hotel folio.
2. Use the meter
If you’re hopping inside a taxi, the easiest way to make sure that you won’t be overpaying is by asking to use the meter. This type of situation will be highly location-dependent. Some countries have regulations that set a fixed price for certain rides (such as those from the airport to the city center), while others leave it up to the drivers, which is the case for Paris taxis, for example.
Get your phone working before you leave the airport so you can follow along to your destination with Google Maps.
Before you take off, ask the driver to turn on the meter so that you aren’t hit with an unexpectedly large bill at the end.
3. Negotiate a price in advance
If the meter is broken or you can’t otherwise use it, your next step is to negotiate a price. As we mentioned above, some cities will regulate the amount you’ll pay to your destination, especially when leaving from the airport. However, when this isn’t the case, you’ll first want to talk to the driver about your destination and the fee that they plan on charging you.
It’s a good idea to look up average taxi costs before you travel so you know the ranges to expect; if the price seems a little high, see if you two can negotiate on a compromise. Again, do this before the ride begins.
Whether you’re paying a fixed rate or using the taximeter for your ride, you’ll want to use a card that’ll protect you. Credit cards have consumer protections that won’t leave you liable for fraud — plus different travel credit cards allow you to earn increased bonus points for travel purchases.
If you need to pay cash, be sure to bring along a card that’ll waive your ATM fees and won’t charge any international transaction fees.
» Learn more: NerdWallet’s best credit cards for transit and commuters
4. Only use official taxis
Did you know that in Almaty, Kazakhstan, everyone in the city is an impromptu cab driver? You simply hail a passing vehicle on the road, let them know where you’re going and hand them a few bucks when you step out.
Although this can be an efficient way to get where you're going, the truth of it is that it’s not an especially safe way to travel. Official taxi drivers are subject to strict regulations; their cars must meet a certain standard and they’re part of a larger organization. Sticking with these types of drivers, especially when flagging one down on the street, is a much safer option.
You’ll typically find more official taxi drivers in larger cities, such as Cancun, Paris and New York, and sometimes in smaller and more midsize locations, too.
5. Opt for women-centric options, if applicable
In some cities, you might even find taxi services geared toward women. An October 2019 survey of 500 women conducted by Alarms.org, the website of the National Council for Home Safety and Security — a national trade association — found that 45% of riders prefer female drivers. And several companies are answering the call, as there are now specific taxi options available for solo female travelers that you might consider booking.
Pink Cab, for example, is an Egyptian taxi app dedicated solely to women. Its drivers are female and it will only pick up female passengers. Charlotte-based Just Her Rideshare is another women-only rideshare company that targets its services toward women riders and drivers.
Dubai also has a women-only taxi service named Ladies and Families Taxi. While all of its drivers are female, these specialty cabs will pick up both women and those traveling with families.
Do your due diligence before traveling to see if there are any specialty taxis available where you’re going, especially if you’re concerned about your safety.
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Uber revolutionized the rideshare industry when it launched in early 2009. Prior to its inception, taxis held sway over the majority of private transportation — unless you were using a shuttle or renting a vehicle. Since then, a variety of competitors have come along to shake up the market, including (in the U.S.) and other international options.
Along with easier access, rideshare apps provide a much simpler experience for riders, especially those who aren’t entirely comfortable while traveling. Features you can expect to find include the ability to share your ride with others, to keep a saved payment method on file and to input a destination directly into the app.
Not only do these apps eliminate the need for cash, they can also ensure that riders aren’t taken “the long way” around and provide proof of where you’ve traveled.
Some apps, including Uber, also offer additional safety features, such as an in-app panic button, the ability to report unsafe drivers and even the ability to record audio during your ride.
That said, ridesharing experiences are not without incidents. A safety report from Uber released in June 2022 asserts that more than 99.9% of trips in 2019-2020 were completed without any safety report at all; even still, that same report states the total number of sexual assault reports was 3,824.
Given all of the data available, though they’re not crime-proof, rideshare apps are likely the easiest and safest way to hail a ride.
Final thoughts on having a safe taxi ride
Are taxis safe? For the most part, yes. Taxis have a long history, and you can generally rely upon official ones to take you where you need to go.
For another option, consider rideshare apps, which can offer a whole suite of safety features dedicated to making sure your trip goes smoothly. Otherwise, take advantage of these tips to ensure your next cab ride is as safe as can be.
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