How to Get an Honest Fare From a Cab Driver

There is an international conspiracy. I’ve said it before. They get all the people who want to be taxi drivers, to a secret location, indoctrinate them in how to milk a fare and then send them to countries they haven’t been to before and where hey don’t speak the local language. 

This morning I read a blog on Freakonomics, entitled Why Don’t More Professional Drivers Use Traffic-Enabled GPS?. It’s obvious isn’t it? They want to get the biggest fare out of you that they can.

One way to get an honest fare out of a cab driver is to agree on it in advance. That’s easy if you know what it is worth.



Airports are a prime opportunity and I’ve been ripped off in more countries than I can remember at airports. In New Zealand there is a great service called Air New Zealand Taxis. You can select from 14 airports, enter details like your start or end address, what flights you are taking and then select from a variety of taxi types. I note they even offer helicopter now, but I don’t think that’s an option for the budget conscious.

So you choose which mode of taxi you want and they guarantee to get you to the airport on time. You pay in advance and they even monitor the flight arrivals and departures so if your flight arrives a couple of hours late, your taxi driver will still be waiting for you holding up one of those cool board with your name on it.

If they make a mistake, as one did with me last year and overshoot your freeway exit and have to take a 15 km detour, it’s their problem, and doesn’t decrease the thickness of the lump in your back pocket (if you still carry folding).

Back to traffic. I have been a TomTom Go Live product user since they launched in New Zealand and Australia and it is awesome! It is good because they have good data derived from a combination of fleet managed vehicles (large numbers of them) and data from TomTom users. The GPS Car Nav PND’s have a SIM Card in them and get their data in real time (within seconds despite coming via Berlin). What makes it really powerful is the algorithms in the background that know how to interpret data.

I have been involved in car nav and the development of real time traffic in NZ and Australia and have worked with several brands of car nav. I have seen good systems and not so good systems. Now I must admit that my current TomTom is a little dated, but it has the latest map data. It’s probably time for me to do some testing of the latest devices and apps from various brands, but if you are wanting to know what the best device is for you, this blog is still worth a read.

Like a lot of guys, I believe I have a great sense of direction. However, I have learned that the GPS car nav is better at it than I am. It looks at all the possible ways I can go and pretty much every time I thought it was wrong, it was me that was wrong. It also keeps evaluating, when it has real time traffic. Often while I am driving, my TomTom tells me that I am still on the fastest route, or that there has been an incident and there is now an alternative route which will save me (x) minutes. I now trust it.

That doesn’t mean I trust all real time traffic apps. I have tested other apps in the past which interpreted normal rush hour traffic as an incident and led me to take a longer route which was unnecessary. There have also been times when I knew where I was going and didn’t bother using my TomTom with real time traffic to disastrous results,

So back to keeping the cabbie honest. The easiest answer is to take your trusted car nav application with you and tell the driver where you want him to go. Remember, you are the customer. If he isn’t happy with that, grab his taxi number, get out and find another one who is more trustworthy.

So, how about it? Tell me your taxi stories. I’m keen on the good, the bad and the ugly. Please share a comment. What real time traffic navigation  products have you used? How did you find them?


5 thoughts on “How to Get an Honest Fare From a Cab Driver

    • You learn quickly, but its that very first arrival when you’re green and don’t know what to expect. you’re excited to be there and you’re not paying attention to the meter. I sometimes wonder if the question “Are you here on business?” also attracts a premium. If the passenger isn’t personally paying the fare, there’s an excuse to take a long short cut.

      Of course some cabbies are awesome and I make a habit of taking the contact details of a driver that treats me fair and is sociable and using them when I can.

  1. I arrived at Newark airport in New York at 1AM and had been traveling for about 30 hours and I can’t sleep on planes. I picked up my luggage and saw a sign above the luggage claim rack saying ‘Don’t Use Gypsy Cabs’. I didn’t know what a Gypsy Cab was, it was my first time in NYC, I was tired and couldn’t see a Yellow Cab to save myself. A big (I mean BIG) Nigerian man came up to me in a ‘chauffeur’s’ uniform and a flash looking business card and asked if I needed a taxi.

    Seeing no alternative, I said yes and found myself standing next to a Jaguar. It had a taxi meter in it so, with a little trepidation I took it. The drive seemed to take forever and cost me $75 to get to my Manhattan Hotel. As I said this was many years ago, probably the equivalent of $150 today. I watched out the window in the darkness and hoped that I would get to my hotel safely with my luggage, while the driver told me all sorts of stories about Africa and called in to his base via the 2-way radio. He did a good sell job on me and already had me booked for the trip to JFK the following week.

    When I finally got to the hotel safe and sound, I asked what the fare should have been, they said around $30 plus tip. Before I collapsed on the bed in my hotel room, I rang his office and cancelled the return trip. I’ll put it down to experience. I’ve since heard horror stories about Gypsy Cabs, especially with female passengers. Do you have a Gypsy Cab story?

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