No. of Recommendations: 5
It's a slow night, so I was editing part of my book ("Take the High Road - A Primer for the Independent Traveler" and came across the following which might be of interest:

Taxi Scams

Be careful of the “slow count” where the driver pauses while counting your change hoping you will leave the rest in his hand as a tip.

Make sure you have smaller denominations to use for paying taxis and incidental merchants. Sometimes they can claim they can’t change a large bank note (if they try this, ask them to change it in a shop.

Occasionally, through sleight of hand, the driver may claim that you gave them a smaller value banknote than you really did – so rather than handing over a bundle of banknotes, count them into his hand verbally.

Also, be careful with large value coins, such as 2 Euro ones, as there are many coins (such as the South Africa 5 Rand and the Filipino 10 Peso) of much lower value which look very similar and can be handed off as change to the unwary tourist.

Similarly, as countries change their currencies over the years, obsolete (non-negotiable) banknotes can be given as change, or by unscrupulous money changers to unknowing tourists.

Another common taxi scam is for the driver to set the meter to charge a nighttime or premium rate. The best way to protect against this is to ask or research in advance what the proper tariff should be.

Always make sure you see the meter reset. If you didn't see the flag pushed down, which shouldn't happen until you actually move off, then you may end up paying for the time the cab was in the rank. This is a particularly popular scam outside better hotels.

Try to make sure you know where your taxi driver is taking you and don’t take his word for it if he says your hotel had a fire or is closed. You will end up at a lousy place that will commission him well. The same scam applies to taxis or tuk-tuks taking you to the wrong restaurant. If you are by yourself, sit in the front seat. Have a map or GPS/Phone with you and look as if you know where you are going (even if you don't).

Many taxi and tuk-tuk drivers (and most tour guides for that matter) supplement their income by bringing tourists to specific shops where they get chits for fuel or a commission. Even if all they did was drop you off at a market, you’ll sometimes find drivers lurking as you bargain in an attempt to insist on a commission (at your expense). Chase them away and make it clear to the shopkeeper that they had nothing to do with bringing you to the shop.

While most cab drivers in India, China, Hong Kong, Northern Europe, etc. are honest, there are always exceptions (especially around places where tourists congregate – such as popular shops, cruise ports, airports and so on). Drivers who approach you are usually illegal and meterless "black cabs" (called hei che in China). Cabs waiting for business outside major tourist sights, especially those whose drivers call out to foreigners, should be avoided, as should cabs whose drivers ask you where you want to go before you even get in. Never go with a driver who approaches you at the airport or railway station. Leave the building and head for the taxi rank. Throughout the world, taxis taken from the airport or cruise ports are the most likely to scam you as they figure you aren't familiar with the costs or the currency.

Better hotels in Asia will give you a piece of paper with the taxi registration number on it as you get into or out of a taxi, so that you can complain if something goes wrong. Often you won't know if it has, of course, and there's no guarantee that anything will happen if you complain to the hotel, but hang onto it anyway. Always ask for a receipt at the end of the ride. In Asia, there’s a pretty good chance that property left behind will be returned to you if you have the hotel contact the taxi driver with the phone number listed on the receipt.

Almost all countries require the taxi driver’s license, usually with a photo of the driver and a telephone number, be prominently displayed. If it isn't, you may be headed for a problem. Choose another cab.

Can you clearly see the meter? If it's recessed behind the gear stick, or partly hidden by an artfully folded towel, for example, choose another cab.

Rates per kilometer are frequently clearly posted on the side of the cab and can be used to compare prices in cities where different cabs charge different amounts. There are sometimes buttons on the meter for extra surcharges – try to ask if the meter seems to jump too quickly.

“Honest” mistakes where tuk-tuks (and even occasionally taxis) drop you off at the wrong hotel, restaurant or store are common-place. Make sure you know where you are heading because once you are in the seat, it’s the driver’s call and it may take until you get an inflated bill in a strange script to realize that you’ve been eating at a different restaurant than you asked for. When in doubt, ask to stop near a policeman or ask to be taken to a police station - the driver will normally make amends.

Most cab drivers are relatively honest (for cab drivers, that is), but some seem willing to take advantage of any incremental way to make a buck that they can take the confused tourist for. Always flag down a passing cab, if possible, rather than take one with a driver lounging around, and generally the precautions listed here will be unnecessary.

Jeff
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