How to Hail a Taxi Cab…Like a Man!

by Brett on March 30, 2011 · 101 comments

in Manly Skills, Out on the Town

Last weekend I was in New York City for some business. I’ll be honest. Getting around New York was a little intimidating for this Oklahoma yokel. Growing up in the expanses of suburbia where everyone drives their own car left me with little preparation for navigating the mean streets of the Big Apple using public transportation.

My first night in Manhattan I wanted to stop by Katz’s Deli for one of their famous pastrami sandwiches. It was about 3 miles from my hotel, so I decided to take a cab.  My first attempt at hailing a taxi was a complete failure. I stood at a corner, saw a cab headed my way, and lifted my hand like I’ve seen in countless numbers of movies based in New York.

Zoom! The cabbie drove right by me.

“Alright, maybe he didn’t see me…” I thought.

Undaunted, I saw another cab headed my way. This time I stuck out my hand with more gusto.  Same thing. Taxi kept right on going, leaving me with my hand in the air like a chump.

Realizing I was looking more and more like a dopey tourist, I gave up and decided just to walk to Katz’s. (The pastrami sandwich was amazing, by the way. Expensive, but delicious.)

Luckily, most of the places I had to be during my two day stay were within walking distance, so I was able to avoid the cabs. But my inability to properly hail a cab definitely limited the places I could visit while I was in the city. Yeah, I could have taken the subway, but they’re fraught with their own complexities for the uninitiated.

On my last night in New York City, I met up with an old friend from high school who has been living in NYC for the past few years. I shared with him my failed attempt at hailing a taxi. He chuckled, but as an Okie transplant to the Big Apple, he completely empathized with me on how confusing public transportation can be.  He was kind enough to give me a quick rundown on how to hail a taxi cab and a short primer on some basic cab etiquette.

Below I share what my friend taught me. While this article is primarily geared towards hailing a taxi in New York City, most of the info is applicable in other major cities with taxi transportation.

Finding an Available Taxi

The first trick to successfully hailing a taxi is to find one that’s available and on duty. My problem was I was hailing cabs that were either occupied or off duty. That’s why they didn’t stop for me. So how can you tell which taxis are available? It’s all in the lights.

On the top of every cab in New York City, you’ll find a roof light. They’re hard not to spot. What you want to look for is a number, with the words “Off Duty” bookending that number. To figure out which cab is available, pay attention to how they’re lit up.

  • Available Cab: Just the center number is lit and nothing else. Hail away!
  • Occupied Cab: None of the lights are lit. This cab is already running a fare, so don’t hail it.
  • Off Duty Cab: Both the center number and the “off duty” lights are lit. Though, sometimes I saw cabs that just had the “off duty” lights on without the center light on and they were still off duty. This cab isn’t picking anybody up. Don’t hail.

Here’s a nice graphic showcasing the possible light combos and their meanings regarding availability:

Hailing the Cab

Stand on the side of the street that has traffic going in the direction you’re headed. If you’re going downtown, stand on the side of the street that has traffic going downtown already. It’s not necessary, but it will save you time and a bit of money as the driver doesn’t have to turn around and go the other way.

Find an ideal spot. Street corners are the best places to hail a cab. If you’ll be hailing cabs in New York City, download the Cabsense App to your smartphone. The CabSense app uses data from the New York Taxi and Limousine Commission to help you find the best nearby street corners to hail an open cab based on the day of the week, the time, and your current location.

Step off the sidewalk and into the street a bit. This makes it easier for drivers to notice you from the rest of the sidewalk traffic. Now don’t step out too far into the street.  You don’t want the NYC Sanitation Department scraping pieces of you off the pavement. But a foot or two off the sidewalk will keep you safe and make you noticeable.

Stick your arm out like you mean it. No time for timidity or half-assing. Lift your arm up and out like a man who knows where he’s going in life.

Don’t whistle or yell “Taxi!” They only do that in the movies, and it makes you look like a tourist. 

Look the driver in the eyes. No, you’re not trying to stare him down like a predator stares down prey. Well, maybe a little. Getting eye contact with a driver makes it easier to know if he’s going to stop for you. He’ll usually give you a nod if he’s going to pull over.

Basic Taxi Cab Know-How

You don’t hail taxis at the airport. When you arrive to New York City at an airport you have to wait in line at the taxi stand to get a taxi. You’ll get the stink eye if you try to hail one.

Give an address, not a name of a place. For well-known places in town, like the Empire State Building or something, you can just tell the driver the name of the place. But for hotels, friends’ apartments, or restaurants, give the address or at least a nearby intersection of the place you’re going.

Tell the taxi driver from the get go if you need to make multiple stops. You are allowed to make multiple-stops when you a hail a cab. For example, stopping to pick up a friend at his place before arriving at your final destination.  It’s just a courtesy to let the driver know beforehand.

No more than 4 people in a cab at a time. In New York City (and many other cities), it’s against the law for more than 4 passengers to ride in a taxi at one time. If you’re with a large group, don’t ask the driver if he’ll take an extra person just so you can save money.

Exit curbside. Safety first.

You can pay with a credit card. I didn’t know this before arriving in New York City, so I stockpiled cash. Since 2008, all New York City Yellow Cabs are equipped with a credit card reader. Cabbies made a big stink about the credit card readers, and a few drivers will still put up some resistance if you try to pay by plastic.  But know that, by law, drivers are required to accept credit cards (other major cities have similar laws). Don’t let them tell you otherwise.

If your taxi driver looks like this and asks that you pay in cash, pay in cash.

Taxi Etiquette

Even Don Draper showed some common taxi courtesy for the wife he cheated on. Follow suit. The opening the door part. Not the adultery business.

Firsties. The unspoken rule is that the person or group of people waiting for a cab first gets the cab that pulls up. First come, first serve and all that. However, if you display any sort of apprehension or hesitation in getting in a cab that stops for you, don’t be surprised if someone else takes it.

Tip. 15% of the total fare is customary. If the driver helps with your luggage, give him an extra $1-$2 per bag .

Help a lady in and out of the cab. If you’re with a woman, especially if you’re on a date, it’s good manners to open the door for her and hold her hand for support as she slides into the car. When you arrive at your destination, get out and offer your hand to the lady and help her out of the cab.

Okay you New York City natives, share your taxi tips with us. And those from other cities, and other countries as well, fill us in on important taxi know-how in your neck of the woods.

{ 101 comments… read them below or add one }

1 ted March 30, 2011 at 6:45 pm

One other note: when you exit curbside, be careful opening your door, as the curb is often a bike lane, especially in New York and other cities. Dooring a rider can seriously injure them–not to mention any damage to the car.

2 santos March 30, 2011 at 6:47 pm

The 4 person limit isn’t a hard limit. It’s just that most of the cabs only have 4 seatbelts for passengers. If you’re in a 5+ person group you might luck out and get one of the relatively few minivan cabs–they can sometimes fit up to 7 people legally, I think.

Also, if you’re going somewhere off the beaten path (like an outer-borough or way uptown) don’t tell the driver where you’re going until you get in the cab. They are required to take you anywhere in the 5 boroughs or westchester of nassau counties. But if you tell them that before you get in the cab they will often just drive off. Once you’re in the cab there is little they can do, however.

3 Sean March 30, 2011 at 6:48 pm

What part of Oklahoma are you from?

4 Phillip March 30, 2011 at 6:53 pm

Here in Denver, the lights on the top of the cab mean absolutely nothing. Just keep flagging till one stops.

5 Jeremy March 30, 2011 at 6:55 pm

Awesome post. I just realized I had no idea what the lights on the tops of the taxis meant…

6 Tyler March 30, 2011 at 6:56 pm

As a former NYC cab driver I say good post.

Some finer points
“Off Duty” on with the center light out means that the cab driver is supposed to be carrying his last fare.
Off Duty means off duty unless you will take him towards his garage. They’ll stop – you say where your going – they’ll think like King Faruk and respond with a yes or no.
The off duty sign will come on quickly if you want to go where the wind howls and the tumbleweed blows. (Like Queens)
The dude in the foto is hailing a cab that would be driving on the sidewalk – it’s OK if that’s what floats your boat but if you want to get somewhere by taxi don’t do that.
Most of the cab drivers came to the city last year from a country that is still marveling at running water.
Katz’s is cool but the Halal wagons now provide cheap sustenance and the Mexican carts really good food for less than 5 bucks.

56 Out

7 Liam Strain March 30, 2011 at 6:56 pm

The lights thing is key in Chicago as well. Albeit simpler. Light is on, it’s available. Light is off, the cab is not.

8 Brett McKay March 30, 2011 at 6:59 pm

@Sean-
I’m from Edmond but currently reside in Tulsa.

@Tyler-
Thanks for the great additional tips. I was thinking the guy in the picture was on a street corner, but he may very well simply be confused…

9 Gamer18548 March 30, 2011 at 7:08 pm

These are all spot-on tips. I live in LA now, so I rarely use cabs, but while I lived in Chicago, I’d do these exact things. Eye contact is huge!!!

But, you should underline that the renegade cabbies hunt down tourists at the airport. With my first and only visit to NY, a guy came up right as I left the terminal with my bags and said he was a cabbie and was leading me to his “taxi.” I realized, maybe from TV, that he was an illegal cabbie, and also possibly a crazy person. In reality, I’m sure he was just an illegal cabbie, but BEWARE! They will scoop you up! Get in that taxi line!!!!

10 vince March 30, 2011 at 7:16 pm

Here is Australia, which is admitedly a shithole country, the indians have taken over the cab services. What does this mean? you ask.
It means that they rarely ever stop, and if they do stop, they’ll refuse to take you anywhere that isnt somewhere pretty they’d like to go. they’re rude, arrogant, and usually on their phones while they drive
Solution: stand on the street and black his passage, he’s not going to run over you, as someone else said, get in the cab first and then tell him where you’re going. It is illegal for him to refuse you, and is he does refuse you, call the police and they’ll revoke his taxi licence. That shuts them right up.
also learn to speak a little hindi, they love it when you speak their language.

11 JM March 30, 2011 at 7:22 pm

London
There are two kinds of cabs here, black cabs and minicabs.

Black cabs (you know what London taxis look like)
- hail like you do in NYC. If the light is on, then the taxi is available.
- Approach the front window, cabbie will open it up and tell the address where you want to go. If cabbie says yes, then hop onboard, if no, then try to get a next one. Some cabbies don’t want to drive to the other side of town, especially if their shift is about to end.
- Train stations, airports etc have dedicated queuing lines (of course, this is UK). Get in line and wait for your turn. Don’t try to pick a cab from the middle.
- If you pay by credit card, advice the cabbie when the journey starts. Processing the card may take time, so he’ll swipe the card right away to verify it.
- Tipping is not required, but recommended. Rounding it up to an even change is recommended.
- In smaller places in the UK, there are also regular cars with a Taxi sign on top, and the black cab rules apply to them as well.

Minicabs
- regular cars, with no taxi signs. They do, however have a taxi license plate (in addition to normal license plate) which is recognisable after little practice.
- Minicabs cannot be hailed. They can only be ordered by phone, or walking to a minicab office, which are often located in village centres and close to major stations. When calling one, you have to tell them the address where you’re going.
- Minicabs don’t usually accept credit cards, so expect to pay cash
- Fare is agreed over the phone or with the driver before the journey. Prices are set, but for a longer journey, you might try to talk the price down a bit, if it’s not a busy time of the day. Cheaper fares can be available if travelling on unusually quiet times; for example going to the airport could be 10-20% cheaper before 6 or 7am, however the booking usually needs to be made in advance. Good rates can also be agreed, if the pickup is also agreed on the way to the airport. The driver will take your phone number, flight number and agree on where he’ll be picking you up. Remember to get the driver’s/company’s number, in case you need to change your flights.
- The condition of the cars varies quite a bit, so you might want to confirm the car if you’re going to a fancy event etc or just get a black cab.
- Tipping is not usually expected, but if you get good service, it’s a nice addition.

12 Tiggy March 30, 2011 at 7:25 pm

I usually sit in the front seat, passenger side of course. I like to ask where the driver is from. You get some great stories about their background, how they got here, their religious beliefs, their families. NYC is truly the melting pot.

13 Father Schnippel March 30, 2011 at 7:39 pm

In some European cities, you cannot hail a cab from the street corner, but rather must go to a taxi stand, like you would find in this country at airports and train stations. I’m pretty sure this is the case in Rome.

When traveling in from the Roman airport into the city, agree on the price beforehand!

(I think 40 Euro is about right.)

14 Mickey B March 30, 2011 at 8:03 pm

Spot on! As a native New Yorker I can see that I did your homework. In fact I was impressed with the knowledge you shared after your visit. Your a gentleman and a scholar. Keep up the fine work.

15 Jason March 30, 2011 at 8:07 pm

In Las Vegas, you cannot hail a cab, especially on the Strip. You have to go to a taxi stand at a hotel.

16 Tryclyde March 30, 2011 at 8:12 pm

If you’re only going to be in the city for a couple of days it’s not worth it, but anything longer make sure you learn the basics of the subway. It’s the fastest and most economical way to get around the five boroughs. Not having to deal with Manhattan traffic is reason enough to utilize it.

17 J.W. March 30, 2011 at 8:18 pm

Tip: In New York, plan your day so you won’t need a cab around 4 or 5 in the afternoon. That is the traditional time for cab companies to change shifts, and cabs will be correspondingly — and maddeningly — scarce. (Sounds stupid, but it’s true. http://goo.gl/eO1uV)

18 Countervail March 30, 2011 at 8:22 pm

A. Forget about getting a cab in the rain. Ain’t gonna happen. Plan ahead.
B. If you can’t get a cab on an avenue in the direction you’re heading, walk a block over and try cabs coming the other direction (avenues in NYC run one way generally in different directions). Often traffic in one direction can be heavier than the other, mornings to downtown, evenings to uptown.
C. Head to a hotel. All the hotels generally have a taxi stand and the staff there can can raise a cab easier than you. Offer a $1-2 tip for the assistance.
D. Use the subway.
E. Be a real New Yorker and frigging walk already. Anything less than 5 street blocks or 3 avenue blocks and you’re wasting your money. Fuhgid about it!

19 Jackson March 30, 2011 at 8:34 pm

When I was in Buenos Ares if you didn’t have exact change, you’re screwed. No cards there. Cause the cabbie, even if he had change would just say he didin’t so you had to fork over an egregious tip…

20 Steve March 30, 2011 at 8:51 pm

About NYC cabs, don’t expect to travel between boroughs in a yellow cab you hailed. Many cab drivers won’t do it unless you offer a large tip ($20+) and that’s not including the toll you’ll have to pay. They don’t do it to be jerks (mostly) it’s because if they end up in the far side of Queens or Staten Island they’re basically stranded and have to cross the bridge to get another fare.

Also, on an etiquette note, if I’m not going to a busy location and I see someone hailing a cab when I’m a few minutes walk from my destination I’ll ask the driver to stop near them. You give the driver another fare and you get someone a cab. It happened to me one of the first times I was trying for a cab and it felt really nice. I’ve done it whenever I could afterwards and last winter someone was waiting for a cab in the rain and he were so appreciative he paid my fare.

21 Tory March 30, 2011 at 8:56 pm

I know you mentioned taking the subway, but didn’t give it much attention in your article. The subway system in New York is fantastic! When my friends and I went for a week in the summer, we each bought a 6 day pass for about 20 dollars. The trains run on time, are air-conditioned, and are usually very clean (the same cannot be said of all the underground stations, however). All of our adventures in NY were charted by subway and a few short walks. You’ll run into a few crazies; but most people keep to themselves, and you’ll occasionally meet some interesting people on their morning work commute.

22 Clark March 30, 2011 at 9:20 pm

The only thing missing here is that as well as exiting curbside, you must enter curbside or the driver can be fined.

23 HighlyCritical March 30, 2011 at 9:20 pm

Great article. However, I agree with TryClyde. I’ve been to NYC a handful of times (currently living in Australia, and contrary to vince’s opinion – it’s not a shithole… maybe you need to get out some more, vince?) and will be returning in September. If you are there three or more days, it does pay to get a “mini” subway card (I can’t remember what they are called, but they are essentially made for short-term users). The system really isn’t that hard to understand, and the maps help a lot too.

That being said, if you’re a doe-eyed country boy, the locals can smell fear, so it may be best just to pay a few hundred dollars in taxi fares for the few days you’re in town. :)

24 Clark March 30, 2011 at 9:22 pm

One other important note. Many people will go to New York via Newark (New Jersey) airport and it should be noted that New Jersey cabs do not have to take credit cards like the way the NY cabbies must. Believe me, it’s a very awkward situation if you don’t have cash on you when you arrive at their destination.

25 Sebastián March 30, 2011 at 9:25 pm

All that pretty much applies here in Mexico City, but with it’s on third world twist. For example you have to look out for the “pirate” versions of taxis, they look exactly the same but don’t have taxi license plates, but you can make a game out of that! Also sometimes you have to bargain because they’ll tell you that the taximeter “is not working”. Once you spark a conversation they’re nice people with great stories though.

26 Gary V March 30, 2011 at 9:31 pm

Alas, this is six months too late for me. Still a good article and I’ll find it useful next time I’m in the city. But being some kid from podunk Wisconsin, I had no clue how to hail a when ditched at a Restaurant in Chicago last November. I had to ask someone to help me out! And I felt like such a tourist. I also had to pay for the entire fair instead of splitting it with the people who ditched me. I did get the tip right.

27 Andrew March 30, 2011 at 10:27 pm

I most always prefer to sit in the front seat, though I was asked once not to (long story, not the place to tell it)

I also read somewhere that when taking a taxi with a member of the fairer sex, one should get in first and slide to the other side. This way, she won’t bunch up her dress/skirt and potentially place her in a compromising situation.

28 David C March 30, 2011 at 10:45 pm

Very good article. Unrelated tip– don’t measure distance by miles in Manhattan. Blocks are better. Another unrelated tip– the sign in Times Square that reads “World’s Best Cheesecake” is NOT the world’s best cheesecake.

29 Tom March 30, 2011 at 10:49 pm

Great article and comments about NYC. Just got back from my first visit to San Francisco and the most frustrating part of the visit was the inconsistent use of the lights on the top of the cab. they don’t mean anything out there.

30 Carlo d. March 30, 2011 at 10:58 pm

I’m always in NYC, Brett!

My tip is to hold cash visible in one hand. Those drivers love to curse up a storm once they even hear the word credit card…

31 chriss March 30, 2011 at 11:04 pm

Something to keep in mind about NYC taxis- Only official yellow cabs take credit card. This is important if your hotel doesn’t have a taxi-stand and they call one for you. This will be a private cab company, and chances are slim to none that they’ll take credit card.

32 Melinda March 30, 2011 at 11:08 pm

I came here to say what Ted already did… I’m a cyclist here in NYC and have been doored twice by passengers opening the taxi door straight into the bike lane. It’s easy to forget, but a quick look out the back window could have saved me a trip to the hospital.

33 Melburnian March 30, 2011 at 11:53 pm

Here in Melbourne Australia it helps to know the exact route to where you want to go, regardless of whether or not you’ve ever been here before. That’s because 99.9% of the taxi drivers are overseas students who know nothing about the city layout, Australian road laws or Australian customs. No tipping, you’ll usually be ripped off by an extra charge on the bill because they take you three times around suburbs you don’t want to go to anyway. It helps to be able to hold your breath for the entire duration of the trip too, that way you don’t have to inhale the stink of unwashed cab or driver. Pay by credit card, 9 of 10 times you’ll be told “its broken” but it isn’t, they’re just trying to scam a cash fare with no receipt.

Just walk, its better for you.

34 Maxx March 30, 2011 at 11:57 pm

Brett,

Hope your enjoyed your trip to NY! An advice for dealing with a cabbie on the ride to a place is the art of small talk: great for breaking the awkward 10 minute silence on the way. It could be as something as simple as baseball (im a Mets fans, so lots of cabbies tell me I made a bad decision haha).

I’m loving the blog!! It’s what keeps me motivated as a college student to succeed as a Man. Keep putting out amazing posts.

-Maxx-

35 Daniel S March 31, 2011 at 12:07 am

In Buenos Aires, Argentina, your cab experience can vary. First of all, the currency exchange from US Dollars to AR Pesos is about 1:4, so everything is about 4 times cheaper. The cabs are also cheaper in general.

First of all, inside the city, everybody drives like a maniac. Get used to it. It’s not as bad as traffic in India, but it can freak you out the first time if you’re not expecting to go bumper to bumper and zip through traffic in a strange, puzzle-like fashion that somehow works without anybody getting hurt.

Second of all, if you’re going somewhere outside the Capital City, like to a town on the outskirts like La Matanza, you can call a cab company ahead of time and ask them to send a cab that’s willing to drive out there. Otherwise, just ask the cab before you get in if they’re willing to drive you out that way. In my experience, most of my drivers were eager for the business and asked me to call them when I wanted to return to the city later that day.

You don’t tip cab drivers in Argentina. It’s a cultural thing: you don’t tip at restaurants either. However, I did tip a guy once when he and I were talking and I asked him about the picture of a young girl he had taped to his dashboard. He said it was his granddaughter and we talked about her for a bit, so I gave him a little something for her when I paid my fare. He was very gracious.

Cab drivers run the gambit from talkative to dead silent, but if you’re from the States, most will get curious and ask you where you’re from and ask you questions. Some of my favorite experiences from Argentina were conversations with taxi drivers, which ranged from women to politics to God to sexuality to class tensions to psychology and observations on culture.

Moral of the story: learn Spanish! It’ll open up worlds for you. Oh, and never get in an Argentinian cab late at night if your fellow passengers are two very attractive women. The cabbie might gun through tiny alleys and haphazardly weave in between trashcans at high speeds in attempts to impress your more buxom compatriots. T’was my experience, anyway.

36 Tristan March 31, 2011 at 12:55 am

Hey,
As a New Yorker there are two tips I always give guests who come visit: First, a lot of times cabs will pull up and ask where you are going, then decide if they want to take you or not, a lot of times they won’t if you are not on the way, so if you really need a ride, get into the cab first, shut the door. and then tell them where you are headed because if you are in the they are legally obligated to take you, and can’t refuse service. (Although they might be a little irritated that you are taking them out of their way)

Second,
When you grab a cab from an airport into the city it is always a flat rate. Always. A lot of cabs will attempt to spot tourists and run the meter on them causing the fee to be much higher, so make sure you get the flat rate that is implemented by law on trips from the airport to anywhere in NYC.

37 Nick March 31, 2011 at 2:38 am

Potentially awkward if you don’t watch out for it–some cab drivers use bluetooth cell phones and you’ll think they’re talking to you. Also, many cab drivers don’t like the little cab TVs, they hear the same messages hundreds of times a day and most appreciate it (at least silently) if you turn off the volume or just turn the TV off altogether. Also, black cars from car services that stop when you are trying to hail a cab are extremely expensive and will charge you for the most part significantly more than the meter from a cab. Proceed with caution and agree on a fare before the trip or just wait for a registered taxi.

38 beuler March 31, 2011 at 3:45 am

There is a specific time of day in NYC when getting a cab is very difficult because all cabs are changing shifts and driving back to the garage. Is it 3p.m.? Or maybe 4p.m.?

39 Lee March 31, 2011 at 4:59 am

This post was really useful as I didn’t grow up in a city and learn all of the rules.

During my time in China I had several experiences where I wasn’t about to call down a taxi. This should help a lot next time I’m out there.

40 Keir March 31, 2011 at 6:51 am

JM’s tips for cabs in London apply to the rest of the UK as well – though I’ve never pre-arranged the price of a journey, even when booking by phone, unless it’s a standard rate to get to the airport.

Most town/city centres will have taxi stands were black cabs wait. If there’s one of these nearby, it’s usually better to go to one than to hail a cab from the street.

41 R March 31, 2011 at 8:00 am

Top Tips for London:

-Most BlackCab drivers are cockneys, and for such reason West Ham Fans, chat with them about footie and probably they’ll don’t charge you the full run, well at least the pennies.C’mon they are proper Brits!

-They are an important society part, as a milkman or postman, and quite ready to help you, so a “Good morning Sir” helps more than you think. So don’t hesitate to ask for directions even if you don’t intend to use their service, and they are parked, BUT respect the Tea and Lunch Breaks!

-NEVER pick a private taxi, they don’t have a clue where the Big Ben is, probably ‘coz they’d been riding mules weeks before somewhere in the middle-east, and they always struggle with the change given, always on their benefit, of course!

42 James March 31, 2011 at 8:20 am

Yes! Brett, I requested a Taxi tutorial 2 years ago and everytime I see a I have a new AoM email, I secretly hope it’s about taxis. I live in Houston, where private personal cars reign supreme, thus rendering me useless when it comes to taxi experience. Thanks for posting this, been looking forward to this for 2 years!

43 Tim March 31, 2011 at 8:49 am

In Russia, taxi-cab hails you

44 AlbanyNick March 31, 2011 at 9:12 am

Taxi rules vary so much I tend to stick to subways. That said:

Best to ask a driver before you get in- in my little city we don’t have meters but a “zone” system that is rather confusing, but does keep costs down- they can drive the most zig-zaging way but still only get the set fare from going from zone 2 to 4. BUT- outside city limits all rules are off so get a quote first.

As mentioned above, international taxis are different. One thing I learned in London was they will NOT pick you up on a corner- they could get in trouble and have to stop further down the street. Taxi stands are a big deal- my first night in Barcelona I got into a taxi that was near the back of the taxi queue and holy crap did I start trouble. The driver insisted on more money because of the trouble I brought on him, then claimed he didn’t know how to get where I needed to go (despite giving him an address and the fact he had a GPS). Got to keep your wits about you!

45 Rob March 31, 2011 at 9:21 am

Is there a rule of thumb for the cost of a trip (in NYC or elsewhere)? $ per block or something?

46 Matt March 31, 2011 at 9:56 am

If you’re in a group of 4, you should decide who’s getting the front seat before hailing the cab. Sometimes you find a shy group where no one wants the front seat. Just man up, and get in the front, if it makes sense to do so.

47 Phil March 31, 2011 at 10:03 am

I’m a bit disgusted by the two Aussie posts on this thread. Taxis are not that hard in Australia. All taxis have gps so you very rarely get taken out of your way. The same rules apply as in NY but try and be polite to the driver because they spend all day dealing with bigots and bogans like Vince so a please thank you and a bit of conversation goes a long way.

48 Eric Stevens March 31, 2011 at 10:07 am

Great article Brett. As a country bumpkin myself, my first time using a taxi was an awkward experience as well. I spent three months in Washington, D.C. this past fall and have a few tips for using the cabs there.

1.) There are many cab companies in the District and not all of them accept credit cards. In fact, most of them don’t. If you must pay with plastic, you’re best off calling the cab companies and requesting a cab that has the machine instead of trying to hail one from the curb for hours.

2.) Seeing as how the greater metropolitan area includes surrounding Virginia and Maryland, it’s a good idea to ask the cabbie at the get go whether he goes outside the district or not.

3.) When providing an address (especialliy for you tourists) be sure to specify what section of town your going to, such as northeast, northwest, southwest, or northeast. The city is split up into quadrants and the quadrant is included in the address, such as 1000 K St., NE. The same address can be in multiple quadrants, so be sure to specify!

4.) As a general tip, if you’re short on cash, don’t be afraid to ask the cabbie how much he thinks the fare will be to reach your destination. While they may not like to tell you (in the case it is higher than he says and you get mad at him), they’d rather you know now that you don’t have the dough on you than to find out after he gets you to where you’re going.

49 sam March 31, 2011 at 10:19 am

Hello, thanks for the decent read.
I’ve never visited the US, but there are taxis aplenty in United Kingdom and Hong Kong so just to share a bit.
There’s not much to say regarding taxis in UK except that I usually didn’t tip because they were outrageously expensive anyway.
In Hong Kong taxis, there are lights on the top and also on top of the dashboard [which pedestrians can see]. Usually getting taxis is no problem as they would stop sometimes even by double yellow lines to get a customer. The quality of driving definitely varies. However as a tourist, it’s important not to get ripped off, and this is a general rule that goes in South East Asia. Go by the meter, and if possible, travel with a friend from around the region who knows the language. Drivers do not expect tips so do not tip more than the spare coins.
Happy taxi-ing.

50 Jimmy March 31, 2011 at 10:27 am

Great post!

I’ve lived in NYC for 3 years now and your advice is right on the money. The comment about giving up on finding a cab if it’s raining is sadly true. I would point out that with regard to the line for cabs at the airport, there is also one at Penn Station. Actually, there are two: one on 7th ave, and one on 8th. Not sure if Grand Cental has something similar, but I would hazard a guess that’s the case.

I actually take a lot of cabs late at night, and though I live in Astoria (Queens) I find it’s really easy for me to get one because most of the cabbies live in Queens and I’m usually their last fare for the night. Another good tip for traveling to the outer boroughs: take a cab rather than a private car. What will cost $20 in a cab will cost $40 in a black sedan, and those guys will pull over if you’ve got your hand up too.

Thanks Brett!

51 Chad Smith March 31, 2011 at 10:35 am

Great timing Brett! I just found out my wife bought us a trip to NYC for my 30th birthday this summer! I am currently living in small town Alberta, but I lived in Calgary for many years, and have spent plenty of time in Toronto so not completly new to taxis. that being said, I obviously understand NYC is a completly different monster!! These tips are wonderful.
I will most likely be staying somewhere around midtown, close to the park, and not too far from many sites. How much should one expect to pay for a cab from midtown to downtown? Just want to get a basic idea how much cash to bring for that reason.
Any help would be great, thanks!!

52 Tyler S March 31, 2011 at 10:35 am

Try to get a taxi that is the van-style cab. With a little luck, you might find yourself in the “Cash Cab.”

53 David March 31, 2011 at 10:56 am

Once a cab stops, they have to take you to your NYC destination regardless of how remote. Most visitors won’t be doing this, but if you find yourself hailing a cab late at night to go to some odd corner of one of the boroughs, the driver cannot refuse. They sometimes don’t like going out far since the return trip is time wasted because they won’t have a fare on that leg. You will sometimes see a cab with their “off duty” lights on roll up and ask where you are going. This is so they can refuse to take you somewhere since they are technically off duty.

54 Tommy V. March 31, 2011 at 10:57 am

It is pretty much the same in Chicago except for here there is only one light and it’s either on or off. The only problem is that cabbies are sometimes lazy and don’t turn the light off when they have a fare. For this reason, I usually don’t mind looking like an idiot hailing every cab I see regardless of the light being on or off.

55 Liverpoolpaddy March 31, 2011 at 11:01 am

Good article and thanks for the heads up.

Hailing a cab here is much the same as London. Plenty of black cabs to hail on the street or all for a private hire one (which do tend to be cheaper but cannot be hailed on the street for legal reasons.)

Always make sure they have their ID on display and a taxi plate on the front and back of their car. If they don’t have one, they are unregistered and could try to rip you off or worse (take note unaccompanied women!)

Don’t tip unless you are rounding up to the nearest pound unless they go out of their way (like helping you with shopping.)

56 Ricardo March 31, 2011 at 12:29 pm

Good article Brett. I am originally from New York City. The one thing I disagree with is giving the exact address. In other parts of New York (i.e. Queens), the address is clear. If you say 24-16 44th Ave, that means you are going to 24th St and 44th Avenue. That is NOT the case in the city.

I would suggest finding your location prior to getting in the taxi and finding the closest intersection. That way you can tell the driver, ’60th St, between Park and Madison’ or whatever your destination may be.

I hope this helps.

57 Matty E March 31, 2011 at 12:35 pm

Great article, you pretty much hit all necessary tips. There is one for out of towners though that is important. Many cabbies that are trying to make a quick buck will take the long way to you destination, thus costing you more money. If you know where you are going let the cabbie know the route you want to take. If you don’t know how to get there just use your smartphone or mapquest to figure out the shortest route. They have to take that route by law. Oh, and when in NYC never get into a cab that’s not yellow. These are private livery drivers that are moonlighting to make a buck. It’s ILLEGAL for them to do it, and they will charge you a fortune, not to mention the potential personal safety issues.

Matty E

58 Carter March 31, 2011 at 12:45 pm

I recently made the cash mistake myself. As a recent tourist of New York this seems like a good overview. Would have been good to read before I went though.

59 Robert March 31, 2011 at 2:51 pm

I’ve got two tips to give as someone who spends his days in NYC:

Know the cross street. Not every cab knows where 221B Baker Street is on Baker Street. You’ll save yourself cash and time if you look up the cross street and get out on the corner. Especially true at night when it can be harder to look.

Don’t be afraid to get out a block or two early. Sometimes the last few blocks have lots of traffic. If you realize you could walk it in 2 minutes since you’re only a block away, why let the meter run? Tell the cabbie you wan to just get out here. He’s stop the meter, you pay and walk. You can sometimes save several dollars and get to your destination earlier. I’ve done this many times before. It’s just not worth paying $5 and spending several minutes for what I could walk in 90 seconds. The cab got me 95% of the way there. I’m a healthy guy, a few steps won’t kill me.

60 Anderw March 31, 2011 at 4:09 pm

I lived in Latin America for several years, and there’s always a few horror stories of robbery and kidnapping in cabs abroad. Radio-dispatched taxis (often with a radio tower or the word radio printed on them) are much safer.

61 Also David March 31, 2011 at 4:13 pm

Definitely know the cross streets. I’ve never had a cabbie know cross streets for a street number, and that’s vitally important in Manhattan (and Brooklyn too, for that matter).

I also 2nd the point about the cabbie, by law, having to take you to any destination in the city (and some outside of it). I had that problem a few times, and the trick is to get into the taxi before saying where you want to go (especially if it’s upper-upper Manhattan or the outer boroughs). It never hurts to threaten to call the TLC with his medallion number (I only had to do that once though).

62 Spiro March 31, 2011 at 4:42 pm

Good article, but there is one error that I’ve only seen one person correct: when getting in a cab with a lady, especially one in a skirt, the man should get in first so the lady isn’t forced to slide across the seat.
And now, a few extra tips for cabbing in Chicago:
-ALWAYS check to see if the CTA is an option. Fares are only $2.25, the train is fast and clean, and every bus stop has a number you can text to see when the next bus arrives. Just getting in a cab costs three bucks, so it better be worth it.
-once you hail just get in, don’t ask the driver if it’s ok. Just go.
-When picking up a cab from the airport you must go to the stand, it is illegal to solicit for fares. Also, be aware that there are no flat rates, fares to the suburbs are often much higher, and there are CTA train stations in both airports.

63 JGP March 31, 2011 at 5:06 pm

I recently read that getting into a cab is one of the few times a gentleman enters first, preventing the woman from having to slide across the seat. Gentleman first: cabs, revolving doors, boats.

64 JGP March 31, 2011 at 5:13 pm

I missed reading the comment just before mine.

65 Marley Greiner March 31, 2011 at 6:26 pm

What a great article! This is silly, but in some cities, Cincinnati comes to mind, it is illegal to hail a cab. I have no idea why. I’ve never heard of anyone being arrested for trying it, and I can’t imagine getting ticketed, much less hauled off to jail, but nothing about Cinci would surprise me. I live in Columbus and it was illegal here to hail a cab a couple years ago, but apparently not now.Tip: This would be pointless in big cities like NYC and Chicago, but when I need a cab I call in advance and reserve one for a designated time and have had good luck with that.

66 Jordan Harbinger March 31, 2011 at 6:53 pm

The last part about helping your girl into and out of the cab is great for NYC, but be VERY careful in other countries, especially in the Third World. In those places, especially at night, you’ll want to be FILO -that is, First In, Last Out.

This is because kidnapping is common in the Third World (it’s happened to me TWICE and many I know, so I’m not just fear-mongering here), and if you leave a woman in the cab alone, even for a second, the cabbie has time to peel out with her in the car. If you follow the FILO principle, you’ll always be in the cab when she is, and won’t have to worry about this.

Safety before Chivalry,

-Jordan Harbinger
http://www.theartofcharm.com

67 Topher March 31, 2011 at 7:04 pm

Cabs are not common fixtures in Seattle, so when you want to hail one, you might be waiting awhile. But walk a couple blocks to any hotel, and there’ll be a couple waiting in front, ready to serve.

68 Daniel March 31, 2011 at 7:17 pm

i feel inclined to point out that cabs aren’t really that great of a means of transportation in nyc, unless you’re a relatively well off businessman in a rush.
most natives take the subway or bus or just walk, so i find that most people hailing cabs are tourists anyways. public transportation is much cheaper and walking is much healthier.
just my two cents.

69 Clockwork March 31, 2011 at 7:39 pm

NYC has the best subway system in the world – use it.

70 Woody March 31, 2011 at 8:59 pm

Few quick NYC tips.

Cab drivers balk about credit cards because they are charged an increased surcharge, so I always tip a little bit more as a courtesy.

Around 4pm is the worst to get a cab, it’s shift changing time.

Taxi license plates always begin with a T, car services (black Lincoln town cars, mainly )always say “Livery” anything else is a scam.

9 out of 10 times if you’re traveling within Manhattan it’s cheaper and faster to take the subway.

Taxis will also tell you the best inexpensive meals. A popular taxi stand is Punjabi
Punjabi Grocery & Deli
114 E 1st St
New York, NY 10009-7924

After a night drinking you can grab grub and a cab.

71 Jacob G. March 31, 2011 at 10:48 pm

Very informative.
However, as a New Jersey native, I have never taken a taxi. You walk or take the subway. The NYC subway system is extremely fast and cheap ($2.25 anywhere in the city, or just ride the subway for the rest of your life and never leave). You only need to walk a few blocks to and from the subway to where you need to go!

72 Dan March 31, 2011 at 11:04 pm

I dunno, I never take yellow cabs. It’s expensive as hell. I’ve always just walked or taken the train. $2.25 won’t even cover sitting down in the cab, but it’ll take you from Coney to Astoria.

73 Zooview March 31, 2011 at 11:33 pm

An address in Manhattan doesn’t work. You need to give an intersection (14th and 7th)…..when you get close to that intersection, then you tell the driver where to go.

74 Chase April 1, 2011 at 12:11 am

This article could have been called “How to Hail a Taxi Cab Like a Person with Common Sense.” I didn’t get any “manliness” out of this article.

75 Mobil'Homme April 1, 2011 at 1:28 am

In China and Taiwan, the procedure for hailing a cab is much the same, but you’ll have more success if, when you stick your arm out, you also waggle your hand up and down from the wrist. It’s not the most manly gesture, but the drivers respond–and it seems to work in American cities, too.

In Las Vegas, many (most?) cabs don’t take credit cards, so bring cash. However, you can use this to your advantage at the airport: flag down the first cab stand attendant you can and tell them you need a credit card taxi–they’ll often let you hop the line and go straight to the “credit card only” taxi slot.

76 Will T April 1, 2011 at 2:07 am

I was just in NYC and the cabs really pissed me off. I am no stranger to cabs, I take them in many N.American cities, from the pristine prius cabs in Vancouver BC to the hell-bent voodoo daddy speed demons of Miami, a cab ride can tell you a lot.

In NYC, the cabbies wanted to charge you to get where you were going AND TO GET BACK. I was paying $60 for cab rides that should have taken me $35-40. To be fair, they announced this up front. I just didn’t see a choice.

Best Cab rides, Pacific Northwest, Mid-West USA (Kansas City in a blinding snow storm, Indianapolis with a chatty cabby).

77 Brad April 1, 2011 at 7:39 am

I was recently in NYC for my friends 21st birthday for an evening of bar hopping. I hailed a cab to get back to our hotel room and I told the cab driver I was going to pay with my card (the fare was about $12) and he thought since I was a college age student at a bar in NYC and (obviously) not from NYC he thought he could take me for a ride (no pun intended) and changed the fare to $70.00. Luckily for me it shows the fare total in the back seat so I questioned the gentlemen with some angst and he pretended it was some sort of mistake. It was evident though he was angry I was paying with a card and attempted to overcharge me because he thought since I was young, inebriated and a tourist he could screw me over.

Be weary of taxi drivers. This is just another reason why I love the country and seriously despise almost every aspect of the city.

78 Sean Lerner April 1, 2011 at 11:49 am

I’d add, when exiting, before opening the cab door, look back and check for cyclists that may be riding along the side of the street to avoid giving them the dreaded “door prize”.

In Toronto (where I’m from), all cabs have stickers on their windows reminding passengers to do this (and there’s a fine for those who don’t).

This common sense applies for any vehicle of course, and not just cabs.

79 kg2v April 1, 2011 at 4:07 pm

Cabs are good, and sometimes necessary – but if you can, take a hint from the song “NY, NY”
“They get around in a hole in the ground” – aka the NYC Subway system

80 Kristin April 1, 2011 at 11:42 pm

I live in Las Vegas and I see this problem constantly:

You cannot hail a cab on the Strip. They are also not allowed to let you out on the Strip. You can get them and they can drop you off at casinos.

I’ve seen many a tourist go nuts trying to get one to stop.

81 Brian April 2, 2011 at 3:45 am

In Rome, asking a price for a destination, if any reply is given but “meter” walk away, they’re trying to stick it to you. As far as hailing one, there’s enough around it’s typically not necessary, but stepping slightly out into the street and giving the “F&^! you” stare seems to work well (also in Paris) as there is no doubt you are trying to get their attention specifically.

I never used cabs much, but that’s my advice. :)

82 Prahan Matkat April 2, 2011 at 11:22 am

Id like to have Robert De Niro driving a cab for me =) Great movie by the way..

83 JMC April 2, 2011 at 2:02 pm

It’s “first come, first served.”

84 Jim April 2, 2011 at 11:12 pm

That’s got to be one tasty sandwich to walk 3 miles in NYC for it.

85 Paul April 3, 2011 at 5:34 pm

The number one way to hail a taxi is to step out onto the street and wave your CASH in the air. This never fails for me.

86 Jeff April 3, 2011 at 11:55 pm

“The number one way to hail a taxi is to step out onto the street and wave your CASH in the air. This never fails for me.”

Waving money around in the air in NYC is NOT a good idea.

87 Vincent April 4, 2011 at 5:01 pm

In Paris taxis come in all colors and styles (but all apply the same rates). They have a white taxi sign on the top of the roof. If it’s lit up, the cab is available; if the small orange lights are up, it’s already running a fare.
You can pay cash or by credit card (only above €15 though).
At night, night rates apply (don’t know at what time exactly). Night rates are more expensive. Venturing beyond the boulevard périphérique and into the suburbs will also cost you more.
Last but not least, remember that tipping, though expected to a certain extent, is not mandatory. If you’re running short of cash and want to save on your last €€€, don’t feel bad about not giving anything. This isn’t America.

88 Sonny April 5, 2011 at 4:11 pm

There aren’t many taxis where I live (Richmond, VA). However, the last two times I visited NY & LA, twice I took a taxi to wherever I was going and left a 20% tip and both times was cussed out by the cabbie. How much are you supposed to tip to avoid being cussed out?

89 Fence April 10, 2011 at 2:22 pm

I’d like to reiterate the checking for cyclists– dooring is incredibly dangerous and common. And if you don’t check, don’t be surprised to get screamed at.

Another way to make sure that black livery cars are not “gypsy” (illegal) cabs, all registered livery cars and cabs have an orange dial on the rear of the car somewhere. It’s actually a safety thing for the driver: if someone tries to rob the cabby, he can hit a switch to activate the blinking orange light (his trouble light). I’ve actually been in a cab where the cabby hit it by mistake, and when we got pulled over, it took a lot of convincing to let the police know we weren’t trying to stick him up!

90 Marcus April 11, 2011 at 12:43 pm

As a twelve year resident of NYC, I must disagree with two points. First, street corners are actually not the best place to get a cab because other people are also there hailing a cab. The sneaky and effective way is to stand between parked cars between traffic lights. Cabs will stop for the first hand they see and you’ll cut off the good folks waiting on their street corner. Of course, if it’s a pretty girl hailing, you can get the cab for her. That’s actually a way to meet one, especially a tourist.

Secondly, yelling “taxi” is often the only way to get a cab’s attention and is perfectly okay, especially a cab headed in the opposite direction.

I will add that giving cross streets (to 77th and 3rd) is better than giving addresses.

But really, take the subway before midnight if you’re alone and not in a hurry. I work on Wall Street and take the subway everyday. I reserve cabs for dates or late night returns home!

91 Kevin April 11, 2011 at 8:40 pm

Native New Yorkers don’t take cabs. You walked three miles to Katz’s for a reason…we have good food here and in order to enjoy it you have to walk. Otherwise you will be overweight in a hurry.

92 Yorkshire Lad April 16, 2011 at 5:57 am

An interesting article, and certainly some of the points apply over here in the UK too. Specifically:
1) ALWAYS look out for taxi licence plates. These are to be found on the front *and* rear of the taxi, giving a number and usually the local authority’s logo (sometimes a coat of arms). If a taxi doesn’t feature these, AVOID!
2) It’s best to stand in such a way that sets you apart from other people on the pavement. This usually means finding a place relatively free of other people, and having an arm in the air, waving slightly when a taxi comes into view.
3) NEVER shout “Taxi!!” – this will get you a stare down from passing cabbies, and no transport. However, a *friendly* shout of “Hello!” with your wave as a taxi comes into view is generally acceptable, especially when accompanied by a smile.

Otherwise, here are a few other tips I’ve gleaned from sporradic use of taxis here:
- NEVER give the exact address (departing or arriving) – this is for your safety! Although 99.9% of taxi operators are legitimate business people, there are some that will try to part you from your home/belongings, and also keep track of where you’re going! As such, if prebooking a taxi, get them to pick you up at the end of the street and not where you’re staying. Also tell them you want dropping off at the end of the street you’re going to, or at least 500yds away, so they don’t know exactly where you’re going.
- Black taxis (the typical “Hackney Carriage” seen on films) are only to be found in town/city centres, although they *can* take you to the suburbs. Oddly, I’ve found this to be cheaper than taking a Private Hire taxi sometimes…?
- Black taxi drivers are typically friendly folk, so treat them as such. If you’re wanting to get somewhere that you’re not sure of, state that on entry, and see if they know where it is. Sometimes they might not know, and will need to refer to an AtoZ atlas, which costs you money on the fare.
- Private Hire taxis cannot be hailed, so don’t try! They can be differentiated by the fact that they can be any vehicle, any colour, and have their company’s name and telephone number on door stickers. Fares are attracted either by going to a taxi rank and booking at the time of travel, or by telephoning in advance. The latter is the preferred method, as the operator will be able to tell you immediately if they’ll have a vehicle available or not.
-ONLY tip when absolutely necessary. Most cabbies get paid a fair wage, and think that large tips for what is essentially their normal duty a smack in the face. Use common sense (e.g. small local journey = couple of £ tip, long cross-city journey maybe £5-10).

93 Josh April 19, 2011 at 3:25 pm

Hailing a cab with your hand up in a “C” shape indicates you are taking a short trip, the most profitable kind for a cabbie. This may help you attract a cab faster than that jerk who just cut in front of you half a block down.

94 BonzoGal April 20, 2011 at 4:57 pm

My husband can do a two-fingers-in-the-mouth whistle that will bust your eardrums. He uses it to gets taxis in the San Francisco area all the time. Cabs will stop and do u-turns when they hear that whistle, I’m tellin’ ya.

95 Dean Gadda April 26, 2011 at 4:04 pm

In Tokyo:
1. Sit in the back seat! If not already full, jumping in the front with the driver is both uncomfortable and wierd.
2. The back door opens automatically. It will close automatically. Don’t touch it! Pulling the door shut will damage the automatic mechanism and piss off the driver.
3. Do not tip. Not necessary, not done, embarasses driver, makes you look like a dope.
4. Unless you speak Japanese have your target address written (in Japanese if possible) and hand it to the driver. Fortunately, all cabs have sophisticated GPS systems now making life much easier for all.
5. Let the driver handle the luggage.

96 Patrick December 12, 2012 at 5:05 pm

If you’re with your lady, offer to enter first — in case she doesn’t want to slide across the seat. This counterintuitive protocol applies to revolving doors as well.

97 Naim February 19, 2013 at 7:18 am

Hello everyone!

What about the seat you should take?
Next to the driver or in the back?

98 Brent Lightfoot February 28, 2013 at 2:47 am

If you are ever in Singapore you should refer to the driver as “Taxi Uncle” or merely “Uncle” if the man seems to be older than yourself. This will also be true in food stalls and walking on the street. Older women are also referred to as “Auntie”

99 tony March 5, 2013 at 5:17 pm

A guaranteed method is to take along an empty carry on bag. The cabbie thinks you’re going to the airport, which guarantees a return fare, and will stop every time.

100 mojtaba July 14, 2013 at 3:47 pm

Here in Iran we don’t tip. there’s a magical word called “Darbast” if you say it every taxi would stop right away for you; it means I would pay for all seats and you usually will end up paying more than that. normally, with the exception of airport taxis, taxis stop for every other passenger on the way so you should longer time on taxi as compared to that in NY and also all drivers like having a conversation.

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