Had there only been the internet when I was a young traveler. A simple web search online for common tourist scam would have alerted me to the taxi scams, used by so many crooked drivers preying on naïve Marines. My taxi driver me haling his cab, and could tell that I was a sucker. My short trip from the Airport to my lodgings, ended up being a long trip and it cost me $50.00 bucks. At 19 years of age I was unprepared for travel life. Now I know better.

Traveling to a new destination can be an exhilarating experience, but unfortunately, it’s not always smooth sailing. One of the most common pitfalls that unsuspecting tourists fall into is the notorious taxi scam. As convenient and ubiquitous as taxis are, there’s an underbelly of deceit that can leave you with a sour taste in your mouth and a lighter wallet. Be warned.

It often begins innocently enough. You land in a new city, perhaps tired from a long flight, and eagerly step outside the airport looking for a taxi. Here’s where the scam starts to take root. Rogue taxi drivers, preying on the vulnerability of tourists, might approach you, offering a ride without using the official taxi queue. They appear friendly, even helpful, but little do you know that you’re stepping into a web of deceit.

Once inside the taxi, the driver may conveniently claim that the meter is broken or not functioning properly. In reality, this is a well-practiced ruse. With the meter conveniently out of the picture, the driver is free to charge whatever arbitrary amount they desire. What might have been a reasonably priced journey turns into a financial ambush.

To exacerbate the scam, some unscrupulous drivers take the long route to your destination. This is exactly what happened to me. Years later, upon returning to San Diego, California I took a tour of the city, and realized decades earlier that I was scammed. Talk about clueless.

Drivers will do what they can to scam you. They weave through side streets and alleys, claiming it’s a shortcut or avoiding traffic. In reality, they are extending the journey, and your fare, unnecessarily. It’s a tactic aimed at running up the meter and ensuring you pay far more than the actual value of the trip.

As the journey concludes, you hand over the agreed-upon amount or what you believe is a fair fare. However, the driver conveniently claims to have no change or offers a vague excuse about not having smaller bills. In this situation, the tourist is left with two choices: accept the overcharge or risk a potentially confrontational situation.

How to avoid the trap. Here are some tips for you.

  1. Stick to the designated taxi queues at airports or use reputable taxi stands. Avoid unmarked or unregulated vehicles.
  2. Always insist on using the meter. If the driver claims it’s broken, consider it a red flag and opt for another taxi.
  3. Have a general idea of the typical taxi fares in the area. This knowledge can be your armor against overcharging.
  4. In many destinations, ride-hailing apps provide a transparent and secure alternative to traditional taxis.
  5. Seek advice from locals or your accommodation on what to expect in terms of taxi fares and common scams.

Steer clear of deceptive detours

While taxis are a staple of urban transportation, the unfortunate reality is that scams persist, especially targeting unsuspecting tourists. Staying vigilant, informed, and trusting your instincts can go a long way in avoiding the clutches of the common taxi tourist scam. Your journey should be about creating lasting memories, not navigating through the murky waters of deceptive practices.

*The views and opinions expressed on this website are solely those of the original authors and contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of Spotter Up Magazine, the administrative staff, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

By Michael Kurcina

Mike credits his early military training as the one thing that kept him disciplined through the many years. He currently provides his expertise as an adviser for an agency within the DoD. Michael Kurcina subscribes to the Spotter Up way of life. “I will either find a way or I will make one”.

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