December 17, 2018

Taxi Safety Tips for Traveling Abroad

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There are plenty of things to keep you busy on vacation. Don't spend time worrying about your next taxi ride. Check out these tips for a safe and uneventful cab ride, wherever you're traveling.

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  1. Call ahead.
    If you can call ahead to schedule a taxi, do it. Try to avoid hailing a cab from the roadside whenever possible.

    When you call ahead, you have control over the taxi company you select. You can ask the dispatcher for an approximate price and the cab number, if available. The more detail you can get about the cab, the better.

    Many times, hailing a cab from the roadside is fine. People do it every day. But when you're in foreign surroundings, you may not be able to quickly discern a legit cab company from a shady one.

  2. Ask for referrals (a few of them).
    Ask around for referrals to safe taxi companies. If you're on a tour or with a group, ask the group leader. If you're on an exchange program, ask the coordinators. The hotel concierge can also be a great person to ask for information on cab companies.

    Be cautious, though. Locals, like a hotel concierge, might have a deal with certain cab drivers that targets you for theft or worse. This might seem like paranoia, but it's a sad fact. Locals are usually a wealth of knowledge, though it's best to ask a few different people for their recommendations, just to be safe.

  3. Check out the car. Does it look like a taxi?
    When you're caught up in the excitement of your vacation, you might not think about checking the safety and validity of the cab you're about to enter. Always check out the car itself - Does it look safe?

    Most legitimate taxis will have the cab company's name and phone number somewhere on the outside of the car. Many will have an on duty/off duty light or sign.

    As you're entering the taxi, look around inside the car. Be sure there are door handles on the inside and a lever or button to control the window.

    Last but not least, look for the driver's identification. In nearly all major cities (and most minor ones), cab drivers are required, by law, to display their ID.

  4. Don't use a taxi without a meter.
    Nowadays, nearly every cab should have meter to gauge the distance and cost of your trip. You may encounter a cab without a meter if you're traveling in a very desolate area, but it's still unlikely.

    If you're entering a taxi and notice there's no meter, your best bet is to find another cab. Meters not only help prevent overcharging, but they're a sign you're in a real, legitimate cab.

  5. Don't share a taxi with a stranger.
    Splitting the cost of a taxi might be tempting, especially when you're trying to save your vacation money. But sharing a taxi with a stranger is never a good idea.

    You're trying hard not to look like a tourist, but the fact is, you probably do. Criminals are skilled at picking tourists out of a crowd. And you definitely don't want one sitting in the back of a cab with you.

    Worse yet, your driver may have a partner-in-crime who works with him when unsuspecting tourists are in his cab.

    Avoid these situations altogether by never sharing a cab with a stranger.

  6. Be careful when you're drunk.
    If you're planning a night out where you may be drinking too much to be considered sober, plan your transportation ahead of time. And avoid taking a cab ride alone.

    Alcohol and drugs can lower your ability to think quickly in dangerous situations. They can also affect your level of consciousness. Neither of these situations are good when you're traveling in a foreign country.

    At best, you might fall asleep and be driven on an extra long route, resulting in a high fare. At worst, you could lose consciousness and be robbed or attacked.

    If you're going out, try to plan your transportation with people you know. And just like a designated driver, it's a good idea for someone to remain sober enough to see that everyone gets home safely.

  7. Keep your luggage with you.
    If you're traveling with a ton of luggage, your driver may suggest putting it in the trunk. Though it seems logical, don't do it if possible.

    It's hard to control what happens with your belongings when they aren't physically with you. By putting them in the trunk, you're creating a situation where the driver could speed off with your stuff once you've exited the cab.

    To be safe, keep all your bags with you in the back seat.

  8. Keep your phone handy.
    It's smart to learn the local emergency numbers whenever you travel abroad. When you're in a taxi, keep your phone close at hand. If you're in a dangerous situation, you don't want to dig through a bag to find your phone. Keep it handy so you can call for help if you need to.

  9. Check before using ridesharing services.
    Ridesharing services, like Uber or Lyft, are becoming increasingly popular overseas. But they're not regulated in every country yet. And in some countries, these services are actually illegal.

    Before you call for a rideshare, check for the legitimate companies in the area and make sure they're operating within the local laws.

  10. Keep the conversation light - don't mention traveling alone.
    There's nothing wrong with talking to your cab driver. In fact, many cab drivers will strike up a conversation with you, especially if they think you're a tourist. But be careful how much information you share.

    Don't reveal personal information. It's not necessary and can put you in an awkward or dangerous situation.

    Most importantly, never tell a driver you're traveling alone. Solo travelers are an easy mark for criminals. If you need to, say things like "we" and "us" to give the impression you're traveling with someone.

Bottom line - Use your common sense

These tips can help you stay safe while you're traveling, but they're no replacement for common sense. If something doesn't feel right, it probably isn't. Trust your instincts no matter what.

If you're not comfortable, ask the driver to stop. Pay him for the distance you've traveled so far and get out of the cab. Don't worry about what the driver may think - your safety is what's important.

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