15 Common Rip-Offs by Taxi Drivers

and how to avoid them

Lying and cheating like crazy is normal practice. The victims are mostly ignorant tourists, but also locals blunder into the trap. We are talking about recalcitrant taxi drivers and their brazen scams. Which types there are and how you can protect yourself from them, you will learn here.

Taxi in Egypt
Taxi in Egypt

Taxi drivers are unlikely beloved in any country. While there are black sheep all over the world and in all areas, certain tricks and ploys, however, have become downright established in some places. Already on our trip to Asia, we had to discuss a lot with just those. Still, as bad as in Egypt, we have never experienced the situation anywhere else.

After getting acquainted with all sorts of swindles and trickeries, we now have an (almost) complete list of what to look for before boarding a taxi, especially in a new country. All this information is not only valid for classic taxis, but also for tuk-tuks and other tourist transport.

These are the tricks

  1. Sorry, no taximeter

    Probably everyone knows that: For some reason, for example because of a traffic jam, the taxi driver doesn’t want to turn on his taximeter or there is none at all.

  2. Yes yes, my taximeter is working properly!

    In case you found a taxi with meter, unfortunately, not infrequently it is manipulated in a way that the amount of money increases significantly faster than it should.

  3. Of course it’s normal that there’s a “0” on the taximeter

    We have already experienced that, contrary to the previous agreement, the taximeter was not turned on or it was defective. We pointed this out during the ride, whereupon we got only a “no, is ok, is working” back. That way, the following discussion was inevitable.

  4. Too bad it’s closed today

    Oh yes, this method is also very popular in Egypt, but certainly also in other countries. Due to some religious or national holiday, the attraction, shopping center or restaurant you want to visit is said to be closed today of all days. However, the taxi driver willingly volunteers to kindly drive you to another attraction, market or restaurant. Please do not fall into this tourist trap!

  5. What a coincidence!

    Similarly, when the taxi driver wants to drive you to a “friend” or “relative”, who, purely by chance, happens to run some shop or the like. Don’t think that you’ll get out of this without buying some overpriced souvenir.

  6. But I’ll have to go back again

    Also popular is the statement that the taxi driver has to drive back the whole way, especially if it concerns a more remote sight. Often, they expect you to pay twice the price for it. Just like those who are driven back to town by the same taxi driver. So much for “empty ride”.

  7. Where again?

    If you finally found a taxi in which you want to get in, it can happen that the taxi driver drives off without knowing exactly where.

  8. City tour

    Perhaps the most obvious trick: Simply turning a few laps, a detour here, a detour there and bam, you’ve got a multiple of the actual distance.

  9. Nah, I’m not going any further

    You think you’ve got the big bargaining round behind you and exhaustedly plump down on the back seat and lo and behold, after a few meters the taxi stops and the taxi driver suddenly refuses to drive any further, unless you agree to a higher price.

  10. What, you didn’t want to go here?

    Just because a taxi driver agrees to a destination doesn’t mean that he actually knows it and takes you there…

  11. Didn’t I say something completely different?

    As soon as you finally arrived at the right destination, be prepared that many taxi drivers try to renegotiate later.

  12. That costs extra

    Especially if you are coming from the airport, some taxi drivers will say they need a certain amount from you very quickly, because they allegedly have to pay extra fees for the airport or something else. Just weird, that they don’t hand the money over anywhere, but pocket it themselves…

  13. Of course a whole different currency than usual in this country

    You think you negotiated a solid fixed price until the driver unveils you at the end of the journey that he obviously didn’t mean the local currency, but US dollars or euros. Trouble is, that this can be a multiple depending on the country.

  14. Well, I guess the rest is for me then

    If you now want to pay the possibly far too expensive fare anyway, you’ll have to realize that the taxi driver has very little or no change at all. Well, what now?

  15. Excuse me?

    You just chatted extensively about your residence, your trip and the family, and all of a sudden, your driver doesn’t speak a word of English anymore and doesn’t understand you as soon as it comes to problems or price discussions.

What to pay attention to when going by taxi

The small tuk-tuks are popular in many countries as a cheaper and more agile alternative to traditional taxis
The small tuk-tuks are popular in many countries as a cheaper and more agile alternative to traditional taxis

Depending on the country you have certain rights as a taxi guest. Nevertheless, you can usually only dream of compliance with them. Here, you’ll learn how you still arrive at your destination without having to pay a small fortune for it:

  1. Know the prices

    Be sure to inform yourself about the approximate costs, both the official start and mile/kilometer prices as well as the usual fixed prices. For this, you can ask locals or simply Google, for instance.

  2. Know the local currency

    Pay particular attention to the different units (such as cents to Euro), as well as possibly other types of writing numbers (as in Egypt).

  3. The prices of others

    In case of doubt you should get other offers first. Maybe the price will suddenly fall rapidly.

  4. Pay attention to where you are getting in

    Avoid getting in directly at popular attractions or other tourist hotspots, as there are very many fraudsters lurking there. Also around the airport you should take special care.

  5. Prefer official taxis

    Pay attention to any possible different markings, find out what they stand for and prefer the official taxi companies.

  6. Insist on the taximeter

    Only in extreme exceptional cases, a fixed price might be cheaper than the ride with taximeter. Therefore, you should – in our experience – always insist on the use of a taximeter, even if it’s initially rejected or it’s supposedly more expensive for you.

  7. Negotiate

    In case you can’t persuade a taxi driver to use the taximeter, don’t forget that in many countries, haggling is the nuts and bolts! Do not agree immediately, even if you would be willing to pay the mentioned amount, but wait for what else is possible.

  8. Ask for the currency

    If you got to an amount that is fine for both parties, make sure you reconfirm the currency, to avoid misunderstandings and subsequent discussions.

  9. Confirm price & destination

    Just as with the currency, you should make sure the driver has understood the price and the destination correctly.

  10. Track your location

    To avoid unnecessary detours and round trips, track your route and location using Google Maps on your smartphone. In doing so, you will also notice if  the driver actually doesn’t know your destination at all and only drives around aimlessly.

  11. Pay only at the destination and the exact amount

    Don’t pay until you have arrived at your desired destination and, if possible, the exact value! In case you know beforehand that you don’t have the right sum, try changing your money before you get in by buying a little something (e.g. water, cookies, etc).

  12. Get out before you pay

    Get out first and pay only then. By this, you avoid being involved in nerve-wracking discussions. If you feel like you can’t handle it, just walk away.

  13. Pay the agreed/correct amount

    In case they still try to tell you a different price afterwards, just give them the agreed or correct amount according to the taximeter and don’t get involved in any heated debates.

  14. Don’t be afraid to pay less or nothing at all

    In some situations, it may be best to pay less, or in extreme cases, not at all. For example, if the taxi driver claims to have no change, and the amount you have is significantly higher than what you actually have to pay, round off to the next lower amount you have. Only this way, the taxi drivers might learn at some point to be honest (most of them suddenly do have change) or to carry change.

    In Egypt, it happened once that a taxi driver wanted to make us believe that everything was fine with his taximeter, even though it was obviously not working. At the end of the ride, of course, he wanted to get a ridiculously high amount of money from us, whereupon we offered him to pay the actual price (we had gone the same distance only a few hours earlier and therefore knew exactly what it really cost). Since he refused also that vehemently, we ended up paying nothing.

  15. In an emergency, threaten with the police

    In preparation for our trip to Egypt, we had read in some forums that to get out of seemingly endless disputes with taxi drivers, the magic words are “tourist police”. Luckily it has never come this far with us. But since most taxi drivers are well aware of their illegal activities, in hopelessness for a peaceful end, it generally helps to threaten with the police. In fact, you hardly have to call them, as the vast majority of taxi drivers immediately backs down.

  16. Don’t let them tell you stories

    Question, be wary, exude confidence and certainty, demonstrate: I’m an expert, I’ve been around. In addition, it’s best to learn a few words in the local language.

These are the alternatives

Cairo Metro
Cairo Metro

To avoid all these problems completely or at least partially, you can use alternatives instead of taxis. On the one hand there are companies like Uber, Careem or MyTaxi, where you can conveniently book and pay for rides via app. This spares you the argument about the price and also the route is already set.

On the other hand, of course, you can completely dispense with this mode of transportation and use other public transport such as buses, metro, trams and trains. For Egypt, we have already provided you with an overview of all the means of transport.

As you see, with the right preparation and approach you can spare yourself a lot of stress and annoyance on holiday. If you know any further tricks, scams and rip-offs, please write them in the comments to protect others from them as well.


4 Replies to “15 Common Rip-Offs by Taxi Drivers”

  1. Another scam is to switch notes – they say you only gave them say 10 Egyptian Pounds when in fact you gave them 200 Egyptian Pounds, or similar small notes for larger amounts, with a slight of hand.

    In Egypt 60 (siteen) sounds like the English 16 (sixteen) so make sure you agree the right currency and if your not sure, get them to write it down.

  2. Another scam is to switch notes – they say you only gave them say 10 Egyptian Pounds when in fact you gave them 200 Egyptian Pounds, or similar small notes for larger amounts, with a slight of hand.

    In Egypt 60 (siteen) sounds like the English 16 (sixteen) so make sure you agree the right currency and if your not sure, get them to write it down.

    Also they sometimes say “pay what you think” hoping you’ll over pay.

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