For the most part, taxi drivers are good people. They work hard to provide a vital service for travelers, and you couldn’t get from point A to point B without them. That being said, don’t think for a second that they don’t also know this! The scammers and sharks are out there, and I hope that this article will help you safely reach your destination with your luggage intact and a reasonable amount of money left in your wallet!
A stress-free taxi trip starts long before you actually leave the house. I recommend spending a couple minutes preparing yourself by mapping out the route you plan to take. For added security, you should print out a hard copy of the directions to keep with you for reference. I always end up using Google Maps, which is a very user friendly service. Be sure to run another internet search to pull up local photos and prominent landmarks along your route so that you can tell if your driver is taking you on the “scenic route.”
Whenever you hail a cab at an airport, especially one that you’ve never visited before, be sure to ask the airline personnel how much the typical fare to your hotel should cost. Flight crews are the best bet, since they regularly use cabs during overnight stays. To get an unbiased opinion, try asking two different people from separate areas of the terminal. In some foreign airports, airport employees will receive kickbacks for escorting you to their taxi-driving friends.
When you’re outside the terminal and choosing a cab, look for one that’s well marked with a company logo. Most professional cabbies and shuttle services will have easily recognizable paint schemes, usually with the posted rates and local license and insurance information in a prominent location. If you don't see the rates, be sure to ask the driver how much the ride will cost before you get in! I recommend keeping a good amount of smaller bills on hand, so the driver won’t be able to pull the old "Sorry, I have no change and don’t speak English" routine when you arrive at your destination and ask him to break a hundred dollar bill. Once you’re underway, be sure to watch for the driver to zero out the meter.
Whenever possible, I prefer to keep all of my luggage and carry-on bags in the back seat next to me. By having it within arm’s reach, there's very little chance of a hired porter accidentally loading it into the wrong vehicle. I’ve also heard of cab drivers pulling off while a customer’s baggage is still in the trunk, both by accident and on purpose! During your ride, avoid making conversation with the driver if you’re not from the area. Shady cabbies may be feeling you out to see if you’re a stranger, so you should avoid giving them any reason to think they might be able to get away with taking you the long way around town!