Today we bring you a very informative guest post from Kristina Wegscheider, co-founder of Do It While You’re Young, a travel website for young women interested in traveling, studying, working and volunteering abroad. Kristina shares some great money-saving tips on using taxis and airport transfers when traveling.
Taxi drivers seem to be synonymous with getting ripped off in most places I travel. Whether it was the time the cab driver took me all the way to the airport instead of the train station like I requested in Shanghai (causing me to run into the terminal to get additional money) or another time in India where the cab driver tried to add on a surcharge for every bag I had with (I understand my suitcase but my purse, really??).
So, it is no surprise that I was warned about the cab drivers in Tunisia. As I went to depart the country, I grabbed a taxi outside my hotel who said he would use the meter (usually, a good thing) but this meter was moving a little too quick leading me to believe it had been compromised, especially since the hotel said it would be 5 Dinar (less than $4 US) and the meter was well at that as soon as we drove down the street!
As we drove, the driver continued to speak to me in French which I somehow understood. He wanted to add a 5 Dinar surcharge for each of my bags and another fee since it was 6:30am (however, I had done my research and learned that this “evening surcharge” is only valid between 9:00pm and 6:00am). He was now telling me my total fare was going to be 20-some Dinar, not what I had budgeted for! Luckily, I was able to stand my ground and haggle the price down to a lower rate. I was able to be forceful without being emotional—I was so impressed with myself! To prevent a scene playing out like this, here are some tips to follow:
1) Always ask the price before getting in the cab. If it seems too high, haggle or find another cab. Make sure the price is all inclusive of fees, surcharges, tolls, etc. I would advise against asking “Are there any other fees” as a slimy cab driver will use that opportunity to tack on more money. Instead, repeat back the total to firm up the verbal agreement.
2) Get your money out while in the cab, preferably out of sight of the cab driver. I have seen occurrences where the cab driver saw a larger note or another currency in someone’s wallet and insisted upon a different total. Not cool, cab drivers! I usually stash the money in my pocket so I don’t even need to open my purse.
3) When it comes time to pay, I wait until everyone is safely out of the car and all luggage is curbside. In the event the cab driver gets irate about the total fare or the tip (or lack therefore of if service/driving was less than optimal), at least you and your belongings are out of the way.
Don’t want to deal with a cab? Ask your hotel or tour operator about the charges for private transport. The advantage is a set price and they will run on your schedule. Downside, they tend to be more expensive. If you can gather a few people together to split the fare, usually it will work out to be pretty affordable. Don’t forget, you usually tip the driver who transports you to the airport. Usually $1-2 per person (more if you have lots of bags). Another option is bus, train or subway. This option will vary so do your homework beforehand to see what options exist.
I hope I don’t scare you but I want you to be informed of the way cab drivers work. By being prepared and holding your ground, you can get the upper hand in the situation. Sometimes, a cabbie who is trying to take advantage of you just needs a swift (verbal) kick in the you-know-what!
Written by Kristina Wegscheider, co-founder of Do It While You’re Young, a travel website for young women interested in traveling, studying, working and volunteering abroad.