Don't be taken for a ride when you're traveling abroad. A few precautions and a little common sense will help you thwart devious drivers.
Step 1: Do a little research Do some research about the taxi practices -- and possible scams -- in the place you're visiting. The U.S. State Department issues a consular information sheet on foreign countries that often includes the lowdown on taxis.
Step 2: Have small change Have small denominations of the local currency on hand. Many taxi drivers can't -- or won't -- make change. If they do break a large bill for you, inspect the money you get back. Some cabbies take advantage of tourists by giving the wrong change or passing off counterfeit bills and coins.
Step 3: Ask your hotel Before you take a taxi to your hotel from the airport, train, or bus station, call the front desk and ask what the approximate fee should be, and what kind of tip is customary, if any. Once at your destination, rely on locals to give you ballpark estimates of reasonable rates to get around town.
TIP: Ask your hotel for a card with the address in the language of the country you're in to make future rides easier.
Step 4: Verify the price Don't take unlicensed taxis. Do try to stick to cabs you ordered in advance or hailed from a designated stand, and always negotiate the price before getting in. Verify that the fee quoted is for the ride, as opposed to per passenger.
Step 5: Keep your luggage If you don't have much luggage, keep it with you rather than putting it in the trunk; unscrupulous drivers may hold suitcases hostage until a higher fee is paid. If you're in a registered taxi, note the driver's name and license number -- just knowing that you're jotting it down may keep them honest.
TIP: Some countries allow drivers to pick up other passengers, but the U.S. State Department generally advises its citizens to instruct drivers not to do so because it can be dangerous.
Step 6: Watch the meter Be suspicious of metered cabs that offer a flat rate; odds are the price they're quoting is much higher than it would be if the meter was turned on. Make sure the driver turns on the meter when the ride begins. If a driver says his meter isn't working, find another cab.
Step 7: Tip well If you get a polite, honest driver, tip well -- in any country!
FACT: In 2009, six Americans were detained in Antigua for more than a month after disputing a taxi fee they said had been doubled.