8 common taxi scams (and how to avoid them)

Taxi scams Bangkok

Of all the travel scams you can come across, taxi scams (including rickshaw and tuktuk scams) are some of the most common and frustrating to avoid.

Taxis are good at trapping us or taking us where we don’t want to go. But don’t worry. If you know what to look out for and how to react, you’ll be prepared if it happens. 

Let’s look at some of the most common taxi scams and the best way to avoid them.

Read next: 27 essential travel safety tips everyone should know

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Common taxi scams

No matter what country you visit, there are certain methods that a scam taxi will try to use to lure money from you. Below are the eight most common scams, how they work, how to spot them, and how to deal with them. These taxi safety tips will keep you and your money safe wherever you go.

1. The driver takes you somewhere else

This kind of scam taxi is very typical in Bangkok where the tuktuk driver will take you to a jewellery shop or a tailor instead of the place you told them. They will tell you that they know the best place to go for certain things – clothes, suits, jewellery, souvenirs – and insist on taking you there. If you end up buying anything, the scam taxi driver gets a cut of the overpriced goods that you buy. This is one of the most known taxi scams and it’s depressingly common in Thailand.

How to avoid it

The best way to avoid this one is to insist that the driver takes you where you want to go, not where they want to take you. Do this before you get into the cab. If they do take you to a shop or a tailor, simply pay the fare, leave the taxi, and walk away from the shop without going in. 

Protect yourself from these common taxi scams and learn how to avoid being ripped off by scamming taxi and tuktuk drivers around the world. #tuktuk #scams #travelscams #taxi scams

2. Driver has no change

You arrive at your destination and hand over a bank note. The driver insists that he doesn’t have change, and that he will only accept what you offer him. He might smile and say that the difference between the price and what you hand over is a friendly tip. This is one of the most frustrating taxi scams. Because of course he has the change, but you can’t do anything about it.

How to avoid it

The best way to avoid this scam is to always the precise amount or have change in the local currency. This should ensure that you can’t get caught out in a situation like this one. Before you hop in a taxi or a tuktuk, make sure you have enough change – and no large bills – to avoid this potential scam. It also ensures you don’t get into a confrontation.

3. Driver takes the long route

When taking a taxi, you’re putting your trust in the driver that they know the best route to get you where you need to go. And it’s so easy for drivers looking to commit taxi scams to take you on a wild route just to get some extra money from unsuspecting passengers. But you don’t have to fall for this.

How to avoid it

The best way to avoid this taxi scam is to know roughly how long the ride should take and what it should cost. It’s also easy to avoid this scam if you have a GPS on your phone. You can plot your route before getting in the taxi, and then watch the route as you’re in the car. If they veer off route, you can correct the driver and say that you want him to go the right way. Just be firm. This always works.


4. Fake taxis

Fake taxis are most common in South America. They’re unlicensed taxis that are eager to offer you a ride to wherever you want to go. They’ll charge you whatever they feel like and can take you on whatever route you like. You’re not usually in any physical danger with these taxi scams; they just want your money.

How to avoid it

This is one of my big travel safety tips: learn to spot fake taxis. Google what the local taxis look like before you arrive, and you’ll be able to spot unlicensed taxis on sight. They’ll usually not have a taxi licence number inside or outside, or they’ll be missing a fare meter. Look out for these things immediately before getting in.

Read next: 10 common travel scams and how to avoid them

5. Gives you counterfeit bills

You’ve finished your taxi ride, all has gone smoothly, you offer a big note and he hands you another few smaller notes as change. Only these are fake money. He’s lost nothing and now you have fake money. You’ll get caught using it the next time you buy something, and you’ll be in trouble. It’s a scary chain of events that can occur without you realising it.

How to avoid it

Get to know the visual differences between the real and counterfeit local money. You can do this by googling the real and counterfeit versions of the local currency before you arrive in a place. Or, again, always pay with the exact change. Coins are great because they’re almost never counterfeit.

6. Price is (suddenly) per person

This one is mostly known in Thailand and a few other Southeast Asian countries. It goes like this: When your taxi ride is over, the driver informs you that the fare shown on the meter is actually per person rather than for the ride, and he insists that everyone in the taxi (whether its two, three, or four people) has to each pay the same price.

How to avoid it

When you get in the taxi, ask the driver if the fare is for the total ride or per person. Get him to verbally agree that it’s for the total taxi ride, then he can’t pull this scam at the end of the journey.

Taxi scams

7. Broken meter

The driver claims at the beginning of the journey that his meter isn’t working. But not to worry! He knows the route and he knows how much it usually costs, so he will be fair. Do not fall for this, ever.

How to avoid it

As soon as you give him your destination, ask how much it should cost and ask him to start the meter immediately. If he doesn’t, simply find another taxi.

8. The note switch

When the taxi ride is over and you’ve reached your destination, you hand him, say, a $20 note. Out of sight, he switches it for a $5 note he already has, shows it to you and waits for you to hand him the rest, insisting that you handed him this $5, rather than a $20.

How to avoid it

If you hand over a big note, expecting change, do it slowly. Show him the note – hold it up so that you can both see how much it is and say the amount out loud: “Here’s $20 for you”. Hand it over slowly and watch his hands.

Alternatively, you can pay with exact change. Just keep a lot of change on you, maybe in a coin purse, at all times. Keeping smaller change on you rather than big notes is one of the great safety tips when it comes to travel safety in general, so it’s a good thing to practice.

Safety tips

When it comes to taxis, there are more things to consider than just taxi scams. You need to keep yourself safe as well as your money. Here are some great safety tips to follow whenever you get in a taxi or a tuktuk, regardless of where you are in the world.

These simple taxi safety tips will help to keep you safe on your travels. Make sure you follow them at all times.

  • Always agree on the price before you get in
  • Never tell the driver personal information
  • It’s better to say that you’re from a less privileged country instead of the U.S. (so they won’t think you have lots of money)
  • Keep an eye on the money you give and get back
  • Carry small bills to pay the exact fare
  • Take a photo of the driver’s ID or taxi number (it’s usually in the front window or on the back of the front seat)
  • Ask the hotel or a local what the usual fare is
  • Never use unlicensed taxis
  • Sit in the backseat, not the front

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  1. I appreciate you giving me such valuable information. Thank you for providing such good information about hiring taxis. This will be helpful for me when booking a taxi in the future.

    Thank you!

  2. I was in Istanbul recently for dental work. I got a taxi cab ride to the dental clinic. The cab driver said he would wait for me. I asked him why he wanted to wait as it would be awhile before they got to me? Why don’t you go back on the street and try to get another rider?
    He looked at me, smiled and said no problem, I won’t charge you much? Whatever that meant?

    I was waiting for at least two hours for the dental clinic. I asked the taxi cab driver several times why is he waiting and how much is he going to charge me?
    Always the same answer? Don’t worry, I won’t rip you off in broken English/Turkish?

    So I finally finished my business with the dental clinic and we hopped in his cab for a ride back to my hotel.

    When we were getting close to my hotel, but still on the busy freeway I asked him again, so how much is this going to cost me?
    He was a husky guy chain smoking the whole time. He said $300!!
    I told him no way am I paying you $300, for a ride that should be no more than $25, if that? WTH?

    He pulled over right there on the side of the highway and started arguing with me about the fare!? Telling me I did you a favor waiting for you?

    I replied and I asked you several times why you were waiting for me and what you were going to charge me?? And all you said was don’t worry I’m not going to rip you off??? And now you are ripping me off?

    He was super irate at me?

    So I said, look just call the cops and let them take care of it.

    He was super nasty the whole time and I started to open the door and I was ready to walk back to my hotel!

    Then he said okay I’ll drive you to the hotel. When we got to the hotel he started arguing again about the fare? Claiming I promised him I would pay? Lol, Yeah I’ll pay but not your scamming price?
    So I was tired and just wanted to get back in my hotel and l sleep. I was in a foreign country, I don’t speak Turkish and even if the police came they wouldn’t understand me anyway, but would understand the taxi cab driver claiming whatever he said to them and probably would side with the cab driver.

    So we agreed unfortunately to a $200 price???

    I just wanted to get away from him he was so annoying what a scamming jerk!!!
    I would never do that again!!!

  3. I cherish you providing this fantastic article. Thank you for keeping us updated regarding modes of transport on the ground.

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