Why You’re Getting Ripped Off By Every Taxi In Mexico

Being a tourist automatically lines you up to get ripped off by every taxi in Mexico. Unfortunately, most cities have taxis operating without the digital meter system forcing you to rely on the driver’s quote for your fare. As a tourist, relying on a Mexican local to give you a fair price is like jumping over the fence at a zoo and expecting to cuddle with the lion. Basically, it ain’t happening.

When travelling as a tourist in any foreign country, you’re often walking a gauntlet of scams, rip offs and overpricing. But I know being the tourist is hard enough, so here you’ll learn why every taxi in Mexico is ripping you off and what you can do about it.

It might sound hard to believe but it’s common to see an increase of up to 300% once a taxi driver spots a tourist. Airports, bus stations and major tourist destinations are the places where drivers are probably going to get lucky. I give them credit for having the cajones to quote a tourist triple the price but I’m sure they expect everyone will be negotiating so why not aim high? If you’re not willing to read on, negotiate and save some money, then maybe the driver deserves those pesos more than you.

You Look Like a Tourist

There are ways to avoid looking like a total tourist and these tips might help you blend into the crowd a bit better. If you can at least pass for an expat who’s been in the community for years, you’ll be able to save some of those pesos for mañana.

Ripped off by every taxi in mexico

You’re Getting Picked Up at the Wrong Spot

It all starts with the pickup location and, even though it shouldn’t dictate the final price, it definitely dictates the initial price the taxi driver quotes you. For example, trying to get picked up on a side street where there are little to no taxis around leaves you with very few options. Instead, head to a busier street where the cabs are abundant and you’ve got nothing to lose by walking away trying to bargain. Most cities also have ‘sitios’ or designated stands where you can expect to see a handful of cabs lined up waiting for passengers. These may charge a bit more than hailing one from the street but they’re reliable and even considered safer when traveling at night in an unfamiliar city.

You Forgot to Ask the Price

If you have to ask the price before getting into a taxi the driver might assume you aren’t familiar with the area and so the price, evidently, just increased for you. But this can go both ways… If you don’t ask the price beforehand, you’ve got little to no room for negotiation once you’ve reached your destination and you end up having to pay more. Rather than risk it, make sure to ask first when the taxi doesn’t have a meter.

So, What Should I Do?

  1. The first thing you can do upon arriving in the city is to find out the hourly and minimum taxi rates. Depending on where you’re traveling in Mexico, you may even be able to find this out online before you even land. How does the hourly rate and minimum rate help you? Well, if you’re taking a cab to a place 5 minutes away, you can expect to pay the minimum which ranges from $35-$50 pesos when no meter is used. And if you’ve figured out that the hourly rate for hire is $250 pesos, then you’ll know that a fare of $150 for a 10 minute ride is out of the question.
  1. Before approaching your taxi, have a rough idea of what you want to pay. If you’re in the city, consider 50 pesos equals about 10-15 minutes of driving time. This definitely varies between cities and you can expect to pay more in popular destinations with a bigger tourist crowd. Busy airports will also have set ‘regulated’ rates to get to and from the city and these are often non-negotiable.
  1. Casually approach the driver and ask how much he’ll charge to get you to your destination. In Spanish: “Cuánto a ______?”(Sounds like: kwon-toh). Knowing a bit of the language will go a long way when dealing with drivers in Mexico.
  1. If you’re quoted a ridiculous price at first, politely laugh and begin to walk away. Don’t be afraid to walk towards the next driver if you’re in a place where they are plentiful. Once they see you head off, they’ll clue in real quick that you’re not as stupid as they think. And in most cases, taxi drivers have to pay a certain amount per day to the company they work for so they might rather bargain with you than lose a fare altogether.
  1. Barter with confidence. If you know a set amount to be fair, stick to it. You may be traveling to the bus terminal and if you paid $60 pesos to get to your hotel/hostel, then you can expect to pay the same heading back. You can even communicate that to the driver and they’ll realize you’re aware of the fares.

Ripped off by every taxi in mexico

More Taxi Tips:

  • Have cash on hand and small bills when possible. I’ve never seen a cab here with credit/debit card payments and many won’t even want to make change for large bills ($200, $500 pesos+).
  • If you’re in a city for a while and have had a pleasant cab ride, you can even ask the driver for their card or number. This way you can call them (or their company) directly for when you need a ride.
  • Unlike most western countries, it isn’t necessary to tip cab drivers in Mexico. Most would only do so if the driver has helped with luggage or waited for you as you shopped.
  • Numbeo is another resource to look at when traveling though it often lacks regular updates.

Ripped off by every taxi in mexico

Don’t get me wrong, I want to see the taxi drivers of Mexico succeed. I’d just hate for it to be at the expense of our fellow tourists. Hopefully these tips will help you keep those precious pesos in your pocket while you explore this beautiful country.

Ever emptied out your wallet when you shouldn’t have? Share your stories below, and don’t worry, it happens to the best of us!

10 thoughts on “Why You’re Getting Ripped Off By Every Taxi In Mexico

  • February 19, 2016 at 10:56 am
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    Thanks so much for the tips! I’m always worried about getting overcharged. They take one look at you and decide how much they can get from you.

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    • February 19, 2016 at 5:34 pm
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      Glad they helped, Vicki! It happens all over the world but we hope sharing what we learn will save someone a bit in the future.

      Reply
  • February 23, 2016 at 5:23 pm
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    Awesome tips! Thanks for sharing!!!
    One time in Belgium, we arrived past 1 am after an entire day being stuck in an airport. We were so tired and lazy that we just decided to take a cab to our hotel. Well, it turns out that the hotel was walking distance…actually it was even closer than walking distance. We were in the taxi for less than 1 minute and he tried to charge us 12 euros. Needless to say, we definitely didn’t pay that ridiculous fare.

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    • February 23, 2016 at 9:32 pm
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      That’s ridiculous! Glad you didn’t end up paying that amount but hate to hear that (regrettably) it seems this happens everywhere. We were motivated to share this post because of all the ‘scams’ drivers tried to pull on us when we first started our travels here in Mexico. Hope it helps!

      Reply
  • March 5, 2016 at 4:17 pm
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    oh my god, this is so true everywhere. And you’re right, ask for their number if you think you want to tour around and the taxi is clean and the driver is polite, knowledgeable and language is not a problem. We have done this in Mumbai and Spain. We hired the driver for the entire day and had a great time each time we went out. We got a private tour and the cost was a fraction of the cost of an advertised tour

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    • March 5, 2016 at 6:24 pm
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      Thanks, Katrina! Taxis can be a great way to tour a city when you know what to look for. Private tours in Mumbai and Spain at a fraction of the price sound like the way to go!

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  • May 7, 2016 at 9:59 am
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    Many cities in Mexico have taxi rates set by zone meaning that travel within one zone or from one zone to another is a fixed rate and shouldn’t be need to be negotiated.

    Last December in Cancun from Puerto Juarez to the Airport. The driver told me it was $65 US. I told him that I knew the official rate was only 350 pesos from the sito at Puerto Juarez and we kept driving. Once at the airport he didn’t stop directly in front of the terminal, instead he stopped across where the buses and shuttles drop passengers off. He then tried to tell me that the official rate didn’t apply to the international terminal and that I owned him $65 US. I laughed and tried to give him the 350 pesos and then he threatened to call the police. I said, yes lets get a police officer. He then tried to show me the rate sheet for a a 5+ passenger van (that was only 525 pesos), keeping his thumb over the 1-4 passenger rate. He wouldn’t let me see it so my wife snatched it out of his hand and it clearly said that the rate from Puerto Juarez was 350 pesos. Now that he knew that he was busted, he accepted the 350 pesos – I took his picture along with his license plate and told him that I was going to talk with a police office inside. That really got his goat and and he yelled a bunch of obscenities before speeding off.

    He obviously didn’t want to park directly in front of the terminal because there would likely be a English speaking police officer or airport employee and instead thought he could intimidate me but he picked the wrong Gringo. Don’t let the taxi drivers try to scam you

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    • May 8, 2016 at 11:41 am
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      Woah! Thanks for sharing your story and we’re glad you were firm with the official rate. Airports and bus terminals are usually the worst because they see your luggage, know you’re visiting and take advantage of the fact that sometimes you’re left with no choice but a taxi.

      Reply
  • August 18, 2017 at 2:34 pm
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    Great article, thanks for the tips! Home to the most number of UNESCO World Heritage sites in the Americas, Mexico is a joy to visit. However, there are numerous tourist targeted scams to be wary of.

    Do be wary of the Mayan dollar scam, virtual kidnaps/kidnapping express, timeshare scams, place is closed scam, fake sob stories, currency switcheroo, rogue equipment operators, pickpockets, fake goods, pirate taxis and many more!

    Reply
  • August 22, 2017 at 1:10 pm
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    When arriving at many airports in Mexico, there are kiosks/booths in the terminal where you can pay for a taxi into town, and you get a voucher to give to the driver. You do pay a slight premium, but they take credit cards (unlike most taxis themselves) and stick to the official rates. But in general, taxis in Mexico (as well as Uber) are readily available and much cheaper than their counterparts in the US and Europe.

    Reply

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