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.
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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.