Driver: Where to?
Dave: The corner of Watford Road and Homefield Road please. The quicker the better.
Dave: Just here is fine.
Driver: That’ll be ₤3.80 please.
Dave: Here’s 5. Keep the change.
Driver: Thanks very much. Don’t forget your belongings.
Driver: You called for a taxi?
Anna: Yes. Could you open the trunk please? I’ve got a suitcase.
Driver: Sure. Here, let me help you with that. (they get in the car) So, where to?
Anna: The airport please.
Driver: O’Hare or Midway?
Anna: O’Hare please.
Driver: Which terminal?
Anna: I’m not sure.
Driver: Domestic or international?
Anna: International. I’m flying Cathay Pacific, if that helps.
Driver: That’ll probably be Terminal 5. (later) Here OK?
Anna: Sure. How much do I owe you?
Driver: That’s $30.50.
Anna: Round it up to 35. I’ll put it on my card.
Driver: Thanks. Just enter your PIN. Do you need help with your case?
Anna: No no, I’ve got it.
Driver: Ok. Have a safe flight.
Last week I went to a concert on the outskirts of town. After it finished 30 000 people left the arena, all looking to get home. There was no subway line close by, so most people were left to take a bus or a taxi. The queue for the buses was insane, so I thought I would take a taxi; I was, however, in for a surprise, because when I reached the taxis I discovered that none of them had their meters on. They had all agreed to work off-the-meter for the night. On top of this, they refused to take only one person in a taxi, and instead tried to get as many people in their taxi – all paying money – as possible. What a scam, I thought. I went back to the bus queue and began a very long wait.
Taking taxis in different countries can be confusing: not only do you need to express where you want to go, but you also have to trust the driver will not take you around the houses. As well as this, there is the confusion as how the fares work, as not every driver works with a meter. This can be troublesome for tourists, because more dishonest taxi drivers feel they can take tourists for a ride (the idiom ‘take someone for a ride’ – meaning to rip them off – doesn’t come from taxis, but it fits very well!).
In many countries it is necessary to negotiate your fee before you get in the cab. If both the driver and the passenger agree, then that is the fee (do not agree to pay more, even if the driver later claims the price is actually higher). It is important to finish negotiations before taking the taxi, because once you are at your destination you cannot say no, and the locals have more power than you do.
If a taxi has a meter, use that. However, tips are not included and are expected in many countries (America, for example, has a big tipping culture, often at 15-20%). There are different ways to give a tip: give extra money after paying; tell the driver to keep the change; or let the driver round the fare up to the nearest large number, allowing him/her to keep the extra money (for example, if it is $4.10, round it up to $5). It is not mandatory to give a tip, but unless the service was really bad, or you want the locals to swear at you, it is common practice.