Restaurants, hotels, and other tourist outlets have a vested interest in keeping complaints low and revenues high.Â Taxis, on the other hand, are not typically tied to any one location.Â As such, many taxi drivers have developed notoriety for ripping off unsuspecting tourists who donâ€™t know the ins and outs of the area.Â But since renting cars is not always a good option when abroad, youâ€™ll frequently find yourself depending on taxis during your medical tourism vacation.Â
The last thing we want to do is give all taxi drivers a bad name.Â During our intermittent travels, some of our best experiences have been with taxi drivers.Â For every unscrupulous driver out there, there are 10 others who will gladly show you the sights, drive you around town, and steer you towards the best restaurants, stores, and attractions.Â But in the interest of safety and awareness, weâ€™ve compiled a list of taxi tips every traveler should know before getting into a cab.
1.Â Look for Taxi Stands
In most major medical tourism cities, taxi stands are quite abundant.Â If you canâ€™t find them on the actual street, just look for large hotels and major tourist attractions.Â In most cases, â€śTAXIâ€ť signs will be written in English, so you shouldnâ€™t have too much difficulty finding convenient congregation areas.Â
2.Â Keep Your Belongings with You
If at all possible, keep your personal effects with you at all times.Â Of course, this is next to impossible if youâ€™re coming straight from the airport and you have tons of luggage.Â But as you travel around the city or go from destination to destination, keep your purses, backpacks, and day bags with you in the passenger compartment instead of the trunk.Â In the event of an emergency, it will be much easier to fetch your belongings and get away from the taxi.Â In extreme emergencies, however, be prepared to leave nonessential belongings behind.Â Youâ€™ll be able to run faster if you are unencumbered.
3.Â Only Use Easily Identifiable Taxis
In most medical tourism cities, taxis are easy to identify by their colors, markings, and models.Â Donâ€™t accept rides from unmarked cars unless you have arranged for travel through a livery service, airport drop-off booth, or reputable hotel.
4.Â Stick with Metered Taxis
Most legitimate taxis will have meters and two-way radios inside.Â Look for these things before you get in.Â However, in some medical tourism destinations, meters are not as common, so this is not necessarily a hard and fast rule.Â But every taxi should have a two-way radio in order to coordinate activities with a dispatcher.Â If it doesnâ€™t, wait for another taxi.Â
If you canâ€™t find a metered taxi, make sure to negotiate the price upfront with whatever non-metered taxis you do hail.Â Unfortunately, as a foreign traveler, you wonâ€™t have a whole lot of bargaining power unless you are intimately familiar with your surroundings.Â If the taxi driver says the trip will cost $5, you can try and negotiate him down, but ultimately, you should be prepared to pay $5.Â If at all possible, make sure you have small bills.Â Taxi drivers wonâ€™t always be able or willing to break large notes, and thereâ€™s very little chance of him or her letting you get away with a free ride.Â
Lastly, be prepared for major price fluctuations during rush hour or when the weather is uncooperative.Â Even taxi drivers who remain honest most of the time will occasionally take advantage of certain situations.Â If a sudden lightening storm materializes over Bangkok and you desperately want to get home, expect the prices to skyrocket.Â Whether or not you accept terms like these is up to you. Â
5.Â Check for Door Handles
This seems like an odd tip to include in this section, but there are many stories of travelers getting kidnapped by â€śfakeâ€ť taxi drivers.Â Unsuspecting passengers get in and soon discover that they have no way of getting out since there are no door handles accessible from the inside.Â Â
Even when there is no malicious intent involved, having door handles is a must.Â What if you get into an auto accident and canâ€™t get out of the car?Â
6.Â Be Wary of Shared Cabs
Splitting the bill becomes more confusing.
Arriving at your destination can sometimes take more time.Â This is especially true when the driver doesnâ€™t want to begin the journey until he or she has a full cab.
Shared taxis are not nearly as comfortable.
The other passengers might be â€śfakeâ€ť passengers carrying contraband.Â This contraband could eventually be discovered by a â€śfakeâ€ť cop who will take the entire party to a â€śfakeâ€ť precinct.Â At this "fake" precinct, your money, credit cards, and passport could be confiscated.Â Weâ€™re not kidding around.
7.Â Know Emergency Contact Numbers
If a taxi driver starts giving you trouble, let him or her know that you know the appropriate emergency contact numbers, and youâ€™re not afraid to use them.Â Of course, threats like these require that you have a mobile phone on hand (which we strongly recommend).Â It also helps to know the tourist police phone number for the area.Â Unscrupulous taxi drivers prey on unsuspecting tourists.Â But if you can demonstrate your street savvy and determination, you can minimize the chances of being cheated or worse.Â
8. Know Where Youâ€™re Going
It is harder for taxi drivers to cheat you if you know exactly where youâ€™re going.Â Having a tourist map and cell phone handy are terrific ideas.Â Before you accept â€śshortcuts,â€ť detours, and special stops, make sure you know where you are, where you were, and where it is you ultimately want to go.Â If youâ€™re supposed be going to the airport, but you discover you that youâ€™re driving in the opposite direction, feel free to get out of the taxi as soon as possible.Â However, you still might be expected to pay whatever fare is on the meter.Â Itâ€™s safer to go ahead and pay the driver than it is to hassle each other over a few dollars.Â
9. Avoid Traveling Alone
Throughout this site, we repeatedly advise that you travel with a companion.Â This is especially true if you are a woman.Â Again, swindlers prey on those whom they perceive to be vulnerable.Â You might be a liberated, independent, confident individual, but ultimately, you want your medical tourism experience to be as hassle-free as possible.Â There is safety in numbers, so traveling with a companion minimizes your risks and makes it much less likely that you will ever encounter a potential problem.Â
10. Contact Friends & Family
If you are especially cautious, you might consider sending a text message to friends and family members before entering the taxi.Â In your message, be sure to include the license plates, driverâ€™s name, and identification number.Â In some cases, this might be a little difficult to do when the above are not in Roman letters or Arabic numbers.Â
11. Pay While in the Cab
Make sure you exchange any and all money while you are still in a taxicab.Â That way, you can have your purse or wallet properly stored once you exit the taxi and join the rest of the pedestrian traffic on the sidewalks and streets.
12.Â Look Behind You Before Opening the Door
Before exiting the taxi, make sure that there is no one behind the cab.Â The last thing you want to do is open the door just as a moped or car is zooming past you.