Is it Safe to Take That Taxi? Tips for Travelers


Line of taxis at an airportAs summer draws to a close and travelers are scrambling to squeeze in one more trip, it’s a good time to revisit the WHO Study of Global Road Safety.

It’s great to know the dangers of the road when driving, but what about those times when you’re not the person at the wheel? Many travelers choose taxis as a primary method of getting around. Taxis are generally safer than many forms of public transportation, especially if buses and trains are overcrowded, poorly run or unregulated. According to the WHO report, in Kenya where public transportation consists of boda bodas, tuk-tuk’s, mataus (small vans with sliding doors, blasted reggae or R&B music and the strong smell of BO- window seats are best) and taxis, 38% of the road deaths were passengers in buses and mataus. Still, hailing a cab has its own potential perils.

When traveling in Panama City, an HTH Worldwide frequent business traveler was told not to trust the taxis there.  A security consultant advised him to have the hotel send a car for him and provide him with a password that he could request from the driver to verify that it was in fact the correct car.  So in addition to asking the hotel in advance to recommend a safe taxi service for you, here are a few steps you can take to minimize the risks.

Before You Get In

  • Use authorized taxis only. Not sure how to spot one? Go to a taxi stand, ask at the hotel, or ask a local. Legal taxis should have common characteristics such as similar makes/colors, radios and meters in the cab, phone numbers on the car, identification for the driver — so look for these indicators if you are on the street. Better yet, use a phone to call a cab and wait for it to arrive.
  • Be sure the car seems safe. Are there seatbelts in the back? Are there door handles on the inside?
  • Does your driver know how to get where you’re going? Have the address and phone number of your destination written down and mention local landmarks the cab should pass.
  • Use common sense. You don’t need to share a cab, and shouldn’t. If there’s no meter, settle on a price beforehand.

Inside the Cab

  • Don’t try to fit more people into a cab than it can safely accommodate. Sit still and try not to distract the driver.
  • Know the local traffic patterns and rules of the road. Is the driver following the speed limit? Is he following posted signs?
  • If the driving is poor, ask the driver to stop; then get out and switch to another cab.

If you find a cab and driver you like, give him a nice tip and get a phone number. You may want to ride together again. Any other advice you would like to share?


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