It sounds like a middle school math problem—how do you get from point A to point B? When you’re on your home turf, it’s easy to figure out the geometry, but when you’re in a new city traveling can involve some serious calculations. If you're too tired or nervous to try the local subway or bus route, it’s tempting to jump in a cab to get across the city. There are 196 countries in the world and most of them have their own norms when it comes hailing a cab.
Cities tend to fall into two categories—the ones where you simply shove your arm in the air and wait for a cab to pull over, and the others where you have to call a taxi in advance and arrange a pick-up. Of course you may not know which is which until you find yourself at the airport. That’s where we come in. We looked at the 25 most popular destinations on Trip Advisor and wrote a how-to guide to hailing a cab.
Here is how to hail a cab in 25 of the most popular destinations around the world:
New York City
The Yellow Cab is an iconic part of the New York City landscape, but hailing one is an artform that takes years to master. The trick: Find a taxi with the correct light shining from its rooftop. Specifically, you want one with just the center number lit up and nothing else. If none of the lights are lit, it’s already occupied, and if all of the lights are lit it’s probably off duty, but feel free to try and hail anyway.
According to the T+L guide, cabs can be hailed on the street in Sydney, but T+L recommends navigating the city by foot for the best scenery. If your feet are too tired from tromping between the city’s Central Business District and Darlinghurst—or you want to head out to Bondi Beach—there are also taxi ranks around the city, according to Sydney’s website.
If navigating Barcelona’s Metro sounds daunting, grab one of the many cabs that circle the streets. Simply look for a taxi stand and wait in line until a cab is available or hail an empty cab on the street by waving your hand in the air and signaling your interest, ideally with a churro in your hand (just kidding—kind of). For more information, visit Barcelona’s official site.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
As in most major urban areas, Buenos Aires has a bustling cab trade on its main streets and avenues. Look for one of the city's distinctive black and yellow cabs with a red light that reads ‘LIBRE’ and hail it by sticking your arm up in the air. Radio Taxi is the most common cab, according to Wander Argentina, and you can call the company and order a Radio Taxi in advance.
The streets of Istanbul are filled with the city’s official bright yellow taxis, all marked with a roof sign that reads “taksi.” Make sure the taxi has—and uses—a meter. While it’s easy to flag down a taxi on the street, T+L’s expert says to be prepared to pay in cash, because “drivers rarely carry much change.”
London, United Kingdom
As any visitor can tell you, black cabs are common sites around London and, unlike in some destinations (we’re looking at you, New York City), it’s easy to tell whether or not a cab is available. From personal experience, it’s simply a question of seeing through the fog and rain to see the word ‘TAXI’ lit up. That means the cab is available for use—when the light is off, it’s not available. Black cabs are required to be wheelchair accessible, according to Visit London, which makes it easier for everyone to get around the city. Additionally, London taxi drivers have to pass an extensive London geography test called The Knowledge to earn their licenses, so they usually know every alley, street, and landmark.
Mexico City, Mexico
Take Uber or to have your hotel call for a radio-dispatched sitio taxi or set you up with a turismo taxi, who will typically pick you up, wait for you, and return you to your hotel. If you do take a cab, don’t hail one off the street, but grab one at a taxi stand. Once in the cab, pay attention to where the driver is going, make sure there’s a meter, and carry small bills. According to a T+L expert, another option is hiring a private car or take the Metro. For the latest safety information, go to travel.state.gov.
According to the T+L guide, for a short trip, flag down a so-called petit taxi on the street instead of at a hotel, as you’ll most likely save a little money. For a longer sightseeing trip, book a grand taxi through your hotel.
From personal experience, when you want to grab a cab to take you from the Marais to the Tuileries, head to one of the taxi stands on the streets and wait in line, or simply hail a cab on the street as you would in another major city. To ensure you’re in a legitimate cab, look for a Taxi Parisien sign on the roof, a working meter, and a license plate indicating it’s a taxi.
Siem Reap, Cambodia
If you’re looking to enjoy the unrivaled beauty of Cambodia’s temple city of Siem Reap, the best way to get there is to hire a taxi at the airport or through your hotel for around $20 - $25 a day. Be prepared: many taxis will add a surcharge of $10 per day for travel to the farthest temple, Banteay Srei.
It’s easy to spot Tokyo’s taxis as they make their way through the city streets. The ubiquitous green cabs are everywhere and hailing one is fairly simple. Green lights mean the car is taken, so look for a cab with a red light in the front of the car and the kanji for ku-sha or ‘empty car’, according to Time Out. Then, simply wave your hand to hail the driver and he or she will pull up alongside you and the door will open automatically. In case your driver doesn’t speak English, be sure to have your address written down in Japanese and a phone number, if possible.
If you’ve been exploring museums in Belém all day, and want to grab lunch at Sea Me in Chiado, you’ll probably want to grab a cab due to the city’s many hills. Luckily, there are cabs everywhere in Lisbon and they can easily be hailed on the street. Uber is also a popular option. That said, according to T+L's Lisbon specialist, “Historic trolleys, like Tram 28, travel from Bairro Alto to Graça and are great for sightseeing.”
It’s easy to catch one of the brightly-colored cabs in Bangkok, but be prepared to negotiate on price before you take off. If you don’t feel like playing the “my meter is broken” game with your cab driver, especially from the airport, consider taxi booking apps like Easy Taxi, Grab Taxi, and Uber who have also launched a motorcycle version of their ride-share program called UberMoto. Alternatively, talk to your hotel about arranging a driver, or giving a tuk tuk a whirl. Whichever mode of transport you choose, buckle up: Bangkok’s taxis topped the “most dangerous” list of a recent survey, although the cabbies ranked as some of the friendliest, too.
To get a taxi in Rome, have your hotel call for a cab, use an app like Uber, or find one of the city’s ubiquitous taxi stands, identified by a large orange sign that reads "Taxi." Be sure to only take authorized cabs with a meter and the Eternal City’s coat of arms marked with the letters "SPQR." From personal experience, be aware that even veteran taxi riders can fall prey to Rome’s trickster cabbies who take circuitous routes to jack up the fare (grrrrr!) and feel free to argue if you think you’re being ripped off. This story on how to avoid getting ripped off in a Roman taxi has some great tips, including threatening to call (or actually calling) the carabinieri. Alternatively, T+L’s insider’s guide to Rome suggests seeing the city by foot or taking the metro.
After a day of sight-seeing on foot, you may want to grab a cab to ferry you across the Danube that separates the twin cities of Buda and Pest. According to the city’s website, cabs are marked with the word "Taxi" and have a yellow registration plate (as opposed to the white plates for civilians). The site also notes that having your hotel call a cab for you is cheaper than hailing one on the street.
If you’re looking for a taxi in Nepal, you’ll have the most luck in larger cities like Kathmandu and Pokhara. Cabs can be hailed on the street, or your hotel can call one for you. While the cabs may have a meter, its best to negotiate the fare in advance. According to Rough Guides, the best bet for transportation in Kathmandu is to charter a taxi for an entire day, which costs roughly 2200 Nepalese Rupee, or about $20 U.S.
Cusco is filled with cabs eager to help ferry tourists around the city for a relatively low price. Taxis can either be hailed from the street or hotels can call for an official taxi for trips to the airport, train station, or even the Sacred Valley. According to the T+L guide, it’s a cheap taxi ride to the Cusco train station if you’re headed to Machu Picchu, which is actually in the nearby town of Poroy. They caution that travelers should add “at least an hour to get from central Cusco to the train station” because traffic can be brutal.
St. Petersburg, Russia
According to Saint Petersburg’s website, travelers should have their hotel call a reputable cab company (you can find a list here). The fare will be calculated when you book the trip, but expect a minimum fare of around $10, which covers the first 5km. The website does not recommend flagging a car in the street, “unless you have good Russian and a reasonable knowledge of the city.”
Cape Town, South Africa
While taxis are easy to hail on the bustling streets of Cape Town, according to T+L shares that “most Capetonians now swear by Uber as their go-to means of transportation—it’s cheap and safe.” Download the Uber app and set up your profile before you travel to make getting around Cape Town a breeze.
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Amsterdam’s airport website reports that cabs will take travelers to any major Dutch city for a fixed rate. If you’re heading to Amsterdam’s city center, grab an official cab at the stand outside the airport (recognizable by their roof lights and blue license plates). The ride will cost a fixed rate of 39 Euro, although there may be additional fees for luggage, late-night driving, or traveling on public holiday. In the city, according to Amsterdam’s website, there’s an art to hailing a Dutch cab. Due to heavy bicycle and foot traffic, taxis cannot stop just anywhere. Flag away, but you may need to walk to where a cab can pull over safely. Alternatively, head to Amsterdam's fixed taxi ranks. Once in the cab, make sure the meter is turned on and in use.
Hong Kong, China
According to Hong Kong’s tourism board, “Taxis are plentiful throughout Hong Kong. They can usually be hailed on the street (except in restricted areas) or summoned by phone. All are metered, relatively cheap, air-conditioned and clean.” Uber is also an easy option for travelers in Hong Kong, especially if you’re trying to head over the harbor, because as T+L’s guide notes, it “can be hard to convince cab drivers to cross the harbor.”
Prague, Czech Republic
Prague is an enchanting city full of architectural wonders best seen on foot. When you’re feet get tired, though, you may be tempted to grab a cab. Be warned: according to T+L’s guide, “Prague taxis are usually inexpensive—but they're notorious for cheating tourists. Instead of hailing one on the street, call a radio taxi service such as AAA Taxi, 420-2/3311-3311 or HaloTaxi, 420-2/4411-4411 and hire a driver for the day.”
For most of the year, it’s too hot to walk in Dubai, so locals either hop on the metro or take a cab. According to the T+L Dubai guide, “Metered taxis are the most popular and ubiquitous mode of transportation. There’s a mandatory flat rate of $3 (ladies-only cab services are also available).” Alternatively, check into the luxurious Burj Al Arab Jumeirah where a fleet of Rolls Royce will be available for use. For a cheap thrill (a rarity in Dubai) hop on a motorized water taxi (abra in Arabic) to cross Dubai Creek.
After you’ve flown across the world for an amazing meal of fish and are ready to explore Hanoi, have your hotel call a reputable taxi company for you. According to Frommer’s, there are plenty of taxis to hail in popular tourist districts and outside the major attractions in Hanoi. Once in the cab, make sure the meter is turned on and functioning properly. If you’re in doubt, make the taxi driver wait while you have someone at your hotel verify the charge. Even if you do get over-charged, keep in mind that Hanoi is still one of the most affordable vacation spots in the world.
There is no real taxi system in Ubud, according to Lonely Planet, but hotels can arrange private transport or you can attempt to negotiate with drivers on the street. If you fly into Bali, Trip Advisor says that there is only one taxi that is allowed to do airport pick-ups: the Ngurah Rai Airport Taxi. The fee from the airport is fixed and be sure to look for “guys in blue patterned shirts” as they are the only official taxi drivers.