A question we get asked sometimes is if hailing a taxi off the street is a safe thing to do in Cuenca. And our answer is always the same, “yes it is”.
The worse thing that can happen is some drivers might try and gringo gouge you a few bucks just because you’re new here and don’t know the prices for travel distances. Having said that, we recommend always take a registered taxi, which here in Cuenca 95% of them are.
BTW, hailing a taxi off the street in Manta, Quito or Guayaquil is not a safe practice and we do not recommend that anyone just hop into a taxi off the street in these big cities of Ecuador. It’s unfortunate but also a real scary truth that you cannot trust taxis in these areas of Ecuador. Do your due diligence and stay safe!
3 Reasons for Calling Radio Cabs
Rumor going around in Cuenca is to always call a radio cab for safety reasons. What’s funny about this is if you hop into a yellow cab in Cuenca it is already registered with the city and so it is a “radio cab”. The purpose for “radio cabs”, which is what ALL THE TAXIS ARE ANYWAY, is…
1. …to have the convenience of having a favorite driver who may speak English.
2. …to not have to stand around on the street hailing a taxi since they come to you.
3. …and because the same cab driver will charge the same fee to you.
All of which are very good reasons for having the same driver. Hence-"radio cab".
UPDATE November 2014 - ALL taxis in Cuenca should have meters. If the cab does not have a meter, do not take it; hail another. Taking taxis in Cuenca now is the normal rate it should be when you compare the rates to other areas, like Quito, Loja, and Riobamba. Before the meters were put in the rates were higher than anywhere else in Ecuador.
We are leaving the information about "how not to get gringoed gouged in this article for those folks who live outside of Cuenca and take taxis often. Also if you visit the coast or any other cities in Ecuador the taxis probably will not have/use the meters.
Popular Ways Expats Get Gringo Gouged When Taking a Taxi
1. Hopping right into the cab without asking the fare. New arrivals that own the DIY Cuenca Landing Guide, know the fares in advance, and so don't need to ask. See below:
2. Talking amongst yourselves about the expensive hotels you’re staying at and eating at, in English. (Understand that to the locals, all tourists are rich and have money to spend, so what is a few extra bucks for your cab ride?) PRINCIPLE - PRINCIPLE - PRINCIPLE.
3. They hand the driver a $5, $10, or $20 dollar bill for a $2.50 cab ride.
4. They readily pay whatever the driver says the fare is and do not negotiate.
Things NOT to do when flagging Down and Taking a Taxi in Cuenca
1. Never get into an unmarked taxi cab!
2. Always ask the price first, or know the price and have exact change.
3. Tone down the English until you have been told what the rate is.
4. Don’t pull out a wad of cash in front of the driver.
5. Do not brag about where you are staying and the expensive restaurants you are eating at.
6. Do not hand the driver anything but the EXACT change!
7. It is best to, either know the price ahead of time and hand the driver that amount at the end of the ride, or ask what the fee is BEFORE you get into the taxi, knowing what the approximate fare SHOULD be.
8. Speak Spanish if you can and act like you know where you are going.
Just the other day, Frank and I went to the Cuenca airport to pick up a friend. Heading outside we see about 10 or 12 taxis all lined up waiting for fares. We asked the first guy how much the rate was to take us where we needed to go and he quoted $4.00 for a cab ride we knew should only be $2.50 to $3.00 at the most.
So we simply said, “No thanks” and went to the next taxi in line, who said they would take us for $2.50. We happily climbed into the taxi and paid the real rate, not the gringo rate.
When people pay whatever the taxi driver says it sets a precedent. That means if a gringo just pays $4.00 then that driver will expect $4.00 the next time and the next time…and the next time…pretty soon all the taxis will be gringo gouging the gringos! It’s up to us to not allow gringo gouging.
What do you think? Please, go ahead and chime in with your comments or questions in the comments area below.