Saturday, 20 December 2014

Spot the deadly fake taxi on your international travels!

Shocking Fake Taxi
Would you be able to pick out a fake taxi in a foreign land, where everything is new to you?
What if you're extremely tired from a long-haul flight? Or you've had too much to drink?
Can you spot the signs that this is a fake taxi?
Tip: right click the picture to open it in a new window, for a close-up view.
Once you have given the picture a good look over, scroll down to see the answers below.

It happens all over the world and has resulted in numerous rip-offs, robberies, sexual assaults, kidnapping and murder – taking a fake taxi could be your last trip.

All too often, most assume everything that looks like a taxi must be a taxi and therefore, by default, we numb our minds and jump-in without a second thought. More often than not, our minds are even more trusting of taxis in foreign lands where everything is new or when we have consumed considerable alcohol.

The most likely locations of taking a fake taxi are China, Lebanon, Colombia, Brazil, Belgium, France (Paris), and Nigeria though it has and can literally take place anywhere in the world.

Most fake taxi drivers do it for economic reasons – no insurance, no taxi license, and a cash only system that generates considerable profits.

Other fake taxi drivers have more nefarious objectives, such as:
  • Purposefully rigging their meters to jump wildly (China, Thailand)
  • Counterfeit money laundering (China)
  • Violent robberies (Brazil, Colombia and Namibia)
  • Intent to sexually assault women (Brussels, Paris, Toronto, UK)

How to spot a fake

There are some common things you should look for with respect to fake taxis:
  • Different colour scheme from the dominant registered licensed taxis you see driving about
  • No taxi license in the vehicle
  • Cash only
  • No presence of an actual meter
  • Taxi driver approaches you and encourages you to use their vehicle versus waiting in a queue
  • Physical characteristics (really a judgment call) on whether they look like an official taxi driver
  • Several occupants in the vehicle
  • Displayed photo identification does not match driver's facial features
  • Removable or flimsy taxi sign on roof
  • Substandard working condition
  • Invalid or non-existent license plates
  • Non-existent dispatch system
  • No GPS in vehicle yet such units are readily seen in other taxis in the area you are visiting 7

How to avoid or deal with the fake

Tips on avoiding or dealing with fake taxis:
  • Always travel with a companion, especially if you a woman leaving a bar at the end of the night - a fake taxi driver will be less likely target you if you are less vulnerable (with a companion)
  • Do research on the internet (i.e. beforehand, to familiarize yourself with what official taxi cab companies operate in the city you are visiting OR upon arrival at the airport go to the information desk to ask "what does an official taxi look like?"
  • Always call or book online for a taxi from a licensed company - Google such companies online, or have your hotel call you one (often called a 'radio taxi')
  • If a radio taxi is not available, go to an official taxi queue line near a major hotel, shopping mall etc.
  • The taxi driver should recite your name when picking you up, and if they don't, then they are not the designated pick-up person for you
  • Always sit in the back seat of a taxi to avoid any contentious situation, albeit a legitimate taxi or fake one - you want to be unencumbered should you need to flee
  • If there is a meter present, and it is behaving erratically without a legitimate explanation, if you are in a safe area, ask the driver politely to pull over, place the money on the seat and get out (while this may or may not be a fake taxi, there is a scam going on and best you remove yourself from the situation)
  • Have your cellular phone charged up and ready to either videotape and or call the police at a moment`s notice
  • Carry small change so as to avoid getting fake currency change back - you should also be able to drop the exact fare (or a bit more) on the seat and walk off in a dispute
  • Under all circumstances, where possible, travel with your bags with you in the car and not the trunk (access to the trunk will be used as unfair leverage if you refuse to comply with unreasonable demands)
  • If you are being attacked or placed in a very vulnerable situation, scream or yell to alert nearby people of your plight – this could force the driver to stop his nefarious plans with you
Truth be told, fake taxi drivers are getting more and more clever all the time in order to dupe travelers, but if you follow the above guidelines you should minimize your chances of being in a very unfavourable situation.

Shocking Fake Taxi
To the trained eye this is a fake taxi. It has magnetic removable sign on the door that is slightly misaligned, the top TAXI sign on the roof is out of proportion and the company's logo or dispatch telephone number do not appear on the rear of the vehicle.
So be it, ride it and you'll be unaware that the fare is then mechanically controlled by the driver who will charge at his own will, regardless of the destination or distance. Upon reaching your destination, the shocking high price will be demanded. Hanoi, Vietnam, SE Asia.
Source: Emilio Labrador on flickr (permission requested)

Have a scary story about a fake taxi? Please contact us so we can update our travel pages and alert other future travelers.

Related resources:
Smart travel advice from IHateTaxis:

Friday, 12 December 2014

Layover Ideas: Frankfurt

Old Frankfurt
Old Frankfurt
creativecommons image by fran001 on Flickr
Have a layover coming up in this great city? Wondering what you could do with your time? Here's a little inspiration.

We've gathered the following resources - tips, stories and layover ideas - to help you get the most out of your time here... [read more].

Want more layover ideas?
• Read more stories on the LayoverIdeas Blog
• Explore cities worldwide on

Related resources
Mugging: are you a target? 10 resources
Spot the deadly fake taxi on your international travels!
Dealing with taxi drivers
Dealing with touts
Airport arrival advice

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Security issues threaten to define Uber in India

Will real and perceived security issues define Uber in India?
creative commons image by scrolleditorial on flickr
by Todd Romaine

Shiv Kumar Yadav, a Uber taxi driver from India accused of raping a passenger this past week, had a history of this same charge three years ago but was acquitted. Whether or not this man is guilty or not, Uber has now been banned in India as a result of its lack of proper security protocol.

More broadly, however, there are numerous actors lobbying governments to shut Uber down and rely on the existing licensed operators versus the more convenient taxi booking app that allows more availability and reduced fares for commuters. They are undoubtedly using this recent example as a broad stroke risk for allowing Uber market entry, even though they are numerous rape cases involving licensed traditional taxis which never warrant calls to shut down the entire taxi service for not properly vetting proper employees.

Truth be told, in most parts of the world, taxi operators are not the most ethical, law abiding and moral individuals. Many have spent time in jail or have had issues with the police. The profession, to many, is a last resort or a recurring opportunity to swindle people.

Obviously, there is natural sensitivity in India over the maltreatment of women and, as such, if Uber is creating unfavourable conditions for these events to continuously unfold, then their tenure in India will be short lived.

Uber was quick to defend itself as being responsible and that perhaps the issue has more to do with India’s lack of background checks in the commercial transportation licensing program. Needless to say, a new entrant that can seemingly skirt regulation (licensing), as well as impact existing monopolies, will face an uphill battle.

Ironically, it is the lack of regulation in the internet sector that will make it difficult for the Government of India to prevent people from using their smartphone to hailing a taxi through Uber. 

While this situation is most unfortunate, and lobby groups will attempt to maximize the fear as a mechanism to push out competition, Uber et al. will continue to make their advance on a growing market trend that is having major seismic impacts on how we hail a taxi. The Government of India should continue with reforms to ensure women are able to enjoy a safe existence in all aspects of life, but throwing Uber under the proverbial bus for one unfortunate incident would be regrettable.

Related Resources
Delhi to ban all internet taxi firms after Uber rape claim
In defense of Uber in India - Fortune
Uber provides the taxi industry a good kick in the pants

Friday, 5 December 2014

Layover Ideas: Edinburgh

Edinburgh at a glance
Edinburgh at nightfall
image: creativecommons, Dimitri B on Flickr
Have a layover coming up in this great city? Wondering what you could do with your time? Here's a little inspiration.

We've gathered the following resources - tips, stories and layover ideas - to help you get the most out of your time here... [read more].

Want more layover ideas?
• Read more stories on the LayoverIdeas Blog
• Explore cities worldwide on

Related resources
Mugging: are you a target? 10 resources
Spot the deadly fake taxi on your international travels!
Dealing with taxi drivers
Dealing with touts
Airport arrival advice

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Swedish officials cracking down on Arlanda Airport taxi fraud!

New Arlanda Airport to Stockholm taxi regulations
It may be hard to believe that Sweden, of all places, deals with an epidemic when it comes to expensive taxi fraud. For many years, travellers have been swindled up to ten times the going rate for a simple trip from Arlanda International Airport (ARN) into Stockholm. Commonly, passengers fall prey to the confusing currency trick where the Swedish Krona (KRN) is commonly interchangeably with the Euro (EUR) and the traveller is told that the final price is in Euro, not Krona (1 Euro is about 9 Krona), thus expanding their profit margin on the dazed and confused tourist. This fraud practice has left many people with a bad taste in their mouth when it comes to visiting this Scandinavian country where prices across the board are already exuberant enough.

Swedish officials are finally clamping down on the fraud by requiring taxi drivers or their agents to discuss and agree upon the highest possible fare the passenger would be expected to pay for their entire journey the taxi leaves the curb. An example would be if the standard fare to Stockholm exceeds 500 Krona (about US$ 67 or EUR54) then the passenger must agree to this price before the taxi departs. Swedish officials are likely being proactive with the anticipation of Uber soon entering the Stockholm market with pre-paid fares as a mechanism to ensure travellers pay fair market price versus an almost guarantee fraud under the current status quo conditions. It does seem odd that for too long Swedish officials have turned a blind eye to the "unSwedish" behaviours in their capital city that have created a negative image for the country at the hands of some unethical taxi drivers in an oddly unregulated industry.

If you are heading to Stockholm anytime soon, then make sure you an agreement on the total maximum cost in writing (including what currency this will be in) before you jump into a taxi. If the taxi driver tries to justify an unwarranted increase at the end of your journey, then simply leave your money on the seat and walk away. As always with our recommendations anywhere in the world -- if possible carry all of bags in the backseat of the taxi and not the trunk to avoid any further scams occurring when you leave the taxi, including the taxi driving off with your personal luggage still in the trunk.

Related resources

'Wild west' taxi drivers face tough new rules
Spotify targets Stockholm Uber taxis
Stockholm taxi scam warning - Trip Advisor
Stockholm Arlanda Airport (ARN) transportation guide
Stockholm layover ideas and things to do in Stockholm