Taxis and ride shares are a great alternative to renting a car in many situations. However, when you enter a stranger’s vehicle, it is always important to exercise caution. Below are ways that I have found to safely use taxis and ride shares.
Is the Vehicle Licensed and Authorized?
One of my top considerations on how to use taxis and ride shares safely is to be sure you enter a licensed taxi. In many countries, there are “taxis” that are unauthorized. In most countries, the licensed drivers have had to go through some special permit or application to be permitted by the government. As a result, these drivers are generally more safe.
While unauthorized taxis may be cheaper or more readily available, weigh out the options and safety issues prior to taking a ride. Usually official taxis have a certificate inside, a designated booth at the airports and train stations, and a driver who has a photo badge. These items usually indicate an authorized driver.
Are You Able to Communicate Effectively?
An important factor on how to use taxis and ride shares safely is that before you enter a vehicle, always be sure there is some level of communication between you and your driver. It could be that you need a third party to communicate for you, such as a hotel porter or concierge. This way, you start out feeling comfortable that the driver is clear on your destination.
If there is a language barrier, clarify with a visual. Try showing your driver a travel brochure of the place you want to go. You could also show a business card with an address, a ticket with the train listed, or a webpage on a cell phone. If you feel there is no possibility of understanding, then wait for a substitute ride. This by no means is to say the driver needs to speak perfectly, or at all in your native language. However, you need to feel confident that an effort has been made to assure you will arrive at your desired destination.
Are You Entering the Correct Vehicle?
Often you will use a ride share company through an application on your phone. Always compare the license plate and model of car to be certain you are entering the correct vehicle. The driver should know your name.
Send a text to a friend or family member. Share the information of your ride. Many apps offer a sharing tool. Shared information should include the time, the driver name, the type of vehicle, the license plate number, your destination, and the estimated time of arrival.
You should always text your safety person to let them know that you actually arrived. If for any reason you do not make them aware of your arrival, they should first try contacting you, in case you forgot… BIG oops!!! If you do not respond, they should contact local authorities in your destination area.
In locations with higher risk, or simply if you feel uncomfortable, you can have hotel staff escort you to your vehicle. Have them notate the time, your name, the license plate, the driver’s name, your destination, and your estimated return. This lets your driver know that someone knows where you are, and that they expect your return. In case you weren’t to return, someone will have a lead on your whereabouts.
Does the Car Appear Safe?
When entering a vehicle, be sure there are no child locks. You should be able to manually open the door if need be. If you are alone, it may feel more comfortable to sit in the front passenger seat. Here, you have control of doors and windows more easily. When possible, pull up a live map on your cellular phone in order to follow along. Then you can be sure you are headed in the direction you requested.
Have an idea how long it should take to arrive at your destination. Know which general direction you should be headed. When exiting any vehicle or public transportation, take the time to look around and be sure that you have gathered all of your personal belongings. Exit through the door closest to a sidewalk or street edge. Do not get out in the middle of the road.
Always buckle your seatbelt in both the back and front seats. If the car is not equipped with safety belts, or has any other obvious missing safety features, opt for an alternate ride.
Reserving Your Vehicle Ahead
Hiring a vehicle before arrival, from a reputable company, allows your whereabouts to be tracked. Transportation companies generally require drivers to meet safety standards. Booking prior to using a vehicle leaves a paper trail.
Another huge perk is that you normally pay by credit card when you make your reservation. Therefore, if you are in an international destination, you do not have to worry about currency exchange upon landing.
Paying For Your Fare
If you need to pay in cash, be sure you have sufficient money to pay your driver. It is important to have the currency of the country if you are in a foreign destination. Always gather your payment discreetly so that you are not flashing your cash to the driver or passers by.
Ask what forms of payment are accepted, prior to taking the ride. If you are using a credit or debit card, be sure that the one you have is taken. It is best to have a back up plan as sometimes credit or debit cards do not function as expected, especially in a foreign location. If you can pay with a phone application, that is great because you never need to reveal your wallet.
Remain in the vehicle until your transaction is complete. Never stand in the street to pay.
Trust Your Instincts
Trust your instincts! If for any reason a driver makes you feel uncomfortable, do not enter the vehicle. If you already have, ask to be let out. It is best to ask when you are in a populated area or at a traffic signal. You can claim that you changed your mind about your destination. The US FCC offers information on numbers to dial from abroad in an emergency. Although this information comes from a US site, it seems to apply to anyone needing to quick dial an emergency number, regardless of your nationality.
If this is not possible, get on the phone, or text a contact, and let them know what is going on. I always leave “Find my phone” service activated as it makes me feel a bit less vulnerable.
Refer to our Travel Tips Safety Page to see more on safety while traveling.