Hot Tip: How to Catch a NYC Taxi Cab

Hailing a cab in NYC is a rite of passage, and once you know the system, it’s a snap!  Not sure whether a cab already has a fare, is off-duty (no longer working) or just doesn’t like you?  Here’s how you can tell:

Look at the lighted numerical marquee on the top of the cab for indicators on its status.

Here are a few additional pointers:

  • Try to catch a cab on the side of the street, heading the direction you want to go; it saves you money, and saves your cabbie time.  A cab in the wrong direction could mean a difference of five bucks or more if you’re surrounded by one-way streets and traffic!
  • Off-duty cabs might not technically be working, but they will still pick up a fare if it’s in their direction or they have the time.  When they pull over with the window rolled down and looking like they want to talk, tell them your destination and plead with a smile – you’ll have a better than fifty-fifty chance!
  • When you hop in, make sure to tell the cabbie the neighborhood AND the cross streets of where you’re headed; an exact address without a cross street might not be sufficient information, and cost you time if the cabbie has to put it into the GPS.  Also, always specify street or avenue, since we have both for numbered streets and some named ones, like Greenwich Street and Avenue.
  • Tipping is usually rounded up to the nearest dollar plus one.  If your fare is $9.80, give the cabbie $11.  And to keep things efficient, if you don’t have exact change, hand them your cash and ask for the change you want.  “Here’s a twenty – can I get nine back?”
  • If you need to use a credit card, don’t let the cabbie bully you into paying with cash – you are entitled to pay any way you like, and if they tell you the machine is broken, you are within your rights to get out and find a new cab (at the start of the ride, not at the end).
  • Never steal another New Yorker’s cab!  Look “upstream” to make sure that the cab didn’t stop for someone else.  If you notice that someone is trying to hail a cab up the street from you, cross to the opposite corner, or walk down a block to avoid competing for the same cab. DO make sure that you go to your cab (don’t wait for it to come to you), because that’s a sure way to get your cab stolen out from under you before you have a chance to claim it!
  • If someone tries to steal YOUR cab, go ahead and fight for it – any New Yorker would!  A simple, “excuse me, I was here first, and this is my cab” usually does the trick.
  • Sometimes black town cars who see you hailing a cab will pull over with a quick honk to let you know that they are available.  They usually charge at least $5 more than what a yellow city cab would cost; if you don’t want that, politely wave them away.  If you find that time is more important than money, make sure to negotiate your fare before you get in, and confirm whether or not they accept credit cards.

Have you ever hailed an NYC cab before? Did you learn any tips on how to successfully catch a cab in the Big Apple?  Make sure to tell us how it went in the comments!

Photo credit: The Car Connection
Illustration credit: me!

About the author

Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, Lynn has been hooked on traveling and eating weird things ever since her first trip to Vietnam at the age of 16. She loves to discover new places, people and things to eat, both around the world and in Brooklyn, New York. Recently embarking on a year-long journey through South America, Europe and the Far East, she has been documenting her travels for friends and family, and looks forward to sharing her experiences as a Travel Sage! When she’s not traveling, she lives and works in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband and three orchid plants.

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