Use Rick Steves' Tips To Avoid Getting Scammed By A Taxi In Europe

When you're planning a European getaway, it's all too easy to overlook the smaller trip details, like taxi services to and from the airport. Chances are, you can probably wing it and be fine. But skimp on the research and you could end up spending more than you expect. For the best chance of getting a fair rate, travel expert and guidebook author Rick Steves has a few taxi tips on his blog, Rick Steves Europe.

For starters, it's best to look up well-established taxi companies with tamper-proof meters before you arrive, that way you'll know what to look for at the airport. He recommends that you call your hotel and ask the front desk about local taxi rates or use tools like World Taximeter to get an idea of what you'll pay. At the end of a long travel day, the last thing you want is to get into a taxi with red flags and not even realize it. These tips can help you avoid falling into a tourist trap.

Establish the rates and confirm the route

Before you get inside the taxi, make sure it looks official with a prominent logo or company name on the side, says Steves on his blog. Check for the driver's identification near the rearview mirror and establish the rate at the start of the trip, before the car starts moving. If you called the cab company ahead of time and were given a standard price, for a trip from the airport to your hotel, confirm that amount with the driver.

If there's no fixed rate, make sure the driver starts the meter. There should also be a rate sheet somewhere inside the cab. Compare this list to what's on the meter's screen to make sure you're paying the right fare. For example, if you're on a daytime ride, make sure the meter isn't set to nights or weekends. If the driver says the machine is broken, ask them to set a fixed rate you can agree on or get out and find another taxi. Don't fall for the trap if the driver is using a taxi meter app instead of a meter, as that could jack up the price.

During the trip, if you're concerned that the driver may be taking the long way 'round, look up the quickest route on an app like Google or Apple Maps. However, Steves also says it's important to keep in mind that taxi drivers know the roads like the back of their hand, so they may be taking a different route to avoid traffic, construction zones, or droves of pedestrians around the city. This is Europe, after all.

Pay with small bills

If you're paying with the local currency, it's best to settle the tab using small bills, Steves writes on his blog. That way, it won't be as big of a loss if they claim to have no change. You're also more likely to get the correct amount of money back as there's less room for a costly "mistake." If you absolutely must use a large bill, state how much you're handing over, like "here's 50 euros." It's a lot harder to argue about how much cash you handed over if you just said the denomination out loud. Once you get your change back, don't be shy about counting it.

If you're confused about the final price, ask the driver to explain the extra charges. When you have extra baggage, you're traveling with pets, or there are several people in the car, expect the price to be higher than usual. But if it's outrageous and you both know it, leave a fair amount of cash on the seat and get out, provided that you have your luggage with you. If the cab driver gets upset, write down the license plate number and ask for the phone number of the cab company, or look it up later. Chances are, it won't get to this point, but it's always better to have a plan just in case. Don't be naive about taxis but do give people the benefit of the doubt, says Steves. In his experience, most drivers are honest and just doing their jobs.