How to Hail a Taxi Overseas

Uber, Hailo, and Others Compete with Outstretched Arm

A street in London

By Paul Riegler on 12 August 2015
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In New York, taxis are yellow; in London, they are black.  Getting one is a different story: it’s not like the movies when you step off the curb, raise your arm or whistle, and a taxicab screeches to a halt directly in front of you.

Taxis are ubiquitous in most major cities but language barriers and local customs (such as unscrupulous drivers overcharging passengers) make some travelers wary of using them.


Only take city-authorized taxis, such as those with medallions in New York City or those with the “SPQR” city coat of arms on them and a taxi sign on the roof in Rome. Drivers are screened in most municipalities and inspectors frequently test meters as well as drivers.

A taxi in Tokyo

A taxi in Tokyo

Of course, if it’s raining or nighttime, all bets may be off.

Be familiar with city tariffs before even walking out onto the street and don’t let the driver take you without starting the meter.

In many locales, taxis are more easily summoned by telephone, text, or an app.  Ask your hotel’s concierge or friends or colleagues who live there what the locals do (although they probably don’t take taxis).

The exception to this is New York City: as one 18-year driver recently said to me, “Taxis here are for New Yorkers.” The tourists walk or take the hop-on hop-off buses. The driver told me that 95% of his street hails were locals, an impressive figure.

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