Taxistas in Buenos Aires are known world-wide for the array of scams that they perpetrate against unknowing tourists. The scam happens in a flash and drivers are often so aggressive that traveler’s tend to hand over the cash instead of sticking around to argue. However, if you find yourself in any of theses situation, don’t back down. Argue, even in broken Spanish, and threaten to call the police or, if you can, just walk out of the taxi cab without paying. Here are a couple of common taxi scams in Buenos Aires to look out for: 

A taxi driver in Boca (Photo by Diego Torres Silvestre
A taxi driver in Boca (Photo by Diego Torres Silvestre)

Unofficial Cabs

There are a number of unofficial cabs driving around downtown that look extremely similar to the official “Radio Taxis.” The difference between the two is that the unofficial cabs are not registered with the government and therefore are not required by law to post certain laws and regulations related to taxis in their cab. These unofficial taxis are unsafe and will probably overcharge you or even try to rob you. What can you do? Always take a taxi that has an official RADIO TAXI  name on their car.

The Switcheroo

This method can be clearly seen in the video above where the taxi driver (in less than 5 seconds!) takes your bill and switches it with a fake that he has bought in the black market. He then starts to almost yell aggressively that you handed him a fake bill. This scam is often pulled with travelers who are hailing a cab after a good night of partying. The lack of light and the tipsy traveler makes the scam that must easier. What can you do? The driver in the video states that the only fake bills that they buy in the black market are ARG$50 and ARG$100 bills, so try to avoid paying taxi drivers with anything larger than a ARG$20 bill. Most of the time individuals can’t break larger bills, so before getting in the taxi make sure to warn the driver that all you have is a large bill. At the end of the ride, make sure to note down or look at the serial number on the bill. If the driver switches the bills, make sure to call him out on it.

The Round-About

This scam is usually implemented with tourists who take taxis from the airport. There are different variations of this scam but the idea is that the driver takes you on a scenic route all around the city to increase the price before letting you off at your final destination. Another variation is “broken down” taxi routine. The driver takes the scenic route and then suddenly his taxi breaks down. Miraculously another taxi appears and you are forced to pay two different taxi drivers. What can you do? It is best to ask airport staff about exactly how  much you should pay for a trip (around USD$20 – 30) and take an official airport taxi. Airport taxi rides are always a fixed price, so make sure to agree on a price before getting into the car and never get into a car if the driver asks for USD. Taxi drivers should never ask individuals to pay in American dollars, this is a huge tip-off that you will probably be scammed. Also if you do believe that the driver is taking the long way around, lean closer to the driver seat and act like you are paying attention to exactly where they are going or have a map handy to see exactly where the driver seems to be taking you.

Confusion from the Airport

After the driver finally arrives at your final destination, they might pull a couple of small cons to confuse you and scam you out of some money. In these instances the driver may change the price, shuffling around bills, changing bills and/or handing back strange combinations of change. What can you do? These problems can be avoided by taking an official taxi or a remis, such as Taxi Ezeiza, where you pre-pay inside the airport at a taxi stand. If you are heading from a hostel to the airport, ask the front staff for the number of a reliable taxi driver that can take you.

The Tricked Out Meter

The scenario is: you sit down in the taxi and as the car starts going on it’s way, you notice that the meter is climbing really quickly. Before you know it you arrive at your destination and you owe over USD$100 dollars. Another scam is claiming that you owe “off the meter charges.” Nonetheless, it is recommended that travelers always look to see if the driver has turned on his meter. The meter (in spanish: reloj)  needs to be turned on or the driver might make up an inflated price at the end of the trip. What can you do? Before stepping into the taxi ask how much the trip to your destination should be. The driver will give you a number and if you think that’s fair then hop in. Make sure to keep an eye on the meter and if the number is twice that of the price stated by the driver than something is wrong. Sometimes taxi drivers can be scared into admitting that they scammed you (like in the above video) if you threaten to call the police. Say that you will write down the cab number (which by law must be on display) then call the police and the Radio Taxi company to report them.   

Have you ever been scammed in Buneos Aires by a taxi driver? Tell us your story below! 

18 Comments

      1. Avoid Taxi JOW 696 I have lodged a complaint with photographs about the driver of this cab who operated from the main International Airport

        Over tree weeks oter drivers were excellent

    1. Great tips and warnings here Yvonne. It seems taxis try to rip us off no matter what country we are in, Buenos Aires seem famed and well practised at it.

      Your advice is very worthwhile. Stay sensible, stick to licensed cars and you reduce your risk significantly.

    1. Got out of a cab just now. Driver had no information posted. I told him to drop me off at the corner of Tucumán and Florida (a famous pedestrian street) from San Telmo. It should be a short ride but he played dumb the whole way, driving quickly around corners, pretending he didn’t know that Florida was a walking only street, and not taking the alternate routes I offered, choosing instead to head off Tucumán at the wrong end since it’s a one way. I told him where to shove his fare and the people standing by laughed as he pleaded to them that I didn’t pay.

      Don’t put up with bs. There are the rare scammers, but if you are familiar with the area where you are dropped off, don’ t give into the scam.

    1. Great article Yvonne! And a really great website, I am stuck 🙂 I am traveling to Buenos Aires tomorrow and these are great things to know! If you guys need more info about taxis in Buenos Aires or anywhere in the world, I found one website dedicated to that, hope it will help to some of you travelers http://myworldtaxi.com I will also visit Montevideo, punta del Este and Rio and I found info about all of them here, except Punta though, but it is a really small city, I guess they have only bigger ones…

      1. Love this website, I will definitely take a look at it and maybe even write something for the blog. Thank you so much for passing this info along to me

    1. May I just say what a comfort to find someone who actually
      understands what they are discussing online.
      You actually understand how to bring an issue to light and make it
      important. More people have to look at this and
      understand this side of the story. I was surprised that you aren’t more popular because you definitely possess
      the gift.

    1. After the taxi arrives at your destination, the driver leaves the meter running. While you are getting out your money you look up and the meter has changed.
      Also had one try to charge me extra for my bags.

    1. Just go taken by a taxi driver not to the address that we gave him that was in writing. Took us to another district totally in the opposite direction. We wanted to go to a leather store which was the address that we gave him but took us to a leather factory .
      When I became upset with him and started to write down his name, he became very aggressive and grabbed the paper from me and started yelling. Left us on the sidewalk. I did remember his last name and got his licence number and have been trying to contact the tourist police but having no luck telephoning them.
      We had another taxi ride to take us to the correct address which was another 30 minute ride.
      I now us the GPS on my cellphone to make sure we are going in the right direction and take a photo of the driver information that is displayed on the back of the drivers seat.
      Taxis are usually a problem in most big cities for tourists but did find in all the other cities that we have been to in Argentina that they were great.

      1. Thank you for the comment! That sounds a little scary, I am happy that you are alright! That is actually a great idea, I might be doing that too.

    1. This is a recent scam by a Buenos Aires radio taxi driver: He wanted to be paid twice what the meter read because he picked us up from downtown BA and drove us to the airport, which is outside the city. He claimed the extra charge was to pay him for the return trip, but this is a scam,, so beware. Best to set the price before hand, even if you are on a meter.

    1. We took a cab from the Retiro bus station June 3 morning. When we arrived at our destination, the meter read 82 but the driver insisted the fare was 140. We handed him two bills of 100 to pay. He quickly switched our bills with fake bills. Gave the fake bills back saying they were fake and asked for replacement bills. He did this a couple of times until he had stolen 500. Also, he almost kept one piece of our luggage claiming he forgot or didn’t see it (even though it was in the front seat).

      His cab looked legitimate.

      Lesson: confirm cab is legitimate and only pay in small bills. Also fake bills feel very different than real currency so check the bills

    1. I was waiting outside my hotel near Florida Ave. I was waiting to be picked up by a bus for my day tour to a ranch and made the mistake of holding a piece of paper in my hand (which screamed that I was waiting for a day tour). The streets in the area are small and I had this guy whistle and wave to me from the corner. I follow him around the corner and he heads to a taxi. I slow and he says streets too small for the bus. Not thinking much of it as I had had that happen in other cities, I hop in the cab and the driver is really friendly, speaking in English.

      We drive out of the area with single lanes to the multi-lane area and he pulls over and tells me bus would meet me here and then he asks for 2 pesos. My mind is looking for the bus and I haul out a 5 peso note. He says no change. I say that’s fine, keep it. (It’s like $1). But he is insistent and then says $1 USD. So, I haul out my little wallet and his hands come back to “help me” as something fell out of the wallet. I picked it up and offer him the dollar but he says no, it’s good. Go get the bus.

      Now, I know something is hinky here. I put the wallet away and step out. I actually was going to take a picture of his cab because I knew something didn’t feel right.

      I stand around for a while and then realize that I’m only a block from my hotel. I walk back and get the front desk to call the company and before he can, my guide walks in through the door. I told him what happened and he thought it funny.

      I didn’t realize that the driver had slipped $80 USD from my wallet while I was retrieving the item that fell from my wallet.

      This guy was slick. Overweight and in his fifties, you don’t expect this. No big loss to me but I would have been upset if I had missed what turned out to be an amazing visit to a ranch.

      And the next day, my local host and driver showed up to take me to the airport. The driver got out to help put the luggage in the back and then we got into the car and the driver looked around and said “where’s my purse?”

      In a matter of seconds, someone had reached in and grabbed it. We never saw a thing!

      I felt so bad for her, I gave her every cent of Argentine money I had left.

    1. Here is what happened to me at the airport. A person with a sign bearing my name was waiting for me. I didn’t order a car service and no one knew I was coming into town so it was very odd. The guy said he was suppose to pick my up and take me to the American Hotel. I was staying at an AIRBNB……he showed me his phone which in English said my name, the flight I was on and that I was going to the American Hotel. I told the guy no and he said he wanted to call his boss and for me to wait. I left at once, went to taxi stand and got a cab the hell out of there. Upon reflection this is what happened. The female customs agent asked me my flight number (which seemed very odd) and asked what hotel I was staying at. I lied and said the American Hotel because I didn’t think that was her concern. So she was working with this guy. She spent a very long time looking over my passport, page by page, giving this guy enough time to get her text, or listen to me talk to her (she could have had her telephone on speaker with him listening to our conversation). He than prints my name on a 81/2 by 11 and is standing there waiting for me. Be very careful in Buenos Aires. It is a sad day when the customs officials are on the take like that. I am sure I would have been robbed of everything or kidnapped or both. I emailed the U.S. Embassy with details, hopefully they will look into it.

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