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:
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.
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.
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!