How Should a Gringo Handle Cuenca Taxi Rates?

Posted in: Cuenca Ecuador, Living in Ecuador

If you are just learning Spanish, what is the best way to handle taxis in Cuenca?

There have been some claims that taxi drivers overcharge Gringos – and in some cases that might be the case.  But generally, we haven’t found that to be true. It seems that more often than not, people just don’t know what the real rate is.

“Cab”, (C) fiat luxe, Photographer Rebecca Smith. Used under creative commons license.

How to Pay the Local Taxi Rate in Cuenca

Given that Cuenca taxis don’t use meters you are limited as to the ways to know what the local rate is.

Really, there are just two options:

  1. You can learn by trial and error. After taking a few hundred taxis you’ll learn what the rates should be. Sometimes you’ll overpay, other times you may be given a deal (don’t laugh – it has happened to us a number of times) but the majority of the time you’ll pay the real rate. We have had great success with the taxistas (taxi drivers) here in Cuenca. Sometimes, they’ll even get in their car, realize the ride should have been just $2.50 and they’ll get out to give me back my $0.50.
  2. You can ask first. Before you get in, ask the driver how much to your location. Or ask a reliable (and experienced) friend what the rate should be. If its close, pay it. If you think it should be $2 and they ask for $2.50 pay it. We’ve heard crazy stories of non-spanish speaking gringos throwing fits and slamming doors on taxis (not taken lightly – many have signs requesting that you close slowly / carefully) because the driver asked for $0.50 more than this inexperienced foreigner thought it should be.

Would we do that back home? $0.50??? Really? Its little wonder why some of the taxi drivers try to get a little more from foreigners after being treated like that. On a side note: in this case, the taxi ride was actually a $2.50 ride. We’ve paid that many times.

Now I’m not advocating overpaying, or paying the famed gringo tax, but don’t be a cheapskate and actually rip them off either. I know how we would all feel if anyone refused to pay our business the standard rate – and then told us off on top of it.

It’s true that there are some cheap holiday deals to be found when traveling to South America. And taxis are no exceptions. But it’s good to know what the real rates are – keeps us from embarrassing ourselves.

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Meet the Author

Bryan Haines

Bryan Haines is editor of GringosAbroad - one of the largest English language sites about Ecuador. Work with GringosAbroad. He is a travel blogger, photographer and content marketer. He is also co-founder of ClickLikeThis (GoPro tutorial blog) and Storyteller Media (content marketing for travel brands).

6 comments… add one
  • Another Bryan Aug 9, 2012, 10:48 am

    Oh, don’t leave out the taxi drivers that claim not to have any change. I know Ecuadorians have a scarcity issue when it comes to having change, but that IS their responsibility. No change? Driver won’t get it? “Gracias” and get out! And that was the advise I was given by an Ecuadorian.

  • Brian Jun 23, 2012, 8:56 am

    Your experience was much different than ours Brian. I found that if you asked them how much, they would always want a lot more than market rate and wouldn’t negotiate down to market rate. However if we just got in the Taxi and went, and then gave them market rate after we got out they fine with it most of the time. If they asked for a little more we usually gave it to them. If they asked for a lot more we told them “no gringo impuesta, por favor” (no gringo tax, please) and either gave them a little more (if they were nice) or walked off if they were not nice.

    • Bryan Haines Jun 25, 2012, 9:52 pm

      When we first arrived, 3 years ago, we often asked rates. After the first few months we got a handle on rates and the taxi drivers generally charged accurate fees.

      I have had to pay the normal fee and walk away as well. Just a few months ago, we traveled from an apartment complex to the park: $2.50. The return trip a couple of hours later (same distance and still daytime) the next taxi driver asked for $6. I paid him $3 and left. Knowing the real rate is important. There is a financial issue – paying too much will add up. There is also the moral issue of being overcharged. That never feels good.

      Great to hear that you aren’t having any trouble with overcharging – at least none you can’t handle!

      Thanks for the comment,

      Bryan

  • Mark Jun 22, 2012, 9:16 am

    Good article, I went with my friend who didn’t known Spanish, but he learned a few phrases and actually had fun talking to the taxi drivers about the cost of the ride and of course he was always respectful.

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