By one taxi drivers estimation (he is an organizer for some of the strikes in the past) there are more than 3000 pirate taxi drivers in Cuenca compared to the 5000 licensed ones.
Now the term “pirate” might bring to mind eye patches, parrots and chests of gold. Or maybe just a criminal. Neither is exactly true.
Learn about Taxi Rates in Cuenca, Ecuador
The legal and licensed taxistas (taxi drivers) spend considerable time/money to be properly licensed. The pirates don’t worry about it. Many of the pirate drivers have a yellow cab, decals and everything. The only obvious difference is that they don’t have the license number on the side/front.
We’ve used the pirate taxis a number of times and never had any trouble. Once we could only get a pirate taxi to take us to a far away destination – the regular ones refused to go that far (money didn’t even enter into the equation). That being said, I guess you technically increase your risk of problems if you use an unlicensed driver.
From frequent conversations with taxistas, the biggest danger is to them – not to the fares. A number had stories of getting robbed late at night. I’ve never heard of any crime by taxi drivers (including pirates) in Cuenca.
Taxis in Guayaquil are a different story.