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Why Do Cuenca Taxis Have Taxi Meters?

Posted in: Cuenca Ecuador, Living in Ecuador

There is a paradox regarding taxis in Cuenca. Virtually every taxi has a taxi meter (or is at least wired for one) but no one – not a one – uses them. It’s fun to joke with some of the friendlier taxi drivers about it.

They’ve told me that it is the law, but because no one uses them, it isn’t enforced – not unlike many other laws on the books.

A few times taxi drivers have asked for an extremely high rate – like triple the usual rate for a route we commonly took. When I asked them about it, they told me that that was the rate, period. I asked them: “What does the meter say?” Many times they backed down and gave me the normal rate.


When the rate is too high, we simply tell the driver what we normally pay for that route. And they have always adjusted the price to what it should be. We never try to negotiate the price below normal – we just want to pay what everyone else does.

He also told me about the time that he got a tip. (On a side note: tipping taxi drivers isn’t the custom.) He told me that the fare was $6 and the passenger gave him $10 and told him to keep the change. This happened years ago, and he still talks about it. Shows the impact we can have.

When my parents were in Cuba, they traveled by horse and buggy. No meter needed… You won’t find many horse and buggies in Cuenca – except at Paradise Park on Sundays.

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Meet the Author

Bryan Haines is co-editor of GringosAbroad - Ecuador's largest blog for expats and travelers. He is a travel blogger and content marketer. He is also co-founder of ClickLikeThis (GoPro tutorial blog) and Storyteller Travel.

5 comments… add one
  • Rosetta A Williams Jan 8, 2020, 8:27 pm

    I see this page by you was updated May, 2019. I arrived in Cuenca in November, 2019 and have used taxis most days since my arrival. I have never gotten in a taxi and the driver didn’t turn the meter on. I usually hail a taxi on the street, sometimes I call especially at night but in any case they always turn the meter on and my fare has always been under $2.

  • Charley Oct 13, 2012, 10:35 am

    I’m a gringo in Colombia. Taxis aside, there is definitely a gringo price and a local price for lots of things. I try to have a Colombian buy things for me from people like street vendors.

    • Bryan Haines Oct 14, 2012, 6:34 am

      Thanks Charley – how long have you been there? While we still see higher prices sometimes, it isn’t as bad as we thought when we first arrived. We were paranoid from what we read, thinking that everyone was charging us more. Here in Ecuador, at least, it isn’t that big of a problem – unless we’re talking about real estate. Many locals (and foreigners) charge extremely high prices to fresh expats who either don’t know any better or simply don’t have enough Spanish to find a better deal.

      Thanks for your comment.

  • Lee O!B - TravelandThrive Aug 9, 2012, 9:54 pm

    Great post you guys! Nice job of mentioning the “what does the meter say?” line. That usually gets them being honest with you. The precedence partially comes form other expats or tourists who have paid the triple pricing. Stoked to be in contact with you guys!! All the best

  • Ralph Sabean Mar 19, 2012, 10:30 am

    Thanks Brian & Dena thats a nice piece about you getting your residency. Residency is not the same as citizenship. I can see there is a lot of turmoil to go through and many ways to get there and I’m wondering whcih way is the best. If you marry some one that is if you are young and single is one way, if you buy land and how does that work would you not have to live on the land you bought. Then there is the way Matthew is trying to do it and I’m not quite sure what his way actually is. I think it just has to do with a sizeable Bank Account. I imagine a Country would look at that as a factor allowing some one to have residency.

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