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There's more to taking a taxi in New York City than hailing it down. You've got to know how to survive the ride.
Step 1: Know where you’re going
Before you hail a cab, get a rough idea of how far you’re going and how much it should cost. If you're not sure, ask a New Yorker. Most will be happy to help you avoid getting ripped off by an unscrupulous cabbie.
Step 2: Step off the curb
Step off the curb and face the oncoming traffic. Just don't step so far off the curb that you're standing in a lane of traffic.
Step 3: Hail a cab
Hail a cab by raising your arm when you spot one with its middle roof light on, indicating it’s available. If no lights are on, it’s occupied. If the outer lights are on, it’s off duty. If it’s a livery car or limo—and not a real yellow cab—it’s not supposed to stop, so don’t get in.
Step 4: Avoid busy areas
Don’t try to hail a cab just slightly in front of someone else with their arm out—it's rude. If you’re in an area where lots of people are trying to get cabs, walk a few blocks to a less competitive location.
New York cabs go off duty around 4:00 in the afternoon to change shifts, which makes finding a free one almost impossible. Try hailing an off-duty cab by indicating with your fingers that you’re only going a short distance—if the cabbie is going your way anyway, he might just take you.
Step 5: Enter and exit on sidewalk
Play it safe by always getting in—and out—of the cab on the same side as the sidewalk.
Only four passengers are allowed in a regular-sized taxi—unless the fifth passenger is under 7 and seated on someone’s lap.
Step 6: Know your rights
Know your rights. You have the right to tell the driver which route to take, you can ask him to slow down, and you are in control of the heat, AC, and radio. You are also entitled to be driven anywhere in the five boroughs.
If the driver says he doesn’t go outside Manhattan, politely contradict him and make a note of his medallion number—located on the window shield dividing the front seat from the rear—so you can report him if need be.
Step 7: Buckle up
Buckle up. Better safe then sorry.
Step 8: Watch the meter
Watch the meter. When you hop in the cab, the fare starts at $2.50. The meter will increase 40 cents every fifth of a mile (approximately four blocks) or, if you’re standing still or crawling along slowly, once every minute. There is no extra charge for luggage.
On weekdays from 4pm to 8pm, there’s an extra $1 surcharge. And every night after 8 p.m., there is a night surcharge of 50 cents.
Step 9: Know airport fares
Know your airport fares. LaGuardia is a regular metered fare, but you’re also responsible for any tolls along the way. If you’re going from JFK to Manhattan, or vice versa, there’s a flat fare of $45 plus tolls. If you’re heading to Newark airport, there is an extra $15 charge plus return tolls to New York City.
Note that New York City cabs can drop you at Newark airport, but because it’s out of state, they’re not legally allowed to pick up fares.
Step 10: Pay the fare
Pay the fare, and unless you had the worst ride of your life, add a nice tip: cab drivers work hard for the money. 10 to 20 percent tip is customary.
Step 11: Get a receipt
Always get the receipt. It has the taxi’s medallion number on it, which will come in handy if you accidentally leave something in the cab.
And before you get out, take a last look around… inside and out.
Did You Know?
There are more than 10,000 yellow cabs servicing the city of New York.