HOWTO: Avoid being overcharged by Vegas taxis

image In my younger years I was the victim of several taxi scams in Las Vegas.  A little older, but admittedly not a whole lot wiser, I can tell you that these sort of things still go on but you can take some specific steps to prevent yourself from getting Shanghai-ed by a disreputable driver.

AIRPORT-TO-RESORTS
The most common way for a taxi driver to overcharge you is to do what locals call “long-hauling”.  Basically this is the practice of taking a longer than necessary route to get you to your hotel/resort destination.

The most frequent long-haul from the airport to resorts is to “use the tunnel”.  The tunnel connects the airport to the I-15 and tacks on around $5 or more to your cab fare depending on the route they take after getting off the I-15.  It’s very obvious after you’ve taken the trip from McCarron International to the strip several times.  The fare just seems excessive.  The driver will always say that it’ll save time but most of the time it actually adds time to the ride and it charges you for the taxi’s movement.

It should be noted that if you’re staying on the far end of the strip or downtown, this route DOES make sense.  Anything on Fremont Street for example, is better approached via this route.

Otherwise, as a general rule, always have the taxi drive to use Paradise Road when going to or from the Airport. It will be a lot cheaper, it could save you $10 depending on your destination.  The cost for a taxi from the McCarran Airport to the Las Vegas Strip:

  • $9.00 to South end of the Strip (MGM)
  • $13.25 to Mid Strip (Mirage)
  • $15.50 to the North end (Sahara)

(Note:  An interesting article about this was written by a Las Vegas cabbie and offers something of an alternative view.  YMMV.)

SCAMS
Here are a few scams that have purportedly been used in Vegas to up fares as taken from Mr. Vegas’ web site:

  • Zone Charges. Every once in a while, a Las Vegas cab driver may try to impose a “zone charge”. This will typically occur when the particular taxi ride is to one of Las Vegas’ outlying areas.  “This is a zone 3 trip” the driver may suggest, trying to add a few dollars onto the meter fare.  Be forewarned, there are no zone charges for any Las Vegas taxi cab.
  • The Shim.  The “shim” is a small piece of plastic  (or toothpick) that some drivers will place in the buttons of their meters to play a trick or two with the fare total. Most commonly used from the Airport or when someone leaves the cab to “run in” for something.  Presently, only two cab companies have “shimable” meters. I won’t tell which two, just be on the look out for strange objects sticking out of buttons on the meter. This one is almost obsolete, as this type of meter is being replaced.

RANDOMLY PICKING UP CABS ON THE STREET
You can not for the most part hail a cab in Las Vegas – unlike other cities, this is illegal and most cabbies will drive right by unless you’re in an alley or some place out of view.  They can’t even pick you up at a restaurant or bar unless you specifically called them to have them pick you up so you can’t even wait at the door of a place like Lawry’s and expect someone to come by.

Cabs can only pick you up if you’re at a casino or hotel so find the nearest Vegas Casino and ask the bellman or valet where the taxi stand is located.

DO’s AND DON’Ts
Do not bring alcohol into the cab.  It’s illegal to do so.
Do not attempt to pay in casino chips.  This is illegal as well.
Do not barf in the cab.  This may result in a $25-$50 charge and a really ticked off cabbie.
Do tip your cabbie.  Below $10, assume you should tip $2 for any ride.  Above $10, 20% is considered standard.  (The IRS taxes all cabbies on the basis of an assumed 23% tip for every fare.)  And if you leave something in your cab – like you cell phone and you get it returned to you, be doubly sure to retip heavily.  The cabbie is losing a ride by honestly bringing your valuables back to you.

PROBLEMS WITH CABS
This was some advice I am taking verbatim from a comment on Frommer’s web site:
”Always note the taxi number of the cabs you take. The name of the company does not matter as each number is unique. Should you have a problem with the cab “long-hauling” you, call the taxi Authority at (702) 486-6532. Get as much information as you can (time of pick-up, name and description of driver, etc). They will investigate and the cab drivers that are found to be abusing this can lose their licence.”
Here’s a web site for submitting complaints:  http://taxi.state.nv.us/ComplaintInstructions.htm

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4 Responses to HOWTO: Avoid being overcharged by Vegas taxis

  1. Markus Hartmaier says:

    Hello,

    I nthink, that I have been scammed by a Las Vegas cab driver in december 2010.

    We picked up a cab at Las Vegas international airport. The ride was to the parking lot at the Luxor hotel, which is roughly 10 miles away. During the ride, I recognized, that the meter was running very quickly taken, that 1/2 mile was the unit, which counts.

    At the end, our fare was US$ 19,– plus tip, the driver went directly to the destination- no detour, no tunnel.

    My calculation is as foillows:

    initial fare: US$ 3,30
    airport surcharge: US$ 1,80

    10 miles x $0,20 each 1/2 mile = US$ 4,–

    So, we end up with a total of US$ 9-10, not more.

    Can it be, that the meters are severely manipulated?

    • kurtsh says:

      As a general rule, if the cab fare between McCarran & your hotel is lower than $20, it was probably a fair trip. $19 is a bit high to get to the Luxor but that’s also what happens when you take even a slightly more circuitous route than just down Paradise Rd. How sure are you that you took the most direct route? Did you have a GPS?

      Ultimately, this can happen when the taxi driver is simply trying to get you to your destination quicker for both your sake and his. Cabbies HATE slow, non-moving fares: They’re much less profitable from three vantage points. 1) They take more time meaning there’s less time in the day for other more profitable fares AND fewer fares = fewer tips. 2) A non-moving or slow-moving cab makes a 1/10th of what a fast moving cab does. 3) Customers perceive that the slow ride equates to bad service meaning a lower tip.

      I don’t generally complain if the fare is under $20. A good fare should be about $13-$17 in general to any of the properties – not including tip of course. If your fare is $25-$27, you’re getting jacked, plain and simple.

      Yes, there USED to be ways to manipulate the meters. I’ve heard of methods that some cabbies used of sticking a piece of plastic into the meter which would keep the meter running at a higher moving rate even when it was at a stop but those have since been stopped after it was revealed as a Vegas scam and those in power discovered that this caused high customer dissatisfaction for everyone in the city.

  2. m3 says:

    my wife just got ripped off this very morning. $40 from the airport to the strip.

    • kurtsh says:

      That blows. I hope she reported the driver to the TA. Personally, I make it somewhat obvious that I’m taking a photo of the drivers credentials & cab number before we take off as a general practice.. Frankly, these guys have gotten out of hand. I’ve resorted to have a “personal taxi” that I call when I know I’m going from point A to point B. (Like a dinner reservation, a show, downtown, or to the LV Convention Center.) It rewards good behavior, helps an honest cabbie out with a good fare, and ensure I don’t get effed. to do the same, simply get the phone number of a cabbie that you feel treated you well and ask for when they work. There’s nothing better than not having to wait in the taxi line and getting a driver waiting for you outside. Just be sure to tip well.

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