How (and why) to avoid taxis when traveling


I have a few informal rules when traveling. One of them is to never take a taxi. Taxis, to me, equate with a kind of failure.

Harsh? Perhaps. But it’s nothing personal, I just see it as a personal challenge to avoid taxis, a challenge that I feel benefits me quite well.

Getting in

So you’ve arrived by plane at the airport. What do you do now?

The simplest thing to do is hail a taxi. You’d be conveyed to your destination quickly and efficiently.

But what if instead of raising your hand, you explored your options?

  • Does the airport connect to a train? It isn’t always an option, but the number of airports with train connections is growing all the time, and if you are going anywhere near where it goes, this should be an obvious choice.
  • What about a bus? Don’t scoff at buses; they may not be as comfortable as trains, but they are more numerous, and they can get you there all the same.
  • Renting a car is certainly an option. This is better than a taxi, in that you are conveying yourself around, but it can be problematic when parking and traffic are taken into account.
  • Could you just get out and walk? This is rarely an option, except in places like Las Vegas, where the airport is so close to downtown, but don’t rule it out.

What do you gain by trying these alternate options?

  • You have to learn where you are. Instead of heading from the black box of an airport to the black box of a taxi to a black box of a hotel room, you need to get out the map. Where is the airport relative to the city? What areas are in between? You will start to learn names, places, areas, just by spending a few minutes looking at a map. And learning about the place you are will help you gain a greater connection to it. And a map with place names is more interesting than a blank map, isn’t it?
  • You will see the city from ground level. This is especially true if you take a bus into town. New York’s M60 from LaGuardia, New Orleans’ E-2 line, and the like may not take you through the prettiest areas, but they take you through where people live and work. If you’re staying at a downtown hotel, this may the only time when you see a part of the city that doesn’t cater to visitors.
  • You will save money. This is so obvious that I almost forgot to write it, but it’s true. Trains and buses often cost just $5 or so, while taxis can be ten times that. Spend that money on a museum, or a restaurant, or not at all.

Getting around

So you’ve arrived in town; where do you want to go? If you’re lucky, you’ll find a light rail system, so you can navigate above ground. Close second would be subway systems and bus systems. I say these are close seconds because with a subway system it’s very easy to lose perspective on where you are, and a bus system is usually more difficult for a traveler to figure out (worse signage, no obvious routes).

But even if you find none of these things, sometimes, with a good map and a water bottle, you can just take off on foot. You think a few miles is too far to walk? Well, if you’re in a hurry, sure, but if you have the time, the walk becomes not only a means of conveyance, but also a way to explore the city. No matter how much you see from a train or a car, you will see things differently when walking. It’s just a matter of focus; you spend more time looking at things when at a walking pace. Also, feet can go places that cars and trains can’t go.

There is a freeing feeling that comes along with navigating a city on your own terms. There’s also a sense of empowerment. I can do this! Learning the place better will help you enjoy it better, in a way that seeing the attractions can’t offer.

Getting out

Now, like all advice, there are exceptions. You may not have a choice except to take a taxi, due to time constraints and location difficulties.

And in some places, you might not only wish to take a taxi but to rent one for the day. I did this when I was in India, and it was totally worth it. Expediency aside, the driver acted like a human shield, keeping all the other touts away from me. That kind of peace was worth any price, to be honest.

But if you have the option? Skip the cab, and see the place you are in.

But enough about me. Do you avoid taxis when traveling?

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