Tips to Avoid Paying Too Much for a Taxi in Mexico

I’m writing this post from a train traveling from Venice to Florence, Italy. Linda and I have spent the past week and a half exploring this beautiful country.

One of the things that I really like about Italy – apart from the fantastic food and wine, of course – is how simple it is to take a taxi. There is no discussion of the price because all the taxis have meters. This is quite different from where we live in Mexico.

In Mexico, most of the taxis don’t have meters and you pay the fare quoted by the driver. If you’re a local who is familiar with the system and what the taxi fares should generally be, this isn’t a problem. However, if you’re an unsuspecting tourist who has no idea how much a taxi ride from the airport costs — well, you might end up paying a lot more for the same trip.

So, how can you be sure that you’re not being overcharged? There are two basic tips to follow:

1) Verify the Price First

Always confirm the exact amount to be paid before getting in the taxi. If you plan on doing any negotiating, this is the time to do it.

If the price you’re quoted by the driver still seems too high, you can move on to Tip #2.

2) Ask to See the Tarifario

Although it may appear to the casual observer that taxi fares are arbitrarily set by the individual driver, they are not. They are established by local governments through negotiations with the taxi syndicates. If a taxi syndicate wants to raise their fares, they have to show some type of justification (e.g. higher gas prices).

In the state of Quintana Roo where we live, the government entity that establishes the maximum taxi fares is the Secretaría de Infraestructura y Transporte (SINTRA).

The taxi driver should have a list of the approved fares (called a tarifario) in his or her possession. It might even be visible inside the taxi, if it’s not, ask to see it: ¿Me permite ver el tarifario por favor? (May I see the fare list please?)

The tarifario will give you specific fare information for point to point travel. For example: Cancun airport to Playa del Carmen: 1-4 passengers $450 pesos (hypothetical amount). Even if you’re not at the taxi station listed, it will give you a pretty good idea how much the fare should be.

If the driver won’t show you the tarifario, just walk away and find another taxi.

What if I Am Overcharged?

If you believe you have been overcharged or scammed in some way, you can report the driver to the taxi syndicate they work for and/or report them to the government entity tasked with investigating consumer law violations, the Procuraduría Federal del Consumidor (PROFECO).

Let’s Wrap This Up

I don’t want to give you the impression that every taxi driver is Mexico is looking to take advantage of you, that is not the case at all. The majority of taxi drivers out there are honest, hard-working and helpful people – but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a few out there who might try to take advantage of you. By following these simple tips, you reduce their odds of being successful.

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About the Author

Q-Roo Paul
Paul Kurtzweil (Q-Roo Paul) was a deputy sheriff in Florida for 25 years before retiring at the rank of lieutenant in 2015. He and his wife moved to Mexico looking to maximize their retirement income. In 2016, they started a blog called Two Expats Mexico (qroo.us) sharing their experiences, as well as information about the logistical and legal aspects of retiring south of the border. The blog has been viewed over two million times and the articles have been republished in numerous periodicals across Mexico.

32 Comments on "Tips to Avoid Paying Too Much for a Taxi in Mexico"

  1. do you have a blog about renewing our TIP in the Yucatan. we just received our 3 year extension on our residency and want to go update or Texas car this weekend … we live in Paamul

    • Q-Roo Paul | March 3, 2018 at 12:40 am |

      No, sorry. I don’t have one about that…yet. Most of our neighbors drive down to the border with Belize and do it there.

    • I believe I’ve seen elsewhere that INM will extend your TIP to match your visa You might check some of the Facebook expat groups. Please update here for Paul if you find a definitive answer. Buena suerte!

  2. Pam Stover | March 2, 2018 at 8:19 am |

    Where can I get a copy of the tarfafio? my Spanish isn’t good enough to read the government site.

    • Q-Roo Paul | March 3, 2018 at 12:39 am |

      They are different for each geographic area and they are not always available online. You can find them at taxi stations and the individual drivers should have a copy to show you.

  3. Norman Peter Lareau | March 2, 2018 at 8:56 am |

    Good info, been coming here a lot of years and now live here 6 months a year and never know about el tarifario.

  4. Thanks and as always I appreciate the information.

  5. Jerry Butler | March 2, 2018 at 9:07 am |

    Uber has taken over in Puerto Vallarta. Better cars, cleaner, a/c is used, and cheaper. And taxi drivers wonder why…..

  6. Last time in Cancun, I took my 1st Uber ever to the airport after being quoted a ridiculous $15 fare from the closest airport hotel. It was a great and only cost me $2, although I definitely got the “stink eye” from other taxis that were hanging around.

    Ahhh memories of our Venice to Florence middle-of-the-night train. We accidentally purchased standing room only tickets from a machine. This was the 1st fully booked train we had taken in Italy, and we stood upright in the outer train hallway for 2.5 hrs., thinking ” this is a thing?” before seats became available….a hard lesson after a full day in Venice!

    Thx for the info!

  7. Great that you and Linda had a wonderful time in Italy!
    As far as taxies are concerned, we have finally done as you have noted. No problems.
    The drivers are polite and sometimes quite jovial. And we end up having a great time with them. (In spite of any language barriers, and some know far more English than we know so little Spanish). We do tip, when there are groceries, etc.
    However, we stay away from 5th Avenida taxies. They have fixed rates, and won’t negotiate.
    We find it so easy to travel by cab now that we know how it’s done. “Cuanto, por favor”.
    Thanks for your information. And welcome back home!

    • Q-Roo Paul | March 3, 2018 at 12:36 am |

      We aren’t home yet. We have a couple more weeks in Italy but I had some downtime on the train so I used it to write a blog post.

  8. Hope you enjoyed your trip to Italy! We were in Florence just a few months ago. Loved it! Safe travels!

    • Q-Roo Paul | March 3, 2018 at 12:33 am |

      Yes, we’re having a great time. We’re in Orvieto right now and the food is amazing.

  9. This isn’t about taxi drivers but it is about getting taken advantage of. While in Mexico, we visit the OXXO many times. In 2017, after our second visit to this particular oxxo my husband said, I think we were over charged, we looked in the bag for our receipt which wasn’t there. He then said, come to think of it, I thought we were overcharged the other day too. On our 3rd visit we asked for our receipt. After walking outside we looked at our receipt and were in fact overcharged. My husband went back inside to show the cashier. He instantly apologized and returned the owed pesos. And would you believe that it happened the next visit too. Had to ask for our receipt and for the pesos that were owed to us. It was always the same cashier that was scamming us.
    We went to our rep, he took us to the oxxo to talk to the manager. We’re not sure what happened to this employee, the manager was going to get ahold of our rep and our rep was going to let us know what happened after she talked to this employee. (You all know how things are done in Mexico…very slowly).
    This past visit in February, to our beloved Mexico we visited the said oxxo many times and not once did we see this employee. We’re also wondering, if this one employee scammed us every time he served us, how many others were getting scammed?

    • Q-Roo Paul | March 3, 2018 at 12:32 am |

      Thanks for sharing that, Carol. It is a good reminder to always ask for a receipt.

  10. Gary Jinks | March 2, 2018 at 1:12 pm |

    Best advice I can give visitors to avoid being overcharged is to always pay for the taxi with pesos, not USD. The drivers, as well as local merchants and restauranteurs always set their own exchange rate and it’s never even close to the bank!

  11. Clay Cracklen | March 2, 2018 at 1:20 pm |

    Thanks Paul, great advice! We just returned from PV and my experience is that most cab drivers are out to scam you and the notion that you have to negotiate I find very stressful, which is counter productive on vacation. For example we’re in downtown PV and to get back to our hotel we know for a fact is 85 pesos. The 1st cab we approach asks for 125. That’s 50% more then the real fare. I guess it is what it is, unconscionable greed is prolific everywhere these days. Carol, I also got scammed at an Oxxo for 30 peso’s. It was less then $2 cdn so I wasn’t about to make a big deal but I am resentful and profoundly disappointed. We love PV, but I’m constantly wary of being scammed so unfortunately this taints our enjoyment.

    • Q-Roo Paul | March 3, 2018 at 12:30 am |

      I’m sorry to hear that you had some bad experiences over in PV. No matter where you are in the world, as a tourist you’re definitely more likely to be taken advantage of than a local in the same area. I was a deputy sheriff in Central Florida which is a huge tourist area. There were always scammers and thieves who preyed only on the tourists.

    • True Clay, the cashier wasn’t scamming us out of much money, but he must of been scamming every tourist for us to get hit 4 out of 4 visits. A good piece of advice forsure Paul, always ask for a receipt. (We always use pesos in Mexico, so much easier)

  12. Paul……Thanks again for the information. Is there a kink to look at online that shows the tarifaro for Playa del Carmen

  13. Recently discovered your blog and I am enjoying it – Gracias!

  14. One possible means of recourse, if you feel you are being overcharged on a rid to a hotel, is to ask the hotel bell staff what the fare should have been as soon as you exit the taxi and before paying. The drivers don’t want to be on the bad side of the hotel staff, since that could mean being banned from picking up passengers or from the property all together. If the staff says the fare should have been significantly lower, ask them to speak to the driver on your behalf before paying.

    This may work in many areas of the world, not just in Mexico. In some places with taxi meters, the meters have been rigged to run “hot” – running up a high bill.

  15. I have one question for those who are “scammed” by mere pesos: don’t you ever think you are being scammed in your own country, where everything is so out of reach?
    Insurance, groceries etc?

  16. Is there a way to leave a “like” or a thumbs up emoji for someone’s reply to your post? I’d like to leave one for Evelyn’s reply. 🙂

  17. Before this blog is gone, I feel like I need to make one more comment,
    This is my adopted country now, and sometimes I get a little defensive, and this is one of those times. For all those who have lost some pesos along the way, when you return home, visit your convenience store, compare your total receipt. ( a one time visit should suffice.to make up the pesos you lost) Your clerk more than likely is not ripping you off— but your store certainly is!

  18. Thank you, Rick F! Evelyn

  19. I have visited Cozumel 14 times. The biggest scammers I have found is taxi drivers and gas station attendants. It always upsets me. I would say that 35-40% of taxi drivers scam tourists, and 60-65% of gas station attendants do too. I do ask for taxi fares sometimes, but, I also wait to see what charges are when dropped off. Then, when ripped off, I confront the taxi driver about his/her charges. They always change the unfair fee when confronted.

    You can get the cab number and report it to the cab company in Cozumel. You will find an English speaking employee at that central office. Penalties for scamming and cheating are severe for taxi drivers. They could lose their cab privileges for 1-2 weeks. And that is a severe penalty for taxi drivers. By threatening to go to the office, most taxi drivers will say no, and change scam fees. They do not want to lose their taxi for 1-2 weeks.

    This all being said, I tip very well when taxi drivers are honest. I tip ZERO when they try to scam me.

    I hope this information helps tourists out there.

    Now comes the crooked gas station attendants……….but, that is a loooooonger story. Another time perhaps.

    When you enter the Cozumel Airport, beware of the small restaurant, and pharmacy at the airport. They will try to overcharge or short change you. Both of them attempted it as we left Coz on 3/21/18. It kinda makes you SICK! But, experience on the Island prevails when you are knowledgeable and you verify all charges, and get receipts.

    Tourists beware when you visit Cozumel. You are responsible for yourself. You need to be vigilant about your $$$$.

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