In Mexico, most 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. I’ve done it several times over the years.
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.