Google maps (with data/wifi) has been a life saver for us (in many ways!) on our world trip. One particularly interesting way was to help us avoid scammers and being ripped off by taxis or transportation companies/people.
Well, Google Maps (mobile) has a neat feature where if you ask for directions and a ride-hailing service is available in your area (such as Uber, Grab or Taxify) it will give you price estimates from those companies. Google maps even lets you select “Open App” where it will automatically transfer the requested pick-up and drop-off locations to the selected app which makes ordering this service even easier/faster.
Here’s what it looks like in my Google Maps on my Android phone for a ride in Nairobi, Kenya. Notice that both Taxify and Uber operate here:
You now have an actual price for what LOCALS pay. Keep that in mind; this is now your weapon of knowledge.
a) You can simply order an Uber/Grab/Taxify and be done and not worry about negotiations or scams… and also hope the taxi driver doesn’t demand extra payment or refuse to take you when they arrive (this happens!)
b) Now armed with what a local would pay, you can start negotiating with a taxi (or Tuk Tuk, etc) you flag down or find on the street and know when they’re trying to take advantage of you. We found this very handy while we were in Bangkok.
It’s also a good idea to test a few different place-to-place directions (ie. Your hotel to a common tourist spot) in Google to get a sense for what the local taxis should cost. You can then extrapolate that on-the-fly if you’re going to flag down a Tuk Tuk or taxi on the side of the road and begin negotiating. Keeping in mind the general rule of thumb is you always want taxis to use the meter (if available; they’re not always willing even if they do).
It’s also a handy feature when trying to decide if you should take public transport or if the added expense of a private taxi is worth it, since in most developed cities Google can give you accurate information on public transport (time and distance only, not cost).
So keep this tip in mind, and make sure you have Uber, Grab and Taxify apps all set up and ready to go before you set off on your travels.