The worst cabbies are in Cairo and Rome while the best hacks can be found in Canada and other Commonwealth countries. So says Todd and Steve Romaine, a pair of Edmonton-based globetrotting brothers who recently launched a taxi-tracking website called www.IHateTaxis.com.
The mandate of the website is to alert travellers to potential pitfalls and scams when taking a taxi from a foreign airport to the hotel. Todd Romaine notes it's not uncommon for tourists to endure a wallet flush in certain parts of the world when they take part in this de rigueur voyage.
Rome is dicey for tourists, says Romaine, because "the Mafia essentially runs the [taxi] business." A common scam: after negotiating the fee prior to the trip, the cabbie stops a few blocks away from the hotel and says he won't go any further unless he receives more money.
Likewise, in Cairo, a common ploy involves the cabbie suddenly pretending there was a "communication error" when the fare was originally agreed upon. Naturally, he needs more money to complete the trip.
Romaine says tourists are often exhausted after a long-haul flight and therefore don't put up much of a fight over fare-gouging - even when they know they're being scammed. As a result, tourists almost always cave to the demands of extortion-prone cabbies.
Although the website exposes some of the taxi scam hotspots around the world, it also praises good taxi companies. For example, Blue Bird Taxi in Jakarta receives a hearty endorsement.
Romaine says information is gleaned from hundreds of contributors, who send in tales of taxi trauma (and triumph) from the world over.
The website also offers tips for those taking cabs in foreign lands. For example, it's a good idea to bring your luggage with you into the cab as opposed to putting your suitcases in the trunk. By doing so, your luggage can't be "held hostage" if there's a fare dispute.
Romaine also recommends bringing small bills as many cabbies are notorious for not having change. And Romaine says a tourist should carry a map or a GPS unit so that "it seems as though you know where you're going. A common scam is going from Point A to Point B via Point C and Point D. Keep asking the cabbie, 'Is this the right direction?' At least this way, he knows you're paying attention."