Meterless taxi scam
If the taxi has a "broken meter," your feet were made for walkin'.
Gypsy cabs and other unofficial taxis are usually rip-offs, and always illegal.
As in the U.S., most cities require that true cabbies and car services get a license and their vehicle a "medallion" number and a meter to keep track of your fare.
Ones that don’t have this are usually run by some branch of the local underworld, and they can also charge whatever they think you'll pay, since there's no meter.
That said, many cities do have an official flat rate for trips to and from the airport, in which case the meter might not be turned on. As always, check your guidebook (or the local airport or tourism authority website) for local norms.
In most countries, you don't really hail a taxi headed down the street they way you would at home. You can try, but it's really unusual and the driver is unlikely to stop. Instead, you either:
- (A) Head for an official taxi station. These are located outside all major transport hubs (airports, train stations, bus terminals), major sights, and usually the central plaza and other major squares.
- (B) Call ahead for a taxi. This is often called "Radio Taxi" and you don't really need to know the local numbers. Just have the restaurant, hotel, or wherever else you happen to be call it in for you. Keep in mind that the flag drops as soon as they set out—in other words, the meter starts running as soon as the cabbie gets the call and leaves to get you, so this costs a bit more than finding a cab on your own.