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Taxis in NYC: Travel Tips, Fare Structure & How Much to Tip the Driver

Taxis in NYC: Travel Tips, Fare Structure & How Much to Tip the Driver

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Taxis are the general passenger ride vehicles in New York City. They rule the roads of the metropolis!

From hailing a cab to getting off and giving some tip to the driver who made your travel easy and breezy, you need to know some basics to make your travel go without a hitch.

If you want to know everything you need to know about them – especially if you are new to the city – then you are reading the right article.


Basics of NYC Taxis

Hailing a Taxi Cab in New York City

Hailing a Taxi Cab in New York City

Taxis in the city of New York are typically yellow in color. This makes them stand out from the rest of the cars, purposefully done for you to be able to easily see them even from afar.

These yellow medallion cabs have the sole authority to pick up the hails of passengers.

Yellow cabs are scattered all throughout the five boroughs of the city: The Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island. However, they are heavily concentrated in the area of Manhattan.


How to Get a Taxi

It won’t be easy to walk all the way to your destination through the busy streets of the city without a ride, especially if you have a long way to go. Thus, it is a very convenient and a perfect option to hail an ever-welcoming yellow taxi cab.

You can actually catch the driver’s attention by a simple hand gesture such as raising your hand at the level of your shoulders or just above your head. Calling a cab is that easy.

You may not even need to stick out your hands when you are standing in a taxi station, as they will surely stop by for you if they are empty and on-duty.


How to Know if a Cab is Available

You may have grown irritated with cab drivers ignoring your raised arms and just passing you swiftly by as if you’re invisible.

The thing is, maybe you are unaware of the signals. So, how can you find out whether a taxi is available or not?

The Roof Top Lights on NYC Taxis

The Roof Top Lights on NYC Taxis

The taxi cabs of New York City have lights on top of them bearing their medallion number at the center and the words off-duty on the two opposite sides. Sometimes, they are lit and often they aren’t.

Why is this important? It is useful to know what these lights mean, because they signal the availability of the cab!

You have to see whether the lights are on or not. If the light on the medallion numbers at the center is on, it means the taxi is available and you can hail it.

If the medallion number and the side lamps are lit, that means the cab is off-duty and unavailable.

When none of the lights are lit, the taxi is unavailable but on-duty, meaning it already has a passenger to take to a destination.

Note: Very soon, this system is going to be simplified. If the light at the top is in, the taxi is available, and if the light is off, it is not available. Simple!


Taxi Travel Tips – Taking a Taxi Cab in New York City

Now that you have hailed a cab and have already gotten into one, what are the things that you need to bear in mind?


Taxi License

First and foremost, make sure you are riding in a licensed cab, which you should have checked beforehand before hailing the cab.

You see, the medallion number on the roof is the answer. It is a Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) license for the taxi, so be sure the taxi you rode on had one.

If you forgot to check the medallion number, you can still see whether the taxi is a qualified vehicle or not by looking at the TLC label on both of the taxi’s rear passenger windows. You can also look at the taxi license of the driver at the back of his seat.

There are a lot of unmarked taxi cabs out there, so you need to be careful. They mostly go without meters and without insurance. They are called the “gypsy cabs” of NYC. Be sure you are not riding in one to avoid being cheated on. This tip is also important for your safety and security, especially if you are riding a cab at night.

Bottomline: Before riding a cab, always remember to look at the medallion number on top. The roof lights are easier to spot at night so be sure not to ignore it.


Speak Loudly

If you need to make a request to the driver or need to tell him the place you are heading to, speak loudly so he will be able to hear what you are saying.

Most taxis in New York City have glass or plastic partitions dividing the driver and the passenger at the back seat. With the noises of the ever-busy metropolis, you need to speak loud enough for the driver to hear.


Know Your Rights

The New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission, the department that gives these taxi cabs license to operate, have a taxicab rider bill of rights.

Some rights contained in that document involve the free use of the taxi’s trunk, the duty you can impose on the cab drivers to know the Manhattan borough’s streets and the major locations of the other boroughs of the city.


Take a Receipt

A Typical New York City Taxi Cab Receipt

A Typical New York City Taxi Cab Receipt

Another tip is to always make sure that you take your payment receipt. Why? You can take it as a precautionary measure.

The receipt given by the cab driver has their medallion number on it. It means that the receipt can help you if you forgot some of your belongings and leave them on the taxi. You can track the cab you rode on to claim your possessions!

So, it is good enough reason to take your receipt. You are entitled to it anyway.


Exit the Taxi Carefully

Lastly, when you get out of the cab, exit it facing the curb or the sidewalk. It is safe for you.

In that manner, you don’t have to worry about passing vehicles that might hit you while getting out.


Safety Tips for Traveling by Taxis at Night

When you are riding a cab at night, here are some other safety tips to bear in mind.

  • If you are alone and took a cab ride at night, don’t sit beside the driver. You have to sit at the back seat. If the driver has evil plans, at least he can’t reach for you very easily. Plus, the glass or plastic divider between the two of you would protect you to some extent.
  • If you can, inform someone that you are riding a taxi by sending someone you know a text message about the cab’s medallion number and where you took the cab.
  • If you are familiar with a route, stick to it. Don’t agree to shortcuts. If the cab driver insists, get out. If you are new to New York City, it is advisable for you to have a map (a great folding pocket map that is really useful to NYC visitors is the Streetwise Manhattan Map)
  • Avoid sleeping while you are riding a cab at night. Stay awake and alert! You are in the city that never sleeps, and so should you while riding a cab.


Taxi Fare Structure

Now that you are nearing your destination, you need to know how much you would be paying for the ride. You need to know the basic fare structure of the taxis in New York City to get an idea.

Taxi Fare Structure Posted on a NYC Cab

Taxi Fare Structure Posted on a NYC Cab

The minimum fare for a ride is $2.50. Additional charges are calculated depending on how many miles the ride took and how long the ride took.

  • You will be charged $0.40 for every 1/5 of a mile at or above 6 miles per hour (mph). You would also be charged $0.40 for each two minutes of time the taxi stopped or traveled below 6 mph.
  • If you ride a taxi from 8.00 p.m. to 6.00 a.m., you have to pay a night-time surcharge of $0.50.
  • If you ride on a week day between 4.00 p.m. to 8.00 p.m., you have to pay for a peak-hour surcharge of $1.00.
  • There is no additional charge that the driver can collect from you for your luggage.
  • There are no surcharges per passenger. A maximum of four people can ride a taxi cab. If you are a four group rider, know that the driver has no right to charge each of you a surcharge for there is no such thing.

If you and your companions exceed the maximum passenger count, there is no point of asking the driver to overlook it. The fines are very high, and most drivers won’t take the risk. But, an additional passenger under the age of seven can be accepted as long as the child is held in the lap of an adult sitting at the back.

Remember, you can always pay by cash. But most NYC taxis also accept payment by debit or credit card. There are no additional charges for payment via cards.

But currently, not all taxis in New York City accept cards as a mode of payment. That is why it is always convenient to bring cash with you.


Tipping the Taxi Driver – How Much to Tip?

Your taxi driver provides you a service, and a times, doubles up as your friend or a guide by talking about the places you are passing by. He makes your ride a pleasant experience.

Tipping a Taxi Driver in NYC

Tipping a Taxi Driver in NYC

And even though you are not paying for your luggage, the driver helps you carry it in and out of the cab.

That’s why, you need to tip your cab driver. Tipping cab drivers may not be mandatory but it is a customary thing to do. And how much should the tip be?

If you don’t know how much to tip, you have to consider the services you received and enjoyed from the ride. The usual tipping is 15 to 20 percent of the fare. Also, if you have luggage, the usual tip is a dollar per piece of luggage.

Be kind enough to tip the driver for delivering you safely to your destination.


Now you know a lot about taxis in New York City. Remember all of these when taking your next cab ride through New York City. Enjoy!

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