When touching down at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, the first challenge for many tourists is to find an airport taxi. Most tourists new to the city are unaware of how much taxi fares generally cost, the best routes and which taxis can be trusted.
As a result, they’re sometimes victimized by taxi fare scams and other serious offences like debit and credit card information theft.
Last year, for instance, Toronto police arrested five people who are facing more than 260 identity theft charges. And this past January police arrested a 22-year-old Mississauga man in connection with a taxi scam investigation in Toronto.
But, you don’t need to be scared to take a taxi in T.O. If you’re planning to visit the city, these useful tips will help you avoid falling prey to criminal taxi drivers.
9 Ways to Avoid Taxi Fare Scams in Toronto
One of the scariest situations you can get in when visiting a new city is to be scammed by a taxi driver. Even worse is to have your debit or credit card information stolen. But fear not. Visitors to Toronto can feel safe(r) by following these tips.
1) Always Hire a Licensed Taxi
Unregistered taxis, or ‘scoopers’, sometimes lurk at Pearson, ready to take advantage of tired travellers. These independent taxis are notorious for stealing luggage and not having proper insurance.
Go to the taxi rank instead. This will ensure that you get a licensed taxi well-marked with a visible company logo and telephone number. For extra precaution, take a picture of the licence plate in case you need to report the driver.
2) Look for a Meter and Radio in the Taxi
All licensed taxis are equipped with a meter to determine the fare and a radio to take calls from their dispatcher. Make sure they have those and an ID badge before getting in the vehicle.
3) Book an Airport Limo Instead
Don’t want to risk hailing a cab with no accountability? Book an airport taxi and limousine service. You can book your ride online ahead of time by submitting the date and time of your arrival and your pickup location. When your flight lands, your chauffeur will be waiting at your gate to escort you to your luxury limousine.
4) Do Your Homework Before Visiting Toronto
A smart traveller always researches their destination. Browse travel websites and forums to learn how to get around Toronto and avoid getting tricked into paying extra. Currently, the basic taxi fee in Toronto is $4.25 and the price per kilometer is $1.75.
5) Use GPS to Know Where You’re Going
One common practice of dishonest taxi drivers is to overcharge tourists by taking them the long way to their destination. You can avoid this by using the GPS on your smartphone to determine the best route. If you’re headed the wrong way, ask the driver why. If their answer isn’t reasonable given local traffic conditions, remind them of the correct route. Then tell them that you’ll be lodging a complaint with their employer if it’s not followed.
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6) Be Careful When Putting Your Luggage in the Taxi
There are stories, albeit unconfirmed, on online forums of cabbies driving away with luggage. They wait until passengers step out of the taxi before speeding off, with their bags still in the trunk.
Instead, keep your luggage in the backseat if possible or make sure the driver gets out with you to open the trunk.
7) Don’t Share Personal Details
Never share personal details with your driver such as your name, home country or the purpose of your visit. Doing so can make you a target. The more information you give, the more you heighten your vulnerability.
8) Know the Local Currency
If you’re not from Canada, educate yourself about the national currency. Otherwise, your driver may trick you by returning discontinued or fake bills, or the wrong change.
9) Keep Emergency Numbers Handy
Feel like something’s wrong or that your driver intends you harm? Call 911.
Don’t let your trip to The Six get ruined by a taxi scam or misbehaving cabbie. We understand that travelling to a new destination is exciting, but you need to stay alert to avoid becoming a victim. Act with confidence, choose licensed taxis, and learn about the city, including basic taxi fares. Or hire an airport taxi or limo service to be on the safe side.