Stay Away From the Black Market Taxi! Consider These Options Instead

Arriving in a foreign country is super exciting and scary at the same time. Wait, let me rephrase it. It’s super exciting and adventurous. Having traveled to 6 continents, I have a bottomless list of things that I’d like to share with you. If you want to read my stories taking a black market taxi, scroll down to all the way to the bottom of this article.

I’m going to talk about the best way to get from/to the airport when you arrive at your destination. Sounds easy right, but let’s dive into the options.

1. Chauffeur Service

Many airlines offer complimentary chauffeur service if you purchase a first-class ticket. Some airlines even offer this service for business class passengers. For example Turkish Airlines business class on select markets. Over the years, airlines started limiting this benefit exclusively for paid tickets as opposed to miles redemption. That said, there are still a few that continue to offer this benefit. You will need to book this service in advance. Depending on the program, you may be eligible for both departure and arrival.

Here at firstofly, we love premium travel without breaking our wallet – ask us how! A few years ago, Garuda Indonesia had an insane promotion where you could get 90% off mileage redemption on any route, in any cabin, subject to availability. I managed to redeem 9000 miles traveling in first-class between Bandung (BDO) to Tokyo (NRT) via Denpasar (DPS). That included a first class limousine service in Bali during my layover.

Pros:

  • Complimentary.
  • Convenience and comfort.
  • Time-saving.

Cons:

  • The premium price of the ticket.

2. Airport Taxi

This is the obvious option. In major airports, taxis are available 24/7. There are two types of airport taxis: official airport taxis and private companies. Depending on the airport, typically taxis are regulated. In most places, airport taxis offer a flat rate depending on the area where they drop you off. That said, in some airports, taxis are metered. The private companies are independently operated. You can spot them after you pass the immigration and custom. Similarly, they offer a flat rate.

Pros:

  • Standard fare.
  • Available based on the flight arrival schedule.
  • Regulated.

Cons:

  • Fixed fare – No haggling.
  • Generally more expensive than other options.

3. Hotel Shuttle

Hotels usually offer an airport shuttle service. You can inquire about it when you book the hotel. Based on my experience, you can email or call them ahead of time. They are usually pretty good at confirming your reservation before your arrival. In foreign countries, they usually have a WhatsApp number you can reach out to. I find this the easiest and most economical way to get in touch with the hotel. Alternatively, you can buy a skype or google voice credit for international calls at a reasonable rate.

Just like airport taxis, they have a fixed fare. Sometimes the hotel lets you pay as you arrive, or the cost will be included in your hotel bill. In the past, I’ve also seen hotels making an arrangement with the local drivers where you can pay them directly.

I usually don’t use this service because the fare tends to be the most expensive. I suggest you do research before deciding because it may be more reasonable than you think. Sometimes hotels even provided a complimentary airport shuttle service. For example, Ubud Dedari Villas, the hotel I stayed at in Bali.

Pros:

  • Easy and convenient.
  • Around the clock.
  • Pre-arranged meeting point – The driver will hold a sign with your name.

Cons:

  • Fixed fare – No haggling.
  • Tend to be the most expensive option.

4. Third-Party Airport Shuttle

Many travel companies offer airport pick-up and drop-off services. These companies list their services on online travel agencies (OTA) website. These include Viator, Expedia, Travelocity, Priceline, Orbitz, and dozens of others.

When you book this service, the OTA will contact the local provider. When your reservation is confirmed, they will provide the provider’s contact information. Should your travel plan change, you should contact the provider directly. The provider typically has a local phone or WhatsApp number you can call. If I were you, I would confirm the reservation a few days before your arrival along with your flight information.

Pros:

  • Competitive fare.
  • Around the clock.
  • Pre-arranged meeting point – The driver will hold a sign with your name.

Cons:

  • None.

5. Ride-Sharing Services

In these days and age, everything is digital. What I love about ride-sharing services is that they offer a cashless experience. I rarely carry cash with me. When I’m traveling overseas, I only bring two ATM cards, one as primary, and the other as a backup.

Uber leads the global market share of ride-sharing services. That said, in some regions, only certain companies offer this type of service. As an example, people use Taxify in Georgia. I would suggest that you do some research and download the app before traveling.

Also what I’ve seen in the past, some of these apps allow cash transactions. The flexibility is certainly a nice feature to have. The convenience of using ride-sharing services comes with a catch. We need an internet connection to utilize the app. I have a T-Mobile One plan, which includes unlimited data and text when traveling to 210+ countries. The speed is throttled down to 2G, but it’s good enough for GPS, calling for a ride, or even FaceTime and WhatsApp calls.

Pros:

  • Cheaper compared to most options.
  • Around the clock.
  • On-demand.

Cons:

  • The pick-up point can be complicated.
  • Not permitted in some airports.
  • It requires an internet connection.
  • The language barrier can be a challenge.
  • Not regulated – Use with caution.

6. Public Transportation

There are two types of public transportation, buses, and trains. The difference is obvious, with buses, you can get stuck in traffic, while trains have their own tracks. Although public transportation is not my preferred way to get around, at times it can be the most convenient and economical way to travel in the city.

The number of luggage I travel with also plays a major factor. When I travel alone, it may not be possible to take a train or bus if I have more than a carry-on. Furthermore, taking public transportation usually involves long walks as well as multiple transfers. So you should consider these factors.

Pros:

  • The cheapest.
  • Scheduled.
  • Potentially a time saving if it has its own track.

Cons:

  • May take longer.
  • Learning the system can be complicated and time-consuming.
  • Limited hours of operation.
  • Difficult when you have a lot of luggage.
  • May require walking – Inclement weather can be a challenge.

Avoid: Black Market Taxi

A big no-no! I’ve done it once, or accidentally twice. Let me tell you the story.

Story 1: Yerevan, Armenia

The first time, it happened in Yerevan, Armenia. I proceeded to the arrival hall after passing the immigration and passport control. A guy approached me and tried to convince me to hire him. Stupid me, I obliged. We somehow “agreed” on the fare even though I don’t speak Armenian or Russian, and he doesn’t speak English.

I walked to his car – it was a beat-up Mercedes Benz. He took my carry-on and place it inside the trunk. Off we went, so far so good. On our way to the hotel, he started asking for more money – he kept saying “benzine… benzine…”. At first, I didn’t understand, but as childhood, I know “bensin” means gasoline. So apparently, he asked for more money than what we agreed on because he needed to buy gas.

Admittedly, I was gullible. But I wasn’t stupid either. I asked for his number and promised that I would hire him again tomorrow. As soon as he dropped me off at the hotel, I grabbed my carry-on and disappeared in a split second – ha!

Story 2: Luxor, Egypt

The second time, it happened in Luxor, Egypt (not pictured). It was actually not a black market taxi, but it’s pretty much the same scheme. I checked out my hotel room and requested the receptionist to call a cab. I asked the doorman how much it would cost. He told me the amount after confirming with the driver. I agreed and off we went.

The ride to the airport was pretty uneventful – it was a beautiful day in the Luxor. When we arrived I stepped off the car and waited to retrieve my carry-on from the trunk. As you guessed, he asked for more money. The driver lied and said it fare was double. I argued for a minute. But then I thought it wasn’t really worth my time. I gave him some extra cash which I didn’t have much left. I took my carry-on and walked away.

Beyond these two incidents, I had been scammed a few times. They typically have a similar plot which is asking for more money than what we agreed on.

Pros:

  • The last resort when another method of transportation is unavailable.

Cons:

  • It can be unsafe.
  • Chance of getting ripped off (likely).
  • Change of getting scammed (likely).
  • Language barrier.

Conclusion

When I travel, I will most likely use the third party airport shuttle service. Not only the fare is competitive, but it is also convenient, available around the clock, and a safe option. I can make a reservation a few days before the trip. So, having something arranged gives me peace of mind. Especially in a foreign country where you might have some challenges communicating.

Alternatively, I don’t have any problem using the ride-sharing services when available. We just need to know the pick-up point. I will also consider taking public transportation where the system is easy to use and reliable. These are the two cheaper options in most cases.

Lastly, I do not recommend you to take a black market taxi. I think my story is enough to make you stay away from this option unless it’s the last resort.

Have a safe travel!

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