Usually traveling in taxis is safe but everyone seems to know someone who has been robbed by a “taxi driver” and his friends. So, out of an abundance of caution here are some quick tips to making sure you arrive at your destination safely:
Use a taxi app on your smart phone like Easy Taxi. This app is similar to Uber but uses affiliated local taxis. You’ll usually get picked up within a few minutes and you can see exactly where your taxi is on a map as it’s driving to pick you up. Just confirm before you get into the taxi that the driver and the license plate are the same as the one shown on Easy Taxi. Prices are the same as local taxis and you can currently get a large discount if you pay with a credit card (30-70% off), although the one time I tried to use a credit card it didn’t work.
Another application to try is Tappsi. I know it’s popular here but I’ve never tried it. I reckon it’s the same sort of thing as Easy Taxi. Also, as of June 2015, Uber is currently allowed in Cali… although this could change. Uber’s discount service is UberX has similar prices to taxis but in nicer, private vehicles. However, waiting for an Uber or UberX ride can take a lot longer than using Easy Taxi or Tappsi.
If you don’t want to use a smartphone you can ask just about any doorman (portería), restaurant or hotel reception to call taxi for you. They’ll give you a password (clave) which you’ll give to the taxi driver to radio back into central. While the system is not foolproof it provides a little extra security to your ride.
If decide to hail a cab there is a service that will tell if the cab is legit and which type of vehicle is associated with the license plate. The service is called “Taxi 911”. What you have to do is text the license plate number (“numero de placa”) to the number ‘911’. I’ve read that the service has some glitches, telling people that a taxi is not legitimate when it really is… cab drivers are obviously pissed about this. The cost of the service is around 350pesos (US$0.15).
All in all I’ve had only pleasant rides in taxis and great conversations with the drivers… they always have the best stories. I often hail cabs because I can’t be bothered to use an app every time- no problems yet! Taxis are cheap here, about COP10,000 (US$4) for a 20 minute ride in normal traffic. There is a 800 peso surcharge for rides after 8pm and on holiday weekends.
THE DIRTY – So, what happens to people when they get robbed by cab drivers? The most common: you get into a taxi and somewhere along the route the cab will stop and two motherfuckers will get into the cab. They’ll threaten you with a gun or knife and tell you to give them your bank cards with the correct PIN or they’ll kill you. Then they’ll drive around to various ATMs until your cards are maxed out and then steal your phone and drop you somewhere in the city. This type of robbery is called a “Paseo Millonario” (Millionaire Ride) for obvious reasons.
Please comment below for any other recommendations or questions.