Taxi Tactics

I got really tired of wondering if I was being driven around aimlessly in taxis in order to jack up the fare.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got nothing against taxi drivers. However, in every population, you have good eggs and bad eggs. I figured my hands were tied as I had no idea where I was or the most efficient way to get there. Especially because there are so many one way streets and crazy U-turns, who was I to say the best way to get to my destination.

But then I got a plan. Google Maps.

Every time I take a taxi, I arm myself with a piece of paper mapping out the path. This accomplishes two things. One, it lets the driver know that you’ve reviewed the path and you have an idea of where you are going. Two, if you, like me, cannot pronounce most of the streets in Sao Paulo, it’s written right on the paper.

All it involves is plotting the course in Google Maps and printing only the large map (must check “add large map” box) in black and white (no use wasting color cartridge on this exercise).

This could work in any foreign city. Sure, you might risk insulting the driver when you hand it to them, but weigh that against being taken for your reis. Plus, from my experiences, foreigners get a lot of leeway when it comes to be appropriate.

Most of the drivers I’ve handed maps to glanced at it and handed it right back to me. Some of them doing so while laughing. Only once did it backfire on me. I handed the map to a young driver, who didn’t hand it back to me, but instead nervously glanced at it during the entire trip. It wasn’t a great map, I couldn’t fit the details on one page, so it didn’t list all the roads. So I got nervous and started trying to plot it out for him on my iPhone GPS, but I couldn’t get it to work. So the ride was a bit stressful.

In the end, he got my daughter and I where we needed to go, without veering from the path. So I will continue with my taxi tactic.

This entry was posted in Daily Escapades, Expatriate Info & Advice, Foreigner Insights, Living in Sao Paulo and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Taxi Tactics

  1. miogaros says:

    hehe, e pensar que eu tinha planos em ser um taxista. =)
    Mas é verdade, tem muitos “ovos podres” espalhados por entre taxistas honestos.

    Now I’ll try translate with help of Google:
    “I had plans on being a taxi driver. But it is true, has many “bad eggs ” scattered among taxi drivers honest.”

  2. scrubgrub says:

    Our taxi driver from the airport insisted he was a week new, and had to stop at the gas station for directions.
    In Japan our taxi driver pointed at a building, unpacked our luggage, said a bunch of Japanese, took our money and drove off. Had we had our google map, we would have realized he dropped us off on the backside of the building and been able to visually point him in the right direction. Instead we drug luggage behind us in the dark at 10pm, as we tried to make our way to our friend’s home.

  3. Ray Adkins says:

    Dear BornagainBrazilian,

    You should relax a bit, the practice of driving customers around is pratically unheard of in Sao Paulo.
    The city is not a tourist destination and the cabs are used to drive locals and don’t have a habit to drive people around.
    They will make more money with multiple runs rather than driving you around, so it is in their best interest to drop you off at your destination as soon as possible and pick up the next passenger.
    Taxi licenses in Sao Paulo are very expensive and very hard to get, the city has a very tight control over complaints and Cab drivers won’t risk their license just to make a couple of bucks driving you thru a longer route.
    So, try to take it easy and relax, you will be just fine.



    • Thanks Ray. This will make me feel better in case I run out of paper or ink in my printer. (just kidding)
      It’s good to know the “driving” forces behind this industry in Sao Paulo. Since you seem to know something about it, I’ve had a burning question:
      Taxi rides are relatively cheap (although rates have been raised this year), cars and gas are ridiculously expensive. Doesn’t make economic sense. Any insights?

    • scrubgrub says:

      I don’t know if I’m 100% in on this one. Our driver took the long route home yesterday, the one that hit traffic and ever red light (I followed the round-about route he took on my Google map on my phone). We questioned him on it and his response was that “everyone takes this way.” Again not a truth. He then proceeded to zoom 4 blocks past the street we told him intersected with our one-way street. Then was nice enough to offer to make the giant circle of our one-way street neighborhood to “get it right.” I think it was because we were easy targets…I don’t speak Portuguese, and my friend is a bit clueless and not from Sao Paulo and the driver could tell. My husband is much more assertive and acts like he knows what’s going on, and he’s never had an issue with the drivers.

      • Yeah, my husband called a driver out one night when he went the long way in the pouring rain. Because I got in first and did the talking, I think the driver thought we were both foreigners. But my husband is a Brazilian – and didn’t pay him the full amount and told the driver that he knew why he wasn’t getting it. Maybe it depends on the time of day or the situation (more difficult to pick up another passenger in specific neighborhoods or in the rain…) There are always a few in every crowd.

  4. Ray Adkins says:

    Dear bornagainbrazilian,

    I think the best answer for Taxis being so cheap in Sao Paulo are a few factors:

    1-Taxis get a HUGE tax breaks to be able to afford better, newer cars for almost half the price you or I would pay.

    2-Most Taxis in Sao Paulo are mandated to run on “Natural Gas” which is ridiculously cheap if compared with the expensive Gasoline or even Alcohool. My brother installed a “Natural Gas” kit to convert his Ford Escape and went from spending U$300,00 dollars per month on Gasoline down to U$14,00 dollars a month for “Natural Gas”, that alone could explain the cheap prices for Taxis.

    3-Taxis also get tax breaks when paying for “Excise” tax, cheaper registration as well.

    All this will contribute for a city with non poluting, affordable Taxis that are also a profitable business for the folks who operate them.
    I think abusive taxi drivers are very rare and you should definitely complain if you ever find one. Your complaint will not be dismissed.



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