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Tips for Taking a Taxi in Las Vegas

Categories: Opinion

If you're going to visit Las Vegas, you'll probably need to take a taxi at some point.  But you gotta watch these taxi drivers.  Most of them are from parts of the world where dishonesty is a normal part of the culture.  This is probably more than you want to know, but here are my rules for taxi transportation in Las Vegas:

  1. Las Vegas cab company and taxicab numbers.
    click to enlarge
    Names and Numbers — First of all, as soon as you get into the taxi, write down the cab number (printed in big numbers on the hood of the car), the name of the taxicab company (on the side of the car), the amount shown on the meter (see Meter below), and as much information as you can read from the driver's permit displayed on the "glove box".  You should already have the Taxicab Authority telephone number with you - (702) 668-4000.  The Taxicab Authority police is a special state-run police department that always seems to side with the passengers.  The mere mention of the Taxicab Authority police makes many drivers tremble.
  2. Rates — There's a rumor that we Americans live in a "free market" society.  Sorry.  All Nevada taxis charge the same rate.  The rates are determined by the state of Nevada.  There is no negotiating like there is in other countries (okay, a driver may be willing to negotiate a higher fare, but not one lower than that displayed on the meter).
  3. Fares — The fare is determined by the meter.  If you ever get in a taxi and the driver tells you the fare will be something other than what the meter shows (common on New Year's Eve), get out, take another taxi, and while you're en route, report him to the Taxicab Authority police (this is one of the reasons for rule number one above).
  4. Meter — When you get in the cab and the driver starts the meter, the fare is $3.30 before you even get on your way.  It's the law.  From there, the fare is based on time when the taxi is travelling at very slow speeds (less than 8 to 12 MPH or so).  Otherwise, it's based on distance.  That's why the meter continues to run even when you're stopped at a traffic light.  All taxis do this.  If the taxi driver stops the meter, the fare will stop as long as the car is stopped.  But once the car starts moving again, the fare displayed on the meter will continue to increase even after the meter has been stopped by the driver.  This is to prevent taxi drivers from cheating the cab company.  If the driver stops the meter, resets it to zero, and continues to drive, the meter will not show a fare.  Unfortunately, this turns lights on that should not be on when the taxi is occupied.  Those lights send a signal to every police officer, supervisor, and other taxi drivers telling them that the driver is ripping off the cab company.  That gives the driver an unfair advantage over others drivers, and other drivers won't tolerate that.  The bottom line is that if you want to stay in the taxi, you must pay the fare displayed on the meter, and there's little you can do to avoid that.  You are never obligated to pay more than the meter displays.  For more information on fares and fees, visit the Taxicab Fares and Fees page on the Taxicab Authority website.
  5. Right to Refuse — With few exceptions, a taxi driver cannot refuse a passenger.  Here are some of the exceptions:
    • The taxi is already occupied (with one or more passengers).
    • The driver believes you aren't able or willing to pay the full fare.
    • You are disorderly (use of hostile or offensive gestures and/or indecent or offensive language).
    • You do not have a specific destination (or you change your destination to a non-specific one).
    • The driver believes it is not safe (for example, you have a concealed weapon or you refuse to stay inside the car while it's moving).
  6. Capacity — Most taxi drivers will not take more than five passengers.  Yes, you could squeeze more in the car and offer to tip the driver.  But the law requires a seatbelt for every passenger, and if there are only five seatbelts, the driver will probably only accept five passengers.  If the driver is stopped by the police, guess who gets to pay the fine.  So if you offer to tip, make sure your tip is more than the $300 fine (and pay up front).  A better bet is to take one of the many limousines staged at the hotels and casinos.  They're not very expensive, and they accept more passengers.
  7. Route — By law, a taxi driver must take the most direct route unless he has the passenger's permission to take another route.  Unfortunately, the most direct route may send you through heavy traffic, which may slow the ride down and increase the fare.  On the other hand, a longer route in distance may be faster, but the distance may increase the fare.  It's not possible for the driver to accurately determine which route will result in the lowest fare or shortest time en route, but drivers can and should offer their honest advice based on their experience.
  8. McCarran International Airport — If you're taking a taxi from McCarran International Airport to the Strip, many drivers will take you "through the tunnel" (McCarran to westbound I-215 to northbound I-15 to any of four exits).  This is not the most direct route.  Unless the driver has discussed this route with you first and obtained your permission, this is a violation (see rule eight above).  These driver's will tell you that it's faster and will reduce the fare.  It may or may not be faster depending on traffic conditions, and it may or may not reduce the fare.  From my experience, I could invariably make it from McCarran to as far north as Sahara faster and at a lower fare simply by knowing the traffic light patterns.  So your second step when taking a taxi from McCarran is to tell the driver not to take the tunnel (the first step is rule one above).
  9. More McCarran — You'll also have to pay more money - currently $1.80 - when you take a cab from (but not to) McCarran.  You can thank the government for that.
  10. Hotels North — If you're going to any of the hotels farther north than Sahara (Stratosphere or any downtown destination), the tunnel may be the best bet.  But if it's rush hour, it may be best to stay on surface streets, accept the traffic, sit back, and enjoy the sights.
  11. Take the Strip — If you really want to drive up the Strip on the way to your hotel, don't let the driver discourage you.  If he's a good driver, he should know which lanes move and which lanes don't.  You can't stay in one lane on the Strip.  In some places, the right lanes move faster; some places the left lanes do.  Traffic does get heavy, particularly on Friday and Saturday nights, and it can move sluggishly for all lanes, but you're the passenger - it's your choice!
  12. Diversions — If you ask the driver to take you to destination A, and the driver tries to convince you that you don't really want to go there, that you'd be better served by going to destination B, beware.  This is a diversion, and it's illegal.  The driver gets paid by destination B to take passengers there.  This is primarily true for strip clubs, but could also happen at other places.  When I drove, there were some clubs that paid drivers $70 per passenger!  Of course, you, the patrons of those clubs, pay with high cover charges, expensive drinks, and lap dances.  If you want to go to destination A, insist that the driver take you to destination A.  You can decide for yourself later if you don't like it and instead want to go to destination B.
  13. Hailing a Cab — You generally cannot "hail a cab" on the Strip.  Driver's are required to pick up only at designated cab stands.  There are cab stands at every major hotel/casino, shopping mall, and club.  If a driver stops on the street to pick you up, he will probably be blocking traffic, which is a safety risk.  The driver will be cited if any police officer or supervisor catches him.  Also, because of the high rate of robbery and murder among taxi drivers, forcing passengers to funnel into the cab stand will force them all to be on surveillance cameras.  This, theoretically, will reduce the chances of crimes against the drivers by increasing the chances the criminals will be identified, located, arrested, charged, prosecuted, tried, convicted, sentenced, etc.  (The high crime rate is also why there are video cameras mounted in every taxi.)  However, if the nearest taxi stand is farther than you want to walk, you may be able to get a driver to stop on/near the street by following these tips:

    1. Consider standing in a place that allows the driver to pull off the road, for example, into a driveway, just past where you are standing.  If the driver can pick you up without blocking traffic, he's more likely to stop.  Why "past where you are standing"?  If a driver sees you at the last second and suddenly tries to make a quick turn into the driveway where you're standing, you don't want to be there if he's going too fast and can't make the turn.  Remember this: Despite the fact that taxi drivers are "professionals", they typically drive fast and are not good drivers.  They have a high accident rate.  So always try to stay away from places a taxi driver might drive - intentionally or unintentionally.
    2. Don't wave your arms frantically.  This is what criminals do when they want to rob a taxi driver, and that tactic will make any driver go the other way.  Drivers are (or should be) constantly looking for passengers, so a single hand or loud whistle will usually do.
    3. Look for passengers in the taxi.  If you see more than one head - the one in the driver's seat - don't waste your time and effort trying to waive down the cab.  There's not a single driver in the country who will stop to pick up a passenger when he already has one in the cab.
    4. Don't try to hail a cab in a bus zone.
    5. Don't try to hail a cab in front of the police.  If the police see you, they'll make you walk and cite the driver.
  14. Disputes — If you have a dispute with the driver, don't panic.  To a driver, time really is money, and the longer the dispute drags out, the more likely the driver is to give up and get back to making money from other passengers.  Be patient.  Call the Taxicab Authority at (702) 668-4000 to ask for their help (remember rule number one?).  In the meantime, the driver may send a signal that prompts a dozen other drivers to come to his aid.  But they are there only to see that their "brother" doesn't get hurt.  As long as you're calm and reasonable, they won't do anything.  (In some case, you won't even see them.)
  15. Drops — Many drivers will tell you they cannot "drop" you (stop to let you out) in certain places; that they can drop off only at "designated loading/unloading zones".  Horsepucky.  What the driver is really saying is that he wants to pull into the main entrance of a hotel/casino so he can set himself up to get in line to pick up the next passenger.  He wants to make you walk an extra block so he can make another eight bucks on his 12-hour shift?  Really?  Don't let him get away with it!  If the driver refuses to stop where you want to stop, do not tip him.  If you're going slow enough, open the door - he'll have to stop then.
  16. Drunks — Do not take a taxi if you don't have money, especially if you are intoxicated (the driver may take you to a remote location, drag you out of the car, and leave you there).
  17. Theft — Refusing to pay the fare is theft.  But if the fare is less than about $40, the police typically will not respond to help a driver.  (Did I mention that the police almost always side with the passengers?)  On the other hand, many drivers would gladly sacrifice their job for the pleassure of beating the fare out of a passenger.  (There's always another cab company hiring.)
  18. Tipping — Speaking of tipping, do not tip a driver if he does any of the following:

    • Talks on his cell phone at anytime while you are in the car - hands-free, Bluetooth, it doesn't matter.  His attention should be on driving and his passengers - nothing else.
    • Drives in an unsafe manner.
    • Sits at a red light when he has the option of turning right on red (safely and legally).
    • Doesn't get his lazy butt out of the car to open and close the doors for you.
    • Doesn't carefully load your luggage in the trunk.
    • Doesn't get your luggage out of the trunk for you (yes, there are drivers who will sit in the driver's seat, pop open the trunk, and make you get your own luggage out!).
    • Does anything while he's driving other than focus on driving.
    • Plays his favorite music from his native country.
    • Has a negative attitude.
    • Isn't clean and well-groomed.
    • Isn't reasonably well-dressed.
    • Isn't polite.
    • Doesn't smile.
    • Doesn't make an effort to answer all your questions.
    • Smokes.
    • Eats or drinks while you're in the car.
    • Doesn't "hustle".
    • Expects a tip without going "above and beyond" for it.
  19. Big Bucks — Never try to pay a cab fare with a $100 bill.  Here's what will happen: the driver will take the bill, restart the meter, take his sweet time looking for change, then give you change only after the meter has run up another twenty bucks.  Always carry enough small bills with you - ones and fives - so that you can pay the fare without having to wait for change or be compelled to leave a tip when the driver doesn't deserve one.
  20. You Want Change? — If the driver says he doesn't have change, don't believe him.  This is a tactic used to get a bigger tip.  Given a choice between no tip or over-tipping, most passengers feel obligated to leave a large tip.  The drivers know this, and they'll tell you they don't have change for a $20 hoping you'll leave that $20 as their tip.  Again, be patient.  Stall a little bit.  Take time to discuss the options, to find a way to get someone else to change the bill - either a doorman or a machine inside the casino.  See how long it takes the driver to realize/confess that he actually does have change.

Does it seem like I'm being a little too harsh?  Am I asking too much of taxi drivers?  Not at all.  I've been in their shoes, and I succeeded beyond my expectations simply by serving the passenger no matter what their request.  The bottom line: The taxi driver is there to serve you.  That means 100% effort.  It's not a difficult job (stressful, yes, but not difficult).  There's no excuse for failing to serve each and every passenger.  If you don't get the best ride, the driver doesn't deserve a tip.  The taxicab companies pay very well, and tips are just icing on the cake, so don't ever feel like a driver's children will go hungry if you demand the best and refuse to tip when you don't get the service you deserve.  Remember also that you pay that driver's share of taxes (we have no state income tax in Nevada)!  If more people stop tipping bad drivers, the driving habits will improve for all taxi drivers, which will result in safer streets and better service.

User Comments:
Jonas - Mar 7, 2011 08:06:26 — Tesfaye Arze, 30, a cabdriver from Las Vegas, was shot and killed Friday while driving for A North Las Vegas Cab Company.  The shooting is being investigated as a homocide, and the motive is believed to be robbery.  My condolences to Mr. Arze's family and friends, and to all the drivers wh ...more
Sam - May 8, 2015 03:46:29 — You say taxi drivers get paid well from the companies? What planet are you living on? You are obviously management at one of the companies.
Jonas - May 8, 2015 08:00:22 — 1. Vegas cab drivers I know get 50% of the book plus tips.  The company pays all expenses, e.g., administrative costs, fuel, vehicle maintenance, etc.  I think that's more than fair.  But I guess being "paid well" is a relative term and a matter of perception.  Or maybe ...more
Joe - Jun 17, 2015 09:39:25 — Can cab drivers in Las Vegas legally carry a handgun?
Jonas - Jun 18, 2015 03:11:47 — Many cab driver are armed.  Whether it's legal or not is a horse of a different color.

In Nevada, as in other states, you must have a permit to carry a concealed weapon.

I don't think the Taxicab Authority (TA), Nevada's governing agency for the taxicab industry, h ...more
Val - Jul 13, 2015 11:18:24 — I am looking for cab driver with last name; Kalo my e-mail is thanks.
Jonas - Jul 13, 2015 03:19:04 — Sorry, but I don't know any cab drivers by any name.
Chinook - Sep 15, 2015 01:35:17 — Thanks Jonas. Good read. Think I'll drive, and drink Too Much when we get closer to our hotel (South). Traveling from Alaska, most of us pack, and the majority of us are "NOT" felons...
Jonas - Sep 17, 2015 09:23:34 — Chinook, you know it gets a little warm down here, don't you?  So you won't need to drink to stay warm.  Just sayin'...
A Cab Cabbie - Oct 29, 2015 03:40:30 — I don't know how long ago this was originally written, but Las Vegas taxi rates are higher now (10/2015). Also, the OP has several facts wrong here. 1. Taxi drivers in LV are not required to get out of the car to open doors, load luggage, etc. (Unless driving a handicap equipped vehicle). Any driv ...more
Jonas - Oct 29, 2015 07:45:06 — It was originally published on February 16, 2011, so, yeah, the rates have gone up.  You can find the most current fares and fees here:

Also, the OP has several facts wrong here.

Not wrong - you and I just disagr ...more
Dave - Dec 25, 2015 02:45:37 — I don't get the taxi fees .. You get a cab and they stop.. Price shows $10 they press a button price jumps up ?? Then as your getting out it drops back to $10 ... Why does the amount change ?
Jonas - Dec 25, 2015 04:13:44 — In Las Vegas, there's only one button that can increase the fare.  It's called "Extras".  If a cab driver picks up passengers at McCarran International Airport, there is an additional charge ($2.00, I believe) imposed by Clark County.  That fee helps pay for the Nazi "b ...more
Jonas - Dec 25, 2015 04:43:13 — I want to add a few things to my previous post:

1. Once the buttons are pressed, they can't be unpressed.

2. Each Las Vegas taxicab has a device installed that logs that cab's presence as they pass through McCarran arrivals.  The county collects the fees based on t ...more
Sunny Chan Hong Kong - Jan 10, 2016 01:38:06 — Your tips are very useful if I read them beforehand. I can only say I met two bad taxi drivers out of three taxi trips in LAS. The last one is realy a bad experience. I took a taxi from Cosmopolitan Hotel to airport. The little Asian old lady driver did not say a word and start asking how many t ...more
Jonas - Jan 10, 2016 10:26:23 — I'm sorry you had bad experiences with taxis in Las Vegas.  Your Asian driver took you "through the tunnel", which is longer, both distance and time.  Some drivers truly believe it is faster, and it may be under certain traffic conditions.  But even if it is, the driver may  ...more
LV Cabbie - Mar 30, 2016 10:59:26 — Jonas... 1. If you think it is cheapest to tunnel people to get to the Stratosphere, you are wrong. Paradise straight up all the way. 2. Your constant "did I mention the police/TA almost ALWAYS side with the passengers" comments are a bit much... 3. You claim most drivers are ar ...more
Jonas - Mar 31, 2016 09:31:48 — Here we go, LV Cabbie...

"1. If you think it is cheapest to tunnel people to get to the Stratosphere, you are wrong. Paradise straight up all the way."

First of all, "Paradise straight up all the way" is not an option.  Paradise is southb ...more
Brian - Apr 14, 2016 08:34:58 —  The taxicab companies pay very well, and tips are just icing on the cake, so don't ever feel like a driver's children will go hungry if you demand the best and refuse to tip when you don't get the service you deserve. That's about one of the most asinine statements I've ever read, while I agree  ...more
Brian - Apr 14, 2016 10:13:19 — One more thing Jonas, if somebody were to ask if you should tip, let's say a food server for example most people would say yes, of course you should, that's how they make their money and they work hard for it or something to that effect and that's all good. I most definitely tip above the norm when  ...more
Jonas - Apr 14, 2016 10:33:42 — 1. Why are YOU here, Brian?

2. I wrote this 'cause I hear the complaints every day. I hate dishonesty.
Jonas - Apr 14, 2016 03:23:33 — Brian, if you only earn $60 to $90 a day, YOU'RE doing something wrong, not me.  I've been in your shoes.  I earned $200 to $300 every single day I worked, and averaged more than 33% in tips.  Stop staging, get off your ass, serve the customers, and don't complain.  Ever.  I ...more
Jonas - Apr 14, 2016 06:49:46 — Okay, Brian, I've had a chance to read everything you wrote, so here's my last response:

1. When you call your passengers "ungrateful, worthless sack of excrement", you don't deserve the fare, let alone a tip!  My customers are celebrities - every single one of them.&nb ...more
Jonas - Apr 15, 2016 09:30:03 — Median income for a Las Vegas cab driver: $33,246 (about $16 per hour).
Ross - Oct 9, 2016 07:27:27 — Can a Las Vegas taxi carry four large cases as well as four passengers or is there limited space in the trunk?
Jonas - Oct 11, 2016 04:28:42 — Las Vegas taxis come in a variety of makes/models.  Many were classic Ford Crown Victoria, but those are fading out.  Now you'll see Prius a lot.  But there are a also vans, SUVs, and other styles.  When you load - at the airport or a hotel, for example - the "loader" w ...more

"If you can't say something nice, let's hear it!"   — Joan Rivers

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