In most major cities of Argentina taxis are abundant. Buenos Aires in particular, with its 40,000 cabs, is one of the best cities in the world to take taxis. The black and yellow cars abound and it’s fairly easy to hail one on any major avenue, rain or shine. The only exception is when, due to a protest or flooding, the subway or the bus lines shut down and all the wayward passengers decide to hail a cab at the same time.
Hailing or Calling a Taxi
To summon a taxi on the street, look for cabs that have the red light turned on that says ‘LIBRE’ in the corner of the windshield. Make sure you are on the right-hand side of the avenue and try to select a place where the taxi will have room to stop safely — it’s best if you’re not in front of a bus stop.
The usual advice is to hail an ‘official’ Radio Taxi, which can be distinguished by the words ‘radio taxi’ on top and logos on the back and front doors. These are taxis that work for a company instead of working independently, meaning if there is any dispute with the driver you can call the company to complain. The fact that they work for a company also makes them less anonymous than ‘freelancers,’ and are thus a safer option.
It is even safer to call and order a Radio Taxi, because the cabbie’s number and your pick up address are registered on a computer. Cellphone users can call a cab using an app such as Easy Taxi.
Before getting into a taxi you’ll want to make sure that you have small bills to pay your fare. Finding change in Buenos Aires is a big problem although not as much as it used to be, thus a taxi driver may not have change for a 100 or even 50 peso note. In a blue moon, a shifty driver may take the note and switch it out with a counterfeit note before telling you he doesn’t have change.
If you only have 100’s on you, make sure you ask the driver if they have change before you get in the cab. Tipping cab drivers is not customary in Buenos Aires, although most passengers round up to the nearest number.
Once you get into the cab make sure the taxi driver turns on the meter. In Buenos Aires the meter starts increases every 200 meters, or 30 seconds of idle waiting time.
Giving Directions to Cab Drivers
Occasionally a cab driver may take a route that seems illogical or drive you into the middle of a traffic jam and act like he had just no idea that a protest would be blocking the street. The more you know where you are going and how to get there, the less this will happen.
Feel free to suggest a preferred route to the driver to prevent getting an unintentional ‘city tour.’ Even if you don’t know the route, you can at least pretend that you do. Often the driver will ask you whether you want to take one street or another. He may ask, for example, “Corrientes o Rivadavia?” Instead of saying that you don’t know, answer with a firm, “Corrientes!” The two routes are likely to be fairly similar in distance so the price won’t change much if you choose the longer option, but at least you will give the impression that you know your way around, and he’s less likely to take you on a ‘gringo tour.’
The most common way locals give directions to taxi drivers is by naming the street and the nearest cross street, rather than a street number. It’s often easier to tell the driver “Vamos hasta Uruguay y Santa Fe” (Let’s go to the corner of Uruguay and Sante Fe Streets), rather than saying, “Uruguay 1245″, for example. It also leaves less room for economically-motivated ‘confusion.’
If you speak some Spanish you will probably find Buenos Aires cab drivers to be rather entertaining and opinionated conversationalists — get them going about football or politics for a good laugh or to learn some new Lunfardo.