TAXI! – A Guide to Hailing a Cab in NYC

Let’s be honest, what you really want to know is how to hail the Cash Cab, right? All I can tell you is look for a van and if the lights start flashing when you get in – use us as a life line. You know we got random trivia down! Hailing a Cab in New York City But let’s say you aren’t looking for a few extra bucks but just a quick way to get to one of our tours.  Here is a guide to New York Taxis: hailing a cab in NYC, knowing your rights, estimated cost and how to know if he’s taking the long way.

Be sure to also check out our other guides to getting around New York City:

Hailing a Cab

Taxi! The best way to hail a cab is have someone else do it for you. Your hotel doorman likely has a strong whistle and the perfect arm wave. Many hotels have cabs waiting outside at the ready to pick up a fare. But if you’re staying at a budget accommodation or your away from your hotel, it’s really just as easy as holding out your arm! Taxis in NYC aren’t like London, where they are regulated to look a certain way and be a certain color. Though there are some regulations. Yellow cabs are able to pick up passengers anywhere in the five boroughs. Those that are  green, are allowed to pick up passengers in Upper Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens (excluding LaGuardia Airport and John F. Kennedy International Airport), and Staten Island.  So what if a cab just drives right past you? They could be off-duty or already in use.

  • When just the center is lit, highlighting the medallion number, the cab is available.
  • When the medallion number, as well as the side lamps are lit, the cab is off-duty. The side lamps actually say OFF DUTY if you are close enough to read them.
  • When no lights are lit, the cab already has a fare they are bringing to a destination. Another way to tell if this is the case – there is a person inside!

TIP: Consider using Uber or MyTaxi with a smartphone and have the taxi show up to wherever you are.  

How big is your group?

Most cabs fit 4 persons, some minivan cabs can take more. If you have a child, by law, anyone over the age of 7 requires a seat and a seatbelt. Younger travellers can sit on someone’s lap. If you have a larger group, you can sit in the front seat. If it’s you, tradition dictates that you sit in the back but if you’re unable or just really friendly – you can still sit in the front!

Act like a local

You cannot pre-arrange a cab ride. You’d need to call a livery service for this. To be honest, even in cities where they do offer pre-arranged cabs, like DC, they are horribly unreliable. It’s always faster just to hail one from the corner. Except when it’s raining. Everyone takes a cab in the rain so they are notoriously harder to find. You can e-hail a cab through Uber, Hailo and Taxi Magic.

Going to the airport, instead of holding out one hand – if you’re brave and can deal with the stares from passerbys, flap your arms like a bird, a plane, …or superman! The drivers will realise what you want and pull over faster – higher fare for them.

If you’re just going to short distance, hold out a “C” with your hand. This signals to the drivers that you’re looking for quick drive and you might even get an off duty taxi to pull over since you are not going far.

Don’t give exact addresses. Give corners – this applies to all cities – it signals to the driver that you aren’t a tourist. Only tourists give exact addresses. For example, don’t say 515 Malcolm X Blvd, just give him Lenox Avenue and 135th St. To be honest, he’ll be more likely to know where that is than the address and if he thinks you’re a local, he’ll be less likely to take the long way and risk being called out.

Once a cab has pulled over, get in and THEN give the address. He can’t say no once you’re in the car but if your destination is somewhere he doesn’t want to take you – if you aren’t already in the car he can say no and drive away, leaving you to do this all over again! Sometimes you’ll get a driver who doesn’t want to take you to Queens or Brooklyn, but if you start to write down their medallion number, they often quickly change their mind!

How Much Are You Going To Pay?

  • Minimum taxi fare is $2.50.
  • Additional charges are $0.50 per 1/5 of a mile (at or above 6 mph) or for 2 minutes of time stopped or traveling below 6 mph.
  • The night-time surcharge is $0.50 for rides beginning from 8 p.m. until 6 a.m.
  • The peak hour weekday surcharge is $1.00 and is charged for rides from 4 – 8 p.m. weekdays.
  • There is a $0.50 New York State tax surcharge.
  • There is no additional charge for luggage and no per passenger surcharge.
  • Any tolls during the ride are the responsibility of the passenger, in addition to the metered fare.
  • If the driver uses E-ZPass to pay the fare (transponder on the front windshield) the passenger pays the reduced E-ZPass fare.
  • Flat fares from JFK Airport to Manhattan are $52: there is no night surcharge and the meter does not need to be run.
  • There is a $17.50 surcharge for fares to Newark Airport, in addition to return tolls.
  • New York taxis accept payment by cash or credit card.

New York Taxi Rider’s Bill of Rights

  • As a taxi rider, you have the right to:
  • Direct the destination and route used;
  • Travel to any destination in the five boroughs of the City of New York;
  • A courteous, English-speaking driver who knows the streets in Manhattan and the way to major destinations in other boroughs;
  • A driver who knows and obeys all traffic laws;
  • Air-conditioning on demand;
  • A radio-free (silent) trip;
  • Smoke and incense-free air;
  • A clean passenger seat area;
  • A clean trunk
  • A driver who uses the horn only when necessary to warn of danger; and
  • Refuse to tip, if the above are not complied with.