Manila white cab
Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

Add One More City to the Seven Worst Places to Hail a Taxi Cab

I n this list of the seven worst places to hail a taxi cab — which includes Dubai, Shanghai, Bangkok and Istanbul — compiled by Alexander Bachuwa of The Points of Life, I recommend that Manila be added to the list.

“Getting taken by a taxi driver is one of the worst things about travel”, according to this article written by Alexander Bachuwa. “Based on my experience in Luxor and Sharm el-Sheikh, I would say that Egypt is the worst place that I have encountered the shady taxi driver.”

Um…Alexander…what exactly is the alternative? I can tell you that driving in Egypt is not a viable option for the squeamish — but I digress, as usual.

Why Manila Should be Added to the Seven Worst Places to Hail a Taxi Cab

After I spent approximately 24 hours in Manila — which included walking the streets of the city and seeing a raw version of everyday life with my eyes; a long walk on the fortress walls of Intramuros; a visit to the Manila Metropolitan Cathedral-Basilica; and a long stroll along Roxas Boulevard — as part of my unintentional trip around the world, I then watched the sun set along Manila Bay and walked around Mall of Asia before deciding to head back to the airport at night.

Although I typically do not use taxi cabs whenever I travel, no viable options of public transportation to or from Ninoy Aquino International Airport — which serves the greater Manila metropolitan area — exist; and it was night time. There were no yellow airport taxi cabs immediately available in sight outside of Mall of Asia; but swarms of white taxi cabs were eagerly jockeying for position to grab whatever fares they can collect.

I did not have to hail any taxi cabs. I chose one at random and said that I wanted to go to the airport. The taxi driver did not turn his meter on, saying that it was broken.

Yeah, right, I thought to myself. I knew what that meant; but I went along with it anyway — my mistake — as I heard that many taxi cab drivers in Manila are not exactly honest anyway. For example, I have heard about some taxi cabs whose meters run fast to collect more money.

Of course, we sat in heavy traffic on the way to the airport despite the time of night; but it was due to road construction. Other than that information, the driver was thankfully pretty much quiet for the duration of the trip.

When we arrived at Terminal 1 of the airport, he told me that the fare was 250 Philippine pesos. After some debate, I angrily gave him the money without a tip in his attempt to scam me — until I realized that the fare was only approximately $5.68; and I really had no further use for those Philippine pesos anyway. Perhaps I overpaid by as much as two or three dollars; but I just counted that as the tip being built in even though he did not deserve it.

I understand that it is common for taxi drivers in Manila not to turn on the meter.


It is a shame that scams associated with taxi cabs exist around the world — such as in Las Vegas, for example — and they can be potentially detrimental to tourism and the taxi cab industry itself. Perhaps that is one reason why ride sharing services such as Uber and Lyft are gaining momentum and popularity around the world — although they are far from perfect or safe themselves, which is one reason why airports want to require fingerprinting the drivers of those ride sharing services if they are to be permitted to pick up fares at the airport.

If you want to — or must — hail a taxi cab while traveling, you may want to consider the advice given in this article written by Alexander Bachuwa. Also, one trick which has worked for me in the past is to say that all you have left is a certain amount of money. Either the person will accept your offer and provide the product or service; or turn it down, as that is what happened to me in Oman when I felt like I was being scammed to see its version of the Grand Canyon — or in Mozambique when I attempted to exchange currency.

Otherwise, I recommend that you consider alternate forms of ground transportation whenever possible while traveling, as taxi cabs are not usually the fastest — or amongst the least expensive — forms of ground transportation available.

A white taxi cab is seen pulling towards the curb on the right side of the street in the middle of the photograph near Mall of Asia in Manila. Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

  1. From Mall of Asia to the airport, the normal fare is about 120 without traffic. Since you sat in some traffic, it probably goes up to about 170, add that to the 50 peso premium that some cab drivers request coming out of MOA, you’re looking at 220. So you got scammed 65 cents….. for the honest drivers though, I always provide a hefty tip.

    1. Interesting, Alex. You provided me with different information than from someone who I know travels to Manila on a fairly regular basis; and I did not know about the 50-peso premium some drivers charge from Mall of Asia to the airport.

      What both of you have said does make sense to me; but I do agree with you on properly tipping honest people — whether they are taxi cab drivers or certain other types of service providers.

      Thank you for your input.

  2. I agree that taxis in Manila pretty bad – we had a few drivers refuse to take us to a hospital in an emergency “because of traffic”! And, yes, many drivers refuse to turn on meters during rush hour – based on the government rates, they don’t get paid enough for wait time in traffic, so they either refuse to drive or want a fixed fee. But, when you say that there is no viable option to get to the Manila airport or around town – that’s not really true: uber has a very reliable service in Manila that’s easily available all around town and at the MOA. Even with surge pricing, you’d probably pay less than PHP250 – and it’s safer, more comfortable, more reliable and hassle free. Most malls and the airport have free wifi, so you can use uber without paying roaming fees. I’ve lived in Manila for three years, take uber regularly around town as well as to/from the airport and haven’t used a taxi in a long time…
    You don’t have to feel too bad though: As the others said, you’ve overpaid a little bit: the 50P MOA fee is not a legal thing, just something the drivers think they can get away with. With a nice driver, a metered fare and a small tip, you’d probably have rounded up to P200 anyway…
    I’ve written up some to tips to get to Manila and around here:
    I’ll add some tips how to use uber from the airport soon – uber has updated their service to make it very easy!
    And to update that “worst taxi list” further, I’d suggest Ho Chi Minh City to be added – one of the few cities I’ll have the hotel arrange airport transfer, even if it is more expensive, just to avoid the hassle at the airport! Even after agreeing on the fare with the driver at the airport, he started to renegotiate as soon as we left the airport and didn’t stop till we reached the hotel. I paid the agreed fare, walked away and asked the hotel staff to deal with him…

  3. i think you are supposed to ask for the price if they do not use the meter. otherwise you will be held ransom for service rendered when you arrive at the destination.

    So, once you get in the cab, you ask for the price and you can haggle before he sets off. If you dont like the price, you can pick another cab. If you dont do this, the driver will almost always try to con you off an extra buck or two, like in your situation. he probably thinks you have no clue/dont care and your “company pays” for you.

    I personally do no think it is okay to get conned, even for 10 cents. A con is a con. Just like a loss is a loss, no matter how large or small the loss.

    If someone says, it is just 10 cents or whatever amount, then why dont they give me the 10 cents instead. why am I the one losing the 10 cents and not the other way around?

  4. Ha! I’ll have to go to Manila and find out for myself. One great option in Cairo is Uber. I had the best driver. The day I came back from Sharm he took me to the Antiquities Museum from the airport, waited in the car, and then took me back to the airport.

    He was my Uber driver for most of my time in Sharm so I trusted him with to not run off with my carry-ons. I don’t think I’m doing that with the rest of the guys on the list.

    1. Ha! I’ll have to go to Manila and find out for myself. One great option in Cairo is Uber. I had the best driver. The day I came back from Sharm he took me to the Antiquities Museum from the airport, waited in the car, and then took me back to the airport.

      He was my Uber driver for most of my time in Cairo so I trusted him with to not run off with my carry-ons. I don’t think I’m doing that with the rest of the guys on the list.

  5. Dubai???? It’s one of the easiest cities for getting cabs. The worst I’ve seen are Venice (river taxis) and the Riviera. The latter is so bad it’s actually cheaper to take a helicopter from Nice Airport to Monaco, and while Uber provides a great service around Nice, they don’t serve Monaco.

Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.

You have Successfully Subscribed!