Taking a taxi in New York City can be an unforgettable experience so try to work at least one ride into your stay, and try to do it during non-peak traffic hours for the best effect. There are over 10,000 yellow cabs in the city, but particularly in Midtown it seems like there must be more than that. Most of the taxis stay in Manhattan when they aren’t on airport runs, and in certain Manhattan neighborhoods they make up well over half the cars you’ll see.
For information on getting to and from the airports, see the Airports page.
Fares (for up to 4 passengers)
Initial fare: $2.50
Each 1/5-mile driven: $0.40
Each minute at under 12 mph: $0.40
Peak surcharge: $1.00 (4 – 8 pm, M-F)
Night surcharge: $0.50 (8 pm – 6 am)
Recommended tip: 15% of the price on the meter, but more if the guy is nice and helpful and definitely less if he’s a grouch.
Add all these things up and you will usually pay around $10 to go from Midtown to the center of Greenwich Village, but it could be less if traffic is very light, and it could be much more under gridlock conditions. To go from Lincoln Center to Battery Park might cost $25, but again, it could be a bit higher or lower.
Not getting ripped off
Fraud in yellow New York City taxis is quite rare. Stay out of the “gypsy” cabs (any color other than bright yellow/orange) and you should be fine. All NYC taxis work on a meter (except to and from JFK Airport), so there should be no fare surprises or disputes. If you cross a toll bridge or tunnel, the driver will pay and add it to your fare, but it won’t be on the meter so don’t forget.
You speak better English than most taxi drivers, so they don’t usually try to fleece tourists like they do in some other places. Getting around Manhattan is so simple and straightforward that it’s difficult for them to take a roundabout route to run your fare up. Often drivers will go a block or two out of the way in order to avoid traffic and save their time, but this usually saves you money as well.
Paying with a credit or debit card
During 2007 and 2008 all New York Taxis are having credit/debit card machines installed. There are no minimums or fees to use your debit or credit card, and you only have to sign the receipt if the total is over $25. There are no keypads for entering a PIN, so your debit card has to work without a PIN (as most do for small purchases). All cabs are scheduled to have these systems installed by mid 2008.
Hailing a taxi
Except at the airport and in front of a few hotels, there are no taxi stands in New York City. Just stand near the curb looking for cabs with their top number illuminated (which means they are available) and wave your arm in their direction. It’s pretty easy although it does get very competitive during rush hours and especially when it’s raining.
To use a taxi or not
For groups of 3 or 4 people, taxis can actually be a good value. If you’ve got a group of 5 or 6 people and the group fits comfortably into a cab you’ll usually be okay and not have to pay extra, so in this case it can definitely be a bargain.
The major variable you need to take into account before hopping in a cab is the street traffic. Particularly during morning or evening rush hours in or near Midtown, traffic can move at a crawl when it moves at all. Times like this can be incredibly frustrating in the back of a cab since the meter keeps building and pedestrians keep passing you.
The subways move the same speed no matter the traffic above ground, so they can be the best choice during rush hours. Subways aren’t nearly as dangerous as most people might think, even late at night, but after around 9 p.m. taxis can fly up and down the avenues, which can make for a thrill ride and an efficient form of transportation around the city.
It’s true that very few cab drivers were born in the US, and few of them speak English well, but in general they tend to be friendly or at least neutral. If you have a bad experience you should definitely let the tip (if any) reflect that.