Taxi Safety

Taxis are everywhere in Buenos Aires and you’ll almost certainly use them during your trip.

There are two types of taxis in Buenos Aires: radio taxis and regular taxis. Radio taxis can be identified by the sign on the roof that says “radio taxi”. If you wish, you can call a radio taxi to pick you up at your location. Or you can flag down either a radio taxi or a regular taxi in the street. You rarely have to wait more than a couple minutes for an available taxi to come by, unless perhaps if it is raining, or you are in a remote location.

Some guidebooks recommend only calling radio taxis and never catching a random taxi in the street. This may be overly cautious. Practically speaking, it is common practice to catch taxis in the street. Even at high-end hotels in Buenos Aires I’ve seen staff simply flag down taxis for tourists rather than calling them. But as a miminum precaution I would suggest only flagging down radio taxis and avoiding regular taxis entirely.

The logic behind the recommendation to call a radio taxi is that the company will have a record of the pick-up so the taxi driver is accountable and therefore unlikely to rob or kidnap you. Radio taxis are generally thought to be more reputable.

Radio taxis became popular after the financial crisis of 2001/2002 when times become tough for Argentines and street taxis became more frequently involved in kidnappings. That fear has lessened somewhat in recent years.

However, taxis remain involved in crime. As recently as this September the newspaper Clarín reported that a taxi driver was arrested for raping or assaulting as many as six young female tourists. He would pick them up leaving a Palermo nightclub late at night when they were alone.

Taxi drivers have been known to switch real bills for fake bills. Here’s a typical scenario, the passenger, usually an unwitting tourist who speaks no Spanish, gives the driver a 100 peso bill. The driver takes it and does a quick switcheroo, returning a fake 100 peso bill to the passenger and explaining that the bill is no good.

Taxis at the Retiro train station have a particularly bad reputation for trying to rip-off passengers. It happened to a friend of mine. It’s best to keep small bills on hand to pay taxis.

Personally, I have flagged down more than 100 taxis in the street, including regular taxis, and never had a bad experience. However, I am tall, male, speak Spanish, and know the city. I certainly don’t like the idea of my girlfriend taking street taxis alone in Buenos Aires. I would want her to call a radio taxi or step inside a hotel and ask them to call a radio taxi for her.

One more note about taxis: they may not stop for you if you are standing on the driver’s side of the street. They are only supposed to pick up passengers on the passenger’s side of the street.

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  1. Monique P. Says:

    Maybe it’s better to rent a car in BA?

  2. CJ Says:

    Not many tourists rent a car while in BA. Traffic is bad and parking is not easy. It’s generally easier to get around by foot, bus, taxi and subte. You might want to rent a car if you are heading outside the city, although the buses are good and you can take a train to some destinations like Mar Del Plata.

  3. biju Says:

    Recently I was cheated by a raditaxi that I took from the street. This is by quickly changing the currency and returning the fake currencies. Now a days this is quite common in Buenos Aires. What I herad is about 50% of them do this if they find a suitable prey.

  4. Turn My World Upside Down (Part 4 – Time to Tango) | Journeys By Jill Says:

    […] so pissed off that we got taken.  I had been warned and it still happened.  Lesson learned – NEVER let the money out of our sight.  Lean over the seat and watch the driver […]

  5. Sarah Says:

    any chance a radio taxi driver would happened to drop of a jacket to a hostel?
    the reason is one of the jackets holds a lot of sentimental value to me.
    also is there a lost and found department in the radio taxi service that we could ring to ask the company directly?? thank so much!

  6. pedro werberg Says:

    Good tip about taxi mafias. If you randomly flag down a taxi on the street
    avoid old Results,Peugeots and old beaters in general just go for the new shiny cars like Fiat, VW, Ford,etc. Because inflation in Argentina stands currently@ 25-30%!! small bills are very hard to come by, one way to solve this problem is to go for a short coffee break and pay with a 100 if the waiter ask for change ( cambio in Spanish ) just say you do not have any.
    Taxi stands should be avoided .because it is mafia turf As a Buenos Aires native my advice is to take it easy and if you are cheated, do not beat your head over it Buenos Aires is still quite safe

  7. Sam Says:

    Here’s what happened Oct. 25, 2011: A young American goes out jogging in a nice area of town and then hails a taxi for the return to his apartment. The taxi then contacted a gunman and the gunman jumps in the front seat and points a .38 at the American’s head. They drive him 20 miles outside Buenos Aires and steal his running shoes, his I-phone and cash. He walks back 20 miles in his stocking feet. He could have been killed. Never ever trust cab drivers in Buenos Aires.

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