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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