How Would You Have Handled This Taxi Scam Differently?

Filed Under: Travel

It’s no secret that I have pretty bad luck with taxis, in cities ranging from Abu Dhabi to Dubai to Frankfurt to Las Vegas to Warsaw to London.

I’m in Beijing for a few days, which is a city I always find both interesting and frustrating. One of the challenges I face in Beijing is getting around, since none of the cab drivers seem to know where they’re going. I’ll only ever get in a taxi after I have my destination written down in Chinese. But even then there’s only about a 50/50 chance of getting to the right destination. Sometimes they’ll acknowledge where you want to go, and then halfway through the ride they’ll start talking to you in Chinese because they don’t know where they’re going, and all you can do is point back at the piece of paper.


Last night we went to dinner at a restaurant located inside the JW Marriott, though unfortunately the driver instead dropped us off at one of the Marriotts on the other side of town, despite us having the exact address and hotel name written down. Grrr!

Incompetence aside, I ran into a Beijing taxi scam for the first time today, and I’m curious what you guys would have done. We had lunch at Din Tai Fung, and the ride from our hotel to the restaurant cost 20CNY (~$3), as I expected.

However, on the return ride I noticed that about halfway through the ride the meter was already at 20CNY, and as we approached the hotel the meter was at 40CNY. So it was pretty clear to me that the driver had a hot meter, which was going twice as fast as it was supposed to (the drive took roughly the same amount of time in both directions).

Then I noticed that the ID which is usually displayed on the dashboard wasn’t there.

Okay, it’s not that I’m actually terribly concerned about being scammed out of ~$3, but on principle I was planning on just paying the normal price. I figured when we pulled up to the hotel I’d tell the bellman what was going on, in hopes of combatting what this guy was doing.

But he outsmarted me. While I asked for us to be dropped off at the hotel, he instead pulled over on the side of a busy road by the hotel to drop us off, rather than driving into the actual driveway of the hotel. It seemed pretty clear to me that this was a conscious decision, given that he knew this would prevent me from calling him out on it, since he didn’t speak a word of English.

So I settled the fare and moved on with my day. And since he didn’t speak English (and I don’t speak Chinese) I didn’t feel like I was in a position to do much.

What would you have done in this situation? Just paid the higher fare since it was only a few bucks more, or is there another approach you would have taken on principle?

  1. Busy street? Could he auto-lock the doors? If not, I probably would have paid him the 20CNY and got out of the cab and left him there.

  2. I think this is just another not licensed taxi, which is pretty common in Beijing. The fare itself seemed pretty fair.

  3. I think this is common. Pretty much exactly the same thing happened to me in a taxi from the pearl market to my hotel, though it was more like a factor of 3 on the price. Not sure it was a real cab rather than an impostor. Nothing much to do but pay and move on, I think.

  4. I only use Uber, Lyft or Grab when away from home — never been scammed. Pretty easy to do, especially with a local SIM.

  5. If you want to avoid trouble, the best thing is to do what you did – pay the few bucks and walk away.
    If you don’t like being scammed, I’ve done two things in this type of situation:
    1. Just tell him to go to hotel or “no pay” – even if they don’t understand English, they understand “no pay”. Just sit and wait. If he doesn’t move, you go to option 2
    2. Get out, drop the correct amount of money on the seat and walk away from the car against traffic, towards people. He won’t be able to follow you with the car. Most likely, he will just let it go and take the money and run, knowing that you obviously are on to his scam.
    Either case is a risk, as it could end up with violence, so usually it’s not worth the few bucks. I’ve taken pictures of cars and reported them, but that’s often not worth the effort either…

    In China, it helps to have the staff at your hotel/restaurant (who are more likely to speak English) talk to the driver to ensure they know where they are going or get you somebody else. They are also more likely to know whether a taxi is legit/has a license/ than you or I are…
    If you arrive late at night with no traffic, it’s worth the extra money to have the hotel arrange for pickup – the regular taxi drivers sometimes go so fast on the empty highway – it’s not the speed you want to go in a beat-up VW Santana with no shocks …

  6. You could have just paid him the fair price (20 CNY), and explained in English that it’s all he was getting. If he was scamming you as you as you suggest, he’d likely not have much recourse, and would drive off.

    Of course, if there were some legitimate reason for the fare to be higher (say, different pricing bands at different times of day, or whatever), he’d have a good reason to be upset – but a quick word with your hotel doorman would clarify that. If he didn’t want to talk to the doorman, it’s probably because he’s in the wrong.

  7. Get the tag, report him to the police. Other than that my policy is just to not return to Beijing. Got fed up with people trying to scam me all the time including my tour guide.

  8. The incompetence is due to lack of experience. Most taxi drivers are locals but in big chinese cities the locals become rich enough with the progress of able to own private home(s) and the outrageous value increase of their property. And uber and different taxi software gave so much impact on the business so it has much less income. Because of these no locals needs to do taxi nor do they want to. So taxi drivers are 95% outsiders who started rather recently, and there you go for the incompetence.
    So take public transportation would be my advice. Nearly all big chinese cities have a really great public transportation system that has run for 50 years and have been kept improving. Because the road manners in China is so bad, taking public transportation is not only safer (buses), it’s also a lot of the times faster and easier (subs). I would only take taxi in beijing, shanghai or guangzhou where people would drive with a little sanity…

  9. he’s always wussing out, that’s not new, but there’s no reason for you not to use uber.. unless …there could be when I tried using uber in China, they wouldn’t take addresses in English…I don’t know if that’s a bug or what I’m doing wrong.

  10. So you have no idea how to get around Beijing or communicate. And no proof it was a scam. Sounds like you’re blaming a taxi (travel) hacker for ruining your expected ROI with his exploitation of the creative routing rules.

    What goes around.

  11. Annoying for sure, but I think you absolutely did the right thing. With the language issues, pursuing it was just too complicated, and for what? I think the best one can hope to do in those situations is to do a quick venting to yourself or your traveling companion after the fact, and then move on with exploring the world and being grateful for the opportunity.

  12. You can borrow my motorcycle next time. Doesn’t have the seating capacity of a cab, and it’s a bit windy, but damn, it’s fun to ride in BJ.

  13. What I would have done in this situation is that I would have taken the subway. Cabs suck, for this and so many more reasons.

  14. Maybe try taking the subway and eating at more local places instead of Marriott?

    For someone who travels a lot you seem to have seen very little of the actual destinations. Try engaging with the local culture more instead of cabs to and from Western style hotels.

  15. I have been scammed in America by a white man taxi driver. But he was driving for a company and I paid by a credit card for the amount on the meter (he combined two fares and didn’t restart the meter) so don’t know if it was on purpose or not because I can’t imagine he got all the scam money.

  16. I had something similar happen to me and I told the driver I’m not paying anything and to call the cops if he wanted, got out and walked away as he yelled at me. No way I’d pay the inflated fare unless I absolutely had to (child proof locks preventing me from leaving and a driver threatening me with a weapon if I kick out the window)..

  17. Be careful about Beijing Taxi especially at night. In January I took a taxi from Beijing airport to Wangfujing in the midnight. The meter charge was high RMB 200 instead of the normal RMB 100 fare. The worst is that the driver tried to trick me returned me counterfeit bill. After arrival I then tried to phone the complaint hotline from the receipt, and found out the phone number on the receipt was fake too. Triple whammy!

  18. Most people, including myself would just pay the extra $3 and move one. The commenters that say they would have stood up to the guy are liars, stupid or both. If $3 is worth an altercation to you, you should work on your priorities.

  19. Reminds me of the time that I paid $20 for a cab from PVR to the Marriott; a three minute ride! The return fare to airport was only $5-

    In Beijing, I enjoyed an excellent dinner last week at Made in China in the Grand Hyatt.

  20. Hi Lucky,

    Maybe you can try Uber or “Didi Taxi” on your phone when you visit china. I find those come handy as you can enter your destination (in this case, maybe you can ask one of the staff in your hotel to help you enter it) and the driver will follow the GPS guidance. And Uber is really cheap in Beijing.

    Beijing taxi drivers like to rip off visitors.

  21. Happened to me multiple times in Shanghai and Beijing a few weeks ago. Once realized it, I just scrame at the top of my lungs (literally) and made him go to the hotel where the bellman took care of it all. And no, I was not afraid that he would do something to me. Man up dude. Or in your case that would be hard given your gender challenges

  22. I would have paid, but perhaps would of visibly snapped a photo of his license on the way out. I imagine that the fear of a complaint (even if you never file it) would bring him more than $3 worth of stress.

  23. You used a ‘black’ cab… another word for unlicensed. In China, if you don’t know the language, I would never use a black cab. The rates are not regulated. So you were not scammed… you paid this cabs regular rates. And the cab was probably not allowed to use the hotels driveway because of being a black cab. There are a lot of scary black cab stories out there that are much worse than this.

  24. You should have called an Uber instead, today we also have that as an option instead of taxis.

  25. First of all, why you go eat at Ding Tai Feng? There are so many places to eat. lol You are traveling for the sake of traveling.

  26. or don’t pay and see how many other taxi drivers materialize from nowhere to beat the crap out of you.

  27. I would have probably just paid it and moved along, it is only $3 afterall. Otherwise definitely agree with taking the subway next time. When I was there for two nights last year by myself I exclusively took the subway for what was basically free. Got a lot of looks and stares being American and by myself, but it was quite fun and convenient.

  28. @ MT I’ve used Uber plenty of times in Beijing and Shanghai. I really like it. But the Uber drivers in China always call to verify your location. If Ben don’t speak Chinese, I still suggest him to use taxi.

  29. Next time you should just use Uber. It’s the best way to get around Beijing (aside from taking the subway) 🙂

  30. Just go to Taipei to eat at the original Din Tai Fong. Cabs must follow meters and I’d say 99% of them do not participate in scams. Plus, the subway system is convenient, cheap and clean where people queue up to board. Also, people are friendlier to foreigners, especially if you’re Caucasian.

  31. I had a driver in Shanghai who refused to turn on the meter at all and it was pouring rain out. I ended up jumping out of the cab after screaming at the guy, because he was trying to claim his meter didn’t work and kept laughing. Had to walk to the hotel in the rain. I was really angry about the whole thing for days. Later I learned about the designated taxi lines and often they will have people who will tell the driver in english where you want to go. In beijing the hotel staff got in an argument with one driver because the guy didn’t even know how to drive to a popular destination and it took five minutes from when he arrived before he understood where to go.

    I dunno how I would have handled the above situation. I guess it would depend on my mood at the time. I may pay the $3 or I may demand he drive me to the door so I could have the hotel staff confront him. Usually the hotel staff is very good at handling the cab drivers that try to take advantage of their guests. After a certain time of night in Beijing the government does not mandate cab drivers to accept fares. In that situation cab drivers will refuse you if you are not going far enough. I got stranded a couple of times late at night and had to negotiate with private drivers (ended up getting a rate I could live with) and a random chinese girl gave me a free ride in the car service she was using. In those situations you will want to use uber or you could call the hotel and they can send a car to pick you up. There is a popular car service similar to uber in China, but to use it you must speak chinese

  32. Hi Ben- I think you got off easy in the taxi scam. In HKG, my husband was scammed by the dropping the bill trick. Flustered, he got out of the car only for the cab to drive off with his luggage. He cab came back only to demand more money to return his luggage! $100 later he got his luggage back and this all happened in front of hotel staff. BTW in Shanghai all the cab drivers are rated with stars on there dash. The more stars the more experience and exams they have taken. Never get in a 1 or 2 star cab. 5 star are hard to find. More info here.

  33. Arguing and getting upset over $3 bc “it’s a matter of principle”, is just another way to screw up your already effed up life.

  34. I would of paid 20 and walked off.

    I remember the taxi drivers trying to scam me there, a lot different to the ones in Xian who were pretty good

  35. What would I have done? Opened up the cab door, stepped out of the cab, and handed him the fare that it should have been. Walked away.

  36. I would have done the same thing. $3 isn’t worth getting worked up over, though I’m not so sure it was a scam so much as an unlicensed taxi with higher rates.

    But this whole story illustrates reasons 1 through 100 why I refuse to use taxis, regardless of whether I’m in the U.S. or in a foreign country. It’s always walking, the metro, or Uber for me, or if that isn’t an option, I bite the bullet and have the hotel send me a car, even though it costs more. I don’t have the patience to deal with the potential for scams, hot meters, “credit card machine doesn’t work, sir”, etc.

  37. Moral of the story, always check that there is visible ID of the driver in the cab, otherwise get back out of the cab and find a new one.

  38. There should be a complain info sheet on the back of the driver seat listing the phone #, the driver’s #, and license plate. You could have in theory called and complained on spot – but that’s assuming the dab you had was a legitimate cab.

    Another note, I am not sure how reliable doorman is at hotel. Twice at one of the Hyatt properties in Shanghai I noticed the doorman had special arrangements with private/unlicensed taxi when I tried to go to PVG. They deliberately let go several main brand taxi until a private/unlicensed one came. Fortunately I am a native so i started talking to the driver in Shanghainese upon getting in the car, thus the fare wasn’t that different from what it should be.

  39. You don’t speak the language and who do you think the authorities are going to side with? Some white boy or one of their own? Especially if you don’t speak Chinese. They got you, it was only 3 dollars. Keep it moving.

  40. In Melbourne (AU) where I live a taxi from the airport to the city is around $50USD, now that’s a scam.

  41. A few simple phrases will go a long way in Beijing:

    “Fang ci” – such insolence
    “Tai Gui Le” – too expensive
    “She me dong xi” – what crap is this?

  42. I agree with the other poster that said you probably took a black cab. They look a lot like a regular taxi but their fares are a little more expensive.

  43. I work in Beijing three months a year Sprint out. There are number of taxi drivers will try to take advantage of foreigners. One of the biggest dams is that you will hand them a 100 RMB bill and they will hand it back to you saying that it is counterfeit. What they have just done is palmed your real bill and substituted it for a counterfeit one. they may do this to her three times with each time you being a victim again. As you noted the driver stopped short of the hotel so that they can pull a scam on your own without a hotel staff member intervening. There are a couple lessons learned here. Make sure you have 10 and 20 RMB bills with you so that you can pay what you think is the exact amount of the situation occurs. It is easy to walk away from the cab when you’re in the situation. Also, take out your cell phone and take a picture of the cabdriver their license on the dashboard as well as a picture of the car and the license plate. You can report them at the hotel when you get back.

  44. I have a been a resident of China for 26 years. I equip my guests with a guide book and a local phone with my phone number plugged in and the hotel they are staying at. They can pointy-talky at the vocab in the back or call me and I can explain on the phone. For your specific situation, I would have refused to get out of the cab and keep pointing to the address and the hotel. He would get the point. I will tell you that the bellmen are pretty useless.

  45. Just pay the three buck and move on with your life.
    Is your “principal” worth only three bucks?

  46. Athens- The same thing happened to us returning to the IC Athens from the Plaka district a number of years ago. Meter was on steroids and buddy refused to pull into the hotel driveway. My partner is 6’4″ and we had just bought metal souvlaki skewers. He showed taxi driver the skewers and gave him the same amount it had cost to go into town hours before- about 10% of what the meter was demanding. Opa!

    Rome- Paid taxi driver in cash for fare from FCO to town whilst we were still sitting in the cab. After we alight, he says we never paid him and demanded we pay or we would forfeit our luggage in the trunk.

    Lessons learned along the way.

  47. I too would have paid the 20 CNY and walked away. As long as it’s daylight and you don’t feel threatened, stand up for yourself! As long as they get away with it they’ll keep it up.

  48. Beijing has one of the best subway systems in the world, use it! Otherwise, as people have mentioned, have your hotel call the cab or take an Uber.

  49. I’ve had it happen in Yiwu and equally in HKG. Drop the correct fare and walk away. Let him scream. Nobody is going g to get violent with you over $5. Or $10. Or $20. Not if it’s a scam. The one in HK tried to escalate and I told him I would be happy to wait for the police if he had some complaint. It ended there. The one in Yiwu I left arguing with the doorman at the hotel.

    But all that was before Uber. Why bother with that crap now that you don’t have to?

  50. Not only do they have Uber in China, but I now know they have Uber English as an vehicle type option in some cities(which guarantees an english speaking driver at the SAME RATE!).

    Or, you can pick ‘People’s Uber’ at super low rates…designed to cover fuel/tolls only and Uber subsidizes driver wages. PEK Hilton Airpot hotel to Tienamen square (31km, 1hr 2min) cost me 47 CNY this week. (though It included the excitement of our uber getting sideswiped, him screaming at the other driver in chinese, then having us get back in to finish our ride as if nothign happened. Many ‘taxis’ without meters had come to our rescue and offered to take us the rest of the way (they knew just enough english to quote us 300-500CNY and say no credit card, will stop at ATM for you).

  51. This kind of scam happens fairly often in China. When it happens, I just pay what the fare should have been. These kinds of scams are one of the many reasons why Uber is great, especially for international travel.

  52. This happened to me twice in the past as well (out of a few hundred rides). It actually happened during my first visits to Beijing. What happens at ride 1. I arrived very early from sa long flight and took a taxi to the hotel. I had the address in Chinese on paper and he dropped me at the other side of the street (same as you) while the fare was 200 instead of the expected 100. The second time I got more clever. I insisted to get out of the car in front of the hotel. So he finally went there. Then I asked for the fapiou (fare ticket) and showed it to the reception. They started talking and calling immediately. Two hours later I got a call from the reception and was asked to come down. In the lobby was the taxi driver and his boss. I got back all the money (so my ride was for free this time) and the driver was fired (That is what they told me of course). So the balance is 0 for me. But most important is to understand how they work and what they understand. I used to stay in the Sheraton by the wall hotel. But every time I said Sheraton they brought me to the nearby Hilton. Until a Chinese friend made the same mistake I never understood it. He explained that Sheraton and Hilton sounds pretty the same for Chinese. Then nobody cares about the Hotel chain name so in Chinese the Sheraton is only ‘By the wall’ hotel in Chinese of course, because that was the name before Sheraton came in. In general it is good to know a few words in Chinese and you will not have these problems anymore. Another story is fake money. Be sure your 100 kuai money comes directly from the bank and don’t accept it as the driver want to give it back because he tells you it is fake. Yes, sure it is fake because he just changed it. This mainly happened to me in Guangzhou. In general taxis in China are fine and there are not many problems but be aware when the license card is wrong or not there.

  53. You should have fired up your Google Translate app to try to communicate that you’re going to snap a picture of his driver ID and report the situation to the authorities. Or at least make it quite obvious that you were recording his information and let him make conclusions as to who you would give this information to.

    I think Uber is a cop out as well. It doesn’t take much to do some homework on mass transit options. Even traveling to NYC where I speak the language, I much prefer to take the train and/or subway and even on occasion the bus (damn you LGA) to get to/from the airport. Uber or taxis are not necessarily more time efficient considering the traffic that one often encounters. The only real benefit is that once you’ve arrived, you just get your luggage out of the car instead of lugging it a few more blocks from the train/subway station to your hotel.

  54. Hi Ben,
    Same thing for cab drivers in Bangkok and any other cities. Pay him the usual amount is, 20CNY and just tell him that is the final offer

  55. During the time I lived in Shanghai there was a free number (24/7) with translators who help in situations like that. I think there is something like that in Beijing, too. Otherwise tap on the missing license, if he doesn’t show it and let’s you take a picture, you refuse to pay.

  56. After living in Russia for 3 years, I have seen my fair share of taxi scams. One in particular that I remember is once I had arrived in Vladivostok, and agreed on a flat rate fare of 1500 rubles to go to my apartment. Once we got there, the taxi driver demanded 3000 rubles, and said that he would not give me my luggage until I did. So, I picked up my phone and started recording, which infuriated him. He pulled out a crowbar and threatened to beat me. At the same time, my neighbor was walking by and called the police. As soon as she did, the driver threw my luggage out of his trunk and drove off without any money at all. Another incident was in Moscow just a few weeks ago. I was there for 3 days to visit my friend (the same one, coincidentally, who rescued me in Vladivostok). I agreed on 2000 rubles to go from Sheremyetevo Airport to my hotel. Once we arrived, he wanted 5000, claiming he took me on a “scenic” route. I explained that a.) i didn’t ask him for that, b.) I have seen everything in Moscow, as I have visited 15 times already, and c.) I wasn’t a stupid foreigner, and that I actually live in Russia and know what the prices should be. He huffily took the 2000 and drove off. Now, overall, I have had very few problems with taxis. I know which companies to use and which to avoid in Vladivostok, where I live. When in Russia, ALWAYS use officially licensed, marked taxis. NEVER try to negotiate with the taxi drivers loitering in the arrivals hall of the airport. I use taxis that have a call center, and tell where I am going and where I am at, and they send an SMS message to confirm the price, so you won’t be scammed. But, for foreigners who aren’t familiar with prices nor reputable taxi services, the experience can be a nightmare. I have rescuedother foreigners who I saw were being scammed, and called taxis for them, at a much lower price, much to the chagrin of the would-be con-artist taxi driver.

  57. I always ask the hotel or restaurant staff to recommend a taxi service for me, one that they call to arrange, not me. That usually works out. A friend told me he got an unauthorized (and expensive) tour of Paris when he just took a random cab from the curb of the airport. But my biggest worry is getting into a cab driven by a criminal who arranges a robbery with me as the victim. You can also avoid this by using the method I described. And if you find yourself in a situation where you must take a taxi from the street, pick one with an older driver (age 60+). They’re usually OK.

  58. A phenomenon not many people are familiar with is that taxis in many large Chinese cities have “surge pricing” built into the standard meter fares. In cities like Shanghai and Chengdu (and, more likely than not, Beijing), there are two rates: one is a “day rate” for which the starting price is X yuan and the meter climbs by Y yuan per minute stopped/km moving, and the other is a “night rate” that kicks in at different times on different nights of the week. Generally, the “night rate” has a starting price of around 2X yuan, and the meter climbs by 1.5Y yuan per minute stopped/km moving. A smart system, I think – but there’s no saying if what you experienced was this system in action or just outright fraud.

  59. Yes, you did the right thing and learned from the experience. Fare disputes can go horribly wrong: a couple of years ago an American resident of Bangkok was hacked to death, with a meat cleaver, by a cab driver….all over 50 cents. Probably wouldn’t happen in Beijing but you never know when saving face becomes an issue.

  60. What you did was fine. All the haters are ridiculous and should be hanging out in more appropriate for them blogs.

  61. $3 is not a big deal. But the problem is, they know they can get away with it, so the next customers are screwed too.

  62. This is a bigger problem in Beijing. I was there in March 2016. You need to take a picture of the driver’s car license before you get in and at the end. When my driver tried to scam me and I asked for the receipt he gave me a fake one. I then went to the back of the Taxi and started to take a picture of his car license. He then jumped out and tried to block my view and opened his truck and drove away with his trunk open. If this jerk was honest he wouldn’t have driven away with his truck open (to hide the car license). He knew and I knew he was a crook. Others witnessed the scam and said “look he has his truck open” as he sped away. Watch out near the Pearl Market.

  63. I was in a few Asian and African cities recently, including Beijing, and have a few comments:

    (1) I found the subway to be the best way to travel in Beijing.

    (2) London is the only city known to me where taxi drivers are properly trained and tested. Almost everywhere else your typical cabbie is a poor uneducated migrant from some distant province who doesn’t even know the city’s streets, let alone English. He expects you to provide detailed directions. In most 3rd world countries, if he spoke half decent English, he would not be driving a cab.

    (3) If I need a taxi in most cities, including Beijing, I use Uber or its local counterpart (like Ola in India). Not only are they less expensive on average, but you are also dealing with GPS management of destination and route, which minimizes blatant errors. And those can be appealed, should they occur.

    (4) If after all this a cabbie still manages to make an extra 50 cents, I don’t begrudge him that. We tip/waste a lot more in more expensive bars, restaurants, salons, etc. I want to be a smart consumer, not a Scrooge.

  64. This is typical for Beijing (and Shanghai) taxiriders for foreigners. I carry small bills so I can give the driver the correct fare. They won’t pursue you, they know they got caught and see it as playing a game. For 3 USD I won’t worry too much; for longer rides like to the airports it is good to know the approximate fare. If any problems you can always call the hotel, explain that the driver isn’t taking you to the correct location, and ask them to give directions.

  65. I have had similar experiences and I just hand the guy the correct fare and walk off. They are counting on the situation being too awkward and you caving into paying them. Don’t cave and it’s a non issue.

  66. I just want to add that Lucky should have taken #1 subway to Dawanglu station and then walked a few minutes. No scam, no cheating, no grief, cost about 50 cents. 🙂

  67. My husband and I were scammed in Beijing last week, we gave the taxi driver the right money he gave it back saying it was counterfeit, saying give him new notes, so he had us giving him 100 yuan notes, giving them back to us saying they were counterfeit, when we got back into the hotel we told them about it they checked our money through the machine and they were all counterfeit, so he had swooped them, so we got scammed out of 900 yuan, make sure you have two purses one with just small notes, do not let them see you have any 100 notes, that is what they are after not the small notes, we made the mistake of not taking a picture of his licence and registration number,etc next time we will take a photo before we get in the cab, so please be careful if you use taxis in Beijing

  68. This happened to me today. I’ve traveled to China on several occasions for work. The first time I came, I got scammed by a “black cab” who charged me RMB 300 for a ride from the airport to my downtown hotel (should be about RMB 130 for those who doesn’t know). I talked to my Chinese colleagues about it, but ultimately let it go.

    But, this time was different.

    I travel to a lot of developing countries, and know to be on alert. I follow procedures. I arrived at terminal 2 (domestics), swatted off the usual black car scammers as they approached me, and joined the taxi line. I get to my assigned cab, show the driver the address of the Langham airport hotel, which is in terminal 3 (a 10-min drive and a ride that’s about RMB 40), I show him the map, he nods and he’s onboard.

    About 5 min after leaving I notice the meter has gone to RMB 240 (hot meter), at this point I express concern, but he only speaks Chinese and gets agitated. He pulls into the Langham convention center, which is opposite the hotel and completely empty. Demand I pay and get out. This is my last day on the trip so I have only left enough cash for the short taxi ride to the hotel. I don’t have the choice to just pay and get out, knowing he’ll then take off with my bag. I try to explain that he’s at the convention center and not hotel and request he takes me to the hotel. He then decides to drive me to the side of the road next to the hotel where there’s no hotel entry or people. Same deal, pay, get out. I keep demanding he drives me to the hotel. At this point I have called the hotel and explained the situation and requested they come out to meet me to help translate. Here he pulls the same scam as above, he refuses to go into the hotel and just want to drop me by the gate. I know if I get out, I’ll have to wave goodbye to my bag.

    The hotel staff is now trying to find me, at which point the taxi driver u-turns and speeds out of there with me in the backseat. What I left out is that I’m 5 months pregnant and getting a bit distressed. He speeds into traffic, all the while I’m still on the phone with the concierge who’s trying to get my coordinates. The driver takes me to a Bank and demands I take out money.

    So, now we are in extortion mode, but he doesn’t drive into the bank he pulls over at the side of the street and indicates I have to cross the road. Again, abandoning my luggage, which I at this point am close to saying goodbye to. I am still on the phone with the concierge who says they will send a car to help me (I am able to give them my coordinates based on nearby businesses). I have the concierge talk to the taxi driver on several occasions, but after a while he just hangs up the phone when I hand it to him, and I have to redial. The driver realize that I will not go to the Bank and he then drives off again.

    Now he enters negotiation mode and suggest I pay him RMB 200. I keep telling him “I will pay, but go to hotel”. He offers RMB 100. I say “go to hotel, I will pay”. Again, back at the gate, he doesn’t go in. He uses a translation service on his phone to tell me that “his time is not worth 100 and he wants more”. I tell him, get my bag out, and I’d give him what I have. After some more anger and back and forth he finally pops the trunk, gets the bag and I get him the money RMB 140 for a drive from terminal 2 to terminal 3.

    In all the years I’ve traveled and all the countries I’ve visited, this has been the most disturbing experience. One important point to take away is that even if a cab is considered legit, they may not be, and when you get one from the airport you are at their mercy.

    I took the taxi ID, but didn’t get the plate. I will report this to my local work office tomorrow, which will take the appropriate action if they can.

    My biggest regret… That I didn’t keep the luggage with me. I often do, but this time I didn’t.

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