Will That City Be Expensive? Airport Taxi Fares Are a Good Clue

cheap taxi cities

In one city, should you take a taxi from the far-flung airport to the center, it will cost you more than $250.

In another city, taking a taxi from the airport to the center will cost you less than $5.

How much does that tell you about expenses in the destination?

Quite a lot. The first city is Tokyo, in many respects the most expensive in the world. The second city is Sofia, Bulgaria—one of the best values around.

This study put out by British foreign exchange company Moneycorp found a staggering variation in the cost of getting into the city from the airport in capitals around the world. Some of this can be chalked up to distance: the cab fare in Quito just doubled, for example, because the new airport is a lot farther away from the center than the old one.  Switzerland is crazy expensive, but the airport in Geneva is only 6km from the city.

In Quito though, you could hire a car and driver for days for less than it’s going to cost you for a taxi to your hotel in a place like Japan. The destination costs matter more than anything.

A taxi from the airport to your hostel bed in Cusco will cost less than a night’s lodging. In Madrid it’ll cost you five times as much.

““What our research into airport taxi costs reveals is the wide variation in taxi fares depending on which country you’re visiting.”

As the article points out, knowing this information in advance can determine whether you want to find an alternative means of transportation or not. When I arrived with my family in Bangkok at 4 am, jet-lagged, I was happy to pay the $18 it cost for a taxi there. When I arrive in Madrid next month after a week in Portugal, however, no way we’re shelling out $100 to ride in a car.

This is another case where reading a guidebook before you depart is a smart move. Instead of pecking around the web for an hour looking up answers to questions like this, it’s all there in front of you in one place, properly researched by someone on the ground.

Remember that some cities are far easier than others when it comes to public transportation alternatives. JFK airport in New York City is great, my other former home of Nashville is impossible. Mexico City has a subway, but you’re not allowed to take luggage on it. Bucharest has a great bus to the city, so does Salt Lake City (and soon it will have a train as well). The only way to know what the options are is to do some research.

Meanwhile, you can be sure that The World’s Cheapest Destinations also have reasonably priced airport taxis in their main airline gateway cities. Even in the honorable mention countries (Turkey, Mexico, Argentina, Czech Republic) you’re not going to see a fare that makes your jaw drop except in rip-off resort areas like Cancun.

Have you encountered a particularly cheap taxi fare—or one that emptied your wallet?

[Flickr Creative Commons photo by bornin78]

  1. Andreas Moser

    1. Take the bus or train whenever possible.
    2. If you need a taxi, in my experience the main problem is language. If you don’t speak the language, the price will triple. Therefore, if there is a chance to book ahead online or book it at a counter at the airport, it may lead to a better price or at least to peace of mind.
    3. Talk to the people next to you on the plane. Maybe they are also going into town. Maybe they even have a car.
    4. Some airlines offer shuttle buses, although these are usually more expensive than local transport: http://andreasmoser.wordpress.com/2013/04/06/ryanair-low-cost-bus/
    5. In some cities, you can actually walk from the airport or at least to the nearest bus or train stop.

  2. Jimmy B.

    Agree on most of what you and commenter Andrea said. There are times though when you are getting in late or super-early and need to get the straightest, quickest path to where you’re staying. And if you’ve been in airports and planes for 30 hours, you don’t usually want to go track down a bus. Thankfully those 30-hour trips to Asia usually have cheap taxis on the other end. Except Japan.

  3. Jeff

    I agree with Jimmy. After a long ride, I’ll pay what I have to. That being said, I flew several times in and out of Guatemala City Airport when I used that country as a base and I could get a $20 taxi ride or a $4 shuttle ride, depending on how direct I wanted the trip to be. Sometimes it is worth the extra money.

  4. Jessie

    I’ll pay more when it’s late at night or I’m really tired. Or when there’s no other way to get into the city without spending hours in transit. That’s the last thing I want after a very long flight. My best airport taxi was Cusco, Peru – $3.65!

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