Cab Etiquette In NYC: All You Need to Know

By Dom Bewley

We’ve all been there. You stayed out a little later than you planned, and you’re a little worse for wear. You need to go to bed, but the city’s unfamiliar to you. The public transport maps might as well be Jackson Pollock paintings. So you do what every single person does in films and TV shows based in New York. You raise your hand, and within seconds a yellow cab’s pulled up beside you. Hopefully you’re on your way in seconds and home safe and sound, but if anything seems off or you need help and advice, read on. Here’s what you need to know about cab etiquette in NYC.

Can a cab driver ever refuse me service?

Yes, but only if the trip is more than 12 hours long, or if their ‘taxi’ light is off. 12 hour+ journeys are against the law in the US, and only taxis with their lights on are currently working. If you’re staying far out of the city centre, perhaps get in the cab before telling them where you’re going. It might seem sneaky, but once you’re in their cab they are legally obligated to take you to your destination. Crazy, right?

My taxi is loud and uncomfortable. What can I do?

A lot, thankfully. Riders have rights too, after all. If your driver is on a call or using their phone, they’re being super illegal. Feel free to remind them. If the cab is too hot or cold, depending on the time of year, you can also request they put the air con/heating on. And if their music is too loud, by all means, politely ask them to turn it down or off. Just don’t berate their choice of genre.

However, if the driver refuses these, or any reasonable requests, you have the right to get out at any time. And remember to take down their medallion number if you want to make a complaint. It’s on their licence plate, the hood of the taxi, and on your receipt if you request one.

What if I’m being loud, and making the driver uncomfortable?

Firstly, why...would you... do that? Secondly, while drivers have no legal grounds to ask you to keep it down, have some respect for them. And for yourself. Driving a taxi all day is exhausting, and navigating the hectic streets that never sleep requires concentration. Cab etiquette in NYC, or anywhere works both ways. Be respectful, and you’ll likely earn their respect. And a safer and quicker journey home, too.

Should I stare at them creepily through the rear-view mirror?

No. No, don’t. Why would you even...?

How much should I tip?

Tips are big business in New York, as they are in the rest of the US. But sadly you’ll be expected to pay over the odds in the Big Apple. 20% of the fee is the recommended amount. If you’re paying with card instead of cold hard cash, the amount of gratuity will automatically be added to the charge. It could go as high as 30%, so keep that in mind if you’re squeezing pennies. Of course, if you’re an out-of-towner and they’ve been helpful with info or recommendations, why not be a nice little human and show them your gratitude with money?

Tipping’s the best way to thank them, but if you want to go above and beyond because they did, hop on the nyc.gov website and leave a glowing review, you selfless beauty.

If the driver asks for cash, is it OK to use my card instead?

Yes. Every taxi in NYC is required by law to take card, so if your driver says they don’t have a machine or that it’s broken, it’s a ruse. Persist, and victory will be yours. Drivers may also mention they’ve selected ‘Cash’ instead of ‘Card’ and that they can’t reverse the decision. This, too, is a ruse. Stay strong, and wait for the card machine. It’s simply a case of them pressing a single button to make it happen. Also get your receipt - it contains lots of vital information like their medallion number which you’ll need if you lose something in the cab, or want to make a complaint.

That’s what you need to know about taxi etiquette in NYC. We hope these tips help. Of course, we’re always open to suggestions, so if you have any other top tips you’d like to add, let us know in the comments below! Stay safe, travelers.

Has this cab etiquette in NYC blog satisfied your itch for all things New York? No? Still prefer public transportation? Sure thing, here's more about the metro system in NYC.

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