Wednesday, August 3, 2011

How to Hail a Cab {in New York City}

I'm finding that most tourists, and even some locals don't know how to properly hail a cab. Although I do gain a great deal of pleasure when I am able to magically procure a cab at my side while tourists and newbies gasp and wonder HOW I did it, I also feel bad for them. Why? Because they, like me, will have to learn from experience. You, on the other hand, have my three handy tips for hailing a cab to refer to when you visit or move to the city:

1.  Stand IN the street  (step off the curb so cabbies can see you.  If there are cars parked on the street, step up so that you're in line with them, giving yourself a better chance to be seen.)

2.  Stick your arm out, and keep it out  (You don't have to wave it, just stick it out. Cabbies will find you this way. It's the universal sign for "I NEED A CAB!"  Even if there are no cabs around, keep your arm out and a cab will eventually see you and come straight for you)

3. Know what to look for- The trick is to look at the sign on top of the cab (often hard to see midday when the light is harsh):
  • Number lights on: cab is available for hire
  • Number lights off: cab is not available for hire
  • "OFF DUTY" signs illuminated: cab is off duty. 
    • When a cab is off duty, the number lights can be either on or off, but look for the OFF DUTY lights to be illuminated. That being said, a cabbie may stop for you, and if you are on their way home/to the garage, they might agree to give you a ride. However, they are not obligated to do so :)
Easy, right?

My sister Stacey reminded me that my sister Erin took a picture of me exhibiting proper cab-hailing technique (after church while carrying a diaper bag and some screens my friend gave me. I'm super classy).  See, I'm in the street, and I have my arm up and out, and I keeping it out until I found success...

Pop quiz: Why is the cab in the picture not stopping for me?

Other things to consider:
  • If you need a cab at a specific time on a specific day for a specific purpose (airport, public speaking, important meeting), order car service. There's no guarantee you will be able to hail a cab when you need it, and car service doesn't cost much more. Honestly.
  • 'Once you are in the cab, you need to be prepared with the address AND the cross street. If you say "1384 Madison Avenue, please" the cab driver can take five minutes and look up the cross street for you (while the meter runs), or you can say "1384 Park Avenue at 77th."  
    • They may also ask "near or far side" (side of the block to stop on) and if it's a one-way, they will ask which side of the street it's on. If you don't know where you're going, you won't know either answer, but if you DO know where you're going you can take a cab like a seasoned New Yorker and say "1384 Madison Avenue, near side, on the left, please" and they'll take you right there.  Too much information? For most of you, yes. But someday you might find it useful.  
  • If you are having trouble catching a cab going downtown and you are in a hurry, see if there are any available cabs going uptown. You may have to cross the street and pay $0.50 cents more while they flip around, but it will be worth it.
  • If you are trying to catch a cab during rush hour or in the rain, good luck.  Everyone else is trying to hail one too.
  • Cabbies work 8-12 hour shifts, and many go off duty somewhere in the time-frame of 3-6pm.  They are all trying to get the heck out of Manhattan while the fresh cabbies are on their way in. If all the cabs have their OFF DUTY signs illuminated, you are going to have a hard time getting a cab. Consider another method of transport or settle for a gypsy cab (if you can get one)
  • Gypsy cabs (black Lincoln town cars, usually) might try to pick you up if they don't have a paying client (car service).  It's not legal for them to do it, but they do it anyway. You can choose to ride in the cab, but be sure to have cash with you, and haggle with them about the price BEFORE you get in the cab. We will often take them when there are no yellow cabs and we know approximately how much we should pay for the ride we are about to take. 

Any questions?

p.s. Have you ever read a more random blog than mine? That's why I'll never be a rich and famous blogger- too scatterbrained. Such is my life. Sigh.


Amy B. said...

Oooooohhh...I like random! And, I totally learned something! how much do spend in any given week on cab fare?...I'm just curious cuz I have always wondered about that extra $ that one must budget...

Amanda said...

GREAT TIPS! :) just want to add-it's really important that you check for license in the window for a gypsy cab before you jump in. gypsy cabs are required to have licenses just like yellow cabs (they are just harder to see). IT IS DANGEROUS TO FLAG DOWN A GYPSY CAB IF IT IS UNLICENSED OR IF YOU CANNOT FIND THE LICENSE IN THE WINDOW. I'm not going to say why (no need to scare anyone) but no need to put yourself in a bad situation :)

Lesley said...

Amy- we usually only take a cab once a week or so. And it's usually so that we can be on time to church! So probably $10-15 a week. Those cab fares can sure add up fast, so if you're visiting I highly recommend getting an unlimited subway/bus pass, and saving cabs for when you really need to get somewhere inconvenient in a jiffy.

Amanda, thanks so much for the tip about the gypsy cabs. Good to know!

Daina @ New York State of Mind said...

Just found your blog through nyc taught me and am looking forward to reading more of your posts. I am a NYC blogger as well, and feel that my posts can be a bit random at times, too :) Hope you are having a great week!


Rachel Pierce said...

Hello, just found your blog through NYC Taught Me, and I love it. Great post, and a great blog. Can't wait to read more.

erin said...

Good thing I took that photo, eh? And most people would think it is out of focus. No, the focus is on the cab, duh. And the cab is off duty so it didn't stop for you.

Or it's because you're holding a screen. RANDOM! :)

Much to My Delight said...

Fun post for New Yorkers or people visiting New York! One thing I always tell visitors is to wait until you are inside the cab to announce where you're going. It's illegal for them to refuse service once you're in the cab, but if they don't think the fare will be high enough, they'll speed off with you still on the curb!

Lori ann said...

this was great information, thank you for sharing. i do wonder about those gypsy cabs, are they priced about the same as the yellow?

the cab passing you was off duty!

Lesley said...

Lori ann,

I feel like gypsy cabs cost about the same, but they will definitely charge you more when there are no yellow cabs... but if yellow cabs are plentiful, I feel like you can haggle with them and they'll take you just so they have something to do. Once we had a stretch limo driver ask if we needed a ride uptown from Central Park. We were with 2 other families, and he offered to take 6 adults and 10 kids nearly 30 blocks for $25. What a deal, and what an experience!

Sabra Divis said...

This are great tips! New York city is one of the busiest city in America, and that's may be the reason why it's hard to get a cab. Anyway, I never thought that there's a proper posture to catch a cab drivers attention. Whenever I'm in the city, I always call for a cab service for an easier transport, and also I'm scared to get lost. But now I know the trick! I hope it will be much easier for me to get a cab next time I visit NY. :) | Sabra Divis @

Miley smith said...

Your tips are very useful.These tips are helpful for the persons who want to hail a cab.Great work.Keep it up.
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