I don't have a car, so I take cabs in Mexico City at least once every two days. I've been pretty happy with the cabs here, but a small number of drivers have tried to cheat me, usually by giving me an inflated fare. Yesterday for the first time, a driver gave me the wrong change and then laughed when I told him he owed me 10 pesos. "I can't give you 10 pesos because I don't have it," he said. "Sorry." This galled me. Sorry, I don't have it? What was I supposed to do with that? This morning I woke up before the sun came up and started thinking about all the things I've learned about taking cabs here over the past 2 1/2 years: always ask whether there's a meter, pay attention to the route, carry small bills. I thought this might be interesting to other people, too, particularly people who live here or visit frequently. I'm not complaining about Mexico City cab fares being too high, by the way. Taxis in Mexico City are much cheaper than what you'd pay in the States, and in fact I think rates in Mexico City are too low for the amount of time the drivers spend on the road. But in the interest of ensuring that consumers get a fair rate -- and in making sure they're conscientious riders -- here's my advice on taking taxis in Mexico City. 1. Street vs. Sitio. If you're a man, chances are you'll be fine if you take a street cab. They're the cheapest cabs in the city and the drivers always use a meter. For women, especially those traveling alone, it's safer to take a sitio cab, or authorized taxi. Sitio cabs can be reserved by phone, or sometimes they'll have a base on a certain street corner, like this: If you want to take a street cab anyway and you've never done it before, read this handy guide from MexExperience first. 2. Tarifa or taxímetro? If you're walking up to an authorized taxi stand, ask them first whether there's a taxímetro (meter) or tarifa (set fee). If the answer is tarifa, your next question should be, "Cuánto a la Colonia Roma?" or where you're going. Ask this question outside -- make the cabbie answer in front of his compañeros. If you wait to ask until you're inside the car, chances are you'll get a wildly inflated price, like 90 pesos from Polanco to Roma. Even taxis that appear to be normal may not use the taximeter, so don't go by your gut instinct. 3. Beware of nice restaurants. It's the end of the meal and you're delirious with wine and cajeta-frosted tres leches cake. You don't want to call a cab. Can't the restaurant call one for you? Why, of course señora. The cab arrives, a plain sedan. You get in and arrive at your house 15 minutes later. The price: 225 pesos, or more than you'd pay on a trip to the airport. When you express outrage, the driver calmly tells you, "Ah no señora, esto es un servicio privado, no un radio taxi." When dining at a nice restaurant and requesting a cab, ask the waiter whether it's a servicio privado (private service) or a regular metered taxi. If it is servicio privado, STAY AWAY. 4. With a tarifa cab, don't be afraid to negotiate the fare. Metered fares cannot be negotiated. At an authorized taxi stand that uses tarifas, however, you can ask, "Qué es lo más barato?" What is the cheapest you'd do it? Obviously it helps to have a handle on prices, so you shouldn't ask unless you really know what's fair. You can also feign that you're insulted by saying, "Eso es abusivo!" That's abusive! Only negotiate the fare if you are prepared to walk away. 5. Carry small bills. This isn't so much about being ripped off as it is being respectful of the driver, who rarely has change. (He no doubt chooses not to carry large bills for fear of getting robbed.) This is important: If all you have is a 200 or 500 peso bill, advise the driver right away. He'll usually pull over and get change, and it prevents him from cringing and saying "I can't take that" at your destination later. 6. Have a route in mind, and pay attention to where the driver's going. This obviously only works if you know the city, but I've had a handful of cab drivers take the long route for no apparent reason, simply because I didn't specify which way to go. Lastly, if the driver gets lost, you are perfectly within your rights to argue for a lower fare. I'm not talking missing the place by a block -- I'm talking driving around for 15 minutes, searching for the address that he insists he can find, even though you've told him he's going the wrong way. Pay him a just fare and then get out of the car. If you have any advice you'd like to share about cabs in Mexico City or elsewhere in Mexico, I'd love to hear it.