Get the hotel/hostel staff to call a taxi for you
When taking a taxi it is safer if you let the receptionist call for one, rather than getting one on the street. Because then the driver knows that other people know where you are going from and where you are going to, and if something happens to you he will likely be investigated first.
Get a taxi from a taxi stand
If it for some reason isn’t possible to have the receptionist call a taxi for you, and you can’t call yourself, then see if you can get a taxi from a taxi stand so it is possible to backtrack who drove the taxi, in case something should happen. The other drivers might be able to tell who you drove with, and the fact that the taxi driver knows his colleagues saw him pick you up will make it easier for the police to track him if need be. This serve as prevention because the driver knows this.
Only use official taxis. Don’t use pirate taxis
There are many pirate taxis that are safe and okay, but you are in another culture so it’s much harder for you to tell what’s normal and what’s not. Just don’t use them.
Check the taxi number
See if you can find the unique taxi number and try to memorize it when you get in or write it down on your phone. This could be on the taxi sign, the side of the car, the back of the car or in the front of the car. There may also be other ways to check it it’s a legit taxi but also to identify it later if necessary. This could be stickers on the wind shield, identification cards of the driver or other official papers. Find something that is easy to remember.
A good way is to find the number (and if that is not possible for some reason, some other number, name or detail) and associate it with something you know well. This makes it much easier to remember but also makes you aware and present because you actually try to remember the name, number or detail. By doing it as an active action you are more likely to remember it than when you do it automatically. Just like when we check our phone or watch to see what time it is and when someone asks us immediately after we don’t remember.
You can also write it in a note on your phone or take a picture of the identification details.
Don’t ever let any strangers in!
Once you get into a taxi it is “yours”! Don’t ever accept anyone else but you and the driver in the taxi. Only take a taxi with people you know well. Don’t let the driver convince you of letting anyone in. You are paying for the taxi to take you from point a to point b, not doing other people’s errands. Don’t accept anyone you don’t know into the taxi out of friendliness or fear of rejecting people.
If they try to push you into it, then say whatever you have to to avoid the situation. If anyone gets in, get out right away! Don’t hesitate, don’t feel obliged. Settle the issue outside the taxi. If they try to convince you they mean no harm, then tell them that it’s a principal you have, that you promised you mom/partner/friend to never go with someone else in a taxi, that you have been robbed like this before (or even multiple times) because you let someone in or whatever else you need to say.
If they still try to convince you they mean no harm (it doesn’t matter if it’s true or not, you have no way of knowing) then tell them you don’t believe they are, but you just won’t do it under any circumstance. Stay polite about it, there is no need to make a big argument out of it.
Since it’s a different culture they may genuinely just be friendly and want you to understand that they are good people. The problem is, so will the bad guys. Tell them you are sorry about the situation, but it will have to be your way or you will find another taxi. If they cannot accept your wish, then leave and find another taxi.
Always agree on a price before going anywhere. Always!
Except for those countries where the taxi meter is the norm AND reliable. But there are so many taxi scams that the most reliable is to just agree on a price before you even go anywhere. Don’t agree on a price on the way. You need to settle on a price you both have agreed to before the driver even drives one inch.
If you got into the taxi before you settled on a price and he is dragging out the negotiation and starts driving, then either tell him to stop right away or open the door and get out. Don’t worry he is just playing tricks, this is part of the game, and you have to show him that you can’t be manipulated.
Sit in the back
Always sit in the back. You have more options, you are harder to reach and you can watch the driver. The driver has much more difficulty watching what you are doing and it’s difficult for him to reach you.
Lock the doors
In many countries the doors lock on their own, or the driver locks them. If not, you can lock the doors so no one can get in the back. You have your backpacks to protect as well as yourself. In traffic jams it is too easy for someone to open the door, grab your bag and run.
Watch the windows
If the windows are open, make sure the bags cannot get through them if you are in close traffic where someone can reach your things from the outside. Also watch that they cannot easily unlock the door from the outside. Roll the window far enough up to prevent theft and intruders.
Pay the exact amount
Do your best to pay the exact amount for the ride. If you need change, there is a risk they have some kind of scam. If you pay the right amount (and you already know how much that is) they cannot scam you. You can even get the money ready, out of sight while driving, so you just have to hand the driver the money, maybe including tips if you want, and then get out right away.
Don’t be coerced
Don’t let the driver or a co-passenger coerce you into something you do not feel comfortable with.
If they try to make you feel bad or feel obliged, for whatever reason, then walk away. Don’t let them manipulate you into something you do not want.
Listen to your intuition
Always listen to your intuition. This is no different. Break any of these rules when your intuition or common sense tells you to do so.