All you need to know about Iberian America

Are Non-Official Taxis Safe in Latin America?

Some odd years ago when I was living in Cochabamba, Bolivia….

I had left some group meetup at a Mexican restaurant in the city…

It was later in the night closer to midnight or so more or less…

And I was walking with a group of other gringos who were working for this NGO that I was working for as well in those days…

As you can read about here

Anyway, most of us are a little bit drunk and stumbling around back to the area where we were all living more or less..

Now the area was not too far as the city itself wasn’t overly huge like Mexico City or Buenos Aires for example…

However, it was turning out to be a little bit of walk as we are all also trying to figure our way back…

“Is it this way or that way?!?”

Anyway, a vehicle drives up slowly beside us…

And it is this junk looking car – as sketchy as you can imagine.

There was a guy in our group – another American – named Ryan…

Who was relatively young in his 20s or so but had a decent leadership volunteer role in our NGO..

And he thought “fuck it, let’s just get a taxi or something.”

So he just starts waving away at every passing car – a bit drunk himself as he didn’t even try to recognize if each car he was waving at was a taxi or not.

Well, as I said…

One car in particular slows down for us and it was about as sketchy as you can imagine.

Windows on the vehicle that looked broken…

The vehicle itself looked like it was from the 1960s….

Chipped paint all over…

And a driver that we saw that looked fairly sketchy – “hey all, want some crack?”

OK, the taxi driver didn’t say that – though that would have been a fun night of partying maybe had that been the case!

But, as I said, his vehicle looked sketchy as hell and so did the driver…

Ryan – being a bit drunk – took his first look and went “ok, ok, this will do…”

Then a second look – “oh, no, wait a second! Uhhh, nah, estamos bien! No, no, esta bien! No necesitamos un taxi!”

The taxi driver ultimately made a face as clearly Ryan was looking for a taxi and waved the dude down even.

“Thanks for wasting my time!”

Well, in Ryan’s mind, he felt also that the vehicle looked too sketchy overall.

Though it did have the word “taxi” spray painted on the side of it – so it must be official!

But it was that voice inside his head – that extra caution – that made him doubt using that taxi in particular given its appearance.

Because as you should know…

If you haven’t realized it yet…

But there are countries down here that have plenty of “non official” taxis all over the place.

In some countries, from what I remember, such as Chile or Argentina, it didn’t seem all that common.

I’m sure it happens in Mexico but I haven’t seen too many “non-official taxis” down here.

Though I do remember taking one funny enough in my very first days in Mexico City years ago.

Though I never recognize any in the street and haven’t since really.

But the guy who drove me around that day was nice enough and nothing happened.

Although that is the concern…

Are they safe down here?

Because, as you can guess, they are basically just any random ass person who can spray paint the word “taxi” on their vehicle and claim to be a taxi driver!

Doesn’t seem so safe…

And, over the time living or visiting countries where they are much more common…

Such as Bolivia…

I do remember folks telling me that “they are too dangerous and you should only get official taxis!”

Which is funny since in other areas, like Mexico City, you often hear enough about the occasional official taxi driver who kidnaps a random chick, rapes and kills her and so on…

So it doesn’t seem like those folks are necessarily safe either!

But then again, nothing is guaranteed 100% safe.

For sure – official taxis are going to be safer than non-official ones.

UBER drivers are, in my experience, safer, less sketchy and cheaper than official taxi drivers.

And what is my experience using non-official taxis?

My Experience

So, as I said, I didn’t have any issue with the very one time I ever used a non-official taxi in Mexico City.

In Bolivia?

I never had any issues with any of them.

In fact, as I wrote here, one such taxi driver even drove me around for like 30 minutes more or less looking for a hotel or motel that I could take a chick to after we left a club and didn’t overcharge me at all!

In fact, he only charged me like 5 bucks more or less or whatever it was – a bit lower than what he could have reasonably charged.

I think he was just trying to be helpful and that was nice.

Although I have met non-official taxi drivers trying to overcharge me for their service in Bolivia…

I think that same article I just cited references to that if I remember right.

And, honestly, that is the worst I experienced with non-official taxis in Bolivia – being overcharged with the gringo price.

But you get that with normal taxis also so it’s not any different.

Then I remember taking a “non-official taxi” in the DR as I wrote here

Though the dude driving us was more than just a non-official taxi driver and was actually a pimp or whatever and I didn’t know it at the time..

It’s a long story but basically this chick I met on a site called Dominican Cupid made me think that she was down to just hookup but it was more than that…

And the taxi driver she claimed was just a taxi guy ended up coming at me with a knife.

Again – read the full story here but that was the most danger I ever felt with a “non-official taxi driver.”

Though – to be fair as I said before – I’m not sure if you can really fall him a “non-official taxi driver” and maybe something else like just a pimp…

Also, in Colombia….

In my experience, there weren’t too many “non-official” taxis that I saw in the city I lived in – Barranquilla.

Pretty rare from my memory…

But I do remember one dude who was just that.

I had to take a taxi from one area of the Colombian city of Barranquilla…

To another where my then girlfriend was at waiting for me…

As we were going to meet up and go to some group event among some of her friends to go watch some live soccer at a bar in her neighborhood.

Anyway, the taxi driver was all over the place!

We agreed on a price and I got in..

Then about 10 minutes into driving, he told me that he had to pick up some friends…

Which, from what I read online, can be something that taxi drivers do if they want to invite friends of theirs into the taxi who happen to be criminals to rob you…

Anyway, I went along with it and it happened to be some dude and his wife and some daughters.

A full taxi in the back!

Then he drives along and the dude now wants to drop them off…

And he drives into literally the worst fucking neighborhood I saw in Barranquilla…

The sketchiest neighborhood I ever saw there anyway – even sketchier than where my girlfriend lived…

And her area wasn’t very nice – I even had another taxi driver warn me about her area asking me “you sure you want to go there?”

So this area that this taxi driver was driving through was a bit fucked up looking – a lot worse than the area where my girl at the time lived in…

Anyway, as he was driving in that area, I thought for sure I was fucked.

Like this dude taking me somewhere to get mugged or shit.

But no – all legit.

He was just dropping folks off somewhere and that was that!

We arrived very late to where my girlfriend at the time was but we got there anyway without any incident.

Anyway, those were all of my experiences using “non-official taxis” that I can think of right now.

Never had any issue aside from the Dominican dude.

And that situation was a bit different.

Otherwise, no issue and the rest were safe.

But I will agree that they can be sketchier than an official taxi since any bloke can just spray paint “taxi” on his vehicle and call it a day in some parts of the world down here..

Though, being honest, I wouldn’t hesitate to use one of them again if I didn’t feel the particular vehicle/driver looked sketchy.

Just because I never too much issue with them before and they can be cheaper often…

Though, as always, I’d recommend UBER anytime as that always tends to be more reliable with better service down here in my experience.

So the verdict?

They are safe enough but sketchier than official taxis but you will probably be OK.

And if you do not turn out OK, well, uhhh…

That sucks.

But best of luck.

Anyway, got any experiences or questions relevant to this?

Drop them below.

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Best regards,


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