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17 New York taxi hacks that will make your life easier

Will Gleason
Written by
Will Gleason

By Time Out contributors, edited by Will Pulos

Even in the age of Uber, the classic yellow taxi remains an important (and iconic) part of everyday New York life. Whether you’re desperately trying to hail one, shorten your trip time or trying to save money, there are plenty of quick and easy things you can do to have the best possible ride. Check them out below, then read our roundup of the best New York life hacks for every area of your life.

RECOMMENDED: The New York guide to life

1. Go to a hotel and pretend you’re a guest
If you’re really in a bind to snag a cab, tell a little white lie and pretend you’re a guest coming out of a hotel. Even if there’s not a long line of cabs waiting, the doorman will probably help you flag one.

2. Don’t try to hail a cab with its lights off
This one’s obvious, but come on! That cab is not going to pick you up no matter how much you wish it would. There’s no point frantically waving at it.

3. Have a route you like? Tell your cabbie.
Thus avoiding an unpleasant "Why you going this way?!?" conversation.

4. Check the meter
If you think your fare's looking steep, keep an eye on the meter—it should click over every four to five blocks and no faster.

5. Keep your receipt
This isn't just for tax write-offs. The number of your taxi (the "medallion" number) is on the receipt, as is the number to call if you've left something in the cab (which, let's face it, we all have).

6. Get familiar with flat fares
JFK to Manhattan is $52 all in, but fares to Newark have a $17.50 surcharge plus tolls. Oof!

7. Don't upstream
Listen: It is possible that you'll get the cab faster if you sneakily position yourself in front of the person who already has their arm out. But it makes you a bad New Yorker, and no one wants that.

8. Use a taxi app
There are a currently a number of smartphone apps in the works that will eventually make it easier to hail a cab (and help taxis compete with services like Uber). For now, try an app like Way2ride or RideLinQ that make it easier to pay in a cab.

9. Don't suffer the stereo
If you don't wanna be blasted with techno during your journey, it's your legal right to ride radio-free.

10. Use boro taxis in the boroughs
Don't be trying to hail those apple-green cabs when you're in Manhattan south of East 96th Street and West 110th Street. They're your go-tos for the outer boroughs (the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island).

11. Be clear about where you're going
If you know a landmark near your destination, tell the cabbie straight off. It's easier and way faster than fumbling around with an exact address on GPS. And for what it's worth, encyclopedic knowledge of NYC's streets is not a driver requirement: Yellow-cab drivers are supposed to "know" Manhattan, and be "familiar" with major destinations in Brooklyn, says the Taxi & Limousine Commission.

12. Take all the stops you need
Yes, you're legally allowed to make multiple stops in a yellow cab.

13. You can pay for your ride before the end. Swipe your card anytime
This doesn’t always work, but there’s no harm in trying! Swipe your card during a trip and you should be ready to pay right away when you reach your destination. You could at least save a few minutes.

14. Offer to tip big to get a cabbie to pick you up during shift change
It’s easy to see why drivers are hesitant to pick up passengers during the dreaded 4pm shift-change window—they’re worried about being late and getting fined—but offer to tip big and one might still pick you up.

15. Cinderella, you shall go to Brooklyn!
It's your legal right to get to Kings County, whether the driver likes it or not, and you can report drivers who refuse by calling 311.

16. Know your tolls
The only free crossings in between Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and New Jersey are the 59th Street Bridge, the Williamsburg Bridge, Manhattan Bridge and Brooklyn Bridge. Cross any other bridge or tunnel and you’ll have to pay a toll.

17. Find out cabbies' tips on where to get a taxi
We've quizzed taxi drivers and discovered the best places to find a taxi in New York, and made a map just for you. You're welcome!

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