• india taxi

A Better Option than a Prepaid Taxi in India

Everyone and their mother say when you get to the airport, be safe and take a prepaid taxi in India- this way you won’t get ripped off by the shady drivers outside the airport. In some ways they are correct, but what they don’t explain is not all pre-paid taxis are the same.

UPDATE: Uber is now in India. Read how to use Uber in India here. 

My tips for taxis in India.

When you take a pre-paid taxi in India it’s sometimes a huge scam. Definitely at the main two offices in Bangalore and a couple in Bombay that I’ve personally tried (having already known the fair rate). Be sure to choose MERU, Easy Cabs, or others that still use meters in combination. Technically this isn’t prepaid. You tell them your destination, which is put on the ticket.

You’ll pay a fee of 50 rupees to “leave the airport” and be given a ticket at the counter that you’ll hand over to the driver. You just wait curbside for the car with the license plate matching your ticket. The driver will turn on the meter and you’ll have a fair priced ride wherever you’re going. Best if you follow along on GPS.

Screen shot 2014-01-16 at 5.45.22 PM

Other pre-paid counters that you DON’T want to use work like this: You tell them where you’re going and they give you an outrageous price to get there. This might be lower than the touts outside but it usually isn’t. Ever since I’ve seen how much higher they are than metered, I never take these options, even at airports. I have never heard a quote that wasn’t a rip-off.

Other options are risking finding your own outside. At some airports, only certain drivers are allowed in airport areas and they have what could be called a monopoly on the price. They won’t undermine each other.

If you walk a bit away (it’s the same at bus and train stops), you can find drivers that you can negotiate with to a fair price. You can get a rickshaw at a very low price, and a bicycle rickshaw ever lower!

love hate relationship with india

As you can see, the easy reasonable way is to take a metered cab, but even so, getting a ride from the airport will always be a little higher.

When traveling around besides the airport, rickshaws are fun, breezy, and incredibly inexpensive. You can hire a care for a day, but just find a trustworthy drive and make a deal exclusively with him. Through an agency, the driver isn’t getting much money; the company is- and you are being ripped off.

FYI if go through a toll, it is your responsibility to pay. But if a driver asked for “gas money” don’t give more. Like anywhere else in the world that is included in the rate! Of course! Unsurprisingly, I have had two drivers stop for gas and ask me to help pay.

UPDATE: After a couple years of living in India, Uber came here and I am only now remembering to update this post. Uber is in many of India’s biggest cities and is probably the BEST way to get transportation, even from airports. Here’s what you need to know about Uber in India. You do need a local phone number/WiFi (tips on getting internet in India here). 

Need More Information?

Finally, I think I’m done sharing my tips of transportation! You’re probably sick of reading about it by now, but it’ll be good as a reference when you plan a trip to India later!  Wink, wink.

I have more tips for Indian transport like staying safe on buses and trains, How to book a train, including which class and explaining the tourist quota and tatkal, as well as how to decide to take a sleeper bus or overnight local.

If you’re a solo female traveler I have a post on staying confident and fourteen safety tips for traveling India solo.


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About the Author:

Rachel Jones left a career in nursing and lived on the beaches of Goa, India for the five years. Now she lives in Mexico where she gives advice on the 40+ countries she’s visited in the last 10 years. She’s the author of two India travel e-books: Guide to India and Insider’s Guide to Goa. Her blog, Werkenntwen, like its name, is a contradiction combining off-beat adventurous places with glamorous and bespoke travel. Werkenntwen has been featured in ELLE, Marie Claire, Grazia, and Cosmopolitan magazines. She’s a writer for Bravo TV.


  1. Rebekah Voss May 3, 2014 at 7:56 am - Reply

    Rachel, thanks for the tip! Right now I’m in Vietnam where it’s the opposite – since sometimes cab meters are “fixed” (meaning you’ll look away and look back and the fare will have suddenly tripled), it’s a better bet to agree on a flat rate. Good to know that in India a fixed price could be way more than the meter!

    • Rachel Jones May 3, 2014 at 9:52 am - Reply

      Hi Rebekah! Yes it’s true that SOME cabs in India will do that as well- you have to be careful. That’s why I only use government taxis not the private ones. With MERU and such you won’t have to worry about fixed meters :)

  2. Kathryn January 3, 2016 at 6:12 am - Reply

    Hi Rachel, I just LOVE your blog! I’m finding it so incredibly helpful in planning my upcoming trip to India (I fly out on Thursday!). Quick question regarding the safety of taking the pre-paid or MERU taxis at night: I arrive in Mumbai at 11:30pm and will be couchsurfing those first few days. The couple I’m staying with cannot (will not?) pick me up from the airport and suggested that I take a pre-paid taxi. Do you think it’s safe/legit in the middle of the night like that? I won’t yet have a local SIM card, so I won’t have any way of following along on GPS. Thanks for the advice!
    By the way, my next stop after Mumbai is Goa. If your around in the next few weeks, maybe we can meet up for a drink!

    • Rachel Jones January 3, 2016 at 1:55 pm - Reply

      I did the same exact thing and took a MERU. I have done it countless times – but of course anywhere there is always a risk. You can go to starbucks outside the airport and get on WiFi to draw up the location you are going on a map. The airport may also have WiFi I can’t remember. But, don’t like the driver know – just make a fake phone call AND before you get in the car take a photo of his license plate and have him see that you do it. :)

  3. NW March 31, 2016 at 5:13 am - Reply

    Hi Rachel,
    What do you think of Uber in Delhi? My husband and I will be traveling around together. Do you think as much precaution is necessary with the two of us? Cheers, Thanks for the blog, NW.

    • Rachel Jones March 31, 2016 at 11:22 am - Reply

      I haven’t used it in Delhi, but I have in Bangalore and it rocks! :)

  4. Nika May 6, 2017 at 1:59 pm - Reply

    My boyfriend and I used Uber for our short stay in Delhi, that was the most reliable way of commute for us so far(although for some weird reason they don’t enter Main Bazaar)..hope it works in other cities as well

    • Rachel Jones May 8, 2017 at 10:50 am - Reply

      You are very right! This post is from years ago, and needed updating so I have added that now Uber is in most Indian cities :)

  5. […] outside the airport. I then found that the Governement prepaid taxies were often ripping me off and I stopped using those and instead used MERU cabs or other taxi stands that instead of prepaid, sent you in one of their […]

  6. […] you arrive in India and hop in your first ever taxi ride, don’t be surprised if the driver turns around and says, literally: “give me a nice […]

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