Taking a taxi in New York is simple; you hop into the vehicle, name your destination, and watch the meter as it ramps up at $x.xx per minute or per mile. Upon arrival you swipe your card and it is a done deal.
Taking a taxi in Perú is much more complicated (and adventurous!). The cost at the end of the ride is significantly less, but to properly arrive at the correct destination one must know how to perform the ritual:
Put on Your Mean Face
Taking a taxi here–at a fair rate–is all about who can maintain their poker face. If you’re a foreigner you’re already at a disadvantage, so scrunch those eyebrows.
Inspect the Car
Rapidly try to make a judgment about the car. If it is old and run-down, we recommend waiting for another taxi. If it is new and looks somewhat respectable, continue with negotiations.
Inspect the Driver
Forget about the politics behind profiling and start making judgments. If he is an old, nice-looking man, keep going. If he has the eyes of the devil, wait for the next car. Find a taxi driver that looks like a good person.
Name your Destination
Be sure that the taxi driver knows where you’re going. If you don’t have a translator, you may consider showing them on a map so the destination is clear.
Allow the Driver to Give You a Price
Ask the driver “Cuanto?” Remember not to accept or deny the rate, this is just a starting point for negotiations.
Make Your Own Offer
If you’re in Lima, it is fine to undercut the driver’s offer by a significant amount (if he says 20, you say 12, if he says 30 you say 18). If you’re in Cusco, a couple soles should do it (if he says 5, you say 3, if he says 25 then you should wait for a more honest driver).
If the Response is Suitable, Hop In
If you feel good about the named price, hop on in, lock the door, roll up the window, and enjoy what will most certainly be a unlike any taxi ride you ever experienced in the States.
If this is all just too intimidating, don’t even worry about it. For a couple dollars more, you can call a Secure Taxi service and they will pick you up anywhere.
Lima Secure Taxi Service: 9951-85800
Cusco Secure Taxi Service: 9847-08500
For the rest of you, best of luck in your taxi negotiations!