Cusco Taxis: “Dos Cincuenta?”

I had minor trepidations about taking taxis our first few weeks in Cusco. From the Lonely Planet guidebook’s “Dangers and Annoyances” section I’d read the following: “Ruthless robberies in taxis are on the rise. When taking cabs, use only official taxis – look for the company’s lit telephone number on top of the taxi. Lock your doors from the inside, and never allow the driver to admit a second passenger.” The only problem with this advice is that the overwhelming majority of Cusco taxis do not have a lit telephone number on top. Most of the taxis are “Ticos”, miniature 4-door sedans made by the South Korean automobile manufacturer Daewoo, with roof racks but no lit telephone numbers. Further advice came from the U.S. State Department’s web site: “Some crimes in the city of Cuzco and in Arequipa have involved the drivers of rogue (or unregistered) taxis. Travelers should use only licensed, registered taxis such as those available from taxi stands in Cuzco displaying a blue decal issued by the municipal government on the windshield of the vehicle.”

It definitely makes sense to take authorized taxis as they have more to lose if there are any problems. According to the Municipality of Cusco web site, to get an authorized taxi you must, among other things, have a driver’s license, have a clean driving record, have the car smog-checked, and not have a criminal record. Knowing that one’s livelihood will be taken away can be a strong deterrent to committing a crime.

Gathering information from all possible sources, we developed a checklist, which I made my 12-year old daughter memorize: 1) Taxi must have a blue Autorizado sticker on the front windshield, 2) Taxi must have yellow and black checkerboard pattern on both sides of the taxi (this from the South American Explorers Club web site), and 3) Taxi must have no other people in the car besides the driver. Once we were comfortable with how to recognize Autorizado taxis, we felt very comfortable taking taxis in Cusco. My daughter became our Autorizado taxi spotter and she became very good.

Once she had this down, she graduated to explaining (in Spanish) to the driver where we wanted to go and negotiating the fare. Taxi meters are not used in Peru, so everything is negotiable. Typically in Cusco, it costs 2.50 soles ($0.83 U.S.) for a local to get across town and anywhere from 3 soles ($1.00 U.S.) and up for a gringo. When I related this information to my daughter, she took it as a personal challenge. Once she gave the driver the address, she would firmly say “dos cincuenta” (“two-fifty”) to show the driver that she not only knew the standard fare but expected to get it. She also learned that getting the local’s price was much easier if you have not already gotten into the taxi. Once you’ve gotten into the taxi, it is pretty much impossible to negotiate. Even though the difference between 3 soles and dos cincuenta is only seventeen U.S. cents, my daughter took pride in getting the local price. On some occasions, I’d smile from the sidewalk as she sent two or three taxis away trying to get the dos cincuenta price.

1 comment:

  1. Oh cute! The dos cincuenta is my personal challenge as well - I feel like a true local these days because I can usually just jump in, drop a few hints about my semi-local status and hand over the cash at the end. No pesky negotiations. Of course this occasionally backfires...

    Good info on the authorised taxis as well, I've never had a problem here but heard some nasty stories, usually girls on their own getting a sleazy little rubdown with their change.