How to hail a cab like a New Yorker

Heading to New York? Want to get from one end of the city to the other? Don't get left on the pavement. Hail a cab like a pro!

3 mins

New York City’s yellow taxicabs are iconic to the Big Apple, but even locals have trouble snagging one from time to time. Here’s everything you need to know to ride ‘em like a New Yorker:

1. Taxis may be hailed 24 hours a day; however, drivers change shifts from 4 to 5 p.m., so avoid travelling during this time if possible.

2. The sign on top of the taxi indicates if it’s available, occupied, or off duty. When the centre number is lit up, the taxi is free. When the centre number is not lit up, the taxi is occupied. Also, be noticeable of the two lights that say, “off duty” on either side of the number, as these lights will be turned on when the taxi is no longer picking up passengers.

3. Unlike in London’s black cabs where it's customary to tell your driver where you’re going before getting in, in NYC you usually get into the backseat of the taxi right away and then tell your driver the address. By law, drivers are required to take you to any destination within the city limits including Brooklyn and Queens.

4. When providing the driver with the address, give the cross streets whenever possible. Example: Instead of saying, “1333 Broadway,” say, “Broadway between 35th and 36th Street.”

5. New Yorkers are known for speaking up. If you want the radio turned down or the air conditioning turned up, just ask.

6. Even though cabbies are required to take credit cards, it's a good idea to double check if their machine is working if you don't have cash on you. Provided their card machine is functional (as it should be), you may add the tip directly on the credit card. New Yorkers are good tippers and are known to give a 15-20% tip for good service.

7. Try to exit the cab on the curbside to avoid stepping into oncoming traffic. Never fling your door open; instead, always check for oncoming cyclists.

8. Sometimes, an unmarked black sedan will pull up when they see someone waiting for a taxi. These are car services looking to make extra money, and most New Yorkers only take them in a bind, as they’re often more expensive. They don’t have meters, so be sure to negotiate an agreed upon flat rate before getting in. If you have any doubts or suspicions, just wave them along and stick with yellow cabs.



Nicole Trilivas is a full-time writer and avid passport stamp collector. Her debut novel, Girls Who Travel, will be published by Berkley Books (Penguin) in mid 2015. She tweets about writing and roaming @NicoleTrilivas and at


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