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Las Vegas: Don't get taken for a ride by Sin City cabs

March 04, 2011|By Chris Erskine | Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
  • If you're going by cab from the airport to the Vegas Strip, ask to be taken the shortest route.
If you're going by cab from the airport to the Vegas Strip, ask to be… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)

In Las Vegas, you can lose even before you hit the tables. The city’s cabbies are notorious for taking longer routes than usual, adding a good $10 to your $15 fare. You can protest, of course. But who wants to start a fun weekend escape with a fight? Well, you do, unless you like giving money away.

I got taken for a ride on a recent trip from McCarran International Airport to the Orleans Hotel & Casino. Learn from my mistake.

Here’s the most important tip: If you’re going from the airport to the Strip or downtown, your cabbie should not take you on the freeway. Simply say, as you get in the cab, “Please take the most direct route. I do not want to go on the freeway.” The best route is “around the loop,” toward Tropicana. If the driver heading for the Strip goes toward the tunnel, instead of the loop, you’re likely being taken for a ride.

Fares begin at $3.30, and it’s $2.45 for every mile after that, so distance is more critical than time. Often, cabbies will ask, “Do you want the shortest route or the quickest route?” That’s code for: “You want me to take the long way, so you can pay more?”

If Vegas had its wits about it and were seriously concerned with the quality of the visitor experience, it would post standard rates at the airport taxi stand.  Imperial Palace or Treasure Island, for instance, should run you about $14 to $15. I paid $25 to go to the Orleans, for what should’ve been a $15 fare. Part of it, of course, is not knowing the right route to a new destination. Just remember your Vegas taxi mantra: Stay off the freeway.

“People who get ripped off don’t want to challenge anything,” one driver told me, which angers the drivers who try to give riders a fair deal. Some companies rank-order their drivers by total take, which encourages such fraud, according to a veteran driver. Top drivers get preferential treatment. A few years ago, before the economy collapsed, Las Vegas cab drivers could easily take home $1,200 a week, two cabbies told me. Now, as they struggle, fraudulent fares appear to be on the upswing. 

It is within a rider’s right to challenge a fare he or she thinks is too high, though that regulation isn’t posted either. So, rider beware. And stay off the freeway, Jake.

Also, note that not all taxis in Vegas accept credit cards. Be sure to ask at the taxi stand before getting in.

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