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Culture —– Bargaining for Taxis in Latin America

by Brandi

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January 7th, 2011

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One of the aspects of Latin America that I love is that you are able, and are even expected, to bargain for anything — even taxis. After getting used to this cultural difference in Latin America and living there for an extended period of time, I returned to the United States, took a taxi, and tried to bargain but it did not work. The driver thought I was nutty, and I got stuck with a hefty bill.

Bargaining for taxis in Latin America is fun and can save you quite a bit money. In heavy tourist areas, the rates go up substantially, but you can still bargain to get a lower price. The first step is to bargain for a rate before you even set foot into the taxi. I will give you a little example of how this works. It is similar to our “bargaining” lesson that I gave a few weeks ago.

Let’s say you are trying to get a cab go to the “Garcia Museum.” First you would start out by saying, “¿Cuánto para Museo Garcia?” [quan-toe pa-raw moo-say-oh Garcia?] (How much for Garcia Museum?)

Sometimes, because you are a gringo (foreigner) they will give you some ridiculously high price. If they try to, just exclaim “¡Soy gringo, pero no soy tonto!” [Soy green-go peh-row no soy tone-toe] (I’m a gringo but I’m not a fool). This may sound harsh but it is all part of the culture of bargaining. Many taxi drivers will be impressed that you, a foreigner, know this phrase and some will even get a chuckle from it. From my experience, most taxi drivers enjoy bargaining as much as I do. They enjoy going back and forth bargaining for the most acceptable price.

Next, you can state, ¿Cuánto cuesta de verdad? [quan-toe qwes-taw de bear-thath?] (How much does it really cost?). They will then give you a lower price, and you can say the following line and start to walk away, “Mejor voy a tomar otro taxi.” [may-hore boy a toh-mar oh-troh taxi] (It will be better if I take another taxi). As you start to walk away they will begin to get desperate, give you an even lower price which you can then accept, and you are on your way.

Here are a couple of quick tips and ideas for getting around in Latin America:

  • Traffic is almost always crazy and taxi drivers can be even crazier. Once you get in, get ready and hold on tight. Taxis are generally pretty safe but can give you an pretty exciting ride, especially if you are not used to the driving etiquette in Latin America.
  • Some areas may have motorcycle taxis. They pull a type of carriage with a canopy for two. This can be a very fun way to experience the culture of Latin America.
  • If you are considering driving your own car down, I highly discourage it. In most places, their laws do not protect your car if you get in an accident.
  • Renting a vehicle can also be a good option.  Just make sure you are ready to drive with your horn and also that the car has very good insurance — “seguro” [seh-goo-roh] or “aseguranza” [ah-seh-goo-rahn-sah]. There are different words for insurance according to the region you are located.

For more information and Spanish vocabulary for traveling, please refer to section 12 of your Level I Visual Link Spanish™ course. Sections 1, 2, and 3 are very beneficial to study before you leave for your next trip. These sections include vocabulary lessons from the following categories: Basic Needs, Greetings and Survival. If you do not yet have the complete Visual Link Spanish™ course yet, click here for the newsletter special offer.

To learn more about speaking Spanish, please visit our website www.spanishprograms.com

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