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Hailing a taxi cab in New York City for the first time can elicit a wide range of emotions: anxiety, excitement, apprehension, and even confusion. Doing it isn't all that challenging but for a newcomer to the Big Apple, it's something entirely unfamiliar. Additionally, there are a number of questions that go along with New York City's classic yellow taxis: Are they expensive? Is it worth taking one over the subway? Does Uber offer a better deal? All of which should be taken into account when using the city's most iconic method of transportation.


For anyone who is new to taxi-hailing, or just transportation in New York City, in general, here's everything there is to know about catching a taxi.

First Things First: How To Hail A Taxi Cab In NYC

Hailing a cab in NYC is not as intimidating as it seems. While it might take some finesse and a bit of New York confidence, it's nowhere near impossible, even for a newcomer. One good tip for newcomers is to allow someone else to do the work for them - i.e., the hotel doorman or concierge. For those leaving JFK Airport, there are lines for taxis so hailing one is not necessary.

The easiest way to hail a taxi outside of these circumstances is to simply put one's hand out and literally wave one down. It might feel unusual and out of one's comfort zone, but it's the only way - to this day - to properly hail a taxi. For those who are really uncomfortable with this, there's always the option to call a taxi company or just opt for Uber.

Is The Taxi Available?

Sometimes, a taxi will already have passengers inside which means it is unavailable. To determine if this is the case, one should look for the following things:

  • Whether or not the center number of the taxi light is on, which means it's available and the driver is on-duty.
  • If the entire panel is lit up, that usually means the driver is off-duty and unavailable; additionally, there's usually an 'off-duty' lamp on the side panels of the taxi.
  • If no lights are on, it means that the cab is on-duty but is full, which also means it is unavailable.

In rare events, an off-duty driver might pull over to see if they can take a passenger somewhere on their route home. If this happens, the cab will be 'on-duty' again during this time, and passengers might just get lucky!

Insider advice: Get in the taxi first, and then tell the driver what the destination is - this makes it less likely that they will turn down a route, as many opt not to leave Manhattan.

Knowing Directions When Getting Into A Taxi

Contrary to popular belief, it's not entirely necessary for a person - especially someone new to New York City - to know the exact address of a place. For example, if one is going to Central Park, oftentimes, the indication of north, south, east, or west is good enough. If one is visiting a tourist destination, such as the Intrepid Museum, 99% of the time, taxi drivers will know where to drop passengers off without an exact street corner address.

Many taxi cabs throughout New York City are now green rather than yellow. Visitors will still see the classic yellow cabs, but shouldn't turn down a green one - they're just newer. Additionally, green taxis can be found via their corresponding app for smartphones, making it easy to nail down the location of one that's available.

Are Taxis In New York City Expensive?

This question is entirely dependent on where one plans to go. For example, taxi fares from JFK to Manhattan include a flat fee of $52 (not including tip). However, determining how expensive a taxi ride will be, means watching the meter and seeing where it ends as soon as a driver pulls over. The minimum taxi fare is $2.50, with the average price of a ride in Manhattan being somewhere around $10.

  • Fun Fact: It's a myth that taxis in NYC are absurdly expensive!

Related: 10 Cheap Things To Do In NYC (Under $10)

Tipping Cab Drivers In NYC

As with any other service that's provided by an expert, taxi drivers should also be tipped. Similar to dining in a restaurant, a good tip is considered to be between 10%-20%. It's not required but it certainly is appreciated, especially if a cab driver was originally off-duty, or goes out of their way to bring passengers to the other end of the city.

Use the Curb app to book a taxi in NYC up to 24 hours in advance.

Taxis Vs. Uber In NYC: Which Is Cheaper?

There are pros and cons to each of these transportation options. For those familiar with Uber, a NYC taxi might seem archaic due to the fact that Uber tracks one's driver, can be booked through an app, and even gives an estimate of the cost of the trip. With that being said, Uber is often slightly more expensive, with a NYC city taxi averaging about $1.40 less, according to Free Tours by Foot.

Therefore, a general rule of thumb is to consider Uber during long trips, and use a local NYC taxi for shorter trips. If affordability isn't an issue, then it comes down to whether one is comfortable physically hailing a cab, or prefers to book a drive via an app, even if it is slightly more expensive.

Riding in one of New York City's iconic yellow (or green) taxis is an experience that every visitor should have at least once. Knowing how to hail one and what to expect in terms of costs will only make transportation in New York City that much easier.