Dubai Airport Taxi Scam

For the most part I find Dubai to have a great taxi infrastructure in place. Taxis are readily available, clean, cheap, and I usually find the drivers know where they’re going (of course there are exceptions, but there are much worse cities in terms of drivers and their knowledge of the city).

Even though I’ve been to Dubai well over a dozen times, I faced a bit of a scam the most recent time I arrived and tried to get a taxi. Maybe I’ve just gotten too used to Emirates Chauffeur, whereby I don’t even have to grab my own taxi on arrival.

Emirates-Chauffeur

But upon arrival from Muscat on Oman Air, we tried to grab a taxi to the Grand Hyatt. There was virtually no one in the taxi queue, and there seemed to be two separate “lanes” of taxis. One with the metered taxis I’m used to, and one with black cars (commonly also found at some hotels).

The guy pointed me to a black car. I said “no, I would just like a regular metered taxi, please.” He said “those taxi for family, this for single and also meter.” “No, I really just want a regular taxi, please.” “No, this taxi for you.”

So I took the black car. It had a 50AED (~$14) fee to start the trip, though since we were going to the Grand Hyatt, it was only a five minute ride, and the fare ended up being 70AED (~$20).

Ultimately it wasn’t a big deal, but I’ve usually found the front line workers to be honest enough at Dubai Airport.

This raises the question — are the taxi queue operators told to get as many people into the black cars as possible, was he being paid off by the individual black car drivers, or what? Because the existence of them is legitimate, but the fact that people were being pushed into them is not.

Have you ever experienced this before at Dubai Airport?

Comments

  1. 1. For the most part I find Dubai to have a great taxi infrastructure in place.

    2. I’ve usually found the front line workers to be honest enough at Dubai Airport.

    3. Maybe I’ve just gotten too used to Emirates Chauffeur, whereby I don’t even have to grab my own taxi on arrival.

    Sounds like you make an unsubstantiated assumption that was eventually contradicted by actual firsthand experience. I’ve taken taxis in numerous countries and I don’t think any given airport is immune to taxi mafias. Indeed I sometimes wonder if the word taxi is simply another name for fraud.

  2. I had a weird experience once when the driver refused to start the meter at the airport, then picked up a second random passenger en route, and then refused to tell me how much I owed him.

    So, I took a guess as to how much the ride would’ve cost, subtracted 20%, paid him that, and shut the door.

    Very bizarre, but it ended up working out…I think.

    The second weird experience I had was on a trip from AUH to Dubai. The driver ran out of gas halfway through the trip, had to stop at a gas station, went to the restroom, chatted with some fellow drivers for a few minutes, then got back in. The meter was running the whole time.

    I guess the point is… UAE taxis are incredibly cheap, so don’t worry too much when you overpay by a few dollars?

  3. Lucky could be missing something but I’m not seeing the deception. Granted never been and not familiar with DXB, you paid $20 for a five minute can ride? Seems like much of that as from the base rate not the time/distance you were in the cab.

  4. Preston – I had a similar thing happen in Dubai – the taxi driver had to use the restroom really badly so he pulled into a gas station, but he did pause the meter while he was doing his business.

  5. Yes, this is not just the airport. Hotel staff will try push these none RTA taxis on you.

    I always demand a RTA state taxi when in Dubai. Although the airport has a 30 AED pickup fee for standard taxis.

    Chris

  6. In general I despise taxis the only place I think i like Taxis.. Germany…I will generally refuse to take a taxi anywhere else. If there is Uber I will use Uber because they can go ahead and punk me if they like I do not have to argue with them I’ll just send an email after.. stress free. if those black cars are legitimate, if their fares are legitimate and it also depends what sort of cars they are, and the distance.

  7. I was scammed the same way recently. I was directed to a black Infiniti car. As I was going to another Emirate it ended up being 140aed, which is okay but would be a lot less in a regular cab. To top it off, the driver was all over the lanes and didn’t use the signal a single time.

  8. I walked the lead tout over to the sign and pointed to the $25 AED taxi and said I would take that and that only. He said only $50 were available and pointed to the black cars. I asked if the other row was $25 and he said yes, so I just walked over to the cheaper row and got into one and told the driver to go. The driver resisted for a minute but then the taxis behind him started honking so we went.

  9. Happened to me last September, some dude point to black car, and i was stupidly enough to go along with his order, thankfully I stayed at Le Meridien next to airport.. Did a KWI turnaround then i just ignore other guy’s order, and went straight to white taxi. Just be firm with those people.

    No difference than AUH’s taxi scam where travelers are being forced to ride in over-sized mercedes van, even for one person…. and overpay little bit for gas-guzzling vans

  10. Exact same thing happened to me. If you tell them a good hotel they will direct you to a black car.

  11. Ben,

    We will need to fly from Muscat to Dubai in early April. Did you buy the Oman Air ticket directly from Oman Air? Any hints or difficulties to be aware of for this short flight?

  12. as far as i know in the emirates the meter runs by distance and not by time. so it shouldnt make any difference if at the gas station or simply having a break.

  13. There’s a Dubai Airport fee or something like that when you are starting at the airport, though a regular taxi should of started at 25AED and not 50AED

  14. I consider UAE to be pretty safe overall, but my company (which does a ton of business in UAE) forbids American employees from taking a taxi ever. We arrange a private car service affiliated with the hotel, which of course is only 4 or 5 star, like the Oberoi in Dubai. This doesn’t fully prevent safety issues, but it takes the scam away. it’s more expensive, but they’re not worried about the money or scam aspects, they’re worried about safety first.

  15. I had this happening to me too, I insisted, I want normal taxi, they insisted, take the black one.
    I ended up giving in and taking the black one.
    Not very expensive but more than the normal ones for sure.

  16. I thought this sort of thing only went on in bangkok! Only way for infrequent travellers to be not scammed here is to use the organised taxi queue but it is often a very very long line and thais are not in much of a hurry…….i go to the arrivals area and there are always taxis that have just arrived trying to pick up a fare ( same at suwannphum or don Muang. Just insist they use meter (say “meter”, its not difficult) and they should jump for your ride…..i cringe at the prices you mention. Airport to downtown bangkok about 30 minutes , 25kms and about us$6 to $8 depending which area….

  17. I often take a black taxi. Even though the flag fall is higher, the per kilometre rate is less. Plus they don’t charge for the road tolls (salik), so for a drive to the Marina it is only a few dirhams more overall.

  18. @ Gene — I find it to be more trouble than it’s worth at Dubai Airport, given how readily available taxis are.

  19. @ Dax — I’d suggest going back and reading the post again. I said for the most part Dubai has a great taxi infrastructure… not Dubai Airport. I’ve taken dozens and dozens of taxis in Dubai.

  20. Do you mind me asking what you tip drivers for taxi services in the Middle East? What is expected? Same as the states?

  21. @Lucky — What you should know about the UAE is that the locals are absolutely anal about their laws and their image. I can say with 99.9999999% certainty that the taxi line guy was a foreigner. The next time you face something like this, just threaten to go “ask” an Emirati cop. See how the taxi guy’s attitude will immediately change. They shit bricks at the prospect of facing Emirati cops as they know that they will be in a world of hurt. And don’t feel bad doing this, either. They’re scam artists, which means that they’re petty CRIMINALS.

  22. The black cars at the taxi rank are operated on behalf of the RTA so they are different from the hotel black cars, which are licensed by the RTA but not part of their taxi network. The guy who directs you to taxis is also employed by the RTA, who are no doubt trying to maximise their revenue and promote a service that has had reasonably poor uptake. They are pushy, and I agree it’s pretty sharp practice, but it isn’t a scam in the traditional airport taxi tout sense.

  23. Ben! Sorry for another question but the airlines just changed our flight and now we have to overnight in Doha. What is the fee for a visa in Qatar? Do we need cash? We are only in Doha for 24 hours.

  24. I had this same experience in Abu Dhabi last week. The taxi que points directly to the Black Vans which cost much much more. I learned my lesson to take a normal taxi from now on.

  25. I have been to Dubai for 2 times and to UAE for about 4 times and I must confess the taxi service is nothing but flawless there) May be it’s because I always used the same taxi company for private transfer ( http://kiwitaxi.com/UAE/Dubai+Airport ) or because of NY’s taxi loses in comparison to their arabian collegues..) I’ sorry you had such unfortunate experience, I wish it never happens to you again!

  26. I had the same experience last Saturday when I came back from a short week-end out of the country. Although I insisted on getting a “normal taxi” (and there were plenty waiting in line), the Emirati taxi operator insisted in return pushing me to the Black taxi pretending it’s “same price also has meter”… I’m not deceived about the 60 AED more I paid for my usual ride to my place… I’m just adding this situation to the dozens of other little thing happening here and there making me feel like the will here is to take as much dirhams as they can out of your pocket. This is only getting worst and unfortunately it will end up impacting the perception of the people about the place.

  27. I had this SCAM experience today. my house is close to airport, but I ended up paying AED 25 extra as I realized very late (after deboarding) , that the minimum is AED 50. I asked the driver multiple times, if the LEXUS pricing was any different from regular cream color taxi and was told “NO”. The uniformed driver was a lady from Ghana and possibly knew what she was saying. The fare appears on a TAB , but always remains hidden from view as it connected by a wire to the glove box. The “grey” uniformed guy in the airport, seems to be intentionally guide incoming tourists/first-timers/residents who travel rarely to the black LEXUS, instead of the traditional cream taxi, which costs AED 25 minimum fare. There must be clear information to the tourist (as part of right to know), that the minimum fare is AED 50 for black taxi.

  28. Black taxis are nothing but premium limousine taxis for the rich. I have never been sent to the black Lexus, Audi, BMW and Infiniti.
    Probably because I look the part, (I am indian :P)

    Even the ubiquitous cream colored Toyota innovas are expensive for that matter. But it’s the cheapest legal option you got if your route isn’t easily serviced by public transport.

  29. the way they sell this premium taxi service is that its only 1 dirham extra. What they dont tell you, smartly, is that its 1 dirham per KM extra. So if you go 20 KM you end up paying at least 20 km extra.

    Just go for the cream coloured cars, its that simple.

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