India’s prepaid taxis at airports – get ’em before you walk out to the mass of touts

India’s airports (and some train stations) have booths for prepaid taxis that operate under a government-set fare chart. The trick, though, is they are invariably inside the terminal somewhere between baggage claim and the exit, and if you miss them and exit, you have virtually no chance of getting past security to backtrack. And then you are at the mercy of the swarming touts outside.

India Prepaid Taxis 2

Follow the signs

India Prepaid Taxis 3

Don't head to the exit!

Prepaid Taxis can be booked for short and long-distance trips, and there are usually at least options for non-A/C and A/C. The Rapid Traveler once booked for a layover in Chennai (MAA) for a half-day roundrip to Mahabalipuram. The driver was chill and did not mind extra waiting time. The fare was peanuts compared to tout rates.

The booking agent collects payment and gives passengers a ticket, noting the fare and destination. Upon exit a security guard or employee handles assignment of the taxi based on the ticket. Stick tight to that person in the scrum until you reach your taxi. And then roll off without the hassle of haggling.

India Prepaid Taxis 4

4:30 am at BOM and the line is already long

India Prepaid Taxis 5

Not much interest for some private company

What to do about taxis everywhere else? Hotels can help, but otherwise it is up to haggling skills and perseverance.

India Prepaid Taxis 1

Andaman Islands prepaid taxis, managed by the traffic police

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  • Ryan

    Very true indeed…Delhi airport is the same, do your research and read through tips on where you should walk, what to see, etc. Will make that “shocking” arrival that much less stressful for those used to the American style of “scrum”…it just doesn’t compare to what you see in India!

  • The Nomad

    Enjoy India. Email me if you have any questions.

  • Narayana sundaram

    Oh I hope you are going to havelock. We were amazed by the beauty of the beaches there

  • Kay

    This a great post. Short and to the point, and with a bit of useful information. I’ll remember it when I go to India. Thank you.

  • Miles

    When I did a late-night arrival at DEL, I was directed outside (past the touts) to a ticket booth for pre-paid taxis.

    My driver was a wizened old man, and the taxi was a rattletrap 3-wheeler with dim lights and NO HORN.

    Since drivers use their horns to signal their intentions and warn other drivers, our lack of one left us totally at the mercy of the other drivers…if the driver in the next lane didn’t see us and decided to move into our lane, we could not honk and our only defense was to quickly drop back.

    It was quite an “interesting” ride.

  • AKTCHI

    The basic advice is good, but ome details need updating. At Delhi airport at least, you do have a second chance and can book a traditional prepaid cab outside the terminal.

    But wait! A new breed of private cab companies have started, with names like Mega Cab, Meru Cab etc, and have their desks in the same area. These are much better in many ways, but cost a little more and are metered rather than prepaid.

    Right now my first preference is these private cabs, second preference old fashioned prepaid ones. I would of course avoid touts like plague.

    It is a good idea to check with the booking person and the driver that he either knows your destination or has a GPS (private cabs will have one for sure). As a back up, you should have a phone number at the destination (hotel desk or a friend’s home) that the driver could call in case he needs help in locating the place; the drivers will have a cell phone even if you don’t. Of course, none of this will matter if you are yourself familiar with the city enough to guide the driver or if you are going to a well-known destination like a 5* hotel.

  • These are all such great tips, thanks everyone for contributing.

    @AKTCHI – I saw Mega Cab in BOM, its in one of the pictures above, but almost no one was heading there and at 4:30 am I was too tired to explore their rates as a company car was picking me up.

    DEL is interesting that they have sensibly added that booking station outside, I have not yet had a chance to visit India’s north. The ones I have been to in the past few years include CCU, MAA, BOM and IXZ and all were one chance affairs.

  • BOM is a one-chance affair, but depending on your negotiation skills you *can* get past the guards and back into the terminal, but I wouldn’t count on that always happening.

  • @Million Mile Secrets – this is not for the taxis, but I tried my negotiation skills to get into the BOM international terminal more than 4 hours ahead of my flight (coming from a domestic flight) and they just laughed at me and sent me to the for-fee holding pen…I won’t test my negotiation skills anywhere with Indian airport security!