Are taxis in Mexico really that bad? List of cities with no Uber and other ride share app options below

-Taxi in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon. Photo by K. Mennem

Taxis have a bad reputation in much of Latin America, even more so now with Uber widely available in most countries. Mexico and Colombia seem to have the most notable stories of drama with taxis and their power struggle with rideshare apps, but these stories also taint the overall picture of the service taxis provide for a city.

Taxis are ingrained into Mexican culture. From epic lines of endless taxis in Mexico City to the lightly marked tourist zone providers. Many people are picked up by the same taxi driver every morning for the ride to work or school. The timing, route, and price is already established and costs less for people who spend all day at work and do not have cars.

But when Uber became widely used in Mexico I noticed even some well off people were giving up on car ownership. Besides the purchase price, you also have to pay for upkeep, fuel, and the constant parking charges. That’s not even mentioning the zero tolerance roadblocks across large metros that send people to jail for having a beer at dinner.

But with taxis being big business in Mexico it did not take long for the unions to push back. Some places like Veracruz have completely banned Uber (I watched a guy get his car towed because the Uber application still works and people were using it illegally. The police started calling for rides and towing the cars when the drivers showed up.)

Other places have had huge fights between Uber and taxi drivers like Cancun and Mexico City. In many cases they just ban pickups on federal property zones (like airports) and operate smoothly elsewhere in the cities.

Many people ask why the taxi drivers do not just drive for Uber. Well, Uber pays less technically and most taxi drivers can not just go buy a car overnight. Taxi drivers usually have a union, a built in network, and rarely have a personal car.

The complaints about the taxi system vary widely. Tourists are just tired of paying too much and not having a record of the trip. Younger Mexicans and women often feel uncomfortable getting into a strangers car. But despite the complaints, millions of Mexicans do depend on the taxi system.

Recently I was leaving a party late in Merida and the Ubers would not come to where I was. I was forced to wave down a taxi as they operate fearlessly in all zones and times. However, he pulled the “no change” game and I had to massively overpay to get home.

Finding a price chart and having exact change is a lifesaver when using taxis to avoid these things. It prevents the hassle over change and makes everything smoother.

Notable cities in Mexico that do not have Uber

  • Tulum
  • Playa del Carmen
  • Veracruz (port)
  • Oaxaca (capital)

Other ride sharing apps that some taxi drivers use and may be available when Uber is not

  • inDrive
  • Cabify
  • Taxibeat
  • Easy Taxi
  • Yaxi
  • With these some have options to pay with credit card and show GPS tracking, but not all drivers offer this.

-Taxi prices in La Paz, Baja California Sur

For every taxi horror story I could tell ten good stories about taxi rides since living in Mexico. Taxi drivers are almost always friendly and great resources when getting to learn a new city. But a rare kidnapping story and the crazy drama in Cancun is still enough to keep many people away despite the risk actually being low.

Taxi groups have long been tied to criminal organizations as they offer a massive amount of information about every corner of a city. However the taxi drivers themselves are rarely violent.

In the big picture I do not think taxis will ever go away, which is good. But I do think in the coming years the number of taxis will decrease and more cities will try to adopt Uber.

If you know of any cities without Uber or of other ride sharing apps drop them in the comments.


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