When Some Las Vegas Taxi Drivers Bring On Their Own Downfall


New Contributor James Dingsdale shares a familiar experience with a Las Vegas taxi driver…

Excitement is hardly the reaction I’d expect to experience when hearing about the roll-out of multinational ride-sharing companies to a city, but that is exactly what happened when Uber and Lyft finally arrived in Las Vegas. The thought of never again being forced to use a Las Vegas taxicab filled me with a warm and fuzzy feeling that is somewhat difficult to describe. That’s unusual. I usually don’t mind taxis. In my home city, I use them all the time and rarely have a problem. Not only at home but in New York, San Francisco, London, Paris, Jerusalem, Bucharest and much more. Sure, I’ve had the occasional bad experience, but nothing so terrible that it would put me off using the service altogether. So, what makes Vegas different? How have we arrived at this point, where every major Vegas-related website, blog, and forum is lauding the arrival of ridesharing with such tangible delight?

Let’s just say that to anyone who has used Las Vegas taxis over the last decade with any degree of frequency; the answer is painfully obvious. Some taxi drivers in Las Vegas have, without a shadow of a doubt, been the architect of their own downfall.

In what turned out to be my last trip to pre-ridesharing Vegas, I arrived weary-eyed at McCarran following an eleven hour flight from London. I made my way to the taxi rank and hopped into the first car I saw. As someone who knows the city fairly well – at least well enough to drive around it myself – I knew the drill. As I had done many times before, I asked the driver to take me to my Strip hotel via Tropicana Avenue (i.e. not on the freeway). Now, for anyone unfamiliar with this particular scam, Vegas cabbies favor taking tourists from McCarran to the Strip via the I-15 freeway. This can sometimes save a couple of minutes in travel time, but this route will most certainly inflate your fare due to the sheer distance. Put simply, taking Tropicana Avenue is the most direct route.


Anyway, the cabbie wasn’t happy. He muttered something about me not knowing what I was talking about but reluctantly agreed to take Tropicana instead of the Freeway. The journey took maybe ten minutes (the traffic was light), but for some reason, my driver’s level of rage increased exponentially with each minute travelled. By the time we were about half way into the ride, he was shouting at me that he couldn’t understand why I’d sit on a flight for hours only to take the longer route to my hotel. I told him that Tropicana is the most direct route and that I knew the area. He then started berating me for being a “cheapskate” and told him that I’d better have a good tip for him for taking him so far out of his way.

Needless to say, by this point, I was getting fairly annoyed. I was paying this man for a service, and all I was getting in return was a load of abuse from a guy who was clearly motivated to rip tourists off – I think he was mostly annoyed that his scam hadn’t worked on me. I took a quick note of his name and licence number with the intention of contacting the taxicab authority (Las Vegas, unlike pretty much any other city I can think of, has an actual law enforcement agency just for taxi-related crimes – take from that what you will).

We finally arrived at the hotel, and I took my bag from the trunk. At this point, the driver was out of the vehicle and was still shouting at me. I handed him the fare, plus a ten percent tip (I know, I shouldn’t have tipped at all, but by this point, I just wanted to get away from the guy). He counts the money and then shouts a bunch of expletives at me, right in the middle of the hotel drop-off area, telling me that ten percent is not a tip in Las Vegas – I agree, but shouting at a customer is not service in Las Vegas either! I walked away.

Now, if that ride had been with a ridesharing service, I could simply have filed a complaint and received a partial, if not full, refund. More to the point, ridesharing drivers can’t really ‘long haul’ you (take a longer than necessary route) because everything is tracked on GPS and the map is available for the rider to view.

Now, I’m not saying that every Vegas taxi driver is like this. I’m sure they’re not. I’m sure the majority are decent, hard working individuals who would be appalled by the behaviour of my driver on that Airport ride. I’ve certainly been driven by decent taxi drivers in Vegas but, unfortunately at this point I’ve just had too many bad experiences with too many bad drivers that I’m no longer prepared to take the gamble. So, I for one welcome the arrival of the ridesharing companies in Vegas. I’m sad for anyone who sees a downturn in their own business as a result of this, but the ones to blame are the bad cabbies that turned the travelling public against your industry.

If for some reason you will be using taxis in Las Vegas rather than ridesharing, please take a note of the contact information for the Las Vegas Taxicab Authority (2090 E. Flamingo Road, Las Vegas, NV 89104, United States, Phone: +1 702-486-6532). To file a complaint you will need to record the driver’s name, driver’s licence number (these should be displayed somewhere in the cab), registration plate of the vehicle, vehicle type (make and model) and taxi company. Good luck!

Editor’s Note: Check out this sweet infographic on costs between Lyft, Uber and Taxis.

[Images: Michael Movestro]

About the Author

James Dingsdale
James is a British travel writer and blogger who visited over 30 countries. He divides his time between the UK and the western United States. James enjoys cult movies, craft beers, bourbon, retro video games.When in Vegas, James prefers low-roller gambling, specifically blackjack. Find him on Instagram @dingovoyage

25 Comments on "When Some Las Vegas Taxi Drivers Bring On Their Own Downfall"

  1. Good article. I’ve had more bad rides with taxis. I can’t recall ever having a bad ride with a ride sharing service. Taxis no more for me.

  2. I agree 100%, had the same experience last year. Once I told the cab drive how I wanted to go he was rude and yelling at us the rest of the way. My wife thought I did something wrong. Our last trip we used Uber, and despite having trouble finding the pick-up area at the airport (poor signage), the ride was perfect, and cheap.

  3. Don’t ever expect much help from the taxicab authority. And I know this might be unpopular, but I often feel bad for the cab drivers as well. If you’ve ever known any of them personally, they often work 12 hours days and take home less than $100. They are mistreated and underpaid by the cab companies to the point they are almost forced to take some of the actions they do. It amazes me the angst that drivers face all the time while the companies roll in the dough and get off “scott free”.

    • Dean – If they take home less than $100/day on a 12 hour shift, that means that not including their share of the fare, the driver would be making $8.33/hour on tips alone. I would assume that most cabbies would pick up 2-3 fares an hour on average, so $8.33/2.5 = $3.33 tip/fare. My guess is they make more than $100/12 hour shift.

    • James Dingsdale | August 12, 2016 at 12:02 pm |

      I’m sure you’re right – I feel for the honest drivers who are being tarnished by the bad ones and who will ultimately lose business now that another option is available to passengers. On the same token, being treated badly by the companies and being underpaid is not an excuse for bad service. It reduces tips and makes people less likely to use the service again.

  4. Nice article James! I’ve been tunneled before. I actually think it’s a right of passage for all Vegas travelers to suffer through once…we all have to EARN our stripes eh? But when I was tunneled, I knew the cabbie was screwing me and when my trip to the Flamingo cost me about $5 more than it normally would from McCarran, I was sure to take it out of his tip. He gave me S#!T for being a cheapskate but quickly shutup when I asked why he took the freeway instead of Koval to Flamingo.

    That said, there is a great Vegas Taxi that I follow on twitter (@LVCabChronicles), he’s really funny and I hope I get in his cab one day.

  5. I could certainly relate to this, never had the yelling but certainly the driver that is out for his own interest instead of the passengers. The highway detour used to be more common but now if the driver pulls this on a fare, I understand they can be fined if you call the police on the driver. In my experience the highway is not faster, depending on the hotel, Tropicana or Paradise is quicker.

  6. Ditto to everything you said! I just pray that the ride sharing companies continue to offer the fabulous service I have experienced in the last year!

  7. Chris in Nashville | August 10, 2016 at 1:01 pm |

    I have not had this bad of an experience but last year I told the cabbie to use Trop/Koval and he pretended like he did not speak english. He started towards the beloved “tunnel” and I said again, NO TUNNEL! He pretended not to speak english and I told him I would not pay for a longer ride than it would be to use Trop/Koval. He suddenly understood english and took me the way I asked. But he got no tip, nodda.

  8. Victor Deveze | August 11, 2016 at 1:01 am |

    I was once long hauled from Luxor to Encore; I should have asked the driver to take Frank Sinatra Drive but instead he took the freeway and exited at West Sahara Ave.
    I have used Uber in San Diego, San Francisco, LA, Orange County, Miami, Chicago, Guadalajara (Mexico) and Las Vegas on my last trip. I’ve never had a problem, the service has mostly been great! It was great news when I heard Uber/Lyft were finally in Vegas. I’ll never take a cab again!

  9. Excellent well written article. We too, after flying from Manchester, have been taken the long way from McCarran, We been down the tunnel, way along Industrial & even half way to North LV just on the route to the Plaza. The drive’s have claimed not to have heard, no speak English & you don’t know what you are talking about. ALL were nasty. I refused to pay the last driver, he reduced his demand, as he did not want the Police called. Not a great way to start a vacation.
    The two things I would point out are. The taxicab Authority are useless, We complained about a crazy Russian cabby who swore into his phone the entire trip,was so angry he nearly ran over a pedestrian & drove off before my wife was fully out of his cab. We complained but heard nothing & I’m guessing nothing was done. I feel the authority is in the cab company’s pocket.
    The other thing is, unless you have full roaming on your UK phone, Uber is near impossible to use for getting around LV. The last few times from airport, we have paid the extra for a small limo.
    Well worth the extra. Transit Buses are great for getting around during your trip.
    Whatever way, the taxi lot have no one else to blame, just themselves.

    • James Dingsdale | August 12, 2016 at 11:58 am |

      Good point on the data roaming – having internet access on my phone is a MUST when travelling these days. The ‘3’ network in the UK offers free data roaming in the United States, by the way.

  10. Jim Feilbach | August 11, 2016 at 6:57 am |

    I do believe it is now illegal for cabbies to long haul you. Can anyone verify this? I thought if they did that, you did not have to pay for the ride.

    • James Dingsdale | August 12, 2016 at 11:56 am |

      It is indeed illegal, however you’re left at the mercy of the NV Taxicab Authority. They have patrol officers and investigators who will theoretically deal with any complaints, but I’ve heard mixed reports as to how effective they are in practice.

  11. I totally agree with this article. They are bringing on their own downfall.

    My very first trip to Vegas I’ve done lots of research so I told the cab driver “no tunnel” from airport to Aria. Instead she drove behind all the casino into parking garages, behind employees parking and where all the casino dumpsters were. From the airport to Aria, over $30.

    Never again will I use a taxi if I don’t have to in Vegas.

  12. I waited a day to post anything to your article, I was curious as to how many responses would be posted. I as well have had multiple long hauls. A couple with some pretty funny long-winded stories about this subject when treated like we didn’t have a clue even when we stated the proper route to take to avoid extra fees. We have made a few trips now renting cars and using them to experience Vegas in a new layer that we could never get before. That is nice but dealing with parking and the distance to get in the casino when we are accustom to being dropped off at the front door is a pain. My big question having never taken an Uber type mode of transportation is it safe and does it have a set standardized rate that does not change? And do you trip a standard amount as if you were taking a taxi? Thanks in advance.

    • James Dingsdale | August 12, 2016 at 11:51 am |

      Jim, Uber offers a ‘fare estimate’ option so you can see in advance how much your journey will cost. I’ve always found it to be quite accurate. They do have ‘surge pricing’ which increases fares when the demand is high (think taxi fares after midnight), but you are clearly warned in advance before you order your car. Uber is a cash-less service, so tipping is NOT encouraged by the company. You do not have to tip anything, and no tip is expected by the driver. I’m sure they wouldn’t mind if you slipped them a couple of dollars though!

  13. Nate Gordon | August 12, 2016 at 2:20 am |

    It’s nice that ride sharing has yielded many positive experiences for myself and others in Las Vegas. However, in Los Angeles I’ve had multiple bad experiences with drivers from uber that have required credits for future rides on my account. Lyft I haven’t had the same issues but with Uber in L.A. it is a total crapshoot and is really a ride at your own risk experience.

    • James Dingsdale | August 12, 2016 at 11:54 am |

      I have to agree somewhat. I took a ride from the ‘In N’ Out’ burger at Sunset/Orange to my hotel in WeHo and had to direct the driver myself as she had absolutely no idea where she was going. She ended up dropping us off completely in the wrong location because she couldn’t get back onto Sunset Blvd to find the hotel entrance. Having said that, I complained to Uber and they refunded most of my fare.

  14. I have travelled to Las Vegas a lot and for some reason I have always had good experiences with the Taxi system. They have always been available when needed and have always been friendly offering some good advice and local knowledge. Granted I have only used them from the airport and back and on one other occasion to Downtown.
    I have always been asked if i wanted the shortest cheapest route or Faster more expensive route with a apporximate cost and I have used both depending wha mood i’m in.
    Im not sure why your driver got so angry as the last driver i was talking to explained that he gets a flat hourly rate and then makes money from tips so it didnt matter to him which way we went just that he gave a better service.

  15. On my last trip to Vegas, I got long hauled, and charged $47 for a ride to the Four Queens. After a long trip from the U.K. I was tired and just wanted to check in to the hotel so I just gave him a round $50. I’ve never been charged more than $32 for the same journey. Had I been asked for a similar amount this time I would have happily given him a $10 tip, but instead I was left with a sour taste in my mouth.

  16. Walt Remkey | August 12, 2016 at 10:49 am |

    The day some cabbie mouths out to me or cusses will be the day they visit the dentist to receive oral surgery. Don’t take crap from these earth dogs.

  17. I am an Uber driver…and rider! As a driver I hear many of these stories, and how much people LOVE our service. Still, I will sometimes recommend a taxi if they are simply going from one strip hotel to another as the taxi’s are staged and waiting, and there are dedicated taxi drop-off lanes. Just remember, get to the Uber/Lyft pick up spot BEFORE requesting the ride. NOT while you’re still in your room or inside the casino. After five minutes of waiting, we’re allowed to cancel the ride.

  18. FYI – Plus charge you a $5 fee on Uber if you or the driver cancel!

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