Taxis in Cali, Colombia – Free Rides & Rip Offs

I’ve experienced both extremes when it comes to taxis in Cali, Colombia.  I was a bit concerned because people were telling me that Cali is a little rough around the edges, they said it’s not like Medellin and you have to watch your back a bit more.  They should have told me that about going to the coast where the taxis don’t even have taximeters?

Really Colombia, no taximeters?

Should be an honest transaction between tourist and hustler right? RIGHT!  I immediately thought this was going to be similar to taking taxis in Argentina.

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Its a license plate. Random.

My first run in came when we were trying to find a place to go out.  I remember it like it was yesterday including the rain that messed up my finely manicured hair spray hair.  When it’s raining in Colombia you are better off sitting next to the imaginary fireplace and snuggle with your imaginary partner.  Let’s face it, now a day’s an imaginary partner is easier to find than a real one.  It was slim pickings that night and we decided to head to Mbenga which is one of the new hot spots in the city.

The taxi driver turned on the meter and we were on our way.  Driving by every single club we didn’t see one that had anyone in it.  I am excellent dancer when I am alone in front of the mirror but I am sure you would agree it’s more fun when you are trying to impress the person in the club that has no interest in you at all.  Challenges are always fun.

We arrived at our random location and the taxi driver says that I owe him an extra 1,000 pesos because it is after 8pm

Really?  I’m going to fall for THAT TOURIST GAG.  I told him I was the most famous day trader on this side of the Atlantic Ocean but he still wanted his extra 1,000 pesos.  What? I have a website people know me (sarcasm)!

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Random Scultpure - Cali, Colombia

I paid the 8,000 pesos plus the 1,000 surcharge and slammed the taxi door as hard as I could knowing full well that taxi drivers in Colombia are anal about their doors being thrown.  He exited the taxi and began to follow us.  I immediately held my breath and pushed out my chest that has been disappearing since I stopped working out 2 years ago.  Eventually he went back to his taxi and I immediately stopped at the three food stands on the side of the road to see if they had my favorite 2am meal, cheap hot dogs with wierd green stuff.  Hot Dogs at 2am is my work out, I’ve accepted it.

So I stuffed myself and looked for another taxi.  This time the taxi driver was kind enough not to turn on the meter.  As my friend and I were telling God to stop crying so the rain would stop I was thinking this is going to be really fun.

Now I get a 1,000 surcharge plus a 10,000 hustler fee.

We ended up at a little strip of bars and the taxi driver wanted 15,000 pesos for the taxi.  This man clearly didn’t know I was a famous day trader.  I handed him 6,000 pesos and told him that’s what he gets for trying to hustle me.  He said that’s too low for the taxi which I promptly replied “whose fault is it that you didn’t turn on the meter”.  He was annoyed and I was victorious.  I hopped up on the curb like Rocky ran up the flight of stairs! I didn’t yell Adrian thought, that obviously would have been awkward.

After that night my impression of Cali was the same impression we get about water in the toilet, it sucks.  A few days later I contracted a taxi that a friend used when visiting Cali and my impressions began to change.  For 20,000 pesos an hour (split with 3 people) Alex drove us around all of the major tourist attractions in the city, all 5 of them.  That is a rough estimate it may be 4 tourist attractions.

Somehow my friend struck up a conversation about godfathers and the gifts that they give their god sons.  It is a Cali tradition to give a god son a maceta to signify passing of a generation as I understand it.  As they were talking the Alex decided that he was going to bring my friend Adrian a maceta in the early morning hours.

In true Colombian fashion he arrived in late afternoon just as we were leaving to the bus station.  He gave us the maceta, which Adrian left at my house when he left Colombia, and proceeded to try and get us drunk off of the infamous Colombian Aguardiente.   Just say Guaro its easier.

As he was trying to get us drunk as he was continually badgering his father to drink as well.

Trying to get his father drunk

The one driving the taxi

While drinking and driving is something that you will never see in the United States, in Colombia it’s just the calm before the storm.  Kind of calm until he started driving in the opposite direction on one way streets.  I digress.

He didn’t charge us for the taxi and the young strapping gentlemen you see in the picture to the right is Alex.  Cheers to you Alex, cheers.


  1. I was waiting to see if he was going to turn it on.. then I eventually thought well he is going on the honor system. Right after that I thought oh this guy is definitely not gonna get paid what he should.. lol

  2. A taxi without a meter is pretty crazy. I smelled trouble the moment you wrote that. You never know what you are getting when you get into a taxi. Some taxi drivers are the coolest people and most honest in the world while others are not so much that way.

    1. I agree Ted anytime that I meet a cool taxi driver i get his info.. I have so many numbers that I plan to put here on the site so they can get extra business. There was a taxi driver in Ushuaia who actually drove back and gave my uncle his camera back

  3. Like there a lot of crooks in my hometown that pretend to be cab drivers, but they are not, the best way to go is to call a tixicab agency where the driver has to identify himself and also demandas the las two digits of the phone he was called from, all this for security reasons, and that security runs both ways and I found out there are very corteous, don’t try to rob you and treat you with respect

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