Last week, the Seoul city government announced a plan to offer up to a 500,000-won (USD $456) reward for anyone who has information on taxi drivers that rip off foreign tourists.
While charging more than the standard metered fare is against South Korean law, sometimes taxis can forget this, in additional to other rules. Red lights get run, taxis find themselves going the wrong direction on the road to save time and meters are accidentally not turned on and the final prices are made up on the spot, slightly inflated.
It isn’t uncommon to find taxi drivers walking around tourist hot spots late at night, such as near Seoul Station or in the foreign district of Itaewon, hounding tourists and locals alike for their business. Many ask tourists where they want to go and offer a price upfront, off the meter. This upfront price is almost always more expensive than what the actual metered rate would have been. If you try to barter with them, or insist they just use the meter, they will often retort back that it is late and you are unlikely to find any other taxis (often said while they are standing directly in front of a dozen other taxis). They take advantage of the fact that many tourists don’t know average fare for their destination and are willing to accept whatever a cab driver tells them.There have been a number of times when I was coming home long after the subway stopped running and was confronted with these cabbie solicitors. The first time I encountered this situation, I naively took one up on his offer. After my next weekend adventure out on the town, I decided to flag down my own cab from that same spot. My metered fare ending up being less than half the price of that previous, un-metered trip. Ever since then, I mostly ignore the solicitors, sometimes asking them for a cheaper fare than the average, but they always turn me down.
It’s good to hear that the city is trying to curb this lax attitude towards the law. It’s a little concerning that this reward system may only apply to foreign tourists that are ripped off, but hopefully it will benefit tourists and locals alike in the future. It will without a doubt give me one less headache on my journey home from a late night out. Hopefully this new measure is enforced and the hotline to report overcharging is published in every Seoul guidebook.
You can report these fraudulent taxi drivers by calling Seoul Information’s “Dasan 120″ hotline. Just dial 120 from any phone in Seoul and report it to the multi-lingual staff.
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[Photo Credit: Jonathan Kramer]