11 things to know before you get into a San Francisco taxi

Before there was Uber, Lyft, or Sidecar... there were taxis. Yup -- good ol'-fashioned cars with meters that you either called ahead for or hailed on the street. And though we often use the former out of sheer convenience, there's something about getting in a real cab that's oddly refreshing (especially when you can see the Uber car you just requested driving in the wrong direction on your phone. BRO, WHERE ARE YOU GOING??).

STILL... taxi rides in San Francisco aren't without their potential problems. So, we did a little research (including talking to an actual dispatcher) to find out just what your rights are when you get into one of SF's approximately 1,700 cabs.

1. Get your luggage in the trunk fast

If you have so much gear that your departure is delayed because it’s being loaded/unloaded, your driver can activate the meter (but he has to let you know he’s doing so). Also, where are you going and can we come?

2. Go ahead and split the fare as many ways as you'd like

Your driver HAS to allow it between two (or more!) passengers, and he can’t charge you more than the fare shown on the meter at your final destination (aka: no restarting the meter when you drop the first person off).

3. You can ask your driver to turn off the radio

Upon request, your cabbie has to turn down or turn off any "audible device that is not required for safe operation of the vehicle". But he definitely does not have to put the radio on Wild 94.9, even if you’re dyyyying to hear T-Swift. You can also ask him to get off of the phone if he’s been blabbing on and on for hours. (Do people still talk on phones? We're confused.)

4. Your driver has to have change

But only for up to 20 dollars. If he doesn’t, he needs to pull over and get some.

5. Going more than 15 miles outside of SF will cost ya

Your driver needs to tell you at the beginning of the trip, but FYI: the fare will be 150% of the amount on the meter. So, if the meter says $100, you’ll owe $150. Plus tolls.

6. You might have to pay the toll upfront

Crossing a bridge? Your driver can ask for the toll in advance, regardless of the direction in which the toll is collected.

7. A fare dispute should be solved at the nearest police station

Yup. If there’s ever a dispute about how much you owe, the driver is obligated to drive you to the nearest police station at no additional cost and let the men in blue figure it out. If the decision is in your favor, the driver also has to take you back to your original destination at no charge. Because that won’t be the most awkward cab ride of your life.

8. The cleaning fee is $100 max

Don’t be the guy who barfs in a cab. Just don’t. But if you are (whyyyyy are you that guy?), know that your driver can’t charge you more than $100 (though probably you should give him an enormous tip for being the guy who just barfed in a cab. Also, how much would you have to vomit for it to be MORE than $100??).

9. Your extra luggage could cost you a buck

Junk don’t fit in the trunk? Your driver can charge you one whole dollar for each bag that doesn’t fit in the backseat or in the trunk with the lid shut.

10. Your driver must accept your credit card

Okay, first: it has to be a major card, like Visa, AmEx, MasterCard, or Discover. Second: if the driver says the credit card machine is broken, then ask him to take your card number manually, as all drivers are supposed to have a manual credit card imprinter in the cab just for that purpose. If he says he doesn’t have that, then insist on calling dispatch. Basically: you have to pay, but you don’t have to do it with cash under any circumstances. And if a driver does try to pull the "my machine is broken" lie, report him so that, as our trusty dispatcher said, "we can fix the machine or we can fix him."


11. If you have a problem, there's not much you can do about it...

... at least not in the moment. Save for calling dispatch or calling the police, most of the time you just need to pay your fare and get outta there. BUT, don't do so without recording the name of the cab company, the cab number, the driver's name, and the date and time of the cab ride. You can either report your issue directly to the cab company and let them handle it, or you can call "311" or 415.701.2311 and let the city deal with it. The good news is that cab companies and the city take all complaints super seriously.

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Daisy Barringer is Thrilist's SF Editor and one time a cab driver drove off while she had one foot on the ground and one foot in the cab. He didn't stop for an entire block. Sadly, she'd already tipped him 25%. Follow her for more fun stories like this on Twitter @daisy.