How to Order a Taxi? Useful Phrases to Ride from A to B

Tori Tornreviewed byIryna Andrus / more about Editorial Process10 min
Created: Mar 14, 2023Last updated: Jan 21, 2024
Taxi

Ordering a taxi in English might be stressful for inexperienced travelers who don't speak English very well and can't speak a word of the local language. If you know that you will need to take a taxi during your trip abroad, you should get prepared for the moment on the phone with the taxi service operator and driver. Want to know how to order a taxi stress free? Then read this article!

How to Call a Taxi: Phone Reservation And Online Booking

How do you call a taxi in a foreign country in English? Obviously, suppose you want to do it yourself without asking a receptionist at the hotel. In that case, you are left with two choices – to dial a taxi service number and literally call a cab or use a mobile application for ridesharing. In both cases, you will need some specific vocabulary on the topic to manage a taxi order and the ride itself successfully. So let's observe both options closely.  

How to Order a Taxi over the Phone

When booking a taxi over the phone, be ready to speak to the operator and not the driver directly. The taxi service worker will receive your call and send an available driver to pick you up. To order a cab, you can say, "May I book a taxi at (time)?" or "When is the soonest I could book a taxi for?" After you receive the answer, you will be asked about the location where the driver should pick you up and the destination point where the driver will need to drop you off. The questions for that might be the following: "I'm at (address)" or "Could you send the taxi to (address)?" and "I'd like/need to go to (address)" or "Please, take me to (address)." Don't forget to ask about the fare by asking, "How much will that cost?" or "How much is the fare?" The taxi operator might also ask if you need a standard car or a van, usually ordered for a big group of people. At the end of the conversation, they inform you when the driver will pick you up and by what car. 

How to Get a Taxi with an App

It's a tad impossible to imagine our life without convenient ridesharing apps today, so you probably already know how to call a taxi using them. However, doing it through the English-speaking interface of the app might be unusual, so let's clear that up as well. 

First things first. Ridesharing is not about sharing a car with someone else to limit the emission of harmful substances into the air and reduce fuel consumption. Instead, it is a term used for a service that arranges one-way transportation on short notice. The most obvious examples are Uber and Lyft. 

Usually, the interfaces in such apps are user-friendly and intuitive, but you still need to know what the words on the screen mean. When you open the ridesharing app, there will be two options: ride (for ordering a taxi right now) and reserve (for planning your taxi ride on a particular day and time). Your location will be determined automatically if it's allowed in your phone settings. If not, you'll need to write down the address first. Then, you'll see the line asking something like, "Where to?" In this gap, you will need to specify your destination. If it's a famous landmark, hotel, or restaurant in the city you can fill the gap with a name without the address. After that, the app will give you car options which vary by price and comfort. Also, you'll see the payment options at the bottom. You can pay by cash or credit card, but you need to choose the preferable option before completing the booking. The ridesharing app will let you know how far away the closest available car is in minutes and the time for the ride, including all the current traffic issues. Once your vehicle arrives, you will receive a notification. 

How to Order a taxi by Hailing

A third way to get a taxi in a busy city is by hailing. Hailing or fluffing a taxi down is when you stop the car directly on the street by waving a hand at one that drives close to you. Such an option is very popular in NYC and London. But the trick is to pay attention to the light. If it is on it indicates that the passing-by car is available. When the vehicle stops, open the door, say hello, and ask the driver, "Could you take me to (place)?""How much will that cost?" and "Can I pay with a card?" If you have luggage, don't forget to ask for help by saying, "Could you give me a hand with my bags, please?" Also, a question such as "Do you use a meter?" would be wise to understand the end cost of your ride approximately. If you are somewhere where drivers charge by the mile, the route chosen by a driver will affect the ride's price and the time in slow traffic if you get into jams. 

How to Book a Taxi: Passenger's and Driver's Questions And Statements

Regardless of the option for booking a taxi you choose, you will need to be able to communicate with a driver during the ride as well. So, we prepared some questions and statements for you as a passenger to say and some questions that the driver may ask you. 

Passenger's questions and statements:

  • I need to get to + the place or address.
  • Can you take me to + the place or address?
  • Can you drop me off + at the place or address?
  • How long do you think it will take to get to + the place or address?
  • Do you think we can make it to + the place or address in [number] minutes?
  • How much is the fare?
  • How much is it?
  • Could you please drive a bit slower?
  • Could you turn on/off the AC?
  • Could you wait for me here?
  • ⁠Could you turn on/off the music/radio?
  • Can we make a quick stop + at the place or address?
  • Here's [number] dollars, keep the change. 
  • May I have a receipt, please?

Driver's questions and statements:

  • Where are you heading?
  • Where to?
  • Should I put your bags in the trunk?
  • From here to + the place or address it'll cost about [price].
  • It shouldn't take longer than [number] minutes.
  • If traffic isn't bad, then I can get you there in [number] minutes.
  • Are you in a hurry?
  • I can wait around outside for you, but the meter's running.
  • Fasten your seatbelt, please. 
  • Do you need a receipt?
  • Don't forget your belongings. 

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How to Call for a Taxi: Small Talk with A Driver

Don't get suspicious if a taxi driver in an English-speaking country starts talking to you during the ride. In most cases, they are not intended to invade your personal space with uncomfortable or too intimate questions. All they do is being polite and starting small talk. 

Small talk is a polite conversation about unimportant matters to engage and fill the awkward pause socially. It is a signature feature of some cultures, especially the American one. People can chat in elevators, queues, grocery stores, and even taxis. 

To start a small talk, the taxi driver can ask you or comment following:

  • Is it your first time in + the city/country?
  • Are you just visiting?
  • Are you on a business trip?
  • It's a lovely time of the year to visit. 
  • I really recommend checking out/going to + the place. 
  • You can have a nice breakfast/brunch/lunch/dinner at +the place. 
  • How long are you planning to stay?
  • Where are you from?

You can also start a small talk by asking something like:

  • How do you like the city?
  • Is it a nice time of the year to visit?
  • Can you recommend any place near [the place] to eat on a budget?
  • What are the hidden gems in the city?
  • The weather is so lovely/bad today, isn't it?

Don't be timid to engage in small talk with a taxi driver. However, pay attention to the topics that they bring. For example, don't let them know if you are alone in the city and the specifics of your trip plans, like timing and places you will visit. Be caseous. Plus, feel free to notify the driver you would like to stay quiet or you will talk on the phone. It's totally acceptable.

Learn How to Get a Taxi with Promova

How do I get a taxi in English? That might be the first question for non-native travelers who came to another country and decided not to rent a car. Usually, tourists worry that taxi service workers won't understand them over the phone or something will go wrong regarding communication during the ride. But the truth is that even English speakers are not safe from making mistakes when getting a taxi in a foreign country. So, to avoid an awkward moment when ordering a taxi in English, you must prepare for such a task in advance. In this case, the best type of preparation will be practicing specific dialogues and working on improving your overall English non-stop. 

Ready for the challenge? Then start learning English with the language learning platform Promova! We specialize in teaching English through English to students of any level of language proficiency and with any goals. Promova is a one-stop language platform with an interactive mobile application, tutoring programs with individual and group lessons, a free Conversation Club, an educational blog, and social media. 

Comprehending that many people learn English just to feel more comfortable during their trips abroad, we've designed a unique course with bite-sized lessons on the Promova app. In Travel English Course you will find all the essential terms and phrases you need to get around in another country. Also, travelers can benefit from our classes with certified English tutors. After determining your English level and entry conversation, the Promova teacher will develop a personalized learning plan that can include anything related to traveling – from standard phrases for telephone dialogue to how to call a cab in English. Just share your English goals with your tutor, and they will adjust lessons to your needs. 

Conclusion

Worrying about how to take a taxi in an English-speaking country if you are a non-native speaker is normal. However, after reading this article, you have all the necessary questions and answers to communicate with a taxi operator and driver easily. So get out of your head, take a three-to-four deep breaths, and start talking. Even if you make grammar or pronunciation mistakes, the driver will understand you. We can boldly say it's a part of their job to understand clients worldwide.

Nonetheless, try to stay as clear as possible about essential details of your ride such as your location, destination, and fare. Feel free to clarify before getting into the car or during the ride. We hope that the topic "how to book a taxi" won't make you sweat and mumble from now on.  

FAQ

What are the synonyms for "taxi"?

The word "taxi," meaning a driver-driven vehicle available for hire to carry passengers, originated from the ancient Greek word τάξις (taxis), which means "payment." Today this term exists in European languages as it is without translation. Other nations just borrowed "taxi" and made it a part of their glossaries. And even though the word might not have synonyms in French, Italian, or Ukrainian, English has several alternatives. One of the most common is a "cab" or "a black cab" for British people. Other synonyms are "taxicab," "carriage," "hack," "hackney," and "jitney." However, if you want to be understood in most English-speaking countries, it's better to call it simply "taxi" or "cab." 

What is taxi etiquette?

It might sound bizarre, but taxi etiquette is a big deal. A cab is not only a car you use, whichever you want. It is also a working space for a driver and other passengers who will also tap into it. So, etiquette rules apply here too. For instance, in most countries, riders are expected to sit in the back of the car. It allows both parties to feel comfortable and has personal space during the ride. Also, it is essential to remember that tipping is almost obligatory in the US, for instance. Among other general taxi etiquette rules are to be ready when your taxi arrives, be polite to the driver, don't smoke, eat or drink, don't leave the rubbish, and feel free to request music or turn it down. Knowing the rules will save you the sanity, and you won't need to wonder how to order a taxi because no one wants to deal with you. 

Can a taxi driver deny service?

In the era of mobile apps for share-driving, drivers can cancel your order even before you will get into the car if they want to. That means that your behavior or appearance can have nothing to do with denying service. However, in NYC, for instance, once you are in the back of a yellow taxi, the driver has to ride you anywhere you say, even if they don't want to leave a particular area of the city. A piece of advice: don't let the driver know your direction through the rolled-down window before getting into the cab. In such a case, the yellow taxi driver will have a legal right not to ride you to your destination. Generally, any driver can give you a red light if you behave rudely, aggressively, inadequately, or smell bad. 

How to make your taxi ride safe?

Every time you take a taxi, you trust a stranger. So, to stay safe, you must remember specific rules that can prevent your taxi ride from going the wrong way figuratively. For example, if you order a car with a mobile app, pay attention if the license plate number on the vehicle matches the one on the app if the driver's photo matches the person who comes to pick you up, and if the car itself matches the one stated on the app. In other cases, go only with licensed drivers with medallions on the vehicle (in different countries/cities, they differ). On top of that, always take the back seat, never flash the cash, track your road on the app, share your location and rote with another person, don't share personal information with a driver, and never admit that you travel alone (make them believe that someone is meeting you on the spot).

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