Yellow cabs are almost everywhere in Manhattan, cruising the streets looking for fares. They are usually easy to hail on the street or from a cabstand in front of major hotels, though finding one at rush hour or in the rain can take some time (and assertiveness). Even if you're stuck in a downpour or at the airport, do not accept a ride from a "gypsy cab." If a cab is not yellow and does not have a numbered aqua-color plastic medallion riveted to the hood, you could be putting yourself (or at least your wallet) in danger by getting into the car.
You can see whether a taxi is available by checking its rooftop light. If the center panel is lit and the side panels are dark, the driver is ready to take passengers—he is required to take passengers to any location in New York City as well as Newark Airport and two adjoining counties, although only NYC and Newark locations are metered. Once the meter is engaged (and if it isn't, alert your driver; you seldom benefit from negotiating an off-the-record ride), the fare is $2.50 just for entering the vehicle and 50¢ for each unit thereafter. A unit is defined as either ⅕ mile when the cab's cruising at 6 mph or faster or as 60 seconds when the cab is either not moving or moving at less than 6 mph. New York State adds 50¢ to each cab ride. There's also a 50¢ night surcharge added between 8 pm and 6 am, and a much-maligned $1 weekday surcharge is tacked on between 4 pm and 8 pm. All taxi drivers are required to accept credit cards as payment. Occasionally, some who prefer cash claim their machines are broken when that isn't actually the case. If a driver waits until the end of the ride to mention a broken machine and you want to pay by credit card, you may wish to ask the driver to turn off the meter and drive you to an ATM to see if this extra hassle is worth it.
One taxi can hold a maximum of four passengers (an additional passenger under the age of seven is allowed if the child sits on someone's lap). You must pay any bridge or tunnel tolls incurred during your trip (a driver usually pays the toll himself to keep moving quickly, but the amount isadded to the final fare). Taxi drivers expect a 15% to 20% tip.
To avoid unhappy taxi experiences, try to know where you want to go and how to get there before you hail a cab. Know the cross streets of your destination (for instance, "5th Avenue and 42nd Street") before you enter a cab; a quick call to your destination will give you cross-street information, as will a glance at a map. Also, speak simply and clearly to make sure the driver has heard you correctly—few are native English-speakers, so it never hurts to make sure you've been understood. If headed for a far-flung location in Brooklyn or Queens, it can be helpful to pull up the location using Google Maps or a similar app, especially if the driver doesn't have GPS of his own. When you leave the cab, remember to take your receipt. It includes the cab's medallion number, which can help you track the cabbie down in the event that you've left your possessions in the cab or if you want to report an unpleasant ride. Any charges, such as those for bridges, are itemized on the receipt; you can double-check to make sure you were charged correctly.
Yellow taxis can be difficult to find in parts of Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island. To help with this issue, in 2013 the city of New York allowed car-service companies to convert their vehicles to apple-green Boro Taxis, which act like yellow taxis: they charge the same metered rates, accept credit cards, and must take you to any location within the city of New York. The difference is that green taxis are only allowed to pick up fares in non-Manhattan boroughs and in Manhattan locations above 96th Street.
If you're outside Manhattan and can't find a yellow or green taxi, you may have no choice but to call a car service. Locals and staff at restaurants and other public places can often recommend a reliable company. Always confirm the fee beforehand; a 10%–15% tip is customary.
Another increasingly popular option is booking a car through one of the car service apps like Uber, Lyft, Gett, or SheRides, which match passengers with potential car-service drivers. After booking a car through one of their respective apps, you can trace its journey to you via GPS, and you get a text message once it has arrived. These services are sometimes cheaper than a taxi but sometimes more, especially if "surge pricing" is in effect (when it's raining or at other high-demand times). The apps do let you get an estimate on rates before you book, so check to see if the convenience is worth the cost. Payment (which includes a tip) is also done via the apps.
Boro Taxi information. New York, New York, www.borotaxis.org.
Carey. New York, New York, 800/336–4646; www.carey.com.
Carmel Car Service. New York, New York, 212/666–6666; 866/666–6666; www.carmelcarservice.com.
Dial 7 Car Service. New York, New York, 212/777–7777; www.dial7.com.
London Towncars. Long Island City, New York, 212/988–9700; 800/221–4009; www.londontowncars.com.
She Rides. This car service has female drivers picking up female passengers. www.sheridesnyc.com.
Uber. New York City, New York, www.uber.com.