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I've experienced being turned down by taxi drivers when requesting short distances, as they have waited for some time to get in front of the line and don't want to "waste" it.

I recognize that it may be frowned upon, but is it ever illegal to take a taxi that isn't in front because they are less likely to turn you down? How about if you do it to get a nicer car?

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This will depend highly on which country you're talking about. As it stands, the question is quite broad. Could you please restrict it to a specific country? –  Ankur Banerjee Mar 3 '13 at 13:02
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up vote 8 down vote accepted

Illegal? I doubt it, in most places. It's purely a courtesy thing, I suspect. Maybe some jurisdictions have rules or regulations, but I'd be astonished to see them enforced. You're more likely to get shouted at by a taxi marshal or the taxi driver for the taxi you join, as they don't like to see their fellow taxi drivers disadvantaged. They might well refuse to take you.

Don't forget that in most very busy places (big airports etc.) there is often a long 'off-site' line you aren't seeing, so even though they look like they've just joined the line, they may well have been waiting hours. You saving them 10 minutes from their wait isn't going to seem like a big deal to them, it'll just look like you're doing something odd.

Having said all that, in most places (for example, London) taxis aren't strictly allowed to refuse a ride, as long as you fulfill all the other standard criteria (e.g. requesting to travel within their "jurisdiction"). If they get disagreeable about it, insist. It might be polite to give a generous tip for a short distance, though.

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Yeah. While not illegal, in Finland the (not-first-in-line) taxi driver would likely refuse, and direct you back to the front of the line. (Here pricing is exactly the same in all taxis, and pretty much all the cars are quite new, so normally it does not matter at all which taxi you take.) –  Jonik Mar 3 '13 at 20:25
    
@Jonik same in the Netherlands. The drivers are under contractual obligation to do that, on pain of pain sometimes (iow they may get beaten up literally, taxi companies in some places being little more than criminal gangs even in Europe). –  jwenting Mar 4 '13 at 7:25
    
In reality London taxis often refuse trips. But less so at ranks with a queue. –  e100 Mar 6 '13 at 10:17
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