I'm going back home to Virginia for the Thanksgiving holiday and I'll be taking a taxi to Boston Logan. I've noticed that in the past, the cabbie tends to take a longer route.

Is it bad etiquette to dictate which route I'd like him/her to take?

  • This likely varies from city to city; Vegas is somewhat notorious for taxi drivers taking the slow long way to the hotel via the strip, aka 'longhauling'. I don't think other cities are quite that bad.
    – BrendanMcK
    Nov 20, 2012 at 0:43
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    In Australia, it is the law that the passenger can decide the route: there is a list of your rights which is displayed in the cab, and that is one of them.
    – wim
    Nov 20, 2012 at 10:28
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    @halime: Your "thank you" edit shouldn't really be in the question, as questions are intended to help everybody who finds them via a web search, not just the original asker. I suggest that you should move it to a comment right here. Nov 28, 2012 at 3:25
  • This question never occurred to me. All over the world, often the cabbie asks but if not and I have a preference, I state it. For example, where I live, I never allow a cabbie to take Davie despite it's obvious / shorter -- taking Pacific might be slightly longer but so, so much faster.
    – user4188
    Nov 29, 2016 at 15:04

9 Answers 9


The City of Boston's Hackney Carriage Rules [PDF], section 5.II.y:

Passenger’s Right to Direct Route: Hackney Carriage Drivers shall take such route to the destination as the passenger shall so direct.

So you are absolutely allowed to declare your own route, and the driver must follow it. The Rules explain what recourse you have if they refuse.

NYC has a similar rule, and I imagine other cities do, as well.


I always do it if I think the route is not optimal. You are paying the bill after all!


Cabbies almost always choose the route they think is going to be the quickest, not the shortest. That's because a busy cabbie will lose money whenever they are stuck in traffic - the extra on the meter for stopped time doesn't make up for the fact that they could be getting another fare. So if you try to direct them to a shorter but slower route they will complain (it's also unlikely that you will save money). Some cabbies will try to take you a long route if they think they aren't going to get another fare, to get more money from you. In either case the route should be up to you - although that doesn't mean they will be happy about it. If you really think the cabbie is ripping you off you shouldn't worry about 'etiquette'.

The exception is if you've agreed a fixed price in advance. Then you should leave the route to the driver. They will want to do it as fast as possible anyway.

  • If you can choose between a metered and a fix price, you can be sure that the fix price is ripoff. Unless the fixed prices are officially dicated, like e.g. at Tel-Aviv airport. Nov 19, 2012 at 20:13
  • @MarcelC. Same in NYC. Airport - Any borough is usually fixed price. Though tolls are extra
    – Karlson
    Nov 19, 2012 at 20:28
  • @DjClayworth: Then it appears that in my area we have a greater than average share of not almost always cabbies who bring people to my hostel in Sydney from the airport for a good $10 to $20 more than we know the price should be. Maybe you're talking specifically about Boston cabbies (-; Nov 20, 2012 at 0:36
  • @Karlson In NYC, the only fixed price airport route is between JFK and Manhattan. To other boroughs or other airports is by meter (unless you're going outside city limits, in which case you negotiate a fixed fare in advance). nyc.gov/html/tlc/html/passenger/taxicab_rate.shtml
    – Laura
    Nov 20, 2012 at 18:31
  • @Laura I stand corrected.
    – Karlson
    Nov 20, 2012 at 18:42

If you don't want to get into a long discussion about which route is quicker at this time of day, you can always invent an innocuous reason. "Could you go via the park? I'd like to see whether the trees are in leaf yet/ past the museum? I'd like to see what the queue is like for the exhibition." You're not challenging the driver's ability, and if you're paying, he can't really object.

  1. I usually open the conversation with a knowledgable-sounding comment on the traffic: "What would b the best route at this time - over the bridge, or through the tunnel". I just make sure first that there is a bridge or tunnel in that city.

  2. Last week in Milan, Italy, I had the experience of substantially longer routes taken by the taxi driver, and I would just pull out Google Maps on my mobile phone and say - can you help me follow along. This technique helped in both instances.

  3. In many cities, fixed fares to the airport are available from hotels and business districts and are usually reasonable and both parties are happy.


Yes you can. The customer is king. But it's not sure that the customer will save money by doing that. Also note that the shorter route is not necessarily the fastest. It depends on traffic conditions.


I don't see why not. I used to live across the Mississippi River from the Metrodome in Minneapolis. Once I took a cab to the Metrodome. The driver turned to go down town, a long way to get to the Metrodome. I asked the driver if there was a good reason for going downtown when the tenth avenue bridge would have taken us right to the Metrodome. The driver turned off the meter and took us to the Metrodome.


This is probably the first time in my life I've heard 'taxi' and 'etiquette' mentioned together in a sentence!

However, I don't think its a form of etiquette, think of it as professional courtesy. You both know the city and if you're certain about your route, it should at least be open for debate. At least, that's my opinion.

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    It's not really about debate but goals: Yours - get to where you're going as fast as possible and as cheap as possible, Theirs - make as much money as possible from you.
    – Karlson
    Nov 19, 2012 at 20:27
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    @Karlson no, to make as much money as possible. If there's another passenger waiting when you're done, they can make money from that one without risking a loss of their license ripping you off. Nov 19, 2012 at 23:16
  • @KateGregory: Then it becomes a game of probabilities: How far out of your way can the driver take you before annoying you : How likely is there to be a fare nearby when he drops you off? Nov 20, 2012 at 0:32
  • From this point on this becomes a topic for math.stackexchange.com :)
    – Digitalis
    Nov 20, 2012 at 0:43
  • @KateGregory Making the most money as possible in total and from each individual are not necessarily mutually exclusive goals
    – Karlson
    Nov 20, 2012 at 2:24

I once instructed a taxi to drive miles on surface streets from JFK to Brooklyn instead of any parkways. I checked that I was entitled to do so. It was much shorter. The flight had landed about 5:30 a.m., we were going to a Bat Mitzvah at 10:00 a.m., and then back to the airport for the final leg of our flight in the evening. Even missing every light we we three hours early for the ceremony, and the cabbie was not very happy.

  • That must depend on where in Brooklyn you're going. Most drivers, probably 80%, take Atlantic Avenue from my home to JFK instead of the Long Island Expressway without my having to ask. I've stopped specifying a route, actually, unless the internet tells me that traffic is much worse on one or the other, because the fare difference is rarely more than five or ten dollars and the time difference rarely more than ten minutes. I live near downtown Brooklyn, though; for other neighborhoods the difference is surely more significant.
    – phoog
    May 13, 2018 at 4:43

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