The Essential Transport Guide to NYC Taxis

Shouting “taxi!” in an NYC street is a rite of passage that every tourist and New Yorker has to go through, improve and perfect over time to guarantee themselves punctual transportation to their destination.

Unlike other cities in the United States, driving is not a convenient way to get around in NYC. Instead, New Yorkers rely on the over 13,000 taxi cabs to traverse the city.

Let’s dive into the world of NYC taxis to make sure you know all the essentials about how they work, information, fares and ways to remain safe in the Big Apple.

taxis in the street in nyc
One of the most quintessential NYC icons: the yellow cabs! Photo credit: André-Pierre du Plessis

A brief intro to taxis in NYC

The New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission ( known as the TLC) is the city’s agency that oversees and licenses the famous medallion “yellow” taxis. 

Every taxi has a medallion number, which is found on top of the taxi roof, on its side doors, on the plexiglass partition, and on your receipt. This ID number is important for filing a complaint or locating a lost item.

Insider’s tip: It’s against the law for a taxi driver to refuse service based on race, disability, or a destination in New York City. All NYC taxi drivers are required to drive a passenger to any destination in the five boroughs.

man walking on a street in nyc with a taxi nearby
Getting a hang of the way taxis work in NYC is pretty simple. Photo credit: Diego Torres

How to hail a taxi in NYC

To hail a taxi, simply wave to approaching cabs from the curb.  Available taxis will have medallion numbers on their roofs illuminated. If the number is dark, the cab is already busy, so don’t feel discouraged if they don’t stop for you—it’s not personal! If the words “off duty” are illuminated, the taxi is unavailable.

It can be difficult to find an available taxi when demand peaks (i.e. rush hour, when it’s raining, etc.), if you need to take a cab during this time you may want to plan ahead. Another time when taxis are scarce is late afternoon (around 4:30 p.m.), when cabs return to their bases to change shifts.

The maximum number of passengers allowed in a standard NYC taxi by law is four.  When the backseat is crowded, one passenger is permitted to sit beside the driver.

Here’s a video we’ve created with practical tips from folks who know NYC taxis better than anyone else: New Yorkers.

Knowing how to hail a taxi is a crucial skill for any tourist in NYC.

How much is a standard taxi fare in NYC?

NYC taxi fares are determined by a meter that should be activated as the taxi begins the journey. Meters charge by a combination of distance and time.

Taxi drivers must turn on a meter for every ride that isn’t prearranged, and there are different rate codes. The Standard City Rate is “Rate Code 1.” Tips are not included. You can read everything about the updated fares on the official TLC website.

Keep in mind: if you’re late to meet your taxi, or are organizing a ride late night or early morning, you’ll be subject to additional fees. Any tolls (bridge, tunnel, etc.) are also additional fees to the metered fare.

There are other four Rate Codes that you’ll have to take in consideration:

  • Rate Code 2 is for trips between Manhattan and JFK Airport
  • Rate Code 3 are trips to Newark-Liberty International Airport
  • Rate Code 4 is for trips to the Counties of Westchester and Nassau
  • Rate Code 5 is for trips on an agreed flat fare that go beyond NYC
top of taxi cab
If you haven’t hailed a taxi, have you even been to New York? Photo credit: Will

Can I take a taxi to the NYC airports (JFK, LGA, EWR)?

Yes, you certainly can! There is flat-fee fare for rides from Manhattan to JFK Airport. For more information, read our detailed article, and the official TLC website.

Take in consideration that you may have to account for the additional tolls and fees, including the Airport Access Fee. In order to be sure, you may want to e-hail or prearrange a ride where you can also make sure to select a yellow NYC taxi.

There is no charge for luggage or belongings transported in the interior of any NYC taxi, or for use of the taxicab’s trunk.

Person hailing a NYC taxi sunny day
Hailing a NYC taxi is something you’ll definitely have to do during your trip to the city. Photo credit: Ono Kosuki

What are my rights as a NYC taxi passenger?

As a NYC taxi rider, you have the right to pay for your ride with card, go to any destination in NYC and direct the route taken, among many other fundamental rights that the service providers are obliged to respect, we have compiled a practical image with a full list of these for you to check and know your rights (as extracted from the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission):

Taxi Passenger's Bill of Rights
Photo credit: New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission

With this in mind, always get a receipt from the driver. You will need the medallion number to inquire about any lost property, file a complaint, or even compliment a driver’s exceptional job. As you can see, NYC is working hard to keep their emblematic yellow taxis working as optimal as possible.

Tipping taxi drivers is customary, but also discretionary. Generally, rounding up the fare $1 – $3 is common. When paying by credit card, the payment system will offer different choices. You can choose the option that you’re most comfortable with. Tipping is not required, particularly for rude service, delays caused by the driver, etc.

Insider’s tip: Passengers can make multiple stops per trip. The meter is left running and payment is made at the final destination. Take this in consideration when sharing a cab.

How can I get an accessible taxi dispatch in NYC?

All taxi base stations are required to provide wheelchair-accessible services at an equivalent price and level of service, anywhere in the five boroughs. To schedule a pickup, you have multiple options like calling 311, any base station, 711, or use the Accessible Dispatch Mobile App

For wheelchair accessible taxis, the driver will lower a manual ramp so a wheelchair can roll into the taxi. Inside, the wheelchair is secured in place. Drivers are trained to help the passenger and properly secure the wheelchair. 

Accessible NYC taxi
You can get an accessible NYC taxi anywhere in the five boroughs. Photo credit: Tim Samuel

You should also know…

Drivers are not permitted to use cell phones or any kind of hands-free device while driving.

Traffic (rush hours, Friday afternoons), construction work, double-parked vehicles, and street closures can make NYC taxi rides slow going and more expensive. Keep this in mind, if you can, when deciding when you’ll take a taxi.

If you’re in an accident, and need to obtain a taxi’s insurance information, remember that you will need the car’s license plate number. We recommend taking a picture, or writing down the number as soon as possible. If you were a passenger and you paid for the service, keep the receipt as all the necessary information is also included there.

To file a complaint about a driver or taxi online, go here, or call 311.

Person and NYC taxi during night
When getting a NYC taxi, keep in mind the peak hours and traffic. Photo credit: James Genchi

As you can see, getting a taxi in NYC can be quite an adventure, and now you have all the necessary resources, knowledge and tips to make the best out of it, stay safe and enjoy the ride.

Remember, New York City can be a congested city, and even when there seem to be a lot of yellow cabs at all points, it can be quite a challenge at certain points of the day to get yourself into a free taxi. That’s why there are apps like Cabsense, a free mobile app that uses GPS data to help you find the best corner to catch a cab. Make sure to look around, pay attention to the illuminated medallion numbers and stand at a place where it can be relatively easy for the taxi to stop. We’re sure you’ve got this!

If you feel like walking, make sure to check our guided tours around some of the most important NYC landmarks, where you can just focus on enjoying the city and discovering all its secrets.

Update Notice: This post was updated on November 27, 2023.

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About the author

Fiona's an Irish travel writer who has made New York City her home for the past 10 years. While she frequently returns to Dublin, she's captivated by the vibrant food, diverse people, and rich culture of NYC. Fiona's passion for travel extends beyond NYC and her homeland—she frequently explores new destinations, documenting her adventures and sharing her lively stories.

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