Most of us had this happen at least once. You arrive in a foreign location, exit the airport and wander into a gauntlet of waiting taxis with drivers hailing you from afar. Not sure exactly where you are going and worried about spending two to three times as much as it should cost, you attempt to communicate with the drivers but even if one speaks English, you have no assurance they won't rip you off.
Here's a few common sense tips to smooth your transition and to avoid finding out (later) that you overpaid for a taxi when you arrived. This advice is useful even at home sometimes.
Firstly, NEVER leave the airport without an understanding of where you are going and how much it 'should' cost. The fact that YOU may know where you are going does not mean the driver does, even if they speak your language. In many foreign locations, there is no penalty for taxi drivers to charge more than the norm so they have little to risk by acknowledging your request when in fact they don't understand at all. And how do you get an idea of how far and how much it should cost?
If you didn't research this on the internet before leaving, simply ask people in the airport. Strangers, airline personnel, gift shop employees, airport porters - anyone who knows the local scene, lives there and or speaks your language can be a great help if they tell you your hotel is only 4 blocks away and should cost 15 (local currency). You then take this information in hand and negotiate with the drivers outside. Once they know you 'know the score', it should make negotiations much easier. It also tends to avoid the 'long way' through town routine that takes you nine blocks just to go four. This also deftly avoids the trap of paying 'meter' rates, where meters can have more than one fare setting - one rate for locals and one for tourists. (This is true in America as well)
Try to have local currency whenever possible and never have just large bills. Large bills are a recipe for disaster in foreign countries and you may be told the driver hasn't enough change or find the exchange rate quite high as a result.
Don't allow for side trips to the drivers favored tourist spots - jewelry or clothes stores, souvenir shops or any other assorted restaurants or massage parlors. On longer trips, you may not be able to avoid the driver stopping 'at home' or friends houses but if the fare was determined in advance, an extra stop will not set you back anything but time.
David C. Reynolds is a longtime veteran of the Hotel business who is the author of three travel tips e-books as well as a blog devoted to travel. Offers common sense, money saving advice on all aspects of travel. If you would like his FREE 2009 Travel Outlook Newsletter, visit http://www.traveltipsguy.com and make sure to visit his blog at http://www.bookhotelscheaper.com