Hailing a cab in New York is a rite of passage for your first-time visit.  

I still remember how excited I was to flag one down. 

I was trying so hard to do it exactly as I’d remembered seeing in movies over the years. I was so nervous I wouldn’t do it correctly, but (spoiler alert) I’m a pro now.

Follow these simple tips and you’ll learn how to hail a cab like a local in no time.

“The ability for somebody to put their arm out and get a taxi is fundamentally different than having a 10-minute pickup time. It just is.”

Travis Kalanick

5 Tips for a Perfect Cab Ride

1. Stick to Busier Intersections


I find it easiest to wrangle cabs at the busier intersections. Keep an eye out for a taxi that has its numbered rooftop light lit up. 

Local’s Tip: You can only hail yellow cabs in Manhattan. The green ones are strictly for passengers in Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx.

2. Confidence is Key

woman hailing a cab 2

Once you spot your target, confidently raise your hand up.

Don’t whistle or holler at the cab.

You’re better than those uneducated tourists! 

Just hold your hand up while looking directly at your cab until it pulls over.

3. Know Your Cross Streets


When the taxi has pulled over, get in (obviously) and tell the driver where you’re going. The best way to do this is by telling him or her the closest cross streets.

This means the area where two streets cross near the location you want to get dropped off at. 

Remember, you can always ask that they drop you off in front of a specific building once you’re in the area.

4. Don’t Forget to Tip

Hail a Cab Tipping 2

You can pay with cash or card. Always tip 15-20% if it was a safe and comfortable ride.

Local’s Tip: Some cabbies will demand cash claiming their card reader is broken. You have a legal right to pay with a card. If the card reader is actually broken, then they shouldn’t have picked you up.

5. Make a Safe Exit

BikeSign NYC

Make sure you exit on the side of the car that’s closer to the curb. 

Oh, and always check for cyclists before you open the door.

Once my friend didn’t look and a cyclist slammed right into the car door. It was terrifying, but thankfully nobody was hurt.

Enjoy the Ride

how to hail a cab cabs on 5th ave NYC 2

I’ve had many interesting cab rides over the years. Most of them were safe with wonderful silence (locals don’t love making small talk in cabs). 

Some rides, unfortunately, involved very unwelcome attempts at flirting from male drivers. And other rides involved drivers with awful taste music (or deodorant). 

Then there are my favorite cab rides. The ones filled with interesting conversations between two strangers. These always left me at my destination feeling grateful for a bit of spontaneous New York connection.

Hailing a cab is kind of like life, you never know what you’re getting into until you’re already there. May the odds be ever in your favor.


Leave a Comment