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Using Taxis Safely Overseas

By Juan A. Garcia Jr.
(From Global Link – 4/2007)

Taking a taxi overseas can be a serious security risk. Gone are the days when a friendly cabbie would eagerly take you safely to your destination. Today many cab drivers are part of criminal gangs that prey on unsuspecting expatriates and tourists. Crimes committed can include armed robberies, physical assaults and kidnappings. Single female victims are especially targeted and run the risk of being brutally assaulted and robbed.

One method of attack occurs when a passenger is picked up and driven to a specific location where a gang of criminals is waiting to rob the victim. Another is where the driver drives to a designated location and other attackers get in the taxi and violently force the victim to surrender their valuables. These methods indicate that the attack has been pre-planned and often weapons such as handguns and knives are used to control and force the victim to submit. Express kidnappings are also carried out in this manner. The victim is driven around and forced to withdraw money from their ATM accounts.

For female victims the chances are great that a sexual assault will take place. Criminals target females who are alone, young, and perceived to be easy targets.

So how can someone reduce the chances of being a victim while riding in a taxi overseas? Simply by pre-planning. If you are an expatriate living overseas you should research every cab company that services your area. Questions that you should ask are:

  • What color cabs are the safest?
  • Are there certain markings that you should look for?
  • Are there crime statistics for cab assaults in particular locations?
  • Is the driver’s picture and license readily available?
  • Does the cab have a radio, and a meter?
  • Does the cab look legitimate?

Many times this important and simple question is ignored.If you are planning to take a cab, call for it yourself and ask the dispatcher to supply the cab’s number. If staying in a hotel ask the staff for their recommendation and utilize their selection. When flying into a country you can also pre-plan by contacting the local embassy and requesting further information.

Other helpful hints include:

  • Know the route the cab should take if possible.
  • Continue to observe everything around you as you’re being driven.
  • Let someone know if possible what time you got into the cab and what company you are using.
  • Try not to reveal too much if anything about your plan to a cab driver. Let them know someone is expecting you.

For diplomats and expatriates using taxis overseas is imperative to conducting business. A good plan begins with proper research and awareness of your environment. Remember that security is your responsibility. You must be prepared for the unexpected.

Juan A. Garcia Jr. is the Owner and Chief Instructor of High Risk Security Services. HRSS specializes in providing personal security/anti-kidnapping training and consulting services for executives, expatriates, travelers, and organizations worldwide.

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