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Cozumel Transporation - Taxis (White Autos with Red Stripes & #'s)
Town of San Miguel

There are over 750 taxis on the streets of Cozumel at any given time and they provide transportation to locals and tourists alike. The vehicles do not have meters, but rather there is an established fare that drivers are authorized to collect depending on distance and zone. Each driver must have this fare schedule in his possession and present it to the customer when requested to do so.

Always ask the driver how much the fare is from point A to point B before getting in the taxi. Be certain that you have close to the exact amount because drivers rarely carry a great deal of change and occasionally claim they have none in hopes of keeping your change for themselves.

Calling a Cozumel Taxi: 872-0236

While you will almost always find taxis on the island's busier streets and waiting outside most hotels, you may have occasion to call a taxi to pick you up. You should be aware that if you need to catch an early plane or ferry, you would be better off calling one day prior to departure. Phones are generally not answered before 7:00 A.M., therefore, we suggest you call and schedule pick-up the night before your departure. Be aware that the individual answering the phone may speak little or no English, so if you are not a Spanish speaker, you may want to ask someone who is to do the calling for you. Again, be sure that you or the individual calling for you clarify what the rate will be from point A to point B.

All licensed taxis in Cozumel have a number painted on the side of the car. It's always a good practice to take note (OR SNAP A PICTURE!) of this number for several reasons. If a traveler feels a driver has abused the taxi rate structure, the taxi number can be reported and a complaint lodged. Also, it is not uncommon for travelers to accidently leave behind cameras and other valuables when exiting taxis. With the taxi number in hand and a quick call to the main taxi station, often the taxi dispatcher can radio a particular taxi driver to check if items were found. Typically taxi drivers can and will return items to their rightful owners.

It is customary to tip the gas station attendant and the kid who bags your groceries as well as taxi drivers in Mexico. If you feel that your driver has been especially friendly or helpful, you may wish to give him/her something extra!

BEWARE! Taxi Kickbacks are Driving Your Vacation Options & Costs!

Tourists typically believe that all one has to do is arrive in Cozumel, hail a taxi and go somewhere that they've pre-selected to enjoy their day or evening. It would be nice if it were that simple but honestly, the moment a tourist gets into a taxi, it's time for the driver to begin his "sales pitch" in order to earn MORE money from your necessity to get somewhere without walking.

Taxi kickbacks are incentive payments offered by restaurants, beaches, hotels and tour providers to get the taxi drivers to bring tourists to their facility for business. THESE BRIBES ARE IN ADDITION TO THE ALREADY INFLATED TAXI RATES TRAVELERS ARE CHARGED.

Since the taxi unions have a monopoly on transporting tourists around the island, they pretty much dictatate who stays in business and who fails. For those businesses that refuse to pay these "kickbacks" or "incentives" and have "out of the way" locations ~ tourist business is virtually non- existent.

The way the taxi drivers operate goes something like this ~
Tourists get into a taxi with a map or address of where they want to go and as they are loading into the taxi of course the driver is very friendly, speaking in English and trying to gain the person's confidence. Once travelers advise the driver their desired destination, the taxi driver will do one of 3 things ~

1. If it is a place where he gets paid a kickback ADDITION TO THE FARE BEING PAID, the driver will deliver the travelers to their desired destination without hesitation.

2. If the requested place is NEAR a place that pays a kickback, then the taxi driver will begin the journey to the desired location but all the while he will be talking about a place that he knows of that is better suited for tourists.

3. If the reqested destination is one that the taxi driver knows DOES NOT pay kickbacks, he will act like he doesn't know where the place is at all or he'll say that he thinks that location has closed. And of course he doesn't want to have to charge you for arriving to a location that is closed so the taxi driver will have alot of other suggestions to give you.

Now, perhaps there are those out there thinking this is no big deal ~ providing a taxi driver a little incentive to steer business one way or the other. If it were a couple of dollars, Insider might agree but the situation has gotten out of hand and the only way to put an end to it is to bring the practice out in the open like this and let tourists decide for themselves.

tourist want to go where they've researched and decided to go or do they want taxi drivers deciding for them based on how much of a kickback they will receive for delivery tourists to a destination?

Here are some examples of just how bad this kickback practice has gotten ~

1. Many beach clubs now not only pay cash kickbacks but provide free food and beverages as well as logo work shirts, seat covers and sunshields as incentives for the taxi drivers. So, as you get into a taxi, take a look at the work shirt the taxi is wearing or the stickers on his vehicle ~ it will give you a good idea of which beach he'll recommend you visit!

2. The "main theme" offered to visitors this past season by taxi and van drivers was "Let me take you to a beach, or restaurant or tour company far away from the ship beaches where the crowds go." Turns out the taxi drivers weren't driving all that distance with the visitor's best interest in mind. In fact, the taxis not only made the US$18-25 fare ONE WAY per 4 passengers from YOU the tourist, but the beach or restaurant or tour operator ALSO gave the driver as much as another $6 per person for bringing travelers there!

3. Please Note: The red and white taxis DO NOT HAVE A MONOPOLY ON THIS PRACTICE!!! All of the tourists who are setting up "CUSTOM" island tour vans using TOUR websites are subject to the same kickback practice. The reason is simple: only White & Red taxi drivers (who drive vans and sedans) have the valid licenses to transport tourists around the one else CAN GET the proper licenses. So they may paint their cars a different color or try other various tones of lipstick on the pig but at the end of the day tourists are still being driven around by Red and White taxi union drivers who exert pressure to stop at locations where they receive a kickback or spiff.

Many, many days this past season the TOUR vans (operated by the Red & White taxi union) would pull up in front of PalMar and the Butterfly Sanctuary at Dzul Ha Beach. The taxi van driver would leave the passengers inside the van and come over to the snack bar area to speak with the workers at the sanctuary/beach club including me (Sherri) personally on several occasions.

Comfortable  Private Tour VansThe driver would then say, "I have 12 people in my van that want to see the butterflies and spend the day here at your beach so what will you pay me to tell them you are open for business?"

If no kickback was offered, the driver turned around,walked back to the van, told the guests something and drove off to somewhere else that would pay him a kickback.

If a small "tip" (US$1 - 2 pp) was offered or a free beverage, the immediate answer was "Look, I get that for just pulling up in front of the other beaches farther south and they pay me even more if the tourists stay longer."

So short of giving the TOUR taxi van driver the full butterfly sanctuary admission price of $8 per person, it was made clear that NO business would come to the butterfly sanctuary this past season from taxi drivers. And it did not. That's why we started taking reservations in advance. We advised travelers they would be told we didn't exist or were closed but to please inisist to be brough to us. At least 50% of our guests were deliberately taken to the beach next door that DOES PAY INCENTIVES so our clients had to walk back up the road to us!

These kickbacks and bribes on Cozumel Island Tours are also the reason Insider gives travelers the ability to design their own tour in advance and helps make it clear to the drivers exactly where a group wants to go. Yet still, despite these efforts a few reports came back to us this past season that drivers paid no attention to the attraction list provided but instead just stopped where the driver wanted to stop. This is simply unacceptable! It's time for everyone to work together to the "kickback' payments to taxi and van drivers. After all, taxi fares and island tour rates are high enough as it is!!

So when a tourist assesses the situation and tries to determine where they might be taken by a driver ~ it's clear that you insist otherwise, travelers will be taken as far away as possible extract the biggest fare possible and to the beach or restaurant or tour company that pays the highest kickback. For tourists who are seeing the island by private van, rest assured that the drivers are being paid kickbacks to stop at each location he stops at unless it is made clear to the owner/manager the arrival was predetermined the driver's advice.

What can travelers do to deter this practice of kickbacks & incentives to taxi drivers?
1. Do not ask taxi drivers for suggestions since it is clear their motives have been corrupted by kickbacks and incentives.

2. Do some research, take a map with locations pre-selected and stick to it. Furthermore, upon arrival at a location, advise the owner or manager (show him the list/map, etc) that his business was PRE-SELECTED before getting into the taxi. And let the business know that YOU KNOW how the Cozumel taxi union system works and that you would appreciate it very much if any "kickbacks" or "incentives" for your patronage BACK TO YOU in the form of a discount on your meals and beverages.

So now after reading this, travelers know WHERE
all of the Cozumel discounts and good prices have gone!

Those percentage discounts are now kickbacks and incentives
(IN ADDITION TO the taxi fares travelers are paying!)
that go straight into the pockets of Cozumel van and taxi drivers!

Until tourists STOP patronizing the locations that are paying the biggest kickbacks to taxi drivers, there should be no expectation of better prices or discounts offered from businesses. Because Cozumel businesses are being forced to participate in the "taxi kickback" program or GO OUT OF BUSINESS. Yes...the taxi unions have become that strong in Cozumel and they know it!

to the taxi suggestions and go elsewhere to enjoy your time in Cozumel!

Recent Developments of the 2013 Season
As can been seen via the Cozumel taxi rate pages here on the website, taxi rates were raised yet again in December 2012 just in time for the high season. Rates have gotten so high that many "independents" with their own vans or big cars have resorted to "moonlighting" tourists around the island on tours for much less money than the taxis charge. In addition, a large bus company that came to the island years ago to operate the City bus system has also begun to expand their operations into tourist transport.

There have been numerous incidents whereby the Red & White taxis blocked the road so a bus of tourists could not pass and where some one's private van is blocked on all sides by taxis who refuse to allow the car and its patrons to leave. Instead the police are called by the taxi drivers and in the end, because the taxi union is so powerful and its thousands of members essentially elect the Mayor every 3 years here on the island, tourists have been forced to change vehicles and be driven for the rest of their journey by a Red & White taxi driver.

The Mayor changes this Fall of 2013 and it is hoped that he can work to eliminate this bullying and extortion being perpetrated by the Red & White taxi union drivers of Cozumel.

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