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You’ve seen them before: those yellow cars with the light on top of the roof that says “taxi” in bright, bold letters. Your knowledge about taxicabs and drivers comes from an extensive career of watching movies or television shows. Or maybe your taxi smarts come from travel stories your friends and family have told you over the years.

But you’ve never been inside a taxi, and you know that you’ll need one sooner or later. Whether you have to travel to another state or a foreign country, you anticipate taking a cab from the airport to your hotel, office, friend’s house, or another location.

Whether you’re about to take your first cab ride or hop in the cab for what seems like the thousandth time, use the following tips to enjoy more of your taxi experience.

1.Call ahead.
You might feel intimidated or shy to hail a taxi, especially if you’ve never ridden in cab. Rather than waving your arms and missing ten taxis in a row, call the cab company and ask for a taxi to meet you at your pick-up location. This way, you’ll never have to wait for a ride to your next location.

You can also ask the dispatcher for a fare estimate ahead of time. You’ll know roughly how much your ride will cost before you even leave your house, office, or the airport.

2.Know the cab company’s name.
In case you encounter an issue during your drive between locations, you’ll need to know to whom you should speak or report the problem. You can ask the driver about the cab company, and make note of it on your phone or a piece of paper. Also record the taxi number and the driver’s name if at all possible.

If you accidentally left one of your belongings inside the taxi, you’ll also know whom to contact. Most cab drivers deliver forgotten items to the Fleet manager. You’ll likely find your missing item at the cab company’s office.

3.Know your location ahead of time.
When you visit a city, you should know the exact address of where you want to go and give it to the cab driver. If possible, you should also know which landmarks are nearby, just in case the cabbie isn’t familiar with the location. If your cab driver doesn’t know where to go, don’t be afraid to use the GPS on your phone to guide him or her to your destination.

4.Look for the flag or light.
If you’ve never ridden in a taxi, you might not know how to tell an occupied cab from an available one. Look for the flag or light. If you see a raised flag on the cab, then the taxi is empty. At night, taxis use lights on top of the vehicle to alert passengers that the cab is available.

5.Pay with cash or card.
If you’re not sure how to pay for your cab fare, don’t worry. You can pay in cash or you can use your debit or credit card. However, most cab drivers accept only major credit cards such as Visa, MasterCard, or Discover.

If you pay in cash, carry small bills with you so that you can pay your exact fare. If you have larger bills, make sure the driver has change before you pay him or her.

6.Recognize a licensed taxi.
Some unlicensed drivers operate illegal taxicabs and look for passengers desperate for a taxi. These drivers tend to charge outrageous cab fares and don’t follow the same regulations as licensed cab drivers do.

Always check the cab for a licensed sticker and meter. Some taxis might have the licensed sticker stamped onto the rear window. The licensed sticker tells potential passengers that the taxi has official state vehicle certification.

7.Remove your belongings first.
Every once in a while, you might come across a forgetful cabbie. He or she may accidentally drive off before you’ve removed your luggage from the trunk or back seat. The best way to avoid runaway suitcases, purses, or backpacks, is to remove your items from the cab before you pay the cab driver. He or she won’t leave you until you’ve paid your fare, so this method allows you the chance to collect your possessions.

Now that you know how to approach taxis like a pro, you can feel comfortable hailing a cab any time. Keep these tips in mind as you hop in a taxicab for the first (or even for the hundredth) time.