How to Hail a Taxi Cab in New York City

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The “how to hail a cab in new york” is an article that will teach you how to get a taxi cab. The article also includes some helpful tips and tricks on how to use the app.

Vintage man wearing overcoat with luggage.

I was in New York City last weekend for business. I’ll tell you the truth. For this Oklahoma yokel, getting about New York was a bit scary. Growing up in the suburbs, where everyone has their own vehicle, I had limited experience navigating the congested streets of New York utilizing public transit.

I wanted to go to Katz’s Deli for one of their legendary pastrami sandwiches on my first night in Manhattan. I chose to take a taxi since it was just around 3 miles from my hotel. My first attempt at hailing a cab failed miserably. I stood on a corner, spotted a taxi coming my way, and raised my hand as I’d seen in a slew of New York-set films.

Zoom! The taxi driver sped straight by me.

“OK, maybe he didn’t see me…” I pondered.

Unfazed, I saw another taxi heading my way. I extended my hand with more vigour this time. Exactly the same thing. The taxi drove away, leaving me with my hand in the air like a fool.

I gave up and decided to go to Katz’s since I was starting to appear like a dopey tourist. (By the way, the pastrami sandwich was fantastic.) It’s pricey, but it’s worth it.)

Fortunately, most of the sites I needed to go during my two-day trip were within walking distance, so I avoided using taxis. However, my inability to hail a taxi correctly severely restricted the sites I could visit while in the city. I could have taken the metro, but it comes with its own set of complications for the uninformed.

On my final night in New York City, I ran across an old high school acquaintance who had been living in the city for a few years. I told him about my unsuccessful effort to hail a cab. He laughed, but as an immigrant from Oklahoma to New York, he totally understood how perplexing public transit can be. He was kind enough to give me a brief tutorial on how to hail a taxi , as well as some basic cab etiquette.

I’ve included what my buddy taught me here. While this article focuses on hailing a taxi in New York City, the most of the information is relevant to other large cities having taxi services.

Getting a Taxi that is Available

Off duty taxi sign board.

The first step in hailing a taxi is to locate one that is both available and on duty. My issue was that I was calling taxis that were either occupied or unattended. That is why they did not come to a halt for me. So, how do you figure out which cabs are available? It’s all a matter of how bright the lights are.

A roof light may be seen on the top of every taxi in New York City. It’s difficult to miss them. You’re looking for a number with the words “Off Duty” on each side of it. Pay attention to how the cabs are lighted up to determine which one is available.


  • Available Cab: Only the central number is illuminated. Hail to the skies!
  • None of the lights are turned on in the occupied cab. Don’t hail this taxi since it is already running a fare.
  • Both the center number and the “off duty” lights are turned on in the Off Duty Cab. Though, on occasion, I observed taxis with just the “off duty” lights turned on and no center light turned on, and they were still off duty. This taxi isn’t going to pick anybody up. Don’t bother hailing.

Here’s a fantastic visual that shows the different light combinations and what they signify in terms of availability:

Off duty taxi signs illustration.

Getting a Cab

Stand on the side of the road where traffic is flowing in the direction you want to travel. If you’re headed downtown, park on the side of the road where traffic is already heading downtown. It isn’t required, but it will save you time and money since the driver will not have to turn around and travel the other way.

Locate a suitable location. The greatest spots to hail a taxi are on street corners.

Take a few steps off the sidewalk and into the roadway. This helps drivers distinguish you from the rest of the sidewalk traffic. Don’t go too far out onto the street now. You don’t want the New York City Sanitation Department scraping your body parts off the sidewalk. However, staying a foot or two off the sidewalk will keep you safe and visible.

Extend your arm as though you’re serious about it. There’s no time for hesitancy or half-assedness. As though you’re a guy who understands where he’s heading in life, raise your arm up and out.

Don’t shout “Taxi!” or whistle. That’s something you’d only see in movies, and it makes you appear like a tourist. 

Take a good look at the driver. No, you’re not attempting to stalk him as a predator stalks its prey. Maybe a smidgeonononononononononononononon It’s easy to tell whether a car will stop for you if you establish eye contact with him. If he’s going to pull over, he’ll generally give you a nod.

Knowledge of Taxi Cabs at a Basic Level

Vintage man sitting in the taxi with briefcase.

At the airport, cabs are not hailed. To acquire a cab in New York City, you must first arrive at an airport and wait in line at the taxi stand. If you attempt to hail one, you’ll receive the stink eye.

Give an address rather of a location’s name. You may just give the driver the name of a well-known landmark in town, such as the Empire State Building. However, if you’re heading to a hotel, a friend’s residence, or a restaurant, mention the address or at least a nearby crossroads.

If you need to make many stops, let the taxi driver know right away. When hailing a taxi, you are permitted to make several stops. Stopping to pick up a buddy at his house before arriving at your ultimate location, for example. It’s only polite to inform the driver ahead of time.


A taxi can only hold four persons at a time. It is illegal to transport more than four people in a cab in New York City (and many other places). If you’re traveling with a big party, don’t ask the driver to accept an additional passenger only to save money.

Exit at the curb. First and foremost, put your safety first.

You may make a credit card payment. I didn’t realize this until I arrived in New York City, so I stocked up on cash. All Yellow Cabs in New York City have been fitted with a credit card reader since 2008. Cabbies make a big deal about credit card readers, and if you attempt to pay with plastic, you may encounter some pushback. However, keep in mind that drivers are compelled by law to take credit cards (other major cities have similar laws). Don’t listen to them if they try to convince you differently.

Man standing in front of taxi.

If your taxi driver asks you to pay in cash and looks like this, do so.

Etiquette in Taxis

Don Draper opening taxi door for Betty.

Even Don Draper, who cheated on his wife, showed some common taxi courtesy. Follow in your footsteps. The bit about opening the door. It has nothing to do with adultery.

Firsties. The unwritten rule is that the individual or group of persons waiting for a taxi gets the first cab to arrive. Everything is on a first-come, first-served basis. If you show any trepidation or uncertainty in getting into a taxi that has come to a halt for you, don’t be shocked if someone else takes it.

It is typical to tip 15% of the whole charge. Give the driver an additional $1-$2 per bag if he assists you with your bags.

Assist a woman into and out of a taxi. It’s polite to open the door for a lady, particularly if you’re on a date, and to grasp her hand for support as she slips into the vehicle. When you get at your location, get out and give the woman your hand as she exits the taxi.

Please share your cab tips with us, New York City locals. Those from other cities, as well as other countries, fill us in on crucial taxi know-how in their respective areas.



Watch This Video-

The “nyc taxi app” is a tool that allows users to hail a taxicab in New York City.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you hail a taxi in New York?

A: Sadly, I cannot hail a taxi in New York. You will need to find transportation by other means, such as taking the subway or finding a cab.

How do I hail a taxi cab?

A: To hail a taxi cab in Toronto, simply walk out of the designated area and wave your arm up and down. If you are within one blocks distance to where you want to go then it should be easy enough for someone to stop by.

How do you hail a cab in NYC 2021?

A: To hail a cab in New York City, you need to be at the curb and raise your hand up. You will then see an oncoming taxi drive over to you (hopefully).

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