Getting a taxi in Paris is very different from London or New York. There are over 16,500 of them driving around the city, so you’d think it would be simple: just stand on the curb and hail one down. But no. This is France, the country where things are never as easy as they seem. I’ve often found it frustrating when no taxi, even ones with illuminated green lights, want to stop for me. So I did some research to understand why this is…
Legally, a Parisian taxi is not allowed to stop if they are less than fifty meters from a taxi stand. They’re also not allowed to stop in bus lanes to pick you up. But this doesn’t explain the complicated light-color system. While nowadays most taxis show a simple red (not free) green (free) light, there are still some older ones that have not updated to the new rule, which was enforced in 2012. With the old Paris taxi signs, a taxi’s white roof sign is lit up when the cab is free and turned off when the cab is unavailable. What can be confusing are the three small lights under the taxi sign. These are “fare lights”, which show what zone fare is being charged.
Once you get into the taxi, the meter will already start at over 2 euros for a daytime journey. More if it’s late at night, or on Sundays. If you’ve asked your hotel, or reserved a taxi yourself, you should know that the driver starts his meter from the moment he receives the call, even if he is some distance away. This can be quite a shock for tourists who aren’t traveling far, and find themselves with ten euros on the meter before even opening the door.
Cabs only accept cash, not credit cards. But if you’re nice, and you realize you haven’t got enough money on you, ask to stop at the nearest bank. Just make sure to say this once you’re in the car, not before!
While sometimes a taxi is the only option, Paris isn’t a huge city. For example, Notre Dame Dame to the Luxembourg Gardens might look far on the map, but it’s actually only a short ten minute walk. Public transport is also fairly reliable, and not expensive. A bus can be a nice way to rest your legs and see the city.