How to hail a cab in NYC

October 20, 2016
Nikki Padilla

We asked Nikki, our local guide and expert in New York City, how to properly hail a cab so you don’t look like a silly tourist flapping your arms about on Broadway.

1. Get on a street that’s headed in the direction you want to go. Aim to be toward the beginning of the block, just past the corner (so you can attract the attention of cabs on the cross-street as well).

2. Step to the edge of the sidewalk. You’ll see many New Yorkers standing a few steps into the street but if you copy that, please be careful of traffic — especially bikes!

3. Do NOT wave your hand frantically (please, it looks ridiculous). Wait until you see a cab approaching with its light on (if the light is not on, that means they are already occupied and cannot stop). Look carefully, as it can be a bit hard to see — it’s the number in the front of the cab that lights up.

Taxis in New York City

4. When you see a cab, stretch your hand in the air. Some people give a little wave, some don’t. But if you do wave, know that once is enough. If you make eye contact and see the car heading toward you, you can put your hand down.

5. When you enter the cab, it’s polite to thank the driver and ask how they’re doing today.

Important to know:

Yellow cabs are for use within Manhattan. Green cabs are for use in Queens, Brooklyn, and the Bronx. They can only be hailed in those boroughs — you cannot hail a green cab in Manhattan, only yellow cabs.

New Yorkers, cabbies included, do not use addresses. (If you ask us where 350 5th Avenue is, we’ll have no idea. If you ask us where the Empire State Building is, we can tell you exactly where it is). We use cross streets instead, or landmarks like the Empire State Building. Most cabbies will know the major midtown hotels and major museums, but just in case, tell them the street corner. For example, “I’m going to 8th Avenue, please, between 51st and 52nd Street” or “We’d like to go to 23rd Street at the corner of 5th Avenue please.”

Note that cabs are REALLY expensive. New Yorkers (who, as a rule, aren’t extremely wealthy) tend to only use cabs if: (1) they’re bringing home something heavy; (2) they’re headed home after a night out of dancing and the trains are too slow after 2am; or (3) the trains are running with delays and/or they’re late. The subway (and walking) is the #1 way New Yorkers get around the city.