Getting around - taking a taxi in Loja

Whether you are a visitor or resident I can pretty much guarantee there will be a moment when you need a taxi. Even if you have your own personal vehicle there will be times when it may be at the mechanic's shop and you need a ride. Buses are one solution but taxis excel for convenience.

The city of Loja has over 1500 taxis on the streets so one seldom needs to wait very long to hail one. They sport the traditional yellow color and are marked with emblems on the doors and have a lighted sign on top. Note: on either side of the center "TAXI" white light is an indicator of available (Libre) in orange or occupied (Ocupado) in green.

A really cool thing about my city is our small fleet of eco-taxis - about 35 - that are powered by electricity instead of gas. Loja became the first city in Ecuador to have a fleet of electric taxis when these came into service in April of 2017. They are popular because they offer smooth rides, are quiet, and have the power to climb our hills better than many gas-powered vehicles. The cabs have zero emissions, can go 2-300 kilometers on a charge that costs $3.00, and have a battery life expectancy of 7 years.

Information for getting the best taxi experience...

Taxi fares vary a little by time of day. During daylight hours the fare on the meter starts at 40 cents, and a minimum fare is $1.25 regardless of how short the ride is. After 7 PM the starting rate is 50 cents and the minimum fare rises to $1.40. (Prices quoted are current as of publication - Oct. 4, 2019.) Loja is not a large city and traffic congestion is slight so traveling from one end of town to the other might be as much $3.00 or $4.00 but most rides will get you to your destination for under $2.00.

Eco-taxi in the boxy style with a higher roof
Eco-taxi in the boxy style with a higher roof
Loja's taxi drivers are quite honest in their money handling and will give you exact change if they have it (please pay with coins, or nothing larger than a $5 bill). Yet, these people work hard and have many expenses so it's a nice courtesy to offer a tip above the price on the meter. Some expats I know always round up, say from $1.25 to $1.50, or from $1.75 to $2.00. It's up to you, if you feel the taxista (driver) has earned a tip.

Some drivers will change the music on the radio to what they think you want to hear to make your ride more enjoyable and relaxing. For example, if you look like an older North American or speak to them in English they might put on some nostalgic "Oldies" music. Younger people might get newer tunes.

Taxistas in Loja vary, too. Some are older and have been driving for many years, others are younger who are getting started or filling in for a family member. Most all are men though there are a few female drivers. Most speak only Spanish but some have enough English to make conversation or to understand to where you want to travel. Like in other metropolitan areas, not all are from this city - they may be from someplace else in Ecuador, or even from another country.

Hailing a cab: if standing on a sidewalk then raise your arm no higher than your waist and waggle your hand - the custom here is to not raise your arm high and wave. You can also call for a cab using a phone, or signal for a ride using a phone app.

Regarding safety, if you are unsure, or find yourself in an unfamiliar area without a taxi app, then I suggest having someone call a cab for you. Hotels usually offer this service. Also, it is best to not get into a cab that has other passengers already seated inside unless you personally know them or it is a taxi ruta situation (see below).

If you use taxis a lot then you may find a particular taxista that you like more than others. Perhaps they speak English fluently, or are better-than-average careful drivers, or have a better vehicle. For whatever reason, don't be afraid to get their name and phone number. Most will be happy to respond to a call for a ride and, in a sense, become your "go-to" personal driver.

Sit in the front or back? Opinions differ on this. Some people feel safer in the backseat, others up front. I don't think it matters a great deal, but if you choose the front passenger seat then it's a good idea to wear the seatbelt - some drivers will even insist that you buckle up.

If you have packages or luggage in the trunk, I suggest not paying the driver until you have gotten out and retrieved them. It is exceptionally rare for a driver to take off but they don't always remember that you placed something in their trunk. I mentioned honesty before - there are several stories about drivers in Loja making above-and-beyond efforts to return items they find left in their cabs. Still, it is up to you to be responsible for your possessions.

For longer rides, such as to the airport or Vilcabamba, you may find that not every driver will be willing to take such a trek but most will and they usually have a set fee like $20 or $30. You just need to ask if they will take you and then negotiate a price.

Other options? Uber is not one in Loja. In fact, if the transit police suspect you have hired an "informal" driver then you and the driver may be fined. Best to stick to genuine taxis. You might also hear mention of something called taxi ruta which is a shared ride where the fare you pay depends on how many people are also taking the van. Taxi rutas are popular for folks heading to outlying villages.


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