Warning-Santiago Airport Taxis

Apr 6th, 2010, 08:40 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2009
Posts: 87
Warning-Santiago Airport Taxis

Returned last week from what was, overall, a great trip to Chile and Argentina. However, we had a bad experience at the very beginning, when we flew into Santiago Airport. We had arranged with our hotel for a taxi to meet us. However, there was no signboard with my name on it. As we walked out of the clutter, a guy with a clipboard and official-looking uniform of some type approached us, and asked if he could schedule a taxi for us. We told him we were waiting for a reserved taxi. He then asked if I had a telephone number he could call for us. with his cell phone. I did--and he did. "There was no answer". Then he asked what name we were looking for. I told him (Mistake #1--he could have quickly had a signboard made up with my name). Then he walked around the area again--no luck. We were scheduled to meet a tour company at our hotel, and were running late, so we decided to just get another taxi. So our "friend" called a guy over (Mistake #2--we should have gone back to some booths inside that said "Official Taxis", or something to that effect. However, with the airport terminal still out of commission from the earthquake, everything seemed rather temporary and confusing.) We did have the presence of mind to ask how much the fare would be. "$25 or $30--is that OK?" That was about what we were expecting. We then asked if the driver would accept American dollars--we had not yet had a chance to change any money. He said "No" --but the driver would stop at an ATM so we could change money. Our "friend" pulled our bags over to the taxi in the parking lot, and loaded them in the trunk. He then asked if it was OK if he rode along as far as his office in the city. I said "No problem", but my friend (we were two women) said she would rather he did not. He said "I understand", and walked off. As we were driving off, my friend said that a friend of hers had run into a similar situation, and had been robbed by the two men. (Mistake #3. In this situation, we should have left the cab--but I don't know if we would have been able to retrieve our luggage). In a few minutes, our driver pulled up to a gas station/convenience store, and said there were ATM's inside--as there were. I went to one, and after a couple initial problems, I managed to get $100 worth of pesos. I had made sure to shield my hand while entering my PIN, but then moved away while trying to count the unfamiliar bills, and left my ATM card in the machine. (Big mistake #4) Then, I went to the counter to buy a candy bar to get some smaller change. In the meantime, my friend was still at the next machine, trying to get her cash, with the help of the taxi driver. When she succeeded, the taxi driver came over and handed me my ATM card, saying I had forgotten it. I thanked him warmly, and mentally kicked myself. However, I remembered being careful to shield my PIN, so thought that it was probably OK. Back in the taxi, our driver asked if we would pay him immediately so that he could get gas. First, we asked how much, and he told us in Spanish what appeared to be eight 10,000 peso notes. We said we wouldn't pay him then, and figured out that would amount to about $160. We went back & forth for awhile, and then he called "his office". The "dispatcher" said that was the correct amount--eight $10,000 notes. He didn't know what the guy at the airport had told us, but that wasn't correct. And, we should just pay the driver right away. But my friend told him that we wouldn't pay until we got to the hotel and verified the correct charge with the hotel clerk. Then, we were told that wouldn't work because the hotel clerk does not speak English. Well, we finally arrived at the hotel, and the clerk who spoke English well, talked with the driver, and told us we owed him 15,000 pesos. I gave him the fare, and he shook our hands and wished us a nice stay in Chile, without a trace of guilt on his face. The hotel clerk said she was glad we hadn't given him what he asked, because many travelers are confused by the money, and just pay what is asked. We felt pretty savvy until I got back home, and discovered that an additional $400 had been taken out of the ATM immediately after my withdrawal. I'm filing a fraud report, but have no realistic hope of recovering any of that. I guess I was lucky, though. I had a $500 daily limit on my ATM card (and have since decreased that to $300). And--I think we are very lucky that we didn't get robbed. Hopefully, my warnings will save someone else from an unpleasant experience. I know I have learned a valuable lesson or two.
kameo903 is offline  
Apr 6th, 2010, 08:49 AM
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 17,575
Wow...thanks for posting your somewhat embarassing situation. Although Chile is generally a pretty safe place to travel, there are crooks everywhere.

What was the airport like? Is the international terminal building completely closed? Where did you pick up your luggage? There used to be a shared shuttle service (Transvip) in the international terminal. I wonder if they are still there? I figured they were cheaper than a hotel transfer and safer than an independent taxi.
mlgb is offline  
Apr 6th, 2010, 10:16 AM
Join Date: May 2008
Posts: 206
We got back from Chile mid March. At that time (about three weeks ago), they were using part of the international terminal for departures to complete immigration. You waited there and boarded your flight from the terminal. We did the international check in for LAN at the same tent terminal as for domestic, but some other airlines used different areas. I only arrived in Santiago airport on domestic flights, and they placed the baggage in rows on the concrete and you walked around to find your bag. Transvip was providing service as before and we used them. You can reserve on line in advance to avoid the original poster's problem.
traveler318 is offline  
Apr 6th, 2010, 01:46 PM
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 12,269
thanks for posting your being scammed

excellent reasons all

to get the hotel pickup and wait for it...

or use a labeled taxi from the cab stand

approved by SCL authorities.
qwovadis is offline  
Apr 6th, 2010, 01:49 PM
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 1,322
I am sorry this happened to you but you never get a taxi with some random driver wandering around the terminal in South America (or anywhere else, I think). There are booths for the official taxis both inside the customs area before you exit to the public areas of the airport and at desks outside. The price is fixed and you pay at the desks not the driver. The pirate drivers are like flies; the police clear them out and back they come. They will hang a card saying official taxi around their necks but they are just cruising sharks. You seem to have picked some professional thieves rather than just a pirate taxi. Your friend was quite right to refuse to take the second man in the taxi.

Before you come, familiarize yourself with the bills and roughly how much they are worth so you don't get fooled. There are plenty of images online. They count on you being tired and unfamiliar with the currency. You do not need anyone to 'help' you with your ATM transaction. Bottom right on the menu says foreign transactions. Instructions in both Spanish and English.

The terminal is now working normally (as of 28th March). Only passengers are allowed inside the building as minor repairs are still going on.
Huentetu is offline  
Apr 6th, 2010, 03:55 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2009
Posts: 87
Good tips, everyone. I posted this so that others would not follow my example. I know there are thieves everywhere, so this does not apply only to Santiago. I figure forewarned is forearmed. When we flew in, on March 7, we picked up our luggage out on the tarmac, and then pulled it through a temporary setup for immigration and customs. All the taxis, etc. were in a tented area around the exit. One good thing--we did not get charged the reciprocity fee. I guess that offsets my ATM loss somewhat.
kameo903 is offline  
Apr 6th, 2010, 04:04 PM
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 17,575
Well that was nice about no reciprocity fee! Your fellow traveler did do well to keep things from being worse..I hope you shouted her a nice big drink.
mlgb is offline  
Apr 6th, 2010, 09:46 PM
Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 12,176
Thanks for posting your experience. The trip to South America is so long that you can easily not have 100% of your wits about you when you disembark. This is a good reminder to think carefully and move slowly.
WillTravel is offline  
Apr 14th, 2010, 07:02 PM
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 378
Wow! Thanks for sharing. We have all been caught off guard from time to time. It is easy to say we wouldn't do anything like that, but when under the pressure of time, no taxi, etc. it is easy to veer off our normal precautions. I am going to Chile later this year and this type of post is invaluable. Thanks again
nonstop is offline  
Apr 15th, 2010, 05:27 AM
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 1,322
nonstop, just use official transport: taxi, minivan or bus, and you will be fine.
You are right, jet lag often makes us lower our guard.I was at the airport earlier this week and saw a woman leave her suitcase with her handbag on top of it while she moved away to talk to a guide. I am sure she would not do that in her own home airport. When I alerted her, she looked horrified and quickly collected her things. She was probably tired and felt safe in a group. That is why it is good to book the taxi inside the customs area so the driver meets you at the door as you emerge and takes you directly to the taxi.
Huentetu is offline  
Apr 16th, 2010, 01:58 PM
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 4,074
I am so sorry Kameo3 , we have talked endless here to be careful with taxis at airports, Although we were focusing on Buenos Aires such advice is transferable to all South America, and also to all the world. For instance in Prague although we took an official taxi from the booth, upon arriving to the hotel he tried to keep the large denomination bill in local currency
we wished to pay him with, giving us no change.( We were unable to get small denomitation bills in Paris where we were coming from)
He did not succeded but it was quiet a struggle.
Always find before hand how to get from the airport to the hotel upon arriving. Know your options in case there are no taxis ...
In does not hurt either to call the hotel long distance and double check how much you are supposed to pay a taxi to get to that particular hotel. I always do this and it very helpful.
Graziella5b is offline  
Mar 5th, 2019, 02:53 AM
Join Date: Mar 2019
Posts: 1
nice thanks for your travel experience..
airporttransferlk is offline  
Mar 6th, 2019, 06:48 AM
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 17,575
Originally Posted by airporttransferlk View Post
nice thanks for your travel experience..
This post is nearly 9 years old, people,

And I wonder why the person who topped it, didn't notice that it is posted in South America, not Sri Lanka.
mlgb is offline  

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