We were warned by the hotel to take only yellow taxis with numbers on the door; they are official taxis, all equipped with meters. It doesn’t happen often, but apparently “fake” taxis occasionally pick up tourists and either rob them or take them to a remote place, driving them to their destination only after extorting a higher fare.
Like many ideas, it sounded good in theory but didn’t necessarily work in practice. Like when it was raining, we were standing on a deserted street after dinner at a restaurant, and there wasn’t a yellow cab in sight.
I went back into the restaurant to ask them to call a cab.
“There is one there,” said the hostess, gesturing to a car parked at the curb. Its lights were off, there were no numbers on the door, and it was white.
“That’s a taxi?” I said, dubious.
“Yes,” she said. She picked up a spare umbrella and walked Husband and me over to the car. The driver rolled down his window. He was a clean-cut guy with a nice smile. You know, like Ted Bundy was.
The restaurant hostess asked me the name of our hotel, I told her, and she repeated it to the driver.
“It’s okay,” she said, opening the backseat door. “Get in.”
I looked at Husband. The rain by now was coming down in sheets. There were no other cars, let alone taxis, on the road. He nodded and we got in.
I immediately noticed there was no meter. “How much to [name of our hotel]?” I asked in English.
“Ten? It was only two to get here!” I said to him in Spanish.
“You speak Spanish? Then the price is eight dollars.”
“Eight? In all my trips to Ecuador, I’ve never encountered such piracy,” I replied in Spanish. (I wanted to say “robbery,” but I couldn’t remember the word. The rest of our conversation was in Spanish.)
“You have visited Ecuador before? Then the price is six dollars.”
“Six dollars? Wait until I tell my sister. She lives here, in the Buenavista neighborhood.” [I don’t
have a sister.]
“You have family in Quito? Then the price is four dollars.”
Husband put a hand on my arm. “I think you can stop now, hon.”
I sat back in my seat, still dissatisfied. After a moment, I spoke up again.
“You’re not really a taxi, are you,” I said.
The driver hesitated, then shook his head. “Not exactly.”
“What does that mean?”
“Do you know the Uber?”
“Of course. But there’s no Uber in Quito. I checked the app.”
He straightened in his seat. “I will be the first one.” He paused, then added. “As soon as the Uber comes to Quito.”
I still didn’t think I’d gotten the whole story. “What about the lady in the restaurant? Do you pay her to recommend you?”
He looked shocked. “Of course not! She is my cousin.”
I’m happy to report we made it back to the hotel in the first unofficial Quito Uber. And the fare was only two dollars.