Taxi Long Hauling From the Airport in Las Vegas
When I took a taxi from the Aria hotel in Las Vegas to McCarran Airport in December 2011, the cab driver agreed with my assessment that approximately 3 out of 4 tourists who get into a cab at the Las Vegas airport (McCarran) are "long hauled"... which means the driver takes a longer route than necessary in order to inflate the cost of the ride. I came up with 75 percent because that's how often cab drivers in Las Vegas have attempted to long haul me over the twenty year period I've been visiting Las Vegas.
This is a serious problem. Imagine if restaurants doubled your bill for no reason. It's not just dishonest and a low level form of robbery, it's against the law. Any taxi driver who long hauls a customer in Las Vegas is risking a $500 fine. And after three fines they get fired.
Even though you can SEE that the Las Vegas strip is close enough to walk to while you're landing and the airplane is taxiing to the gate, 99 percent of tourists don't wonder why they see no sign of the strip while they're riding in a taxi from the airport. Below is a photo I shot from the airport.
And you CAN in fact walk to the Las Vegas strip from the airport without any difficulty. It's about 2 miles to the intersection of Tropicana & Las Vegas Blvd. You wouldn't want to carry luggage that far though.
The map below shows the most common route taxi drivers take when they want to cheat you. The red line is the "long haul" route to the center strip where they go through a tunnel at the south side of the airport that goes underneath the runways. You end up about two miles south of the airport, where the driver will get on Interstate 215, head toward Las Vegas Blvd., and then double back two miles to the north. The driver has taken you five miles to get about two miles from where you just were.
The green line shows the route a cab driver SHOULD take to the center strip from the airport. Instead of heading south to Interstate 215, the driver should take Swenson Street north to Tropicana; turn left on Tropicana, and it's two miles to Las Vegas Blvd. If you're staying at Luxor, Mandalay Bay, THEhotel, Tropicana, Excalibur or MGM Grand; those properties are all near the intersection of Tropicana and Las Vegas Blvd.
If traffic is heavy, and depending on which side of the strip your hotel is on; the driver might take some slightly different route; like taking Paradise, Swenson, Reno Ave. or Industrial Ave. to the back of the hotel instead of cruising Las Vegas Blvd. in front of the hotels. In any case, you should be on Swenson heading north out of the airport rather than going south through the tunnel.
On my ride from McCarran TO the Aria Hotel in December 2011, the Whittlesea Cab #5107 driver, a stoic Japanese man, took me on an even longer than normal long haul route. This guy had me way out in the middle of nowhere, going around in a big circle, so that we ended up at the north end of the airport after about 15 minutes of driving. Which is where we should have been after about two minutes. See the map below. The RED line is the SUPER long haul route. The green line is the route he should have taken.
This was my twentieth visit to Las Vegas. The guy didn't care; he didn't even think I might know the city; he just took me on a long LONG ride and even had the audacity to tell me "This is the shortest route."
What did I do? The same thing you should do when you're long hauled: call the police.
The Nevada Taxi Authority web site shows you approximate fares from McCarran to most of the tourist area hotels. If you get taken through the tunnel and the fare is way higher than what the web site says it should be, REFUSE to pay. Don't let the driver intimidate you, as my Japanese driver tried to do by telling me refusing to pay was a crime. HE committed the crime, not me. Get out of the cab, do not pay the fare; and call the Nevada Taxi Authority at 702-668-4000. Put that number in your cell phone contact list right now. If you call after business hours, a recording tells you to press 1 to report a cab driver. Press 1 and a live person will answer, 24/7, because the Nevada Taxi Authority enforcement officers are actually Nevada State Police troopers.
They'll ask for your name, phone number, where you are, and if you're willing to sign a complaint. A state police trooper will pull up in 10 or 15 minutes. You sign the complaint, the driver gets a $500 fine and your cab fare is reimbursed if you did pay it.
As a tourist in Las Vegas, you're always a target for cab drivers. Not just riding from the airport. I've had drivers try to long haul me from the strip TO the airport, and from one destination on the strip to another destination. The law says that the driver is supposed to take the shortest route to your destination unless you request otherwise (such as if you're in a hurry and ask for the fastest route.) If you're at the MGM and want to take a taxi to Caesars Palace, the shortest route is straight up Las Vegas Blvd. The shortest route from anyplace on the strip to any other place on the strip, is straight along the strip. Don't let the driver take you down a side street and onto the freeway where they can jack up your fare.