Arriving in any new country and finding a ride can be a crap shoot. I wish I had a nickel for every time I’ve been taken for a ride by a taxi driver after landing in a new country. Even when landing in familiar ones, I’ve forgotten to book the taxi inside the airport lobby. Then I was charged four times the rate by the outside taxi because I was too tired to remember where to book.

We’re human, and they know it. That makes us vulnerable.

This was the case when I flew from Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen, far4 north of Norway to land in Oslo after midnight last night. The airport is some fifty km out of the city. The last train had already left the station. I blearily hailed a taxi. I watched the driver fiddle with his meter, not realizing what he was doing, and off we went.

From the back seat I watched the meter rise crazy fast. Not only that, it was in Dutch Kroner, not Norwegian NOK. I suddenly realized that I was literally being taken for a ride. By the time we got to my hostel, the fare was nearly 1500 DDK or $230. The man was in a terrific hurry for me to pay and get out of his cab. Then I went inside and found out why.

The young man at the counter explained that the fare I had just forked over was nearly double what I should have paid. I was fuming mad but the damage was done. There was no way to fight back. That fare cost me the opportunity to do some fun things here in Norway, simply because of a dishonest taxi driver.

It should cost about 800 NOK to get downtown from the airport after midnight. Anything beyond that and you are being fleeced. If you see your taxi driver fooling with the meter, get out and demand they take out your luggage. Clarify the fare ahead of time in any case, meter or no meter. Any computer can be calibrated to run far faster, as I had watched with horror en route to Oslo.  You can also rent a car or take a bus, but if you’re exhausted, the taxi is the fastest way to a bed.

Just don’t let it be the fastest way to be broke.