Why Korean Taxi Drivers Might Refuse to Take You! – Seoulistic

Why Korean Taxi Drivers Might Refuse to Take You!

Grabbing a cab in Korea can sometimes be considered hard. Sometimes you’ll be standing outside for what seems like forever before you’ll finally take a cab that’ll take you. And the reasons are various. These fickle Korean taxi drivers have a number of reasons they’ll refuse you. And here’s why!

Seoul Insider Tip! It’s against the law to refuse customers for Korean taxi drivers, but most people don’t report them because (we think) it’s just a hassle and it’s just better to wait for a cab that’ll take them. And recently, Korean taxi drivers have gotten better in terms of following the rules (but just in case, here’s how not to get ripped off by Korean taxi drivers), but there’s still some that will refuse you! Here’s why:

Note: This post refers to the busiest areas of Seoul (usually on weekend nights after the trains have stopped running). Less busy areas will usually not have a reason to not take you (they’re looking for business in a dead area!). But the busier areas of Seoul with the numerous people that need to take taxis home (mostly Koreans that enjoy drinking) give the taxi drivers the power to pick and choose!


1. You’re Not Going Far Enough

Some Korean taxi drivers will refuse to take passengers because it’s not worth their time. If the total distance doesn’t exceed the base pay (기본요금), then some taxi drivers will think it’s a waste of gas. That’s why some cab drivers will ask before you get in where you’re going (this plus reason #2). If it’s not far enough, tough luck! And since it’s a hassle to report (even for you!), the best way to deal with this is to just wait till the next cab. (Or walk!)

Tip: If you do find a taxi driver that will take you a short distance, don’t take the change! Tip isn’t expected in Korea, so telling the cabbie to keep the change would be well appreciated. It’s a small thank you for taking him for such a short distance and not offering more business. In addition to this, here’s a couple of other ways to make a good impression in Korea!



You’re not Going Where They Want

Some Korean taxi drivers will ask before you get in if you’re going to a certain place. If you’re not, “sorry… next!” The reason is some cabs are based out of different cities or suburbs. So sometimes, taxi drivers from the outskirts of Seoul will end up in Seoul and want a customer on the way back to the areas they’re based in (just so they’re not wasting money on gas going back home alone). Also, they usually don’t like taking people from one part of Seoul to another (unless it’s on their way home). These Korean taxi drivers can be pickier than a kid who hates vegetables!

Tip: If you’re from a Seoul suburb (i.e. Bundang, Ilsan, Anyang, etc.) look for cars that are from your area. You can do this by reading the license plates of the cars (if you read Korean). The license plates aren’t very specific (they usually say  Seoul or Gyeonggi, the province surrounding Seoul where all the Seoul suburbs are), but if you live in Gyeonggi province, you’ll know which cars are for you!




They Want More Customers (aka Money)

Sometimes if it’s a busy night for taxi drivers and people are lining up for cabs, some Korean taxi drivers will take advantage of the situation and try to cram as many customers as they can in their cars. So if you get in, sometimes Korean cab drivers (typically those from Seoul suburbs) will tell you to wait until he can round up more customers that are going in the same direction as you  (sometimes 30minutes or more!). This way the cabbie can get more fares just for a single trip. This is obviously illegal, but when you have to go home and it’s a tough night to find cabs, take our advice, take what you can get!



4. It’s Raining

When it rains, Seoul taxi drivers have the power. The reason is, no one likes to get wet, so people that normally don’t take cabs will take them on rainy days. This basically all equals jackpot for Korean cabbies: they have so many customers that they can pick and choose who they want to take. So basically anything on this list is a viable reason. But the rain just gives them a reason to employ any of em! Unfair!





5. You’re Korean isn’t so Hot

Sometimes Korean cabbies will not take foreigners simply because they can’t understand them. More than a racist thing, it’s basically a “can I communicate how/where to go” thing. If you’re staying at a major hotel, or you’re going somewhere recognizable (i.e. subway stations), it’s usually no problem. The problem usually comes in when you’re pronouncing something 28 times and the taxi driver still doesn’t understand. So a lot of times, many Seoul taxi drivers will be apologetic and ask you to take the next available (and better at English) taxi.

(Image source, thanks!)





6. They Don’t Have Enough Space

It’s illegal to take more than 4 passengers (the same number of seat belts). And although they’re don’t always follow all the laws, this one most Seoul taxi drivers are pretty concerned with. That’s because policemen can see in the car and see that they’re breaking the law, and the headache of paperwork and fines is just not worth it to them. Some Seoul cabbies are willing to take the risk (they’re doing you a favor), and some just flat out say no. So if you’re in a group of 5 or more, and you can’t find a a cab that’ll take the risk for you, split up!

Tip: Many Korean taxi drivers will refuse but can be swayed by the power of egyo (kinda joking, but no… kinda real too ;)).



7. You’re Drunk!

Umm… This one is pretty obvious. We don’t think you need an explanation, but since we like you, here’s a brief one in bullet format anyway ;).

  • Drunk people puke.
  • Drunk people reek of alcohol.
  • Mega drunk people can’t tell you where they live.
  • Drunk people are just straight crazy.

Tip: So, uh… don’t be too drunk, haha :). However, if you are, maybe it’s too much to take a cab home. Try passing out for a bit at the nearest DVD Bang (not sure what that is? Check it out here). Or try sobering up a bit with these Korean Hangover cures (many of which are offered 24/7!)


Do taxi drivers refuse customers where you’re from? Have any experiences with Seoul taxis refusing you? Write a comment and let us know! 😀


Keith Kim is a Korean-American who has been living in Korea for almost a decade. Being in a unique position as both a Korean and a non-Korean, he's put all his experience and knowledge for surviving in Korea in Survival Korean . Read it to learn how you can survive in Korea. Follow him on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram.


  1. Zach says:

    They will also avoid you if you have a load of luggage or boxes. When I was moving we had some suitcases full of clothes to transport from old to new home. 3 cabs pulled up and sped off after they saw the bags. One guy got out and lifted a bag then got back in and left. I was incredibly pissed by this.

  2. Hannah says:

    In relation to #2, often you’ll find you’re standing on the wrong side of the street. I.e. all the cars driving past you are city bound and you want to go to the suburbs. If you cross the street you’ll probably have a lot more luck finding a cabbie that will take you home.

  3. Karey says:

    Love #7!!

    Somewhat in line with #4, taxis where I live, in Pyeongtaek, are noticeably more difficult to get in the winter for similar reasons, especially in January and early February (more demand = more power to the cab driver). Although I’ve never been refused by a taxi driver before, I have had to wait as long as 15-20 minutes or so. Oh, and never mind the fact that standing still in -10 degree weather for one minute feels like one hour >___<

    • Jacob A. Gaste says:

      I lived in Pyeongtaek in January and definitely faced this problem several times over. I would get out of work late 23:00 and usually have trouble finding a cab in the freezing cold. So I just decided to layer up and take the 25 minute walk home instead.

  4. David says:

    The opposite happened to us when my 70-year-old parents came to visit – with suitcases.

    We wanted to get from a hotel in central Seoul to Incheon, where my mother-in-law lives. My parents didn’t fancy the underground, so we called a taxi.

    A taxi pulls up and opens the boot, which was almost filled by the gas cannister. On seeing this, my dad, via my wife, said that we didn’t want to use this taxi, and would wait for a bigger one. However, the taxi driver was adament, and picked up the cases and tried to cram them into the boot, attempting to close it with string. It took quite an effort to get him to take them out – with some other taxi drivers joining in on my dad’s side, and almost coming to blows!!

    In the end, we went in a different, medium-sized taxi, driven by an extremely tired driver who kept hitting his legs with his fists whilst driving to kep awake. One of the most unforgettable experiences of Korea!

  5. yvonne says:

    esp past midnight..alot try to rip you off. I once was trying to get from town back to the hotel and randomly asked this black cab, I was charge 20,000won for just a short distance! when I tried to negotiate, the driver just ignored me.
    however, most times I did not experience much problem with cabbing in Korea.

  6. Brian says:

    So, many times, the black cabs are special cabs and that is why they charge an incredibly high rate. Also, usually after midnight, the base fare rises so that could have been part of it. BUT in general, black taxi 모범 taxi’s are more expensive because they are “luxury” taxis.

  7. Hello. While I am flattered that you used one of my cartoons to illustrate point #5, I would appreciate it if you gave me some credit. Specifically, the cartoon came from THIS blog post: http://twobeansornottwobeans.blogspot.fr/2010/08/language-barrier-in-same-language.html

    Thanks in advance.

  8. And thanks for linking the picture to my blog! ^.^ Cheers

  9. This is a subject which seldom gets an airing in pubilc, so it is good to read this article. The rising cost of fuel though makes it all much more difficult for the cab drivers. They have real money to lose. Don’t forget they have to keep filling up their tanks!

  10. Keith says:

    Sorry about that Barb! We try to credit all the pictures, but this post we lost the list of URLS. Thanks for helping us find you again! 🙂

  11. el says:

    Generally the usual on the Friday/Saturday night, cabs in Sinchon or Hongdae won’t take at certain hours if you’re going a short distance. My worst experience was last winter waiting for a cab at Hongdae… an hour later with plenty of cabs lining the main street, none would take us. Taxis would drive by, roll down their window, we had to shout where we were going, then they’d just ignore us and drive away. Ended up walking home. What a huge waste of time.

  12. Dan says:

    How exactly do you report the driver for not taking you?

  13. 147 says:

    I’d like to add one.

    6) You’re carrying a load of luggage. This one may actually fit in to #2, but here we go. I was moving from one part of Seoul to another, and packed my bags up from my old place, go out to the sidewalk, and hailed a cab. One stopped, I grabbed my first suitcase, and homey peeled out. It’s possible he thought I was going to Incheon and he didn’t want to go. The reality I was going from Seocho to Gangbuk, but still, I was quite peeved to have to wait for another cab.

  14. 147 says:

    And Hannah is right about crossing the street. I got in a cab once around 11, told him where I was going, and he straight told me to get out and go to the other side of the street. Did so, and the first cab took me.

  15. moon says:

    I was at Hongdae once and it was raining quite heavily, had to flag for a cab since it was pretty late at night and the subway was closed already. The cab driver refused sending us since our destination was only at Hapjeong. But it was raining and the subway was closed!! So i had no choice but to do some aeygo and force myself up his cab. of course, We had him keep the change and he was pretty glad ^^

  16. lilymei says:

    Will the cabs take 4 adults and a small five year old?

  17. Aiza says:

    I think I’m just going to walk or take the subway, and try to avoid the Taxi as much as possible, My Korean is not oh-so-very-good unless I have a korean friend with me… but then again there’s always the map… lol

  18. krystalle says:

    you need to come to my city: denied service because of all the reasons (except being drunk. i dont think drunk people take a taxi here, to begin with), trying to rip you off (especially if you don’t speak the local language: you’re a foreigner=you must be rich >.> Sometimes they take detouring routes to get a few more bucks on their counter), too much luggage so on and so forth.
    The safest way not to get ripped off nor denied is to call for one and you get it in some 10 minutes. it’s just nasty because you dont know what car/driver you get: most of the times the driver is so sweaty it’s just gross to share the air. you can open the window though.

  19. P Smith says:

    re: “You’re Korean isn’t so Hot”

    “You’re” English isn’t so hot, either.

    First, the Korean script is one of the easiest to learn in Asia, so there’s no excuse for not trying. Even if you can’t converse, you should make the effort to learn numbers (for haggling, etc.) and basic directions (left/right/straight).

    Second, instead of saying exactly where you want to go (if he doesn’t understand), tell him the name of a subway station nearby. From there, start saying “wenjeok” “orunjeok” and “ttakbaro” or the exact street names of you know them. “Mapo-gu yeok, sam-baek me-tah, yo-go-yo” is more easily understood than an anonymous or tiny little shop in a city of 15 million.

  20. P Smith says:

    One more: re “It’s Raining”

    If you want to get a driver to stop, stand where there’s no rain such as under a bridge or an overpass. When your umbrella is already closed and the water shaken out, and there’s cover above stopping water from entering an open door, the cabbies will be much more willing to stop.

  21. JAK says:

    As stated, it’s ILLEGAL to refuse you service, meaning you needn’t pander and beg someone to allow you to give them money. It’s a service industry job- being inconvenienced by annoying people is central to driving a taxi, and a driver being a dick in response is inexcusable.

    Whether or not you ever report it, here’s how you literally never ever have a cab refuse to take you again:

    -Have your phone in your hand when you go to a cab.
    -Open the door, get in and close the door before you say a word. No asking, just politely giving directions and that’s that.

    ^9/10 that’s plenty. If they hassle you, lean over the front seat with your phone toward their license information (pasted on the dash), and say “picture? report?” Their protesting stops immediately. On the same note, it’s also illegal for them to have their doors locked. If you’re having a super hard time getting a cab late at night, get your phone ready before you walk up to a cab and if their doors are locked, snap a license plate photo, blatantly. Good chance they’ll stop and let you in.

    Of course, always make sure the meter is running. And if you have a smart phone, watch the map. Both things accounted for, there’s no way to be ripped off.

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