Aimee, what James is saying is that if you are wise, you negotiate the fare before you even touch the vehicle. You just stand near, say where you want to go, and discuss what that might cost. As in most of life, most folks charge fair and consistent prices, and some do not.
Once, when our driver found that we had only a bill larger than our fare, his previously excellent English suddenly became quite broken and fare was now precisely the bill we needed change for. The difference was a couple of dollars, but I was hurt and angry about having someone look me in the face and lie to me. We learned to carry the smallest bills.
On the night of the fireworks, no one discussed fares until we got out. We would have paid anything not to walk another 2 hours home after the many hours we’d already stood and walked! The driver charged each party the individual party rate, so he made out very nicely, but each of us paid the usual. That seemed entirely fair and reasonable to us for the circumstances; certainly far better than some random surge pricing baloney. I’d rather talk to a human being about the worth of their time and work than argue with an app on my phone any day! It was hard to learn to negotiate at first, but it feels really human and worthwhile.
Once I was in the wrong and overnegotiated. I was walking to the store down a highway that gringos do not often walk on; it’s hot and dusty and you clearly have a long walk ahead because there’s nothing to get to for a long while! A taxi stopped and offered me a ride that sounded quite reasonable, and I accepted. The next time I took that trip, I expected the same fare. I was making the return trip from the store to the marina, and there was queue outside the store. The first driver in the queue I spoke to wanted double what I’d paid last time, so I huffed off and went to a second one who wouldn’t match what I was proposing, but who made me a better offer than the first. He also told me once we were on the way, in a very kind tone, that the first driver I had spoken to had been asking the standard fare for this ride. The guy who’d picked me up walking last time must have just lowballed it; it’s not a place where you can usually pick up a fare, and something was better than nothing, perhaps.
Another interesting thing is that once a price is agreed upon for a job, that’s the price, no matter how long the work takes. In La Paz we needed to do something to the boat that required scuba gear, so we hired someone; the work took perhaps 2-3 times as long as expected and was far harder to do than anyone thought; Carlos kept having to come up to discuss and get more tools. When we tried to pay him more than we’d agreed upon, he tried to refuse; it just isn’t what is done. Another time we were taking a pulmonia around a triathalon and the driver kept finding the routes he was aiming for blocked off. We got a gorgeous drive, but it was surely twice as long as usual. I paid him double the agreed-upon fare, and looked up how to say “For your time, thank you.” In this case, he was touched and grateful and accepted, but still very surprised.
So many lessons! This is one of the reasons we are traveling more slowly than most other cruisers do; we want to get to know places a bit, and it takes time. We have chosen in this first season to see less more deeply, and are happy with our choice.