Around the World in 15 Taxis

Cab, tup tup, jeepney or jitney; whatever you call them, when you’re lost, tired or just need to get somewhere fast, the taxi is a sight for sore eyes.

Ever since motorised travel first came into use in the 19th century, people with nous and knowledge of the road have charged willing passengers for their services. Production of the first motorised taxi fleet is attributed to a few names and nations.

[O]ne claim to the title of the first motor taxi is the Reimenwagen, produced by German industrialist Gottlieb Daimler and put into public use in 1897. However, in the same year Walter C. Bersey’s fleet was set out onto the streets of London, and in New York the Samuel’s Electric Carriage and Wagon Company put their efforts out on to the road.

Whilst surely being new and exciting, by modern comparisons first motorised taxis were rickety, slow, and mostly meter-less, meaning that the both passengers and drivers could often be unsure of the correct fare price. They were also reportedly annoyingly noisy, with Bersey’s London fleet being dubbed ‘hummingbirds’ due to the constant hum they would emit when running.

However, they were probably an improvement on what preceded. Before motorised taxi cabs, you would need to turn to animals if you wanted to get somewhere quickly. In London and Paris, horse and carriage taxi services became standard from the 17th century. These were the first Hackney Carriages, the term ‘Hackney’ coming from the French haquenée ‘a small to medium sized horse’ and sharing its etymology with the London borough of the same name. Taxi services in the 17th century operated in a surprisingly similar manner to today, with Inns acting as ranks, and passengers given the liberty to choose drop off points.

With the rapid development of industry in the 19th century providing the means and materials to mass produce motorised methods of transport, animal taxis were made practically obsolete in the developed world. However, in remote and developing areas where vehicles might be impractical, the animal taxi still exists. In many cases these are geared towards tourists, with the attraction of riding on a husky propelled sled, a Saharan camel, or an elephant surely having visitors rushing to ranks cash in hand. Many animal taxis may also be multi-purpose, with the animal performing agricultural duties during the day and being hired out on a needs must basis.

It’s not only the types of taxis that differ around the world, but also the cultures of practice surrounding them. For most readers, a taxi is probably something hired from a rank or company, with a price paid based on a standard meter, but this is far from the norm. Take for example Russia, which has a huge unlicensed taxi trade, with many people working as drivers for short periods after their full time jobs. In Moscow, it’s even common for civilian drivers to offer lifts on an individual basis when flagged down, agreeing a price before setting off.

Many countries also have taxis that are far more collective than those in the western world will be used to. Whilst taxi sharing in the UK or USA is something done infrequently to split a cost, in countries like Haiti and Nigeria ‘share taxis’ exist in their own public transport category. At first glance, a share taxi may resemble a bus, with a large group of passengers paying a driver before setting off. However, share taxis are free to stop and pick up where they please, dropping off passengers to whatever destination they want.

Whether you have passed The Knowledge or were just taxi curious, we hope you have enjoyed this infographic. If you want to know about the taxis available to you, why not check out the cars on display at The Taxi Centre. We might not be able to get you a seaplane or an elephant, but we are sure you will find a new taxi deal you love.

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Featured photo: London in movement #12 by Fabrizio Lonzini (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
This Guest Post courtesy of The Taxi Centre who has also produced the infographic.

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