Previously Posted: Top 10 Worst Places to Catch a Taxi

For those new to CabbieBlog or readers who are slightly forgetful, on Saturdays I’m republishing posts, many going back over a decade. Some will still be very relevant while others have become dated over time. Just think of this post as your weekend paper supplement.

Top 10 Worst Places to Catch a Taxi (05.03.2010)

I have recently found the site where travellers can relate their experiences, as it’s coming up to deciding your travel arrangements for this year I would suggest that you check it out, it’s a great source of information and frankly very funny. At the risk of being accused of plagiarism, although the author’s consent has been given, I think this post is worthy of inclusion in CabbieBlog.

Well, maybe not the absolute worst, but a catalogue of experiences around the world which explain why a taxi is always my last resort for getting from A to B, and why I’d rather walk, take public transport or a bike just about anywhere.

Disclaimer: Many taxi drivers are polite, courteous, professional and very honest. It’s the others that give you a bad rap, which are the ones I am complaining about…

BANGKOK: Don’t expect taxi drivers to know the way – particularly if there has been a bad crop recently in the countryside, since in these times your taxi driver is likely to be an out of work farmer who is unlikely to find his way home, let alone that restaurant you just asked for. In fact, it may take 2 or 3 different attempts before you find a taxi driver that knows where your destination is; let alone how to get there.

If you are lucky the driver will tell you that he has no idea where the destination is in advance, otherwise he’ll just drive you around for a little while.

Having somebody write the destination down for you (or learning how to pronounce words in Thai) can help, but not always, as can calling the place where you are staying and asking them to talk the taxi home for you.

NEW YORK: Not that bad actually. Relatively inexpensive and efficient, but smells horrible and don’t expect much in the way of courtesy – either from the driver or other passengers competing for the same cab.

New York cabs win a prize for being the largest vehicles with the smallest passenger space, but definitely count as one of the world’s better taxi experiences.

It could be said that there is not much difference between driving a cab in London than driving one in New York – except that we speak in English and have to rely on our brains to get us from one part of the city to another and not rely on a numerical grid system.

LONDON: Encyclopaedic knowledge of London’s streets, spacious cabs, polite drivers (to passengers at least – comments made to other road users are part of the entertainment) and cheap fares. London is Taxi heaven. I can’t disagree with those fine words.

Until midnight that is, when the black cabs go home and unlicensed mini-cabs take over to fill the demand. Beware of these guys: people tell of drivers rolling joints whilst driving with their knees, whilst others talk of drivers who’ve obviously had several already. A phone call followed by a quick detour to help a friend of the driver escape from a crime scene is also not unheard of. Police reports describe far more sinister doings, particularly concerning women travellers.

ZÜRICH: If your hotel isn’t one of the five biggest in Zürich then bring your own map, or chose a driver with a GPS. English is rarely spoken and German or other Swiss languages are not guaranteed. And bring plenty of cash – that number on the meter really is the cost.

Definitely the most expensive and most often lost taxi drivers in the world. On one occasion I spent 30 minutes while a taxi tried to find my (rather large) hotel, asking for directions from several pedestrians on the way. We eventually found it, and a long argument ensued over the expectation that I pay the meter fare for the whole duration. Which I won only narrowly.

ROME: If you manage to actually find a cab in Rome then please comment. I’ve given up each time as taxis are scarce in Rome, and drivers tend to strike (whilst blocking traffic in the city) every time the city tries to increase the number of taxi licences.

In a blog post, Pauline relates to an experience where a driver busy taking a phone call made them wait outside before allowing them in, in the rain, with the meter running (including the approach fare), for 10 minutes. That’s service.

PARIS: Generally professional, but basically rude. Can make a bit of a fuss when asked to take you somewhere that’s not totally convenient for them – consider this when choosing destinations such as out of the way places where they won’t pick up a huge fare right after.

I once spent 15 minutes in a taxi being complained at by the driver because he ‘claimed’ he would lose money driving to my destination (near the airport). I paid him 1/3rd more than the fare as a good-will token, but it didn’t make him happy and he drove off refusing to give a receipt.

INDIA: Finding a taxi or auto rickshaw is easy. Just wait by the road and they’ll soon be fighting over you. The family member’s shop or restaurant that they recommend is never as good as the place you originally wanted to go to, so be persistent and insist that you want to go to your original destination. Like many attempted transactions in India it comes down to a war of attrition.

Taxis are cheap enough to rent for the day in some cases, so make sure you enjoy the unique spectacle of road transport in India, complete with sleeping cows in the middle of the carriage way, oncoming trucks in the wrong lane, constant use of the horn, etc.

CAIRO: Similar to India, except they continue to fight over you after you’ve arrived. In fact, Taxi drivers will follow you around all day, stalking you. The family member’s shop or restaurant is also never as good as the place you actually wanted, but in many cases they will take you there anyway and just pretend that’s what you asked for.

Don’t be alarmed by the fact that obeying traffic signals are optional in Cairo, meaning that they are always ignored, and on a three lane carriageway there will be at least four cars abreast.

However, if you can find an honest one (and don’t rely on a hotel concierge for this) then they can make excellent tour guides.

Don’t expect the negotiated price to remain the same for the entire journey; it usually has doubled when you get to your destination. If you are unlucky to have a driver who speaks English, a warning, they will talk to you whilst driving as you sit in the back seat, but face to face.

CHINA: Don’t lose the piece of paper with your destination written in Chinese, unless you are good at charades, as you shouldn’t count on being able to pronounce your destination no matter how much you practice. Otherwise Chinese taxis are honest, professional and courteous, if a little erratic in their driving style.

WARSAW: Very keen to get going to the extent that over eager drivers can slam doors shut before all appendages are inside the taxi. It can really hurt.

Speeds on wet roads defy the laws of physics (or at least common sense).

Generally, taxis in Warsaw are very reasonable and honest providing you take a licensed taxi, not one of the private taxis that lurk around airport arrivals and on popular streets.

5 thoughts on “Previously Posted: Top 10 Worst Places to Catch a Taxi”

  1. As they say, when in Rome do as the locals do. That includes never trying to hail a taxi but instead always use an app. This usually works well and has the benefit of confirming the cost. Also, never use a taxi for either getting to or arriving from either of the airports in Rome – the train is both quicker and far, far cheaper.


  2. My best advice in Rome is to get your hotel to book a car for you. After being ripped off using a meter taxi from the main station to our hotel, (he drove round in circles for 20 minutes, and we later discovered our hotel was two minutes from the station) we used the hotel car service to take us to the airport on the way home. A smart female driver arrived in a tailored suit, driving a large Mercedes saloon. The price was half that of a meter taxi, and paid in advance to the hotel. I gave the lady a generous tip, as the service was impeccable.

    Amsterdam. Meter taxi outside the main station. Very professional, English speaking driver, and reasonable fare.

    Beijing. Definitely get someone to write down the destination, or as I did, buy cheap postcards and show the photo to the driver. Very cheap fares, but the cars are small. Never have the back window open, as the driver will spit constantly as he drives along, and it will come in the back all over you.

    Singapore. Suit and tie taxi drivers who are very tightly controlled by the authorities, and very polite. Clean modern cars with air-conditioning, and reasonable fares for short trips.

    Kuala Lumpur. Crazy traffic, price agreed before travelling, and the meter completely ignored. Incredibly cheap at the time (2002) for a short journey to the hotel, around 25p. I gave him double that, and he was delighted.

    Nairobi. Very dangerous! The taxi was booked by our hotel. It was a clean old Mercedes, and the driver was polite. But he warned us not to open the windows, then drove like a maniac into the city centre. I asked him why he ignored every red light and stop sign. “Robbers, sir. If I stop, they will come out of hiding to rob you. They carry knives or machetes. The camera you are carrying is worth six month’s wages here.” The fare was about the same as in London, but definitely inflated for tourists.

    Bulgaria. Taxi booked by the hotel, modern Mercedes, with the price agreed with the driver before we left. It was cheap enough that we hired him for the whole day the next day to take us 100 kms up the coast. He waited three hours there to take us back to the hotel, and it all came to less than £40.

    Cheers, Pete.


  3. Luckily, I was staying with an English friend who was working there. It was 30C and humid when I arrived at the airport. He met me at arrvals, and we got a taxi. I was hot, and started to wind down the window, he stopped me by telling me what would happen.


What do you have to say for yourself?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s