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 mapvivo.com 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.