Tag Archives: taxis

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.


























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.

Top 10 Worst Places to Catch a Taxi

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 travel report from the site is worthy of inclusion in CabbieBlog. [All italics are my contributions.]

[W]ell, maybe not the absolute worst places to catch a taxi, 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 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 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 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 [he’s talking here of the unlicensed minicabs]: 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.

If your hotel isn’t one of the five biggest in Zürich then bring your own map, or choose 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.

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 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 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.

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 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.

That sounds just like London’s cabbies.

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.

Blindingly fast like Warsaw, with the added fun of driving on ice and snow during winter. Moscow taxi drivers sometimes take a little convincing to let you get in since passengers tend to be inconvenient. Seemingly honest and inexpensive though.

Backward Cabbie

A London taxi converted to look like a bumble bee taking part in an insect-inspired festival on London’s South Bank.

Raising awareness of the collapse of bee colonies around the world, one of London’s iconic black cabs has been transformed into a bumblebee in full flight, complete with a working beehive in the front seat. Keep a look out for this spectacular sight, which will be travelling around London.

Backward Cabbie
[H]arpreet Devi, 30, a cab driver in Punjab, India, was forced to drive his car in reverse for months because of a faulty gear box. The cabbie became so skilled at whizzing around in reverse he decided to modify his motor to drive backwards permanently.

Harpreet’s reversing skills have become so famous in his homeland, he has even been issued with a special government licence to drive in reverse anywhere in the state, located in the county’s north.

His Fiat Padmini, has painted ‘Back Gear Champian’ on the side, and the gear box is reconfigured to have four gears in reverse and one forward. Watch the video.

He can now reach speeds of up to 50 mph while driving backwards.

Mr Devi is a regular sight and sound around the area’s dusty streets, as he uses an ambulance siren to warn unsuspecting drivers, and pedestrians, to avoid him.

“After five years of practice I have perfected the art of reverse driving,” he said, adding that he took “all the care I can to protect other drivers on the road”. I always wanted to do something different, something unique. In simpler terms I reversed the complete gear mechanism of the car so that I get maximum speeds while driving backwards.”

But his somewhat bizarre practice has had one side effect – he has now begun suffering severe neck and back problems.

“I do have pains in the neck – frequent pains in the neck – and I have had severe vomiting in past, I have got a severe backbone problem from driving so fast in reverse, because my whole body gets contorted.”

But he insisted it was worthwhile.

“Achieving something special is never easy, it’s not giving that counts,” he added.

He has even tried to break the Guinness Book of Records for driving in reverse, after searching on the internet and finding a UK resident, John Smith, had achieved such a feat.

“Unfortunately I couldn’t break the world record because the Guinness Book authorities demanded non-stop video footage of my whole reverse driving and I was unable to produce that,” he said.

He was also thwarted a few years ago attempting to drive in reverse from Rajasthan, in the country’s north-west, to Lahore in Pakistan in a bid to promote peace.

He failed because he didn’t have permission to cross the border.