Now hate may be a strong word, but in this case I think the choice of verb is perfectly acceptable and its how I feel, I have had enough of them. After travelling for well over a year across Australasia, Asia and now into Eastern Europe I cannot think of a single group of traders that get on my nerves more than taxi drivers around the world. It doesn’t matter whether they are driving a Mercedes, Piaggio rickshaw, donkey, boat. motorcycle or even an ox or a camel, they are all schooled in the same treacherous ‘University of Public Service Driving‘ that gives them their licence to lie, scam and cheat.
I have had altercations with them in India, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Myanmar, Thailand, and countless other places. Wherever possible I will avoid using them, I just cannot stand the merry dance that entails in trying to get them to do what you want and take you to where you need to be.
I can cope with the touts that descend on you as you leave a bus in a strange town or congregate around the entrances to tourist sites around the world. These you can often just ignore as you don’t really need their services. But taxi drivers are another breed, they prey on you because you are lost, or they know that there is no other way of getting from A to B in this deserted village or town that you find yourself in.
Now I wouldn’t hate them as much if I could simply get into said cab, taxi, tuk tuk, or rickshaw and switch on the meter and arrive hassle free at my intended destination. Oh no that would be too easy. The shysters want to take you not to the destination requested, but their mates hotel, or a local tour or transport booking office or they want to con you out of road toll fees, speeding meter charges or ‘seasonal extras’ because they have picked you up on a day with the letter Y in it.
The schemes and tricks of trying to inflate the actual cost of your journey are limitless and at times ingenious. This cleverness though is no match for your ire as you get more and more wound up by their tricks. Particularly after you spent a long sleepless night on a bus journey or an international flight, this is something you just don’t need. Quite a few have had me morph into the cartoon Tasmanian devil as they tried to push their luck with a route or a fare, I have a long fuse but when it reaches its end the explosion is pretty spectacular.
Taxi Drivers Around the World: The Exceptions
On the flip-side I have loved them in Japan, with their lovely lace doilies on the seats, black and white uniforms and cabs so clean you could perform open heart surgery in the back with absolutely no risk of infection. You don’t even need to open or close the cab door they do it automatically for you.
I liked them in Cambodia and even met one who refused to charge for a fare (I know incredible isn’t it). I also love London cab drivers -you get in they flip the meter and with their encyclopaedic knowledge of London back streets in no time you are freed from their tirade of topical (Daily Mail-esque) banter on the pressing global affairs.
How to get the better of Taxi Drivers
At times though you have absolutely no choice in the matter and you have to put yourself at the mercy of their schemes – here is our quick guide on how to make it as pain free as possible.
- Wherever possible at airports and stations try and find a pre paid taxi counter (they are at most Asian airports and Indian train stations). You will pay a little over the odds, compared to the locals, but its worth it for the hassle free journey.
- Know the rough price of your fare – a quick look on the internet should get you the ballpark price, or phone a local hotel and ask how much the fare should be. Then ask the driver for his/her estimate, are they comparable? Make sure you are both talking in the same currency.
- Have your destination address written in the local language, it’s pointless asking a driver to take you somewhere he hasn’t got a clue how to get to, or read your internet booking confirmation in a foreign alphabet. Make sure your driver knows the place; you don’t want to stop every couple of minutes going on a detour with him asking for directions.
- Whatever your language skills point to the meter and insist it goes on, check it is working. If a refusal is forthcoming walk, get out of the vehicle and find the next conman driver.
- Program the route on your trusty map app on your phone and track the driver and watch for long detours (their favourite trick when you have made them use the meter). Also watch that the meter is not running as fast as a Geiger counter in North Korea. Hacked meters are a favourite trick in some places.
- Take a note or photograph of the taxi registration number and if you do get asked for a ridiculous fare threaten, or do, report them to the police. Even in some of the worse taxi scam places the fear of police involvement will render a driver your best friend. Refer back to the estimated quote they gave you, they should know how bad the traffic is etc it’s not your problem.
- Do not agree to any detours to their family home, friends discount shop, government approved emporium, alternative hotel/restaurant, UNESCO world heritage site, special one day only festival etc. (The story they are telling you that your intended destination has been taken over by the Mafia/burnt down/flooded/been beamed up to an alien spaceship or closed is just a load of crap).
- If at all possible take an alternative means of transport, local bus, train, cycle, segway, moped or your own trusty feet. You will deprive these con artists of their income and make them think twice about tricking the next tourist.
- If you find one of those rare drivers who doesn’t con you and actually offers a ride direct to your destination at a sensible price, tip them to reward their good behaviour and share your story here.
Have you had an interesting time getting taxi or tuk tuk drivers to get you to your destination? Share your own travel experiences about drivers anywhere around the world by leaving a comment below.