Taxi rules of engagement

Yellow_Cab

Photo from xplan303x

I find if there’s one thing world over that gets travellers talking, it’s the taxis. It is the one thing – no matter where on earth you may be, that’ll you have in common with someone across the globe.

Taxis are so frequented by travellers and no such convenience has the ability to polarise travellers to such a degree as taxis do. Nor do countries have an opportunity to deliver such an intriguing first impression.

I arrived in Cairns, Far north Queensland, a few days ago for some training for work. Of course, stepping off my Qantas flight from Melbourne, passing through the interminable baggage carousel experience (i HATE checking baggage… but that’s another story…) and onto the taxi rank where a fleet of shinny white Toyota Prius cars await to take travellers to their destinations. New and Shiny, the helpful taxi drivers diligently zoomed me to my destination all be it for what I thought was an expensive trip. If I’d just landed here from overseas, I’d be okay with that.

When I first started out travelling around south east asia, I took a few tips from a good friend of mine so I thought I’d pass them on.

Tip #1 – One of the best things to do when you land in a new destination is to ask someone who lives there (so maybe someone working in the cafe? or perhaps the person at the information desk) how much taxis should be. Give them your destination and ask them what a reasonable price would be so at least you know when you’re being hard done by.

One of the strangest differences to find in taxis is the actual appearance. It would appear destinations like New York, London or Melbourne have it sorted. Taxis are all a uniform colour or a uniform type of car. Beyond that, you know when you’re getting into one that (generally!) they’re licensed so you know the kind of service you’re getting. Take those same rules and apply them to somewhere like Thailand or China and you may find a very different result. It’s not that it’s necessarily bad there, its just the stakes are higher.

Tip #2 is to make sure you get someone to write down your first destination from the airport on a piece of paper in the local language. I landed in Seoul in South Korea and asked for the bus that would take me to the city centre. I had the name of my hotel and it’s street (in English) and thought ‘yeah! this’ll be easy’ -NOT. Turns out  South Korea has some very strange ways of naming streets to the point where I was dropped at the very, very nice Westin hotel and had to sheepishly ask the concierge where my much lesser Best Western hotel was. Very polite man, threw me in a cab and uttered a few words of Korean and we were away. Allbeit 3 hours later.

Tip #3 – Turn on the meter! Travelling through Kuala Lumpur was one of my first experiences in Asia and it taught me well. Always make sure the meter is running, don’t agree on a price. You don’t know what you’re talking about – these people do it for a living. Foolishly one day I just paid a cab driver around 50 Ringits to drive me to the Patronas towers and when I got back to my hotel, I asked the girl behind the desk what it should have cost. Turns out, I paid 800% more than I should have. Don’t agree or barter. Just pay the metered fare.

Till next time, wherever your taxis take you, enjoy 🙂

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