Taxis Around the World
Ah, the taxi! There as many variants as there are nations under the sun (probably a few more, in fact) and knowing the correct approach for them can be the difference between getting ripped off, ending up in a dangerous situation, or having a pleasant, cost-effective and speedy voyage.
For those in Western Europe or America, the scramble for the taxi after a show is over or a meal out can be infuriating. Inevitably there’s a light family squabble over who should have booked it before you finally clamber into a black cab and drive back home in furious silence. You should be safe, at any rate.
Getting taxis elsewhere in the world can require more forethought and planning to avoid dangerous situations: India is a prime example. The Tuk Tuk, a three wheeler renowned the world over, offers an experience like no other – swerving through traffic, a hair’s breath away from being dashed to pieces by juggernauts, as the man in khaki unleashes the horn like a weapon. It’s quite something to behold (those with heart conditions need not apply.)
Similarly, motorbike taxis also exist, offering you even more chance to have a cardiac arrest! It is worth noting that whilst you are not required to wear a helmet as the passenger and that Indian drivers are surprisingly good at avoiding crashing, it is not a risk a lot of sane people would take. Just saying.
There are other dangers inherent here, as in any system where there is very limited licensing. On the cost end of the scale, many Tuk Tuk drivers may claim their meter is broken, and ask for a fairly arbitrary fee. I know a tale of one who attempted to charge passen
gers based on their number – be assured that this isn’t the case.
A more serious note: as recent incidents have proved, private vehicles in India offer a number of opportunities for criminals. Whilst Tuk Tuks and motorbikes, lacking a window or doors or real privacy are not the best for potential assaults, taxis certainly are. The idea of getting into a stranger’s car seems ludicrous, but when so many criminals doll up their vehicles to give a veneer of legality, it is difficult to tell the difference between one and a legitimate taxi. If in most countries outside of the Occident, ensure that your taxi is pre-booked from a large company or hotel. There are also possibilities of ‘shared taxi’ rides, with multiple passengers heading in the same direction – though again, being crowded in a car with a group of strangers may well not be your cup of tea. The safest option remains to search online beforehand to find a reputable company, or ask your ho
tel to recommend one. If possible work out price beforehand as well to save time and haggling.
On a lighter note, it is always interesting to see other vehicles used as taxis, and the quirks of taxis. A few years back whilst trekking in Romania, we travelled up to mountain in a van. It wasn’t kitted out with extra seats – they had just thrown some stools and a couch in there, and none of it was tacked down. All in all, it meant that with our packs and all we were hefted from one side of the van to another at each jolt. We loved it all the same for the originality (a flash flood later that day rather took the fun out of the rest of the trip sadly.)
In Lisbon, taxis are fairly cheap and convenient – however, visiting there last Christmas, my parents and I found that they dislike having their front passenger seat-belts ruffled! Amusingly, whenever we got out of the taxi, the drivers would make a ill-humoured noise and put it back to its original position, as if it were an ornament! On another n
ote, in terms of long distance travel, renting a car may in fact prove easier and cheaper in Portugal, depending on the time of year. Certainly at Christmas, where the streets can be dead and empty and where taxi fares are potentially high, travelling to Fatima and back, as well as driving around Lisbon in a hire car for just under a weak worked out cheaper than a taxi (though obviously with more stress for my father, being forced to drive on the ‘wrong’ side of the road.)
When it comes to France, I’ve found that G8 taxis are everywhere. Adverts for them crop up inside the tourist guides on a regular basis too, making them a good choice if you know you’ll be out late and don’t want to risk getting caught out after the last Metro. Always bear in mind, though, that Paris isn’t as big a city as you might think, but still has a lot of people. This means that the congestion is pretty appalling, and the Metro is often a very viable option. If tight for time, hopping on the underground might well be less fragrant than a taxi, but it can usually offer a more reliable ride, and one without traffic jams. In fact, Paris is so small (relative to a city like London) that walking can at times prove more effective than either method. Just remember to watch the cycle lane carefully, and be prepared for a sprint finish in case your estimate was out!
Whether it’s a black cab, a yellow taxi or a rickety three wheeled Tuk Tuk, a light and a name is no guarantee a taxi is legal or safe. Book ahead when and where possible to avoid inconvenience, rip-offs and danger – either by phone, or by internet. Happy travels!
This fine article was written in with great assistance from Siddharth Venkataramakrishnan
who is a great writer of our time. You can find his other great works at www.sedanta.blogspot.fr,
my twitter at www.twitter.com/SVR13 &