Precaution When Taking Taxis in a Foreign Country

Taking taxis in a foreign country is no laughing matter. Those living in an orderly society might get a culture shock when taking taxi in a foreign country where taxis are not properly regulated. This could lead to quarrels with taxi drivers over taxi fares and in the worst case getting raped or robbed by rouged drivers.

When going overseas for a vacation or business, it is important to do some homework on taxi services in that country. Very often, we cannot simply hop on to a taxi at the airport and expect a trouble free journey. Foreigners tend to be overcharged by unscrupulous taxi drivers who might take a longer journey and demand extra fares for exiting car parks and other such gimmicks to earn extra income. Some taxi drivers might not use the meter as well or use a meter that has been tampered with to inflate taxi fares.

In Indonesia, more reputable taxi company like the Bluebird taxis are favourite among locals and tourists. Even then, there are imitation taxis resembling close to the Bluebird brand taxis. But Bluebird taxis are still a better bet when using taxi services in Indonesia. Nevertheless, there is no guarantee taking a taxi from a reputable company would ensure a pleasant experience.

At one time when we took a Bluebird taxi from a shopping mall back to our hotel in Surabaya, the taxi driver was driving aggressively squeezing into every tight space he could find and using the horn all the time and also at the same time yakking on the phone while driving. He might be trying to deliver us to our destination as quickly as possible and then take on another fare paying passenger which to him, is productivity and maximization of asset utilization. While he could be an expert in multitasking, we fare paying passengers do not share his enthusiasm and work ethics.

Something similar happened to us while the hotel flagged down a taxi for us to go to the airport in Bangkok last year. This taxi driver was reading comics on the busy streets in Bangkok whenever the taxi stopped during heavy traffic. He had to catch up the huge gap left behind when cars in front drove on when he was not paying close attention. By the time we reached the highway, he sped away at 130 km/h. His eyes were closing and he could not keep his focus shaking his head left and right most of the time. We nearly met two accidents on the way to the airport as a result. So taking taxi could be a risky business in a foreign country even when we do not expect a hotel to flag us a taxi from a company with bad reputation.

So far in Bangkok, taxi drivers do use the meter and taxi fares are reasonable but with traffic jams in the city, the fares do add up quickly though. However in Phuket, taxi drivers are unlikely to use the meter and the fares they demand are usually ridiculously high. It is just a take it or leave it situation. So some other private transfer companies may offer better value for money in Phuket.

Coming to Vietnam, due to language problem, communicating with taxi drivers might not be so easy and quarrels do happen due to miscommunication. Reputable taxi companies are MaiLinh and Vinasun taxis where you will less likely get ripped off or even robbed. However, taxis imitating MaiLinh taxis are there as well and you have to be careful not to board the wrong taxi.

My brother-in-law had a very bad experience one night in Ho Chi Min City when the taxi driver would not alight them at the hotel but at a side lane. The driver demanded a much higher amount and locked all the doors. When he gave the driver a Vietnamese note, the driver immediately threw back another note of a much smaller amount claiming that was insufficient. This driver was a magician. When my brother-in-law claimed he had already given him the required amount, he showed his hands, pockets and his seat no such amount was received. The quarrel went on for a while and finally with no choice, he gave in and paid the driver off.

So in Vietnam, make sure you get off at the hotel where the chances of getting help from the hotel staff are more likely and don’t hop on to any taxi that come along. It is safer to walk than to get extorted by a rouged taxi driver. The same goes for cyclos in Vietnam. We didn’t have a good experience in Ho Chi Min City as well so do it at your own risk.

Taking taxis in Vietnam is a serious business. Even Interpol visitors from Singapore were overcharged when they attended a meeting in Hanoi in 2011. They even lost their iphone as a result. The taxi driver was subsequently arrested.

Come to getting most complaints about taxi drivers, taxi drivers from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia are very good for being bad. They ranked number one for being the worst in the world. Taxi drivers are not only rude, they can be dangerous as well. There are numerous cases where passengers were raped and robbed. In 2013, an American woman was raped by the taxi driver and his accomplice. The driver was arrested and charged in court. Calls to ensure taxis are safe in Malaysia is timely but commuters have to be careful as well.

A few years back while we were at the Twin Towers, we tried to get a taxi to send us back to Bukit Bintang area. No driver would use the meter. With no choice, we got into a taxi and paid RM$20 for a very short trip of under 10 minutes to Pavilion Shopping Mall. Now with the covered air-conditioned bridge available, we no longer take taxis. It is just a 10 to 15 minutes leisurely walk rather then having to cross a few roads under the hot sun in the past which was not very pleasant.

So whenever possible, cut down travelling on taxis to cut cost during vacation. This might save you from many unhappy incidents as well. Stay at locations conveniently located along public transport system. Walking might not be a bad idea as this would allow you to see more during our vacation.

Know the kind taxis you should be taking during your vacation or business trip.

Stay safe and happy travelling…

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