Taxi Tales & Ur­ban Leg­ends

Noth­ing de­fines a city like the view from the back of a cab

Business Traveler (USA) - - FRONT PAGE - BT

Re­cent head­lines have drawn trav­el­ers’ at­ten­tion to a spate of la­bor ac­tions by cab­bies in cities all over Europe. They’re protest­ing the in­tro­duc­tion of the high-tech startup Uber, which bills it­self as a “trans­porta­tion net­work com­pany.” The taxi driv­ers see Uber and other dis­rup­tive rideshar­ing tech­nolo­gies as a threat to their tra­di­tional liveli­hood. Cab­bies con­tend that such app-based ser­vices have an un­fair ad­van­tage be­cause they’re not sub­ject to the same fees and reg­u­la­tions placed on con­ven­tional taxis.

In fact, taxi­cabs and the people who drive them are very much a prod­uct of their ur­ban en­vi­ron­ments. Thus the qual­ity – and the cost – of a cab ride can vary wildly from city to city from Zurich to Shang­hai. So the ed­i­tors of Busi­ness Trav­eler Mag­a­zine around the globe have com­pared notes from our com­mon cab ride dra­mas to round up the best and the worst taxi ex­pe­ri­ences in the world.

NEW YORK BIG YEL­LOW TAXI

The mod­els may change, but Yel­low rules: Yel­low Cabs have plied the streetscape of Man­hat­tan for over a century.

What and Where? You can’t miss them, on the one hand be­cause of their bright yel­low color and on the other hand, be­cause they are so nu­mer­ous. NewYork taxis –Yel­low Medal­lion Cabs – are the ideal way to get around in Man­hat­tan. They are op­er­ated by pri­vate com­pa­nies and cer­ti­fied by the NewYork City Taxi and Li­mou­sine Com­mis­sion. You’ll know the of­fi­cial taxis by the medal­lion, a large metal plaque af­fixed to the hood in plain sight.

How Do You Get One? Taxis seem to be ubiq­ui­tous on Man­hat­tan’s streets, so you should be able to find a cab in short or­der (un­less it’s rain­ing). They have three lights on the roof; when the mid­dle one is lit, that means the ride’s avail­able – if it’s dark, they al­ready have a fare or are off duty.

How much? As you get in the cab, you’ll no­tice the me­ter al­ready shows the ba­sic fare of $2.50. There­after, each 1/5 mile (at 6 mph) or ev­ery minute of wait time or slow go­ing costs an additional $0.50. There are also var­i­ous fees for night fares or tun­nels and bridges. Air­port trips will make you dig a lit­tle deeper into your pocket: To JFK In­ter­na­tional air­port the of­fi­cial flat fare is $52 plus tolls and tip. From Man­hat­tan to Ne­wark In­ter­na­tional the to­tal is the amount on the me­ter plus $17.50 and all tolls for bridges and tun­nels both out and back. For the trip to LaGuardia you pay what’s on the me­ter. It’s best to have cash; while most cab driv­ers ac­cept credit cards, not all do. And don’t for­get to tip – usu­ally 15 to 20 per­cent. You’ll find the web­site tax­i­fare­finder.com/rates of­fers good guide­lines.

What’s Not to Like? When it rains, New York streets de­scend into chaos – and get­ting a taxi well nigh im­pos­si­ble. So you can ei­ther duck into the sub­way or stand in the down­pour wav­ing a large wad of cash… But all jokes aside, a good op­tion is Taxi Magic, an app for an­droid and iPhone that al­lows you to eas­ily book a cab in ad­vance.

For de­tails visit nyc.gov/html/tlc. LON­DON KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON Black taxis are as iconic to Lon­don streets as red dou­ble-decker buses – and their driv­ers are the best-trained world.

What and Where? Ev­ery­body knows Lon­don taxis – black and beefy, best known as “Black Cabs” or “hack­ney car­riages” a nd won­der­fully com­fort­able. The sign on the roof means some­thing; when it’s lit, it means the car is avail­able. Black Cab driv­ers must pass a rig­or­ous ex­am­i­na­tion be­fore they can take the wheel of a taxi. This makes them the per­fect city guides, who not only know all the sights but the his­tory be­hind them. Even if your cab fare seems ex­trav­a­gant, a trip with them is worth ev­ery penny.

How Do You Get One? As in many other Euro­pean cities, you can hail taxis on the street (but only Black Cabs), at taxi stands (which you’ll find at larger train sta­tions, at ho­tels and at the air­ports) or you can book a car in ad­vance.

How much? Fares varies depend­ing upon time of day and dis­tance. The min­i­mum price is 2.40 (about $4). Black Cabs all have me­ters, but it’s pos­si­ble to come to an agree­ment on price be­fore the trip com­mences. It is ad­vis­able to carry enough cash with you, since not ev­ery car is equipped to take credit cards. The trip from the city cen­ter to Heathrow costs about

50 (about $85). How­ever book­ing a taxi in ad­vance may get you a bet­ter price. A tip of ten per­cent is typ­i­cal.

What’s Not to Like? Stick with the Black Cabs. Don’t be tempted to jump into just any un­li­censed cab on the street. These driv­ers are likely un­trained, unin­sured and il­le­gal, and you put yourself at risk. Ex­cep­tion: The lo­cal cab­bies at the air­port taxi ranks are usu­ally OK.

For more in­for­ma­tion visit tfl.gov.uk/get­tin­garound/taxisand­mini­cabs. PARIS GOODS IN SHORT SUP­PLY Paris just has too much de­mand for too few taxis. Plus the driv­ers don’t seem to know the first thing about ser­vice.

What and Where? Ac­tu­ally there are some good things to say about Paris taxis. The cars are pre­dom­i­nately Mercedes, and they have an un­mis­tak­able sign on the roof with a red or green light to show whether they are oc­cu­pied or avail­able. So much for the the­ory.

Un­for­tu­nately in prac­tice, as soon as a few drops of rain fall or the Metro ser­vice cuts back at night, a free-for-all for the few avail­able taxis en­sues.

How Do You Get One? If you’re in­volved in a fra­cas for that last cab, you’ve re­ally got two choices: You can call a taxi ser­vice; for ex­am­ple, Taxi Bleu, Tel. 49361010 or Taxi G7, Tel. 47394739, which can get costly. Or you can head to the next taxi stand and wait.

In Paris, most cab driv­ers are of for­eign ex­trac­tion and many have not ex­actly mas­tered French. And un­like Lon­don cab­bies, they’re not par­tic­u­larly well-versed in the ge­og­ra­phy of the city, so some­times they’ll take you out of your way – ei­ther ac­ci­den­tally or on pur­pose – to get to your des­ti­na­tion.

How much? At the end of your trip, you pay what’s on the me­ter, but the fare sys­tem is con­fus­ing; it’s bro­ken up into three zones: A-Paris, B-Pe­tite Couronne and C-air­port, and there are big dif­fer­ences twixt day and night fares. Paris is no­to­ri­ous for traf­fic snarls, so rides can be time­con­sum­ing and costly. A trip to Paris CDG dur­ing the day runs € 40 to € 50 ($54-$68) and at night about € 70 ($95).

Few cabs are equipped to take credit cards, so if you want to pay that way, you should tell them when you or­der the car. A small tip is typ­i­cal, usu­ally by round­ing up to the next euro. The good news is, since the driv­ers don’t of­fer much in the way of ser­vice, they don’t ex­pect much in the way of tips ei­ther.

What’s Not to Like? Im­me­di­ately af­ter leav­ing se­cu­rity at the air­port, you’ll prob­a­bly be ac­costed by driv­ers of­fer­ing rides in cars sans taxi signs. If you’re brave, you might save a few eu­ros. But new­com­ers to the City of Lights, and in par­tic­u­lar fe­male trav­el­ers should avoid these il­le­gal hacks, es­pe­cially at dark.

For de­tails visit en.paris­info.com. SHANG­HAI LOST IN TRANS­LA­TION Get­ting to your des­ti­na­tion is a chal­lenge in Shang­hai – even if you’ve got good nerves and the ad­dress writ­ten in Chi­nese handy.

What and Where? In Shang­hai there are about 45,000 taxis, de­ployed by about 150 com­pa­nies which you can dif­fer­en­ti­ate pri­mar­ily by the col­ors (light red, bur­gundy, blue, white, gold, green). The ser­vice is

more or less the same. All li­censed taxis have a taxi char­ac­ter on the roof, a me­ter and a sign with the char­ac­ters “kong che “on the dash­board, which if lit means pas­sen­gers are wel­come.

How Do You Get One? If you hail a cab on the street, you’ve got to be quick; the com­pe­ti­tion can be fierce. Most cab driv­ers do not speak English, so it’s a good idea to have your ho­tel write your des­ti­na­tion in Man­darin. Also most ho­tels have a Magic Taxi Card with the most im­por­tant at­trac­tions printed in Chi­nese to show the cab driver.

You’ll need good nerves. Shang­hai traf­fic can be chaotic and cab driv­ers are happy to use their ac­cel­er­a­tors and brakes with aban­don. Seat belts are oblig­a­tory and you’ll be glad to make use of yours.

How much? The ba­sic fare dur­ing the day is RMB12 (about $2) for the first three kilo­me­ters; the night rate is RMB18 ($3). Each additional kilo­me­ter costs RMB2.40 (nearly $0.40). At night driv­ers have been known to ma­nip­u­late the me­ters. So note the driver’s num­ber (posted in the left front on the pas­sen­ger’s side) and call the taxi author­ity hot­line (96 20 00).

Pay with cash or with a Traf­fic Card, which you can load at metro stops and which is also valid for pub­lic trans­porta­tion. The trip from city cen­ter to the air­port costs be­tween 170 and 200 RMB (about $27 to $32). Tips are not ex­pected.

What’s Not to Like? If you sit be­hind the driver, don’t roll your win­dow down, even if it’s a hot day. Chi­nese ex­pec­to­rate ha­bit­u­ally and there’s the risk that you might get the driver’s spit com­ing back through the win­dow in your face (no kid­ding!).

For more in­for­ma­tion visit meetinshang­hai.net/taxi. DELHI WEL­COME TO THE CHAOS Le­git­i­mate taxis are hard to come by in the In­dian cap­i­tal and they ply their trade al­most ex­clu­sively be­tween the large ho­tels and the air­port.

What and Where? Delhi ranks among the most chaotic cities in the world. How­ever the rel­a­tively rare “gen­uine” taxis to be found here are sur­pris­ingly well run. There are two kinds of of­fi­cial taxis: the black-and-white can be found pri­mar­ily at the air­port and at the large ho­tels, and – if you’re lucky – can also be hailed on the street. The yel­low-and-black ra­dio taxis are sum­moned by tele­phone.

How Do You Get One? At the air­port you can get a black-and-white taxi with the sign on the roof. Fares are based on the dis­tance driven, so if you don’t know the city it’s easy to get taken for a ride. Bet­ter to go to the rank of ra­dio taxis. There you get a ve­hi­cle as­signed and a firm price quoted. Re­li­able ra­dio taxi ser­vices to call in­clude Easy Cap (Tel. 43434343) and mega Cap (Tel. 41414141). If you call from your mo­bile phone, you get a text mes­sage with the taxi num­ber and the name of the driver.

Most driv­ers speak at least some English and know the large ho­tels and the most im­por­tant at­trac­tions. How­ever ad­dresses in the old part of town can be far more dif­fi­cult.

How much? Fares in the black-and-white taxis are based on dis­tance, each kilo­me­ter runs 50 ru­pees (about $0.83). When you call a ra­dio cab, gen­er­ally a call fee of 50 ru­pees ap­plies, plus 20 ru­pees ($0.30) per kilo­me­ter dur­ing the day and about 25 per­cent more at night. Air­port to city cen­ter to­tals about 500 ru­pees ($8.37).

What’s Not to Like? Don’t fall for the blan­dish­ments of the ever-so-friendly un­of­fi­cial driv­ers who will be­set you im­me­di­ately out­side air­port se­cu­rity. And in the city if you’re un­suc­cess­ful hail­ing a cab, re­treat to one of the large ho­tels where lines of of­fi­cial taxis await, or or­der one up by tele­phone. And if you want to avoid whole prob­lem from the out­set, pay a lit­tle more and get your ho­tel to pro­vide a car and driver.

For more in­for­ma­tion visit del­hi­tourism.gov.in/del­hi­tourism. TOKYO TOKYO PER­FEC­TION HAS A PRICE: RID­ING IN A TOKYO TAXI IS COMFY, CLEAN AND COSTLY.

What and Where? Ja­pan’s cap­i­tal can pride it­self on hav­ing the friendli­est cab driv­ers, the best taxi ser­vice and the clean­est roads in the world – at least that’s what a re­cent on­line sur­vey by Tripad­vi­sor re­vealed. And noth­ing in our ex­pe­ri­ence can ar­gue with that point – but there’s a price to be paid for the top ser­vice.

As is the case in Shang­hai, taxis come in dif­fer­ent col­ors, the most wide­spread of which are or­ange or green depend­ing upon the cab com­pany. Each taxi has a lighted sign be­hind the wind­shield: If it’s green, the cab is oc­cu­pied. Red or yel­low means it’s avail­able for the next pas­sen­ger.

How Do You Get One? In Tokyo you can hail a cab any­where on the street, or you can find them at taxi stands and at large ho­tels.You can also call a taxi ser­vice in ad­vance: The most widely used are Tokyo Musen (Tel. 03/33 30 21 11) and Cheka Musen (Tel. 03/35 73 37 51). By law seat belts are manda­tory in Tokyo cabs. Also don’t as­sume your Ja­panese cab driver speaks English; thus it’s ad­vis­able to have the des­ti­na­tion writ­ten down in Ja­panese.

How much? Much! Tokyo is far and away among the most ex­pen­sive cities for taxi users. The base fare starts at ¥710 (about $7) for the first two kilo­me­ters and adds about ¥90 (about $0.88) for ev­ery 288 me­ters (just un­der 1/5 mile) and/or 2 min­utes. Night fares are 30 per­cent higher. Pay­ment can be made in cash or in most cases by credit card, but that may re­quire a min­i­mum fare of ¥5,000 ($50). A trip from Narita air­port to city cen­ter Tokyo starts at about ¥15,000 (about $150). Our hint: Take the train into town. It’s easy, clean, and not only con­sid­er­ably less ex­pen­sive, but con­sid­er­ably faster, par­tic­u­larly dur­ing Tokyo’s no­to­ri­ous rush hour.

What’s Not to Like? Of­fer­ing a tip can back­fire: It’s not cus­tom­ary and many cab driv­ers may even be in­sulted.

For de­tails visit go­tokyo.org.

New York Lon­don

Paris

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