On arrival into a new country, often the visitor has a degree of trepidation when it comes to using local taxis. Being ripped off, being taken to the wrong destination, or being exposed to some reckless driving are often the reasons behind this fear.
Do not fear! There’s a lot to appreciate
A local taxi ride can be an exhilarating experience for other, more positive reasons. Here’s some of them:
Many taxis around don’t just come in the form of a car and therefore can be quite the local experience: A three-wheeler tuk tuk in Bangkok for example. Or a Venetian water taxi. The taxi becomes the attraction as well as mode of transport.
The style of the taxi can also give you an idea about the place. In Tokyo the traditionally small Toyota taxis are comparable to the size of the city’s apartments, hotels and bento boxes! All about space management. In Munich the taxis are often clean, sleek, expensive Mercedes like the wealthy German city itself.
If you can speak the language, or indeed, if the taxi driver speaks a bit of your language, it can open a useful door into discovering something about a place no guidebook will tell you. More than that, you could end up making friends with a local who is as much interested about your home as you are about theirs. There are many great local ambassadors out there in the form of taxi drivers. This is me with Matias in Guatape, Colombia. In a 10 minute taxi ride he told me all the best restaurants in the area, where to get the best views of the famous Guatape rock, and argued that Colombian football is better than British.
A different perspective
Local drivers may take you down some backstreets that you may never have explored otherwise, giving you more of an idea about the place you’re visiting. On arrival into Lviv in Ukraine, my taxi driver drove through a series of half-abandoned post-apocalyptical looking blocks, soundtracked by minimal techno on his music system. A very filmic first impression (by the way, the sights were considerably better after the taxi ride!)
A taxi story to tell
No one likes to get ripped off, not only because one has been taken advantage of but it sours the impression of the place and its people, who might otherwise be lovely. If it happens find the fun in the situation if possible. At least you will have a travel story to tell about local taxis.
Once in Prague, when the driver quoted the expected fare and suggested not using the meter, I asked him to put it on, thinking that was a more legit method, and therefore result a fairer price. When he moved off from his starting position however, the meter, somehow turbocharged, increased in price at an extortionate speed, ending up way above the price he quoted me. Another time, in Rome, assuming I’d done the right thing by confirming the price before departure, on arrival at my destination handed over a €50 note to pay for the €30 fare. I briefly looked down to put my wallet away. Without missing a beat the driver quickly flipped the €50 with a €10 note he had hidden in his hand. He pretended that I’d only given him that €10 note, encouraging me to give him the missing €20 to make up the fare. Quite the party trick.