It had been a long day, and I was tired. The minibuses had stopped running for the night so I had no choice but to take a taxi home. I got into the taxi at the head of the taxi rank. I sat down, closed the door, and told the driver my destination.
The taxi driver pulled out. When he stopped for a red light, he picked up his mobile device and beckoned a friend.
“Here we go again,” I thought to myself. “This is one of the reasons I stopped riding taxis home. Not only are the mini buses about eight times cheaper than taxis, you’re also NOT usually subjected to a litany of mindless chatter.”
This is what I don’t understand. The taxi driver had NOT been making small talk while he was patiently waiting in line for a passenger. But the minute he had one, he wanted to chat with his buddy.
I gently placed my hand on the taxi driver’s shoulder and said, “Excuse me. Please don’t talk on the phone while you’re driving.”
“Gong mutt yeah?” the driver responded in guttural Cantonese, apparently not understanding what I had said.
“I’m sorry,” I said in Mandarin – my Cantonese wasn’t up to the task.
“I’m paying money to ride in your vehicle. I don’t want to listen to you talking on the phone.”
The driver signed off, and that was that – this time. But I have occasionally had some very unpleasant and sometimes downright hostile reactions in situations like this. So I don’t always have the nerve to make this request.
World’s Best Cities for Taxis
It is against this backdrop that I received a press release announcing the world’s Top 10 Cities for Taxis, published by Hotels.com .
And I was somewhat surprised to learn that the two cities I have had the most experience riding taxis in – Hong Kong and Bangkok – both made the Top 10 List.
I would have to agree that taxis in Hong Kong are abundant, reasonably clean, and relatively affordable – that’s why I often take them.
But I was surprised to learn that they came in tops in Asia for “knowledge of area”. Somehow I find that a bit hard to believe. In my experience, if I don’t know how to get where I’m going, I might not get there.
In fairness, however, when taxi drivers have gotten lost, they usually apologize and ask me to tell them what the fare would have been if they hadn’t gotten lost.
Taxis in Bangkok are definitely “colourful”. Some of the shades simply defy description. Photo Credit: BrokenSphere via Wikimedia Commons.
Bangkok Tops for Value?
And if Bangkok came in tops in the world for “value”, I would have to assume that “value” refers to the rate on the meter rather than the amount of money that the taxi drivers there often try to extract from you.
In my experience, taxi drivers in Bangkok will demand highly inflated fares on long trips (whereas in Hong Kong you can usually negotiate a discount on long trips). They will sometimes “size you up” before letting you into their cab.
They will often outright refuse to take you where you want to go. And they will sometimes take you – not to where you want to go, but to where they can exact a commission based on how much you spend. Infuriating!
New York City’s famous yellow cabs are popular with travelers and tourists. Photo Credit: Henning 48 via Wikimedia Commons.
How They Stack Up
With 11% of the votes, London, England, came in tops overall – and tops in five of the seven categories: friendliness, knowledge of the area, cleanliness, safety, and the quality of driving. In terms of value, however, London cabbies came in last.
New York, meanwhile, topped the list for availability. Bangkok, as already mentioned, came in first for value.
If I could add just one category, it would be “not chattering on their intercom or mobile phones when they’re driving”.
Top 10 Cities for Taxis
- London, England – 11%
- New York, New York – 6.4%
- Tokyo, Japan – 5.6%
- Shanghai, China – 4.8%
- Bangkok, Thailand – 4.3%
- Berlin, Germany – 3.9%
- Taipei, Taiwan – 3.4%
- Hong Kong – 2.9%
- Buenos Aires, Argentina – 2.8%
- Melbourne, Australia – 2.%
More than 1,600 respondents in 28 countries were interviewed in July 2012 by Hotels.com on their experience with taxis and taxi drivers.
The following countries were included in the survey: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, and the United States.