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Taxis

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A taxi in Beijing

Taxis (also known as "taxicabs" or just "cabs") are a type of vehicle used to provide privately arranged road transport to a person or group of people travelling together. While using the same basic principle of individual transport for a fee to anywhere accessible by road, the system used by taxis varies from place to place.

Taxis are a useful way to travel within a metropolitan area, especially where public transport is non-existent, minimal, impractical, time-consuming, unsafe, or the local transit systems are unintelligible or unknown to the traveller. Businessmen and government officials with generous expense accounts and minimum social conscience about contributing to pollution and congestion - even where public transport provision is lavish, comfortable, faster, safer and with clear maps and guides - may also favour them since others bear the costs.

There is a chance you will find yourself needing a taxi while travelling away from home. The "Get around" section of one of our destination guides will usually give more localised information.

Fees charged[edit]

In most places, taxis charge passengers using an electronic taximeter. The meter calculates the amount to be charged to the passenger(s). In many places, the passenger may be charged based on multiple factors. Some of those factors are:

  • Base charge, charged to all just for initiating the ride at flagfall
  • Distance charge based on the cumulative distance travelled 
  • Waiting time charged when the cab is either stationary (eg waiting at red lights) or speed has fallen to a walking pace (eg in heavy traffic) or  
  • In some places, a zone system is used, and passengers are charged based on the number of zones through which they travel
  • In some places, there is a fixed fare for travel from Point A to Point B

Base charge[edit]

The base charge that is charged at flagfall for riding in a taxi may seem like a lot. But it is there for the good of the passenger. It serves as an incentive for the driver to minimize the amount of time he spends transporting you. If not for the base fare, the driver may want to make your ride longer and take a long roundabout route in a place you are unfamiliar with in order to increase his own profits. But with a high base fare, the driver is interested in getting more base fares, and therefore, getting each customer to his destination quickly so he can move onto another customer and another base fare.

Tipping[edit]

In most countries, it is expected that you tip your cabbie (see tipping for details).

An extra tip should be given if the driver assists you with heavy luggage or otherwise goes beyond his call of duty to help you.

Payment[edit]

Cash in the currency of the country where the taxicab is located is generally the accepted form of payment for all taxis. In some places, taxis will also accept payment in currencies of other countries, credit cards, or debit cards.

Hiring a taxi[edit]

There are different ways in which a taxi can be hired. This varies by location.

  • In some cities, taxis can be found all over the streets and can be flagged down or 'hailed.' In other places, taxis are not allowed to stop when flagged down.
  • By calling the taxicab company and arranging a ride. In such a places, it is helpful to know the numbers to one or more companies.
  • At a taxi stand. These are often found at airports, train stations, bus stations, hotels, restaurants, attractions, and other places.
  • At the front desk of some places, you can simply ask the attendant to call you a cab

Communicating with the driver[edit]

If you are in a place where you are not fluent with the language, there is a good chance the driver will not know your language and may not understand the directions you are giving.

To overcome this barrier, you can write down the address of the place you wish to travel to and show it to the cabbie.

If the language where you are uses different characters than the language you are familiar with, and you do not know how to write those characters, it may help to have a printout, business card, or brochure of the place where you wish to go. If you leave your hotel, take a business card with you to show a cab driver on the way back. If your hotel has brochures for the attraction where you are travelling, take one with you, and show it to the driver.

Another option is if you have a map, show the driver the point you wish to reach on the map.

Or, you could have a bi-lingual person communicate to the cabbie to location where you wish to go.

Safety[edit]

According to OSHA, a taxicab driver is four times more likely to get murdered on the job than a police officer and in many places, a divider is placed between the front and back seats of a taxi in order to give the driver a bulletproof screen. 

In some taxicabs, drivers have the ability to lock passengers in the rear seats and detain them. This is not legal in all places. This is also used to assure that passengers do not leave without paying their fare.

In well regulated jurisdictions (eg most of Europe and Oceania cab drivers are subject to stringent police checks and controls and can be trusted not to assault or rob their passengers. Unfortunately this is not the case in many countries in the Americas and Africa. Even in Europe and Oceania, travellers should be less trusting of fraudulent drivers and minicab operators.

Illegal cabs[edit]

In most places, taxicabs must be licensed to operate. This does not mean all taxicabs will be operating legally. Since enforcement is often lax, plenty of illegal cabs cruise the streets of many cities.

Illegal cabs may charge higher or lower fares than the going rate. Basically, since they are not operating legally, they are not following the fare regulations set by the jurisdiction.

Also, vehicles used may be unsafe mechanically and not in compliance with the safety regulations set forth by the jurisdiction. In some cases, the driver may himself be out of compliance, may not be insured, and may not be licensed to operate a vehicle.

Even more risky is to receive cab services from a vehicle not even marked as a taxi. This is illegal in most places but, again, there may not be effective enforcement. Such vehicles may not be in sound operating condition, may lack insurance, and the operators may lack licences. Their backgrounds also may be unknown.

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