Taxis in a Parallel Universe!
I have inherent hate for taxis here in Egypt, there is no standard fare in most of the cities and you have to wait for probably tens of taxis until you find one who “accepts” picking you up to the location you are heading. It’s up to them completely to decide whether to pick you up or not, many factors control their algorithm:
- If it’s too crowded, your chances are much lower to get accepted since he has lots of options and probably he will find a better candidate who will pay more for shorter distance.
- If it’s too hot, it’s a good chance for him to ask for more money since you are burning and you can accept to pay more to get his heroic service.
- If you are more than one person that’s not really good for you, the guy plans to pick multiple people in his way and receive a fare for every individual and you are ruining this.
- The fare really depends on:
- Your look? if you look nice, somehow rich, etc.
- The driver’s mood!
- The distance + traffic status + his mood again!
- Whether you are a girl or not! higher chances if you are pretty :P
- Your language, try to speak anything other than “Egyptian Arabic” and you will be slammed with order of magnitude higher fare.
- Random factors.
A few years ago a new Taxi project was started only in Cairo, people call it the “White Taxi”, it has a nice distance meter and automatically calculated fare, sometimes an air conditioner. Most of the times it’s good but not always, try to pick one in front of a hotel or “City Stars Mall”, or try to take one from the airport. You will have to forget about the distance meter then.
One of the core reasons I was always using my car is to avoid taking taxis, most of the times I prefer other methods of transportation, Microbuses (even if they are much worse, at least it has a fixed fare), Trains, Underground Metro. I literally hate taxis.
A few days ago I was visiting Abu-Dhabi and Dubai for some business, while this is not the first time, this time I started to give Abu-Dhabi and Dubai taxis more attention. When I went to that parallel universe (aka, UAE) I was completely astonished. I’ve visited numerous countries around the world and I thought that decent public transportation for human beings is something that distinguishes Europe. But I was wrong, Abu-Dhabi and Dubai taxis where great. even better from what I’ve seen in Belgium or Switzerland.
Taxis are run by the national public transportation company, all drivers are foreign citizens, the taxi itself is GPS equipped and has its own nice touch screen monitor that shows the driver photo, driving license number, name, route, and of course it works as a distance meter with detailed information about the waiting time, driving time and it gives you a vocal warning when the guy is over-speeding!
Clear labels are everywhere inside the taxi describing how the fare works, speed limits, general rules and what I liked the most is that clear label saying that “If the driver didn’t start the distance meter, your trip is free of charge” to encourage you to ask for you rights.
In that parallel universe, drivers are very polite even if you asked for a very long trip, like taking you from Abu-Dhabi to Dubai, or for the shortest trips. Taxis are queuing in front of malls, hotels, and in the airport and you pick one in the top of their natural order, fare is never dependent on where you have picked it up. taxis can queue for hours in front of a mall to get one passenger and you can take that taxi for a very short distance and you never hear him complaining or even talking to you.
As soon as I came back to Cairo’s Airport, I tried to find a taxi to pick me up from the airport to my home where normally it costs me around 15EGP, the minimum I could hear is 80EGP! this is 533% more than the official fare! I had several fights and eventually I could get one for 45EGP.
In Mansoura, I don’t take taxis at all, I walk myself off. I will take taxis only when I see a good service like what I saw in Abu-Dhabi, when taxis respect me as a customer.