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Thursday
Dec312009

India - Taxis / Rickshaws

Taxis are everywhere. I mean everywhere. Forget standing on a wet and windy street in London, desperately trying to find a taxi with the yellow light on. In Goa, it is almost impossible to move more than a few yards without being offered a taxi. Equally, you only have to stop and wait (often quite a long wait) to cross the road, and taxis and rickshaws will pull up, unsolicited, to offer you a ride. This can be counter-productive, as the traffic then piles up, and makes it even more difficult to cross the road.

A 'rickshaw' - no longer person powered, and would be known elsewhere as a 'tuk-tuk'

The GOLDEN RULE with everything in India, and especially taxis, is to AGREE THE PRICE IN ADVANCE. There will be haggling, and there may be some special pleading at the end, but an agreed price stands. As noted earlier, make sure that you have the exact agreed amount of rupees, and maybe 50 rupees extra if you feel like giving a tip.

Arrival in India can be daunting. An Indian airport will be a self-sustaining economy in its own right, and can be a minefield for new arrivals. I can imagine those of a nervous disposition being reduced to jelly. To a limited extent, this has been recognised by the system, and there is an excellent  'pre-paid taxi' booth that will ensure that you can transit from the airport to your hotel safely. You go to the booth, and pay the government approved rate for the journey that you want, and you are issued with a taxi coupon. The good thing about the system is that it is monitored by the police. Your journey is recorded, as is the number of the taxi that you take. This means that you will be taken to the hotel that you want to go to, as opposed to one that is owned by the taxi driver's uncle/brother/nephew/cousin.

Most hotels will have taxis 'affiliated' with the hotel. This means that the taxis are allowed to park near to the hotel and thus have the first opportunity to provide for the needs of the hotel customers. This will mean that they are, loosely, endorsed by the hotel which will certainly know who they are.

White taxis waiting in the approach road to my hotel

In practice, once settled in, you will get your own 'taxi-man'. In my case, it was Jay, and his deputy Sam the Man. I suspect that, perhaps, these were not their real names and had been anglisized to make them easier to remember.

Jay, on the right in this picture, and his deputy, Sam the Man

Your 'own' taxi-man will rely upon your repeat business for the duration of your stay, and this will be reflected in the prices that you pay. Very likely, he will insist that you put his mobile number into the memory of your own phone. This is very useful, for the price of a 5 rupee phone call, he will be waiting for you at any time and place that you require. Only one word of caution, many restaurants, and certainly tourist attractions, pay 'kick-backs' to taxi drivers delivering customers. Be aware, and either be very certain about where you want to go, or know that you will not be the taxi-man's only source of income for that particular journey.