In our day-to-day lives, we all have places to go and people to see. Many of us drive our own car, while some of us take public transportation, such as the subway or the bus. Those who are especially motivated (or have no other choice) will bike or walk.
But very few of us will actually hire a taxi to take us to our desired destination.
However, in China, taking a taxi isn’t simply one of many options. Sometimes t’s actually the best option. Sometimes it’s the only option.
I personally love taking taxis here. Alhough you could choose to ride the bus (or take the subway if you’re in one of China’s bigger cities), there’s just something special about having your own personal chauffeur, even if it’s only for a few minutes.
But that’s not the only reason why you should consider taking a taxi.
Here are five more.
Taxis are ridiculously cheap.
This just might be the number one reason why I love taking taxis here. Depending on the size of your city, the starting fare will be somewhere under 15 RMB, which is less than 3 USD. Because I live in one of China’s smaller cities, our taxi rates start off at only 5 RMB. I know, life’s rough sometimes.
Last week, I took a 30-minute taxi ride from our apartment to the airport for a mere 30 RMB! For comparison’s sake, a ride of equal time and distance would cost about four or five times as much in Hong Kong (where I lived prior to moving to the mainland).
You can catch a taxi even if it’s already occupied.
Normally you can tell if a taxi is vacant by a small round sign that’s lit up inside the vehicle. If the sign is pushed down (and you can’t see it anymore), it means the taxi has already been hired. But sometimes taxi drivers here will leave up their “for hire” sign even if they already have a passenger inside!
I’ve noticed this is especially the case in the late afternoon during rush hour. If you happen to flag down one of these taxis, the driver just might let you in, but only if your destination is close to where the first passenger is going.
This happened to my wife and I once when we were in a taxi on the way to a friend’s house. Along the way, our driver picked up a young boy that was going to the same neighborhood. He even tried to get the boy to speak English for us!
It gives you a legitimate reason to stand in the middle of the street.
Have you ever had the urge to just walk into the middle of a busy street and claim the space for yourself? No, it’s just me, you say? Maybe I’ve been living here too long.
Even though crossing the street here is like a living version of Frogger, you will quickly learn how to recognize car speeds so that you can get across unscathed!
If you’re on a particularly big road, however, you may have to stand several meters away from the curb in order for taxis to notice you. Especially if you’re trying to catch a ride home late at night and there are lots of other people trying to catch taxis. You’ve got to stand out from the rest of the crowd and this is one way to do it.
It is the quickest way to get from point A to point B.
When inside a taxi, you are almost guaranteed to be faster than every other car on the road – even during rush hour. Why? Because when it comes to navigating through traffic, taxis typically take the path of resistance.
This means your driver will probably speed up in order to get around everyone else. I’ve been in several taxi rides where the driver crossed over the solid yellow line (the one that separates you from oncoming cars) in order to get past slower moving cars.
Though this may not be the safest way to get around the city, it’s definitely the fastest!
Taxis are lifesavers if you’re ever lost.
It’s very easy to get disoriented when you first come to China. It took me over a month before I figured out where my apartment was in relation to all my usual hang-out places. Many streets look similar, especially if you can’t read any of the storefront signs. Buildings have a way of looking the same when you’re in a foreign city.
But if you’re lost, do yourself a favor and hire a taxi. All you need to know is the name of your destination, and voila – you’re no longer lost!
Just make sure you know how to say it, or at least have someone write down the address in Chinese characters to show the driver. Otherwise you might end up at a very different place from where you wanted to go. I sometimes will clarify the location just to make sure this doesn’t happen!
What’s your preferred method of transportation? Do you enjoy playing Frogger in real life like I do? What have your taxi ride experiences been like?