It's good to be savvy when taking a taxi, so Business Traveller Asia-Pacific has compiled some top taxi tips you need to know in five Asian cities.
Primary airport: Hong Kong International Airport
Distance to city centre: Around 38 km
Types of taxi: Urban taxis (Red), New Territories taxis (Green), Lantau taxis (Blue)
Flag-up rates: Urban taxis (Red) – HK$20 (US$2.6), New Territories taxis (Green) – HK$16.50 (US$2.1), Lantau taxis (Blue) – HK$15 (US$1.9)
Per km cost: Urban taxis (Red) – HK$1.50 (US$0.19), New Territories taxis (Green) – HK$1.30 (US$0.17), Lantau taxis (Blue) – HK$1.30 (US$0.17)
Average cost to city centre: Around HK$290 (US$37.4) to Central
Red flags: Sometimes, taxi drivers may refuse to take on passengers who want to go to a destination that's out of the way – particularly if it's nearing the end of their shift. Also, there is a "changeover" time around 4pm when it is very difficult to find a taxi.
English spoken? Drivers are usually not native speakers, so their English is limited. It is advisable to have the Chinese name of the place you want to go written down.
Other tips: Luggage costs an extra HK$5 (US$0.6) per piece. Pets can be taken in most taxis for the same charge.
Taxis are installed with a receipt printing device.
There is no legal obligation that a taxi driver is able to give change for a HK$500 (US$64) or HK$1,000 (US$129) note, so carry smaller denominations.
Primary airport: Kuala Lumpur International Airport
Distance to city centre: Around 63 km
Types of taxi: Budget Taxi, Blue Cab
Flag-up rates: Budget Taxi – RM6.00 (US$1.8), Blue Cab – RM6.00 (US$1.8)
Per km cost: Budget Taxi – RM0.10 (US$0.03), Blue Cab RM 0.20 (US$0.06)
Average cost to city centre: Around RM130 (US$39) – includes a RM12 (US$3.6) surcharge for airport charges.
Red flags: It is advisable not to take taxis parked outside hotels as the drivers sometimes won't turn on the meter and are more likely to be looking for tourists to rip off. It might be better therefore to flag one down off the street.
English spoken? Yes. Chinese-speaking drivers can be pre-arranged if requested.
Other tips: Luggage charge is RM1.00 (US$0.3) and although the first two passengers can ride with no extra fees, RM1.00 (US$0.3) is charged for each passenger additional to that.
Primary airport: Soekarno–Hatta International Airport
Distance to city centre: Around 33.4 km
Types of taxi: Gamya (Green), Blue Bird (Blue)
Flag-up rates: Gamya (Green) – Rp6,000 (US$0.55), Blue Bird (Blue) – Rp6,000 (US$0.55)
Per km cost: Rp3,000 (US$0.28)
Average cost to city centre: Around Rp105,000 (US$9.68)
Red flags: Some drivers try to bargain instead of using the meter, or will claim their meter is broken. This is particularly common at the airport. They may also refuse to go short distances. You should choose another taxi if you come across this situation.
English spoken? Sometimes. Usually basic enough to figure out where you're going.
Other tips: Try to use a taxi from a well-known and reliable taxi company, like the two listed above. They cannot only be identified by colour. There are, for example, up to ten or more companies now using blue-coloured cars. Look for the company name on the side of the vehicle and the crown light.
At the airport, never accept transportation from brokers who approach you as you exit baggage claim or customs offering to drive you into town. These are illegal transportation operators and can be risky for a variety of reasons. Aside from the public taxi stands, the companies licensed to operate transportation services at the airport have counters or booths inside the arrival terminals. Their representatives wear uniforms with an ID.
Most taxi companies have an alert light on the top of the car which is activated in case of an emergency (robbery of or by a passenger). When other taxi drivers or policemen see that the light is on they know the taxi driver or passenger is in need of assistance.
Primary airport: Beijing Capital International Airport
Distance to city centre: Around 30 km
Types of taxi: Xinyue (Red), Beiqi Kowloon (White), Wanquansi (Green), Sanyuan (Purple), Yuyang (Cyan)
Flag-up rates: RMB13 (US$2.12)
Per km cost: RMB2.3 (US$0.38)
Average cost to city centre: Around RMB130 (US$21.2) – including the RMB10 (US$1.6) toll gate fee and RMB1 (US$0.2) fuel surcharge.
Red flags: When arriving at the airport, stay away from taxi drivers who approach you in the terminal or outside the terminal as they will ask for much more than the actual price. Legitimate Beijing taxi license plates carry a "Beijing B" logo, so if you don't see this then it is a black taxi. The driver of a black taxi might charge you RMB 400 (US$65) or even RMB 500 (US$82) for the airport to downtown drive, so just follow the taxi sign that leads you to the taxi stands, of which there is one outside each terminal.
English spoken? Most of them speak little English. But the city bureau has devised a 12-item evaluation chart for cab services, and is encouraging them to speak more English.
Other tips: It is hard to find a cab when it rains. Many taxis are reluctant to go on longer journeys in bad weather, especially to the airport, and they will also refuse to go anywhere if it involves driving on the 3rd Ring Road which is completely jammed in the rain.
There are two kinds of fares in a day
· RMB 13 (US$2.1) just for getting in within 3km (flag-drop charge)
· RMB 2.3 (US$0.38) charged for additional 1km after 3km
· RMB 3.45 (US$0.56) charged for additional 1km after 15km
· RMB 14.4 (US$2.4) just for getting in for 3km
· RMB 2.76 (US$0.45) charged for additional 1km beyond 3km
· RMB 4.14 (US$0.68) charged for additional 1km after 15km
Primary airport: Suvarnabhumi Airport
Distance to city centre: Around 25.6 km
Types of taxi: Normal public taxis – usually pink, green and yellow, Private limousine taxies – usually Toyota Fortuners or nicer sedans
Flag-up rates: 35 baht (US$1.1)
Per km cost: 5 baht (US$0.16)
Average cost to city centre: Around 200– 400 baht (US$6.3 – 12.5) (includes a 50 baht/US$1.50 airport surcharge)
Red flags: Drivers should always use the meter. If they say they don't have a meter they are lying. If they try to charge a flat fee, demand the meter. If they say no, get out and get another taxi. Sometimes taxi drivers can get angry if you are going a short distance because they want to take people to Pattaya or Hua Hin or other destinations that are more lucrative. If this happens it is best to use another taxi. Don't bother with tuk-tuks.
English spoken? Sometimes. Usually enough to understand where you want to go.
Other tips: Have the name, location, and map of the hotel or destination printed out in Thai. Go somewhere well known.
Luggage that can fit into Taxi Storage is not charged.
Taxis often pretend not to have change, so carry small amounts.