Taxi Experience in Asia

16 Jan 2018 by BusinessTraveller
taxi japan

As a regular traveller in Asia, like most of us, I have had both good and bad experiences of taking taxis.

It’s possible that conventional taxis may disappear altogether if disruptive technologies like Uber take over; but assuming they survive, here are a few obervations, and some advice which may, or may not, be useful.

Shanghai China Taxi

Shanghai, China

The VW Jetta taxi is one of the icons of Shanghai. That’s the good news.

Nevertheless, foreigners may find it frustrating when taking taxis in Shanghai, because it’s almost impossible to find a taxi driver who speaks English. Moreover, even though most taxi drivers are friendly, they seldom show hospitality even if you can speak Mandarin.

In their defence, every time when I switch from Mandarin to Shanghainese (the local dialect), their attitude also changes immediately – treating me as an old friend.

Best thing: 

The interactive touchscreens set into the back of headrests are fun. I enjoy watching short yoga clips, news, and movie trailers during my ride; they’re in Mandarin.


Different prices are charged for different car types.

You can get a discount through taxi booking App Didi (available in English).

Example fare: 

¥14 (£1.6) for the first 3 km, and it is up to ¥2.5/km (£0.28/km) thereafter. It’s cheap!

taxi japan

Tokyo, Japan

Japan is famous for politeness and high standards of service. This is also reflected in their taxi services.

The taxis in Tokyo are always clean and tidy. The drivers are always very polite. They will help you put your luggage into the trunk (boot), and sometimes, they will bow before you get on the taxi.

However, drivers usually do not make conversation with you when driving. Don’t be surprised when taxi doors open and close automatically for you. Taxis in Japan are expensive, however.

Best thing: 

Taxi drivers are always smart and suit up with white gloves and sometimes with navy caps.


The black taxis usually have the highest standard of service.

Usually you need to go to taxi ranks, which usually you can find near subway stations or department stores.

Example fare: 

Varies between companies, but start from ¥410 (£2.72) for the first 1,052m (just over 1km), but it is up to ¥80 (£0.53) every 237m thereafter.

Seoul, South Korea

It is great taking a taxi in Seoul if you are in a hurry, because taxi drivers here are racing rather than driving.

Unfortunately, they do not concentrate on driving all the time.

I once met a driver who was watching a baseball match on his phone while driving.

More commonly, they make long phone calls while driving.

Also, it’s hard to get a taxi at midnight unless you use the local taxi booking app (called KakaoTaxi). I once ending up asking a stranger in the street to book me a taxi through the app at 2 am.

Best thing: 

Taxi drivers are really hospitable; sometimes even too chatty. They will keep trying to talk to you even if they do not speak English at all.


The black taxis are much more expensive than others, as the taxi drivers can speak English fluently and usually have more than 10 years of driving experience.

Example Fare: 

For normal taxis, ₩2,400 (£1.66) within 2km, and up to ₩100 (£0.07) every 144m thereafter.

Taipei Taiwan Taxi

Taipei, Taiwan 

All the taxis in Taiwan are yellow, like the cabs in New York. However, they are all from different companies, and the quality of service varies.

They are very hospitable and love making conversations with passengers, especially about their personal life or their families. They are also polite, helping you with luggage.

However, if you are from mainland China, many of them will be eager to discuss politics or show you their knowledge of mainland China.

Best thing: 

If they know you are a tourist, they will voluntarily tell you information about tourist destinations, and recommend decent local food.


Most taxis in Taiwan also provide charter service around the island.

Sample Fare: 

NT$70 (£1.75) for the first 1.25km, and it is up to NT$5 (£0.12) every 250m thereafter.

Kathmandu, Nepal

All the taxis in Kathmandu are white, and most of them are Suzuki Maruti models. They are really small cars, and even I feel a little bit uncomfortable sitting in them (I am five feet two inches tall / 1.58m). Taxi drivers all have great driving skills, driving smoothly even on steep and narrow roads. I once took a taxi that the driver had turned it into a nightclub, with LED light decorations and really loud nightclub beats while driving.

Best thing: 

The drivers are friendly and usually can speak basic English and want to make conversation.

Best advice: 

Check online or ask reliable local people in advance about the price. It is better to have a prepaid taxi with fixed price rather than metered taxis to avoid being cheated.

Example Fare: 

Fixed fare depends on your destination. The 30-minute taxi fare from Kathmandu airport to Thamel (the city centre) is around Rs 600-800 (£4.31-£5.75).


Zhou Zhang

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