For the car enthusiast, a ride in a taxi can be easy to dismiss, partly due to the mostly unremarkable vehicles on show. Again, when you’re used to driving yourself around, relying on someone else to get you from A to B can make it hard to stop your inner backseat driver inside from bubbling up.
However, the taxi is still a popular, and essential option. When you’re stranded, need to get around an unfamiliar place, or just fancy an in depth, one way conversation with a complete stranger, there’s no better person to turn to than the cabbie.
This isn’t just true of us in the UK, but worldwide. In fact, it’s the developing countries where taxi travel is the most booming, and perhaps most interesting. Taxi fleets outside of Britain and the USA often consist of a weird and wacky range of vehicles, often with even stranger seeming etiquette expectations.
For reference, lets first take a look at what most of us will be somewhat familiar with; the hackney carriage. Forming the foundation of the taxi industry in London, getting a ride in a Hackney – or black cab – is simple business. Just get in, tell your driver your destination, and pay the fare once you get there. Again, this system is true of New York’s iconic yellow cabs; with the addition of course, of the expected and almost mandatory extortionate tip.
India too has a taxi network with etiquette and expectations that will seem familiar to most westerners, something that comes as a surprise when you consider the anarchic state of the roads in the developing country. The capital, New Delhi, even has an iconic taxi of its own, albeit one with British origins. The Hindustan Ambassador, based on a 1954 model Morris Oxford III, is so ubiquitous that it’s been dubbed “The King of Indian Roads”. Although production finally ceased after 56 years, the vehicle is still a common sight, being used by taxi drivers and politicians alike.
However, in much of the world we see a very different story. Take for example Russia, and it’s “gypsy cabs”. For many in Russia, the regulated and official taxi services are much too expensive; a fair complaint considering the Maybach fleets aimed at the millionaire oligarchy. Due to this, if you’re looking for a ride it’s much more common to come across a gypsy cab. These are unregulated, unofficial vehicles, that can’t be called up or hired from a rank. Why? Because most gypsy cab drivers aren’t full time taxi drivers. Whilst thumbing down random cars might be called hitchhiking round these parts, in Russia it’s extremely common. As such drivers of gypsy cabs are often people just on their way home from work looking to make some extra cash, or just people cruising around specifically looking for waving thumbs.
The further round the world we look, the further we get from the traditional idea of the Taxi. In the Philippines, sharing a ride with a complete stranger in the back of a converted U.S military jeep is a normal and inexpensive way to get around. If you’re stranded in rural Nigeria and want to get back to civilisation, you might need to squeeze in the cargo deck of a rusty old pickup truck. And if you’re ever stuck in the Maldives – as it’s certain you will be at some point – and need to get to another resort, don’t bother looking to flag down a cab; a seaplane is your best bet.
To see how much taxis differ around the world, take a look at this infographic and article put together by The Taxi Centre. If you’re ever stuck in rural Peru without a ride, it could come in handy.