I came across an article on the World's Worst Places To Catch A Cab. I thought naturally Malaysia would be in the top 3 ... at least. Then I thought further on what would be the worst things about catching a cab.
Being fleeced would be number one. Untidy, smelly and and unhygienic cabs would be next. Rude, verbally abusive or impolite cab drivers would also count. Safety or a lack of and dangerous driving should also figure. I guess comfort would have to be included. Then there is touting and illegal operators, you don't know who to trust when you are in a foreign place. Last would be cost I guess.
So, in my books, the worst place to catch a cab has to be Malaysia, hands down. Not that I want to run down my own country but its pathetic. The only good thing is cost, and that is so at the bottom of many people's essential list. Its very poorly regulated. There are too many operators, see what happens when you keep giving out master licenses to various operators. Not using the meters. They are taxi drivers but they can pick and choose their passengers, how in hell can I be flagging down cabs and three empty ones pass by not stopping, they must be making a very good living... when you hail a cab, be prepared for a 75% hit-miss ratio, you may not be presentable enough to catch one.
I love the tuk-tuks in Thailand, its a bit dangerous, and yes they may try to fleece you but if you negotiate beforehand, its usually agreeable ... not like here, if you are a foreigner and tries to negotiate a cab fare, you have a better chance of asking Bung Mokhtar to be polite and respectful.
Cairo was scary shit, they are the worst, well not worst in that sense, shall I say most daredevillish drivers in the world. New York was ok and the cab drivers are not as rude or obnoxious or witty as the TV shows make them out to be. London was very good. In HK you can tell when the economy is bad or good, if taxi drivers are more polite and nice, that means the economy is very bad... and vice versa. I get away with murder in Indonesia when I take cabs cause when you speak Indonesian/Malay, hey, its like a family reunion with them.
Sydney's decent as well though in recent years there have been too many new immigrants taking on the cabbie jobs. That's ok too as long as they improve their English skills la. I guess I can comment on cab drivers because I was one before for 2 years while studying in Sydney.
Here is the article in Sydney Morning Herald:
Generally I've found the less developed a country, the more perilous you can expect your cab ride to be.
Cab rides in LA, for example, tend to be largely uneventful, and spectacularly expensive. Black cabs in London are the height of predictability - you'll get where you want to go, and it will cost you the equivalent of a month's rent in a Putney flat. (Minicabs are another story, on both counts.)
However, a cab ride in, say, Nairobi is a bit different. For starters, you don't get the taxi to yourself. You'll probably be in a shared taxi, or matatu, which sticks to a rough route, but will pull over anywhere for passengers to get on or off.
So it works out cheaper than a normal taxi, you just have to be prepared to share a mini-van with 15 of your closest African friends.
Plus there's the slight danger of, um, decapitation. I remember picking up the local paper a few days in to my last Kenya trip, and reading about a matatu that had been pulled over and its occupants all slaughtered for the few bucks they were carrying on them. Adds a touch of adrenalin to your ride, I guess.
They won't decapitate you, but cyclo and rickshaw drivers in India's "golden triangle" (Delhi, Agra and Jaipur) will certainly bug you to death. They're the kings of the commission-based up-sell.
First, they'll want to be hired for a full day - which, if you're a talented haggler, could work out to be a good deal. Next, they'll want to suggest the hotel you should really be staying at. And did you know there are some very, very good shops that you should have a look in?
It drives you bananas, but you get where you want to go eventually.
Of course, the "I can't take you to that hotel" routine isn't limited to India. Stop me if I've already told this one, but I had a mate who caught a tuk-tuk somewhere in Thailand, and upon giving the driver the name of the hotel he wanted to go to, was given the old, "Oh, that one burnt down" excuse. As savvy travellers do, he insisted on being taken there anyway, only to find... the burnt-out shell of what was once a hotel. Sigh.
Outside of the danger of being ripped off, there's also the danger of being killed in a high-speed accident. Taxis in Europe are mostly fine, but if you catch one late at night in Prague, take a tip, and whack on a seatbelt. Those guys scream through the wet, cobbled streets like they're late for a tracksuit-and-mullet convention.
Russian cabs are in no danger of breaking land-speed records, but they're not exactly gold-panelled horse-drawn chariots either. My favourite was the St Petersburg taxi whose boot could only be opened with a screwdriver. The driver pulled up, jumped out of the old bomb, jammed a screwdriver in the boot, shoved it with his hip, grunted towards the now open hatch, and leapt back in the cab.
So where's a good place to get a taxi? Try Buenos Aires. As long as you can pronounce your destination in Spanish, you'll be taken straight there, and it'll cost next to nothing.
In the Algarve region of Portugal it'll cost a bit more, but all the taxis are spankin' new Mercedes, so you can put up with forking out a bit more.
I even found Beijing cabs okay, as long as you have the address written down in Mandarin. Mind you, I was blessed to have Beijing's self-proclaimed "number one tassi driver" ferrying me around. Surely not everyone could be that lucky...
p/s photos: I usually do not post photos that are too racy, but I have to make an exception because she has to be the most enticing looking girl I have come across for a long time. Eri Otoguro is a Japanese actress who was born in Bangkok, Thailand. She has a small role in the Hollywood remake of the Thai film, Shutter.