City Survival: Riding a Taxi in Manila as an Expat
In a previous article I spoke about the virtues of walking around Makati City upon first arriving, to discover the smaller things you may miss if you take taxis everywhere. After spending a while walking around, and when seeking to venture further out, other forms of transport become necessary. You have a multitude of options including taxis, jeepneys, buses, trains and tricycles, but for now let’s examine the experience of catching a taxi as an expat.
In Australia, taxis are expensive and impractical for most purposes, mainly being used for going out and getting home on a Friday or Saturday night on the town, as well as for going to the airport if you’re unable to get a lift. Arriving in Manila, you’re unlikely to have a strong grasp of how to best navigate different areas via other forms of transport, and driving in the Philippines is probably something you heard horror stories about before arriving. So it’s likely that you’re going to be using taxis.
One thing you will never be able to complain about is your ability to get a taxi. As an expat, you may struggle to walk down the street or stand still on the footpath without taxis honking their horns to get your attention, slowing down near you and even pulling over. So finding a taxi is a non-issue, it’s the other aspects of riding a taxi you need to be mindful of.
In terms of safety issues, Australia has the opposite problems of the Philippines. The biggest issues in Australia are people attacking and robbing the drivers, as well as people running out on fares. You will now need to consider your own safety as the main concern, and heed some basic advice to stay safe.
Always ensure there is a meter and it’s turned on before entering the taxi, avoid haggling over prices. You’re unlikely to get a good price if you don’t know what you’re doing, and even if you do, you may find the price suddenly jumps once you arrive at the destination, as the driver disputes the initial verbally agreed upon price. Remember that it’s not worth fighting over what usually amounts to a few dollars in your home country.
When inside a taxi, if at any time you feel unsafe, pay what you owe and leave. Sometimes your gut instincts are right, and it’s easier to get out and wait a few minutes and get another taxi than risk something bad happening. An example might be if you get the feeling your driver is on the final hour of a 24 hour shift or they insist on taking shortcuts through suspect areas. During a taxi ride, sit in the front seat, ensure you lock the doors and avoid browsing on your brand new iPhone during the journey, or any other behaviour likely to draw attention.
A final stumbling block you may face are language barriers and navigation. This is the biggest issue when you’re unfamiliar with an area, as you will be unable to direct the driver where to go if they get lost, or know if they’re taking you the right way. Try to explain your destination via major landmarks such as shopping centres, hospitals, big intersections and other points of interest. The same applies when coming home in a taxi, know the major landmarks to direct the driver to, and how to navigate the final few turns from there as well.
You will hear stories of negative experiences people have with taxis, ranging from minor to severe. Keeping in mind that there is a potential risk, as with all things in life, and that a few stories darken the experience of the thousands of non-eventful taxi trips each day. There are also highly positive taxi experiences which people forget to mention, like a recent story of a driver who returned PhP300,000 that a passenger left in a taxi. Be mindful of the risk, follow some basic strategies for minimising it, and you will have the best odds of remaining trouble free.
Author: Derek Stewart
Yellow Taxis – http://baldrunner.com/tag/manila/
Jeepney – http://nats33.hubpages.com/hub/The-Philippine-Jeepney
Tips information graphics – Do’s and Dont’s Inside a Taxi by Philippine National Police – Makati City Government Website at https://www.facebook.com/My-Makati-286639851458148/?fref=photo