Taxi Drivers: Friend or Foe?

Everyone seems to have a taxi cab story. One story that’s so outrageous, you might not have believed it if you didn’t already have a similar one of your own.

I was naive to the world of metered rides until my late teens. The ‘burbs of San Diego are no place for taxis or public transportation. If you couldn’t bum a ride off your parents, your friend’s parents, or someone’s older sibling, you walked.

As I’ve traveled in my 20s, taxis (or some form of them) have often been my main modes of transportation. Being carless and living in a city like Suva, I take a taxi two to six times per day. Based on this data, I’ve categorized taxi drivers into eight distinct types ranging from most desirable to least desirable, respectively.

The Friend: Friendly taxi drivers are excellent conversationalists with plenty of stories to share. Time in a friendly taxi passes quickly as you trade travel tips, talk politics (but not overly so), and learn about one another’s cultures. The Friend quickly becomes your go-to driver whenever you need a ride. As soon as you’ve had a few drives together, his name quickly becomes passed around your social circle. The only grey area comes when you wonder whether you should invite him to drink with you at the bar or have him pick you up from it.

The Chiller: The chiller taxi driver doesn’t judge you for sitting on your phone in the back of a cab. He might ask a few questions to be polite, but then is happy to drive and listen to music. If you’re taking multiple cab rides per day or simply don’t feel like talking, a Chiller is ideal.

*Chillers can often be turned into Friends if you instigate the conversation.

The Sly One: The Sly One scams you, but he’s nice about it. For example, you walk up to a driver and tell him the highest price that you’re willing to pay. After a few numbers back and forth, he quickly agrees to pay your price. Relieved at how easy it was to negotiate, you follow him through a parking lot filled with brand new SUVs with a spring in your step.

He leads you to a rusty motorbike, hands you a mildewed helmet, and pats the back of the bike to hop on.

Hey, you never said you wanted to ride in a car! 

I mean, I guess he’s right?

The Snoop: “Are you married? Why you have no husband? Why you can’t get children? Why are you traveling by yourself – Oh right, because you don’t have a husband. How long will you stay? Why did you call Donald J. Trump a monkey to your friend!?…” The Snoop has more questions than you can possibly imagine, and answering them is easier than not.

He keeps a mental Rolodex of who’s who in the neighborhood and has no filter when it comes to sharing some of his more interesting factoids.  “You see that house over there? Yeah, that’s an ambassador. When his wife is gone, I take him out to parties. Do you know what parties I mean?” Takes both hands off the steering wheel to gesture large breasts.    

Somehow, the Snoop deduces enough information to add you as a Facebook friend later that day. In a state of learned helplessness, you accept. He’s already knows every intimate detail about your life anyways.

Exhibit A: Screenshots from a tuk-tuk driver Facebook friendship gone wrong

The Broken Meter: A driver with a broken meter may feign being a friendly driver or even a chiller. He might claim that the meter is broken (hitting the button furthest on the left is usually a quick fix), that there’s an extra charge for driving in the middle of the day, or you might just notice that the price is clocking into the double and triple digits quicker than normal.

The Speed Demon (Possible Amphetamine User): This taxi driver weaves through the streets as though reincarnation after death is a certainty rather than a slim possibility. Drugs? Trying to impress? Whatever the reason, this driver is scariest of all.

Coping with a speed demon: Tell him you get carsick easily and threaten to vomit all over the back of the car if he doesn’t slow down.

The Racist/Sexist/-ist: The title says it all. This driver has a lot of “strong opinions” and he’s not afraid to share them with whoever dare enter his tin soapbox.

After a handful of scammers and an incident where a taxi driver locked my backpack in the back of his car and threatened to drive away unless I paid him, I became obsessed with outwitting taxi drivers. I kept a foolproof, step-by-step plan in my travel journal and would lay awake thinking of how to refine it. At one point, it involved nine steps and involved taking photos of the taxi driver’s face, license plate, sitting next to the luggage, and ‘accidentally’ revealing a knife tucked up your sleeve as you stepped into the cab. While my paranoia of bad taxi drivers has waned, my overall obsession with them has not.

What type of taxi drivers have you had?   



  1. Andreas Moser August 11, 2018
  2. Chantae Reden August 13, 2018

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