Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Still a Local

Back when we lived in Delhi, I didn’t have to take taxis very often for which I was incredibly grateful. The rule for taxis here is that you either insist they use their meter or negotiate a fare before you leave. The latter was only a good idea if you knew where you going and around how much it should cost so you didn’t get gouged. The former could be tricky because taxi drivers often took the long way thinking you didn’t know better.

It may have been several years since I was technically a local in Delhi but thanks to my taxi training here in Cairo, I have mad taxi negotiating skills. On the rare occasions when I took taxis this summer, it was my job to make sure we got the best price. One night, a large group of us headed out to GK2 for dinner and before we got to the end of the hotel’s driveway, the driver and I had agreed that he would be waiting around to drive us back to the hotel after dinner, would keep the air conditioning on, and wouldn’t overcharge us for either of these services. (That driver would later try to gouge one of my friends in retaliation.)

Most of the time when we were in Delhi this summer, I avoided over-priced taxis and hopped on a three-wheeler to my destination. You may know these conveyances better as tuktuks, auto rickshaws, or death traps. Cheaper and slower than taxis, three-wheelers are how most Delhites get around town. The doorman at our hotel was shocked and vaguely scandalized that I kept leaving to find a three-wheeler rather than asking him to call me a taxi.

More westerners have taken to dressing in Indian clothes like kurtas and salwar kameezes since we lived there so drivers were puzzled for a moment trying to determine if my olive skin, dark hair, and local style of dress marked me as an Indian or a tourist. My lack of Hindi put me in the latter category but my hard-line on haggling definitely marked me as the former. I knew of at least one group of three-wheeler drivers who refused to take me anywhere after I insisted on paying local fares to my touristy destinations.

Although I was beyond glad when my friend Sunnymorn arrived back in town and loaned me her driver to get me to our mutual destinations, I kind of liked getting around town like a local. When we lived there, I never needed to flag down a three-wheeler in the pouring rain or negotiate for a taxi from the mall whilst sweat dripped from all my pores but I honestly felt less like a foreigner doing so this time around.

35 comments:

staceyjwarner said...

Fascinating...I would have to learn a whole new skill set.

I'm much better traveling with a local. I find it to be such a better way to experience the city.

Sounds like you would be a great guide.

much love

Roxane said...

That is so neat, I haven't traveled much but when I do I prefer to "do as the Romans" :)

San said...

Haha! Sounds exciting! I know in Malaysia, taxi negotiations are also a must before boarding the cab! :) U are such a handy person to bring along around the world! :)

Brenda said...

I kind of like fighting with taxi drivers in other countries. Its kind of a game. Some find it stressful, my attitude is, "you win some, you lose some" :)

cat said...

Very interesting read.

LadyFi said...

I like tuk-tuks and used to travel a lot in them in Thailand.

Protege said...

I am completely awful when it comes to *taxi skills*, I would probabaly be taken for a ride for sure.;)
Love that you disclosed that you have exotic looks, I always pictured you as a cool blond.;)
Have a great Thursday,
xoxo
Zuzana

Betty Manousos:cutand-dry.blogspot.com said...

I know exactly what you mean by "negotiating skills". i've been through that.
I did enjoy your post!!
hugs hugs

BLOGitse said...

oh yes, negotiating skills...It's the same if you're in India or Cairo - the same 'fight' time after time!
Thanks for sharing!

Lynda said...

I remember one time pushing my then 7 year old into a taxi in Bombay... she stalled and shook her head... but I pushed her anyway, only to discover only after I jumped in after her and the driver had taken off at warp speed, that there was no floor ... it was like being in the flintstones car..our little feet dangled.LOL

Anniki :) said...

I'm not very good at negotiating. When I lived in Turkey few years ago, I always preferred to walk or take a but, because it was real pain for me to negotiate the taxi price.

WhiteSockGirl said...

Egypt sounds so exotic,... would love to travel there.
Taxis, taxis!!! Fixed fare in Namibia, regulated by an umbrella body. Quite strict in Namibia cause taxis had been link to illegal operation, but it is getting much better now.
I would not mind to take a ride in that three wheel thingy, it kinda looks dangerous. I love danger.

Susie said...

I am always impressed with your worldliness!

Fruitful Vine2 said...

The doorman's reaction had me laughing. I could just imagine it.

blueviolet said...

I love that you're the one assigned to do the negotiations. You're a tough cookie and I love it!

Wifey said...

And, I thought hailing a cab in New York was hard. LOL!

Winks & Smiles,
Wifey

Gaston Studio said...

You bring back memories of my days negotiating with taxi drivers in Cairo, a daunting task to some westerners!

Katherine Aucoin said...

Seems like taxi drivers all over the world are brethren. They all want to gouge the porr tourist or the people they think are tourist. I admire your savy!

Katherine Aucoin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Caution Flag said...

I see elected office somewhere in your future.

Anonymous said...

And I had thought that Cairo had the worst taxis--both for the conditions of the cars and for the need for phenominal negotiating skills!
merthyrmum

Bluefish said...

I like the rickshaws...never been on one before.

Crazee Juls said...

Wow, I don't know if I could pull off such negotiations... I get all sweaty and clammy and nervous just negotiating with my children.... It sure is neat though, to read about what happens on the other side of the world. :) Thanks for sharing!!

Jemma Ruby said...

Living in these parts of the world really puts your haggling skills to the test! This was a great post!(I am glad you are back!! :-)

Fida said...

Ah...Taxis. I learned a few things on my trips - and here I picked up some more. You've got such a colorful life - love it.
BTW, I just stumbled your site ;-)

only a movie said...

Wow - I love this. Are you linking this up to Pseudo for Travel Tip Thurs?
What a cool post.

The Blonde Duck said...

I would be terrible at negotiating!

sprinkles said...

The taxi drivers in America like to take your $$$ too! I remember going on vacation with a friend once and we took a taxi somewhere. I didn't pay attention to where we were going since I didn't know the way. My friend apparently did pay attention and told the taxi driver he was going the wrong way and that he needed to take us back to our starting point, go the correct way and not charge us for the extra miles. He said he misunderstood where we wanted to go. He didn't, he just knew we were from out of town. Everyone knew we were from out of town. I would ask people how they knew we didn't live there and they all said they didn't know how exactly, they could just tell.

Melissa B. said...

Love your spunk! Think I would have opted for 3-wheeler over taxi, too...

Sandy said...

I can't imagine what it would be like to live in such a different country. You are so brave!

Grand Pooba said...

taxi? What's that?

scrappysue said...

it's fun to be both tho, isn't it? tourist AND local! the friends we stayed with in rome are there for THREE months! they wanted to live like locals for a while

Yaya said...

I remember the taxi scam from when I went to Mexico.

prashant said...

kind of like fighting with taxi drivers in other countries. Its kind of a game. Some find it stressful, my attitude is, "you win some, you lose some" :) Work From Home

Nicole said...

I hate haggling, but it's a good skill to have, sigh :)