I have noted before about Mongolian Taxis. I have now had a chance to study Beijing Taxis more thoroughly. So far I have taken 10 taxi trips in Beijing and 3 of them have been dodgy – either the route taken or the fare.
Today was the corker. We got into a taxi outside my hotel which is next to the West Station in Beijing. I asked the taxi driver to drive me to Silk Street. Now this is a distance of about 15 to 20 kilometres maximum. Beijing Taxis today charge CNY 1.60 per kilometre so a charge of 26 to 30 Yuan is appropriate. This driver took me the shortest and most direct route.
When we arrived at Silk Street he switched the meter off very quickly (not that I could see the bloody thing anyway) and printed a receipt. The receipt he gave me was for CNY 109. He also had the temerity to look at me with a hurt look when I called him a big liar. In any case, in double quick time he folded and accepted 30 Yuan.
Then there was the driver a couple of days ago that took me three sides of a square for 65 Yuan and when I pointed out to him that he had taken a really really long way to the Australian Embassy (which is just down the road a little from Silk Street as it would happen), he accepted 30 Yuan.
So, 10 to 15% of the taxi rides in Beijing have been a bit suspect. Seems the biggest problems are in the little red taxis and the black taxis (although to be fair the red taxi that took me back to the hotel tonight was spectacularly good and fair in his charging). I am starting to think that there is a “taxi Mafia” operating outside the hotel here as all the bad taxis have been called over by the guy at the front of the hotel.
My best advice when travelling by taxi in Beijing is:
- Check the odometer in the car if you can. The fare should be about 1.5 times the distance travelled (plus or minus a little). This could change to twice soon as the government has approved a price increase.
- When the taxi driver flips the “For Hire” sign you should hear the recorded message in Chinese and then English thanking you for using Beijing Taxis.
- Look for a clear and easy to see taxi driver license. If the picture is really faded then probably he stopped being licensed a couple of years ago.
- Never be afraid to argue the price when it is excessive. In Beijing a foreigner is treated as “fair game” and prices are always excessively high. To give you an idea, when buying a pair of pants today, the price quoted was CNY 380 per pair. The price paid was CNY 60.
Like most places, in Beijing you need to be alert to what is going on around you. This is doubly so with taxis. If you are staying at a 5-star hotel, then the hotel will record the taxi details of the driver that collects you and if you have a problem they will contact the appropriate authorities so even the Chinese are aware of the problem.