Let's Play Taxi Driver Bingo
It’s an unwritten rule of travelling that taxi drivers – and their many eccentricities – will leave their mark on any trip.
Whether it’s their universal delight in telling you all about their political leanings, or those belonging to the school of “No, of course I’m not lost”, taxi drivers remain an entertaining and undoubtedly memorable part of travelling the globe.
It doesn’t matter where in the world you’ve travelled; chances are you’ve met these taxi drivers before.
Type: Convinced he owns a Tardis
Usually found: Parts of South America, China
As far as this guy’s concerned, the number of fitted seats in a vehicle is not a concrete limit on actual capacity. Got ten passengers and only five seats? Never fear, you can cram at least six in the back if you start stacking bodies, and there’s always space in the boot. As we’ve all experienced on holiday, you can keep loading in suitcases (or, in this instance, people) just as long as you slam the door down quickly enough so that they don’t escape.
Not got enough passengers? This doesn’t bother this breed of driver either. In China, any space is waiting to be filled, and it doesn’t matter with what: you’ll find yourself surrounded by increasing quantities of flowers, livestock, or fruit and vegetables as you stop every few miles to pick up a whole range of new ‘passengers’ to squeeze in.
Type: Will do anything to defend your honour
Usually found: Albania
We’ve all been there: you’re getting unwanted attention from a group of local guys across the street. A kindly taxi driver, noticing your problem, revs up his engine and attempts to run the men over as a way of protecting your honour… wait, what?
Yes, this happens. This type of taxi driver wants you to appreciate the warmth of his people, even if that means other locals end up splattered on the front of his car.
Type: Will do anything to protect their own honour
Usually found: China
Be careful not to mess with your taxi driver when travelling in China. While guilty of complete obliviousness to the rules of the road or traffic management (bearing in mind this is a country that once installed twenty traffic lights on a single pole for “decorative purposes”), they’ve also been known to keep a spare crowbar in the passenger seat just for those moments when another taxi driver pisses them off.
Friendly advice for when faced with this situation: don’t ask for your money back. Just open the door, climb out and walk away quickly.
Type: PARTAAAY TAXI!!!
Usually found: The best parts of the UK
If you’re sensible, you’ll have this guy on speed dial, ready for those cold winter nights when all you want is to rock up to a club in style. Yes, we’re talking about the legendry Party Taxi.
Want the experience of hallucination without the need for those pesky (and illegal) drugs? The Party Taxi is guaranteed to make even the soberest of nights feel like you’ve unwittingly wandered into Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: a van decked out in fairy lights and more inflatable penguins than you really know what to do with.
Topped off with a mirror ball and ‘90s pop music, the next morning you’re left seriously questioning what the hell happened last night?
Type: Convinced you want a good time. Wink wink.
Usually found: Peru
Want to go to a local brothel but not quite sure how to ask? Simple: Peruvian taxi drivers are more than happy to help out with any request for visiting some local ladies you might have. Don’t actually want to visit Mamacita’s Love Shack, but want a lift to somewhere more innocent instead? You may struggle getting this across to this type of driver.
You say: “Can you take me to the market please?” He says: “You mean brothel, right?” Wink wink. You say: “Football stadium, thanks”. He says: “Yeah, sure, the football stadium”. Wink.
These guys think they know exactly what you really want. Unfortunately they have no idea.
Type: Thinks he should be running for President.
Usually found: Globally. Probably even on Mars.
For Brits, this is the stereotypical black cabbie, but you soon learn that all taxi drivers are more than willing to embark upon that normally off-limits topic of conversation: politics.
Perhaps this is unique to the taxi business because you’re a captive audience. They’re sure to regale you with their thoughts on the political situation in their home country – whether it’s a conversation you want to be having or not.
If you’re desperate to steer back to safer topics, make sure to mention the merits of a rival country’s football team: that’s guaranteed to move you rapidly onto a new subject.
Type: Tuk tuk speed demon
Usually found: Thailand & South-East Asia, remote villages in South America
Tuk tuk drivers are in a league of their own when it comes to their insatiable need for speed. They’re driven by an inflexible belief that instead of owning a flimsy, snail-shell plastic casing attached to a 950cc scooter, it’s in fact a gas-guzzling BMW K 1200.
Thanks to this, they fling it in front of all passing traffic with scant regard for whether it really can dodge past the oncoming vehicles.
Owing to the lack of sides, you spend half the journey clinging desperately to any available plastic to avoid being flung out at every corner. For safety purposes, you quickly learn that the rule of thumb is to choose an older looking tuk tuk driver – it’s your only guarantee that he’s had some previous luck at escaping accidents unscathed.
Type: The “No, I’m not lost”
Usually found: Globally
Another universal treat of the taxi world, and probably most traveller’s utmost favourite, the “No, I’m not lost” driver has a startlingly capacity for picking you up atthose moments when you really do just need to get to your destination on time.
Have a flight in an hour? This taxi driver will confirm he definitely does know where the airport is, before looping the city multiple times and finally admitting defeat, ten minutes before check-in closes. He drops you off on the side of the road with an apologetic shrug, speeding away in search of his next unlucky passenger and leaving you to swear loudly in as many of the local words as you can manage.
Steph Dyson writes about adventure travel and meaningful volunteering on her website, Worldly Adventurer. She left her job as an English teacher in the UK to travel the world in 2014. So far, she's made it to Bolivia and Peru. Follow her on Twitter @worldlyadventur