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Tuesday, June 25, 2024
HomeTurkeyIstanbul“Taxi my friend?” The Worst Places to Hail a Cab

“Taxi my friend?” The Worst Places to Hail a Cab

Here are the worst places to catch a taxi on Earth!

1. Dubai, UAE: Dubai is tiny yet the drivers are new to the city and have no idea where anything is. If they get on the phone and try to call their colleague to ask where something is, get out. Should I take Sheikh Zayed Road or go through the city?

a group of cars in the desert

Result: The pretended not to speak English, so I too pretended not to speak English and got out paying what I thought was reasonable, less 10 percent. Not Robbed.

2. Doha, Qatar: Dubai and Doha are as close to Iraq, the land of my ancestors, as I have been. Nevertheless, I knew when I was in trouble when I heard, “Cousin, I just started my shift and I have no change.”

a group of cars parked in a parking lot

Result: Robbed

3. Istanbul, Turkey: “Istanbul has too much traffic so I’m not going to be able to use the meter. I’ll have to charge you a flat rate.” It took forever to hail this taxi so I had no choice but to agree.

a yellow car parked on a wet street

Of course when I came to the hotel, the Hilton Istanbul, I renegotiated the price then asked for the bellman to back me up.

a building with lights on it

Result: Not Robbed

4. Shanghai, China: Another excerpt from my book illustrates a problem with taking taxis in China.

I later discovered that hotels have a completely different name in Mandarin than English. Saying “Le Royal Méridien” over and over, softly or loudly, while banging on the protective glass that safeguards taxi drivers from psychotic tourists, is completely useless when the hotel is called “Shang Hai Shi Mao Huang Jia Ai Mei Jiu Dian” or上海世茂皇家艾美酒店in Mandarin characters. Even if the driver could read English, he still would have been confused because there was nothing in the Mandarin name that was remotely close to the word “Méridien”. My apologies to the taxi driver wherever he may be. (Probably working right now, as they work 14 hour shifts with only one day of rest) Quick advice: for those traveling to China, print the directions and the name of the hotel in Mandarin characters and make sure your phone is capable of displaying them as ‘square boxes’  is not Mandarin.

cars on the street at night

Result: Unsure

5. Bangkok, Thailand: “If I come one day and there is no traffic, then I tell you there is no more Bangkok,” the taxi driver told me. Ever since then I have repeated that line to taxi drivers who tell me, “Today there is too much traffic.” Another trick I perfected is to sit in the front seat next to the driver and when he says, “Sorry no meter,” I react by turning the meter on myself. That usually gets a good laugh from the driver who now takes me where I want to go at the meter price. However, I’d be a little hesitant of messing with the wrong driver.

a man looking at a mirror

Result: Use my method at your own risk to not get robbed/killed.

6. Colombo, Sri Lanka: A tuk tuk with a meter? How could this be? Coming from Bangkok where tuk tuks  are notorious for ripping off tourists regardless of their travel acumen, I was surprised to see a meter within this hybrid taxi.

a man driving a vehicle

a group of motorcycles and a motorcycle parked on a street

Result: Surprisingly not robbed.

7. Goa, India: “Very busy today, my friend.” There must be a union of taxi drivers from India, Thailand, and Turkey that all were trained to use this same line. Northern Goa is not that big but because it is a party area, it does have a lot of traffic. More traffic equals hire fares whether or not you are traveling with your Indian compadre, Anshuman.

a group of cars parked on a street

two cars parked on the street

Result: Threatened to be beaten with a stick, paid the fare.

*List is subject to amendments and additions.



  1. I luckily had google maps thanks to Tmobile unlimited international data when I got in a Taksi in Istanbul. The driver just wanted to charge a flat rate, but I insisted on the meter. He finally conceded, but when I told him he was going in the wrong direction, he pulled over and said he’s not taking me! Then, a nicer Taksi picked me up and took me to my destination at less than 1/2 the original flat rate with the meter. Istanbul is full of hustlers.

  2. The name in Shanghai, Taiwan might actually have Le Meridien in it. The article reads …. Ai Mei Jiu Dian which sort of sounds like La Mer i dien.

    I was once charged a “fuel surcharge” for my auto rickshaw in Chennai, India despite the hotel bellman agreeing on the price and telling me the price. It was something like $3 or 4 to the airport. Then the driver, upon reaching the airport, demanded a $2 “fuel surcharge”. I did not want to risk being stabbed in the stomach over $2 so he got what he wanted but no tip. He was nasty about the fuel surcharge, which was completely unnecessary.

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