Saturday, August 25, 2007

taxis in China

Like everything else Chinese taxis have come a long way and have a long way to go. I have a natural aversion to taxis, which I will not go into here. But, one of the problems with taxis in China always was that they ran cartels. So in 1992, the taxis at a train station would suddenly beef up the prices when a train arrived, even the buses would to this. When I left GuangZhou airport, in 1992, I baulked at being charged a flat 50 元. They would not use the meter. At the time the average wage in China was 600 元. So I walked out of the airport to the main highway. Here, at the bus stop I met with a group of Chinese university students. They took me under their wing and when the intercity bus illegally stopped to pick us up to earn a little more money that made the conductor only charge me 1 元.

In 1999 in Beijing the situation had changed a lot and generally the drivers would use their meters. However, on leaving the Summer Palace, we found that again there was a cartel going and they wanted to charge 50 元 for the trip back to 天安門. The others went in their cab, and after the cab left the car park the driver agreed to use the meter. He said that he could not do this while the others were watching. We went a block away onto the main highway and flagged down a cab. The passing cab driver used the meter.

Then in 2006, we used cabs a lot as I was traveling in a group. The cabs always used their meters. Now all they need to do is actually learn where things in the city are located. We spent ages in cabs with the driver on the mobile talking to someone else trying to work out how to get to where we wanted to go.