Over my many years of catching taxicabs in China, I’ve learned some ins and outs to make my traveling experience worry-free. And as an international traveler, the taxi experience can be either quite pleasant or quite precarious, depending on your familiarity with the system. So, here are ten important things you should know about taxis in China.
1 – No crowding please. Taxis in China come in many shapes and sizes. The standard taxis are four-door vehicles, and the drivers definitely don’t want more than four passengers in a car.
2 – The rear door on the driver’s side may not open. This intentional disabling keeps passengers from being hit in traffic while loading and unloading the taxi.
3 – Some taxis have a cage around the driver. A cage made from shiny metal bars or transparent sheets of plastic helps to protect the driver from robbery, so friends tell me.
4 – Drivers have mounted identification. If you want to know who your driver is, you can find the driver’s picture and license mounted on the dash or the sun visor, in most cases.
5 – Expect to pay a little more. Most likely, you’ll also see a small sign on the dash telling you that you’ll be charged 1 additional RMB (Chinese currency) for the operation of the vehicle. I have been told it’s an environmental and fuel surcharge, but I haven’t verified it. So just add 1 or 2 RMB, depending on the car and city, to the final amount displayed on the meter.
6 – There’s less space than you think. Oh, and some taxis have a fuel tank mounted in the trunk, which means that there is not as much room as you would think for your luggage.
7 – You can hail it China style. If you’re on the street and want to flag down a taxi, you can try it the American way or the Chinese way. Over my many years of traveling in China, I have observed the different approaches between the Chinese and Americans. The Chinese are very calm as they hold their arm out at about shoulder height and make a small up and down movement with their hand. The Americans, on the other hand, hold their arm over their head and move their arm with a large waving motion. Try and see which one brings you the best luck.
By the way, you can spot a vacant taxi by the turned-on light in the windshield. Usually, the light is red, but is sometimes covered by clear or white plastic.
8 – Luxury costs. If you’re looking for a nicer ride, note that independent taxi drivers have very nice cars and vans. Independent taxis are usually larger, newer, and cleaner, and offer more options than standard taxi vehicles. If you decide to take one of these, for some reason, be prepared to pay a higher rate than you would with a normal taxi.
9 – You’ve got lots of options. On the other end of the taxi spectrum is a wide range of vehicle options. You can take anything from a rickshaw to a three-wheeled cart, to a motorcycle with an enclosure for passengers.
10 – Don’t be afraid to converse. If you can engage the drivers in conversation, you will often find the experience very educational and entertaining. As a rule, they are a fun loving group.
Enjoy your trip!