I like to think of myself as something of a Dubai taxi expert. Not the taxis themselves of course, that would be weird (although the 158hp 2.4 Aussie-built Toyota Camry is an absolute belter!), but rather an expert on the art of ‘riding within one’.
I have acquired this self-proclaimed expert status by commuting in one, every day, for the last seven months. It’s a one hour round trip (longer if there’s traffic, quicker if we are racing another angry taxi driver), which equates to around five hours a week, which is, very roughly, around 140 taxi hours on the Sheikh Zayed Road since January. That’s just shy of six whole days! Oh yes, dear reader, I am a taxi expert. And so, I thought this week I would share some of my acquired wisdom to make your taxi experiences as delightful as possible…
1 ‘Where are you from?’ is a question designed to do one of two things: divert your attention from a near fatal accident your driver has almost caused (as in, ‘Don’t look out the back window at all that burning rubber my friend, tell me where you’re from instead), or a lead up to a long conversation about cricket. Neither options are great.
2 If your driver doesn’t know your destination, stop him and get out. He won’t want to stop, indeed you may have to pull the handbrake yourself, but do get out. Remember – in Dubai, there’s always another taxi.
3 If the seats are leather, avoid at all costs during summer. Unless you enjoy arriving at work in a shirt so wet it could double as a flannel.
4 Count your change before you get out. 98 per cent of taxi drivers are nice honest men. I’ve met the other two percent – both owe me money.
5. Taxi drivers hate stopping on exact fares – say, Dhs 20. The trick is to keep the car rolling, asking ‘here sir?” until it clicks to Dhs 21, thereby greatly increasing the chance of a tip (who needs four coins rattling around in your pocket). Again, the handbrake is your friend here.
6 Taxi drivers see it as a huge affront to their masculinity if they are, at any point during a journey, overtaken. Do not have any qualms with asking him to slow down. The response to, ‘Slow down driver,’ is always, ‘Where are you from, sir?’
7 Make sure he has change. If you ask him, he will always say yes to secure the fare. When he doesn’t, sit still and let him go find some.
8 If you stop at Burger King, have the decency to get him some fries while he waits.
9 Note the colour of the taxi roof. Every company has a different colour. If you leave anything in the taxi, you call the company and they return it. It really is that honest a place. Red is best, mainly because they’re trained by the RTA. Possibly.
10 Taxi drivers are from Pakistan, India, Egypt, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Learn to say hello in those five languages and you’ll go far (depending on where you want to go, of course).