Taxi etiquette in Dubai

Jenny Hewett discovers there are two sides to cab etiquette in Dubai

The Knowledge

I came to a conclusion the other day. It wasn’t the subtle type of epiphany that pleasantly creeps up in one’s passing thoughts. Nope. Irony came and smacked me in the face as I calculated all the money I’ve paid to taxi drivers in tips alone over the past three years in Dubai, and realised I could have almost bought a car with the amount (okay, so the vehicle wouldn’t exactly be a hot rod, but it would be a car nonetheless).

Don’t get me wrong: as my preferred mode of transport, it’s not that I have a problem with the cash I’ve offloaded on taxis in return for my safe passage. It’s quite the opposite – I take pleasure in tipping our good city’s taxi drivers, and if I parted with anything less than Dhs5 for a short trip, I would seriously offend myself. But it made me wonder what other people do when they get in a cab.

My taxi etiquette, in a nutshell, is to be as polite, composed and as generous as possible. Not exactly living on the edge, but it works for me. I also have to confess that the size of my tip is no reflection of the driving skills in question (or in some cases, lack thereof). It’s a sure thing. Good driving = Dhs10; came close to killing me a number of times en-route = Dhs5.

But I have observed that not everyone in Dubai feels the need to spread the tipping love. Take, for instance, a friend of mine who has since left the city. Setting one foot into a taxi would turn her into a fiery ball of frustration. On the occasions I was unlucky enough to accompany her on one of these trips, I would sink further into my seat as she burst into flames, wishing that the car upholstery would swallow me up, there and then. And that was before she asked for the Dhs2 change.

I understand that especially during Ramadan, your journey may sometimes be less than pleasant. Drivers are fasting, tired and worn out and it’s easy to let the frustration monster that’s normally dormant inside you break free. Yet it’s also easy to simply take everything in your stride. My brother-in-law, a burly Aussie bloke who loves a chat, is a token example of this. Without fail he opens most trips with ‘do you watch the cricket, mate?’. Without fail, he manages to break the ice.

So if we remember to treat this city’s good taxi drivers (and there are plenty) with the same respect and tone we would our friends, we’ll be laughing (with happiness, rather than hysteria). Now, sit back and enjoy the ride, please. Thank you.

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