Taxi roulette

27 Sep

Since I switched jobs last year I can no longer walk to work.  I miss my daily walks and now really have to make an effort to get out and about more – either walking in the evening, arranging lunches by my apartment when I work from home or taking a walk near the office at lunch.

Getting to the office means that I either have to take the subway (which is about a 40 minute trip) or a taxi (which takes between 20-30 minutes depending on the traffic).  As I don’t go in every day because of the way my schedule works, I have been taking taxis quite a bit recently.  I know that if I get in a cab before 8am it normally means that I’m at the office by 8:20 and ready to start my day.  Rainy days are always tough – but I’ve had some bad taxi karma in the last several weeks where no matter what I try to do – in the morning it can be almost impossible to get a taxi.

I have my preferred corner and know if there is more than one person waiting at that corner it is normally going to be a very long day.   Sometimes you can see lots of taxis but they are all full.  Sometimes you see lots of empty taxis but they don’t stop.  And sometimes, people cut in front of me at the corner and jump into the taxi.

I have tried different tactics – I have a taxi app on my phone which sometimes will work.  I know if I head out before 7:30 my chances go way up – same thing if I go after 10am.  But really – there is no good way to predict if there will be others at that corner at the same time as me.

Once I get a taxi – it doesn’t mean all is well.  Our office is located near the Huangpu River, but right next to a ferry terminal – so very few taxi drivers have heard of it.  I have become an expert on telling the drivers which  tunnel to go through – which way to go if there is  traffic, how to get un-lost when they take a wrong turn when I wasn’t paying attention and even arguing if they take too long and the fare is higher than I expect.

It is funny how getting that taxi can affect my day and my mood.  When it works – my day starts very smoothly – when it doesn’t I can wind up flushed and discombobulated – not the best way to start my first meeting.

Similarly – getting home from work I have the same situation.  My normal tactic is to leave the office slightly early because of my late phone calls – but even that doesn’t guarantee me a smooth trip home.

Each time I put my arm out I am playing a game of taxi roulette – hoping and hoping that taxi will pull over in front of me and will whisk me off to my next destination.  The taxis remain affordable (about $4 USD one way to the office) and the drivers for the most part are polite and professional.

I would say that this is a cultural difference, but I don’t think so – I think it is a big city standard that I managed to avoid for a long time given the location of my apartment and workplace.  We have considered buying a car – but driving in Shanghai strikes me as even more stressful than playing taxi roulette – then I’d have to worry about parking too!

What tactics do you suggest for managing my taxi frustration?  I know it shouldn’t bother me so much – and occasionally I’ll have a week or so where everything will go perfectly – but that is the exception not the rule.  Any tips?

11 Responses to “Taxi roulette”

  1. abc in shanghai September 27, 2014 at 9:17 am #

    I’m looking forward to the new gold colored London Taxi’s!

    • gkm2011 September 28, 2014 at 3:05 pm #

      I haven’t heard of those yet. When will they start?

  2. Every Day Adventures in Asia September 27, 2014 at 12:10 pm #

    Definitely a big city standard – at least in Asia!

    I’ve had more than my share of taxi (or in my case rickshaw) roulette that will either leave me beaming or in a foul mood!

    With driving in Mumbai…. it is more of a video game dodging manic motorcyclists, people, ballsy bus drivers and car chaos! My nerves are often shot completely after getting behind the wheel so… can fully appreciate your trepidation. 🙂

    • gkm2011 September 28, 2014 at 3:04 pm #

      Sounds like that game Frogger I played when I was small! You are very brave to try!

  3. Giovannoni Claudine September 27, 2014 at 2:53 pm #

    Positively said: 4 US$ are not that much… if I would go to office with a taxi, around 4 km from where I live, it would ask me 25.- SFr. which are 26.- US$
    But here everything is quite expensive.
    Have a lovely week end Claudine

    • gkm2011 September 28, 2014 at 3:06 pm #

      Wow! If it was that much each way the subway ride would look a lot more palatable – even if I am sharing the space with hundreds of my closest friends. It is all relative for sure.

  4. CrazyChineseFamily September 27, 2014 at 3:20 pm #

    Sometimes I really have the feeling that getting a taxi during rush hours or shift changes is like winning in lottery. In Beijing it took us over two hours until we finaly gave up once but well, then again I never really take taxis in other countries so I can’t compare how hard or easy it is to get a taxi somewhere

    • gkm2011 September 28, 2014 at 3:07 pm #

      I think in countries where people drive themselves more it is a different dynamic. Beijing traffic is a whole other world though – Shanghai taxi drivers are 100 times better, though I understand that in Beijing the taxi apps are making a huge difference.

  5. ladyofthecakes September 27, 2014 at 7:16 pm #

    So, people can’t just order a cab to come to their house at a certain time every morning…? Curious…!

    • gkm2011 September 28, 2014 at 3:08 pm #

      You could – in theory, but if it is raining – all bets are off and given my ride is only 20 minutes, most drivers won’t commit as during that time frame there is so much demand.


  1. The eleventh, twelfth and thirteenth quarter review | 中国 Jumble - October 22, 2014

    […] most popular post was on Taxi Roulette – trying to figure out the best way to get a taxi and get around this city.  I have […]

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