Over the past 30 years or so that I’ve been travelling, I can safely say I’ve heard a taxi-tale from every continent. I’ve heard some shockers in Vietnam where I live and work nowadays, but equally, I’ve had my own less than desirable experiences in more developed parts of the world including Australia where I come from – and North America.
Some taxi-tales are a good news story, the birth of a baby in the back seat and suchlike, but most are about situations that travellers dread. We’ve all heard stories (or experienced them first-hand) about getting ripped off, taken to the wrong location, arguments about paying a tip (or surcharge) lead-foot drivers verging on street racing, tailgating, jackrabbit starts, clutch dumps, ‘modding’, road rage and the list goes on.
Here in Ho Chi Minh City, I use Vinasun Taxis, or I walk. I should point out that I don’t have shares in Vinasun or an axe to grind with other service providers although like everyone, I’ve heard some horrible stories.
From my personal experience, Vinasun cabs in Ho Chi Minh City are clean, reliable, 100% metered (an expression I heard from another traveller), have decent air-conditioning and you’ll see them everywhere. The drivers mostly know their way around, they’re trained to load and unload baggage and check if anything has been left in the cab before the passenger disappears into the Ho Chi Minh City throng. At the start of your journey in a Vinasun taxi, you’ll even get to hear a recorded message in English thanking you for using the service.
Put simply, what I want from a taxi is to take me from point A to point B for a reasonable price, without any surprises. I think most travellers want the same. So, if you’re new to a city, how do you know which taxi company to trust with your personal property, sanity and dare I say it, well-being? Catching a cab when you’re new in town is like many other travel experiences in my view – go with your ‘gut feel’. If it doesn’t feel right, there’s a good chance it’s not right, so let it go.
In addition, speak with other travellers and local people for their take on which cab service to use and the pitfalls. It’s also worth checking out what information is available on blogs and travel websites before you arrive in a new destination, although personally, I’m only interested in internet comments that have a name attributed to them.
When it’s all said and done, all of us are only one dodgy taxi ride away from having a horror taxi-tale of our own. Be smart and there’s a high chance you’ll be the listener rather than the story-teller.
About the writer: Peter Goudge has been living in Vietnam since 2006. He is the Managing Director (and owner) of Australia-Vocational Skills & Education (AVSE-TESOL) and the Australia-Vietnam School of English.