If you read the previous article on taking a taxi in the Philippines you would remember we are now sitting in the cab. We found one that didn’t look like it would fall apart on EDSA, the driver is clean, tidy and friendly (but not too friendly) and he has agreed to use the meter, or ‘metro’. Or has he?
Just because he says he will use it doesn’t mean he will so if you don’t see him engage the thing, it isn’t being used. One trick some pull is to say the meter is broken. No problem, find another cab. Or negotiate the price but if you haven’t made the trip before, be ready for; ‘very traffic’. This excuse is probably true, but it will be used to make the trip cost a lot more than it should.
I once took a cab from Makati to Pasay, perhaps 5km. It took over an hour and a half, most of the time we weren’t moving. Taxi meters work on both distance travelled and time taken, to account for such delays. I was stunned to be given a print out of the journey! Time, distance, rate, taxi company details, driver name, the lot. This was ten years ago so if today you get a cabbie with a broken meter, be ready for a sting, heavy traffic or none.
Another clue you are dealing with a dodgy driver is if they hide the meter in the glove box or behind a panel in the dash. This is done so they comply with the law requiring a meter to be fitted and working; but it lets them try the ‘no meter’ trick first. Many locals will not bother to argue and simply negotiate a fare based on previous trips and their own sense of what’s fair. This, of course, does not take into account the ‘Kano Discount’, or four times the price asked of locals. Being able to show surprise in Tagalog (Ano Bayan!) often gets a smile and a better rate.
So, we have decided to take this cab and are sitting in the front seat. Now is not the time to fall asleep but rather to marvel at how anything on wheels makes it from A to B in Manila at all. If you are anywhere else and the traffic isn’t as bad, marvel at how, despite the apparent lack of discipline, more accidents don’t happen than one might think. While you do that, keep an eye out for landmarks and best of all, compare them in your mind to the map you studied before even setting foot in the country. If, like me, you like maps, then you will enjoy poring over one (or Googlemaps online) and noting the lie of the land.
What’s A Couple of Bucks?
What happens when you arrive at your destination? You pay the fare on the meter or what was negotiated beforehand. If my cabbie hasn’t tried to take me on an unguided tour, used the meter or stuck to the negotiated fare, I always give him a tip, usually P100. That’s just $2.50; not a lot to me but it will make a big difference to him. Remember, most cabbies are honest and just trying to make a living to feed their families in a tough economy. Keep you wits about you, keep smiling and even if you get done for a couple of bucks, don’t let it spoil your trip.