Friday, December 10, 2010

Indian cabs, motor rickshaws, and getting around

Have you ever wondered what it is like to get around in another place, especially another country?.. Well let me break down what it's like to take cabs and rickshaws in India...

The good: the meter doesn't seem to continue to run while the cab is not in motion, meaning that if you are stuck in traffic (as often there is here) it doesn't cost the rider an arm and a leg. Also the meter fares - especially in motor rickshaws - is incredibly cheap. I rode one for a fair distance while in Mumbai, what would have cost about 5 or 6 dollars US in Chicago. The cost?... Rs 21 (about 50 cents).

The bad: It is often a hassle to get a driver to actually turn on the meter. It seems that most are wanting to charge a flat rate, most likely knowing that for tourists like me I would have no way to know that I was getting swindled. When I took my first cab in Mumbai it was from South Mumbai (by Victoria railway station) to the 4 Seasons. Once I was able to flag down a driver I asked him if he spoke English, to which he simply gave me a blank stare. I then asked if he knew where the 4 Seasons Hotel was, to which he told me "300 Rupees." When I said no he then replied "OK, 200 Rupees." When I again declined and stated that I wanted him to use the meter he did, though not without a large hint of anger at the situation. I found it quite interesting that he did not know English, yet understood it enough to try and con me into paying a higher price. The final cost of the ride according to the meter: Rs 91. I tipped him, only seemingly making the driver more contempt as he gave me no response. Perhaps he though I simply didn't know the exact fare. Or maybe he was still fuming that he was not able to con my into paying the higher price. In either event I decided then and there that I would never tip here again.

This would not seem so bad, but many times it is next to impossible (at least being a foreigner) to get a cab or motor rickshaw to use the meter. By the time I made my way to Goa it was confirmed as each and every mode of taxi transport was only willing to drive me somewhere if it were on a set price. After telling the driver where I was going they would respond with a price. When I would ask them to turn the meter on they simply said no (or said nothing and opened the door for me to get out). It seems as though they know that they will be able to con some tourist into paying the price they name, and since it is not a lot of money to most tourists it seems all the more a likely reality. So I am left with the decision: either pay the rate that they ask for, or risk not being able to find a cab at all.

Aside from the meter issues there is also the issue of what driving in a vehicle is like in India. You see, lane makers/dividers are simply suggestions, and ones that are not often followed. There seems to be very little rhyme or reason for how many cars are on the road at any particular place. If it seems that there is enough room for 2 cars wide there almost surely will be 3. The rule of thumb being that however wide a particular part of a road seems to be (how many cars wide it can fit), take that number and add at least one (plus motorbikes). Also, there is no such thing as crosswalks, jaywalking, or fender benders. People cross whenever and wherever they can. Cars often hit one another without it actually being an issue (meaning that there is no stopping to exchange info, just keep driving). In one 15 minute cab ride one driver I had struck 2 vehicles and almost hit 3 motorcycles, 2 mopeds, 2 pedestrians, and countless other cars. And when I say "almost hit" I mean literally within inch (not inches) almost hit. It is unnerving to say the least!

Random things running through my mind right now: People here use horns for everything: when they pass; when they want to pass; when they see a pedestrian; when they are impatient; when others honk at them; when they want someones' attention; when they are displeased; when they are in a hurry. Sometimes I think they honk because they haven't honked in a while (by a while I mean to say a very short amount of time - it's relative!)... It really is hot here. Everything is super, super cheap. The train across Mumbai cost Rs 4 each way, liter bottles of water are Rs 15... I wish I could carry more stuff as I would buy lots more stuff... People here seem to have alot of things, but still seem to be very impoverished, feeding my thought that having things doesn't mean you're doing well. Also.... I wonder where all of this stuff comes from. I mean, there's A LOT of stuff here. Everything imaginable really. But WHY is there so much stuff if there's already so much stuff?


  1. OMG Kyle - this is HYSTERICAL! I can't stop laughing/smiling - what adventures - you could write a BOOK!!!!!! Think about it.....hmmmmmm

    I think (no I KNOW!) I would be freaked out riding in a cab. And, good point, where does all this STUFF come from...? If you really see something amazing - for you, for me :-) - you could consider mailing it home - It probably would be reasonable, too!

    I am so looking forward to talking with you via FB on Sunday -- for now - enjoy - and love you more!!!!

    xoxox MoM

  2. Kyle, you will be amazed at how QUIET it is here compared to India. The honking thing drove me nuts when we went. Keep your head up and be firm about paying what you want. I'm glad you're doing well and that you're enjoying your experiences.


    PS - you should tip the nice dudes that will talk to you on your cab rides (the one or two you may encounter)

  3. I can relate to the traffic situation ... Cairo is the same. I had never experienced anything like it. It's scary to think that you will start getting used to that nightmare! Safe travels. Love Aunty Paula

  4. PLEASE DON'T STOP WRITING! I caught myself laughing out loud a few times. I just want to keep reading more and more!
    Sounds like you are having a great time with many new experiences.

    Stay safe and I look forward to reading your next post!