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Friday, 8 January 2010

Taxis - Love them or hate them!!

I was on my way home from work yesterday when I decided I've had just about enough of the taxi drivers here.

In order to understand you need to know that I am English and I live in Hurghada, Egypt. It's also important to realise that work is only a 10-15 minute walk away from my home so I hardly need transport to get there and back. The walk each day is good for me.

Anyway, the behaviour of the taxi drivers here is absolutely appalling. If they spot that you are not Egyptian (although they sometimes behave the same way with Egyptians if they think they are rich) they slow right down and try to come alongside you. As they approach they beep their horns several times. If you are waiting to cross the road they stop right in front of you so you have to walk round them. If you are waiting for a bus and the bus is coming they stop right in front of the bus so the bus cannot see you signalling for it to stop and pick you up.

In short, they are just very obstructive and rude.

I think this is because most Egyptian people don't seem to like to walk anywhere. They seem to think it strange when European visitors DO walk. An Egyptian would rather take a taxi any day.

They also believe that all Europeans and Eastern Block visitors are rich. As this is a tourist area in a third world country I suppose that most of the time they might be right. Surely visitors from the first and second worlds (whatever they are - but if you have a third world it stands to reason there have to be first and second worlds) have more. It is true there is abject poverty here with no State help but when they talk about what money the tourists have they only see the numbers. They don't realise the cost of living is so very much higher elsewhere and the money doesn't go very far - in fact many tourists here save hard to afford the holiday.

If you do actually want a taxi the bad behaviour does not stop once you get in the car. They have meters and by law here are supposed to use them and charge you the fare shown for the taxi (NOT per person) in local currency. However, many run round all day with the meter running even while empty - this makes it difficult to know if they are looking for a fare because the hire light is out!! In this case when you get to the destination they will charge you the amount on the meter but, unless you were very observant when you got into the taxi, it will already have had 4 or 5 times your actually fare clocked up to you are paying way over the odds. If the meter is not already on and you ask them to start it running they will tell you it's broken and that there is a fixed charge for your journey. You now have to negotiate a reasonable price for your ride and you will certainly end up paying more than the correct rate.

And don't get me talking about the way they drive - I'll save that for another day. Suffice to say here that it's a good idea to have made peace with your God before you get in the vehicle.

I just wish they would learn some manners. Perhaps it wouldn't be too difficult for them to run empty with the meter off so you know they are for hire. It would be nick if they didn't toot their horns at you all the time - where I was brought up that was considered to be extremely rude! And, of course, it would be great if they would let you cross the road without stopping in your path; or not try to prevent you getting the public bus. I know I'm dreaming but we're all entitled to a fantasy from time to time.

One thought - if anyone has experience of driving here you will understand if I ask the question, "can they still drive if you disconnect the horn". Maybe more another time when I have a gripe about driving here in general.

At least that's one thing off my chest!!

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