5 Best Ways to Keep Taxi Drivers Honest

It’s that time a year again when some of us not so seasoned travelers have to hit the road again. From past experiences and based on current inquiries about local taxi fares, I decided to come up with a list of pointers to look out for.

1. It is best to hire a taxi through your hotel or local friends. We hired a taxi through the hotel while we were in London last month. The fare was 10 pounds more than a street taxi, but at least the price was fixed. This proved useful as we encountered an accident on the main road and our driver had to take quite a detour. Nobody enjoys the feeling of doubt whether you have just gotten ripped off or not.

From Leadenhall Market in London (the banking district) to Heathrow Airport, most quoted a fare of 60 pounds. Our taxi was 70 pounds and it was worth it!

2. If your cab hire is not done through the hotel, get the driver to commit to a price. If you are in the U.S.A., e.g., don’t forget to ask whether this includes taxes, service charges, etc. Some taxi drivers do not mention the total charge and surprise you at the end of the ride.

If you are with fellow passengers, repeat the agreed upon total price, and name them as witnesses. A cunning driver might insist after the ride that you had misunderstood the quoted price.

3. Take a photo of the taxi before you get in or note down the license plate. This knowledge might also prove useful in deterring him from overcharging.

4. If your arrival by taxi is at night, remind the driver to turn the interior light on all the way. Here comes the important part – ask your fellow passengers to watch you pay the money as they are your witnesses. Then count out the notes in a strong voice, ask for confirmation of how much you have handed over, before he puts it away.

I have learned this from my New York cab driver who insisted I had not given him the full amount (which I had), but my tired fellow passengers in the back seat were no suitable witnesses either. We were just not prepared for this kind of deception.

5. Somewhere along the ride from e.g. the airport to the hotel, ask for the local police number in a casual way. Then store it in your mobile phone. Make sure the taxi driver takes notice of this.

I know it is difficult after a long flight (sometimes even a short one), when you have to deal with locking up your home, getting to the airport, checking in, waiting for your delayed flight, picking up your luggage, dealing with immigration, and finding your way to your destination.
But you have to stay alert up to the last minute until your feet hit the sack or your elbows hit the hotel bar.

New York City

I will be making use of my own list in Nottingham quite a few times next week. But besides keeping taxi drivers honest, I also intend to visit the Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem (England’s oldest inn), say “Hey up me duck” to the locals, and I also hope to catch a glance of our son while his farewell partying ends for the semester break.

Women’s Safety Issues and Precautions in India

Nobuko is back in India and reporting about the general situation in regards to women, safety (or lack of it), and men’s attitudes. This is what she had to say:

Safety in India cannot be generalized. Certain areas are more challenging for women travellers, most notably Delhi which got a notorious reputation as the rape capital, and central and north-western states like Rajasthan, part of Punjab, Utter Pradesh, Bihar, and central Maharashtra.

I can speak for Mumbai (capital of Maharashtra) since I lived in a suburb called Santa Cruz, one hour north of the center, for three months last year. In Mumbai, I could go out till well past midnight and catch a auto rickshaw back to my place alone with no problem. No cat- calling, whistles, or groping. But I have met some European women accompanied by men being groped on streets or in trains, which are so packed!

Perhaps I got no hustle in Mumbai, because I am Asian and can appear as Nepali or someone from the northeastern states of India. Having said that, a young professional woman was raped and killed in her apartment last September in a suburb of Mumbai. The killer/rapist was the security guard of the building where she lived. And, to strengthen the stereotype, the stereotypes are from the Delhi area.

South India is like a different country, where people are civilized and many more people are educated and see women as people, not as meat. Well, even this cannot be generalized as I have heard from so many Caucasian women that in the city of Mysore, boys around age 8-9 spit out slurs like “Hey, you want f*@k?” and grope adult women! Clearly they are learning this type of behavior from older males around them.

I also have been to Sikkim state and have gone through Darjeeling in West Bengal state. There it feels very safe. I noticed a bigger Tibetan and Nepalese population. and I don’t want to come across as being racist against central and northern Indians, but I could not help guessing that perhaps Tibetans and Nepalis have a different upbringing, which gave me the impression that they are more liberal in terms of how they relate to women. Perhaps they have more self control, or getting more sex with consenting partners that they don’t feel the need to go out and rape fellow human beings.

Unfortunately, the Swiss rape victim a few weeks ago was camping (!!). I would NEVER dream of camping where she was – Madhy Pradesh, in central India, no matter if accompanied by a man or alone. If she had stayed in a guest house, I am sure nothing would have happened to her. I feel very bad for her, but here in India, visitors need to realize that they cannot do things that they are used to doing back home – including enjoying the freedom and safety to be able to camp.

Men in those areas I mentioned above are raised, in my opinion, in sick societies where respect towards women is probably unheard of. Even police and officials make public statements that justify such uncontrolled acts of men releasing their sexual compulsion by saying “Well, but she was walking / travelling alone after dark without the company of a male family member” or “She was drinking and smoking alone” or “She was improperly dressed, therefore provoking it”. This problem of violence and disrespect against women is more than skin deep as you can see.

If people in power think like this, why are we so puzzled when men raised with this type of norm go out and do whatever they want using women as their game?  They think of not only raping a helpless woman, but also hurt her by sticking a metal rod inside of her to the point where irreversible and fatal physical damages are caused?

Women in certain areas are not able to enjoy the same freedom as men do,  like going to a football game, drinking in a bar, going to visit friends after dark, or even travel to the next village alone. If she does, it’s her fault when men selfishly use her as an object to satisfy their pitiful sexual needs. Have any of these lower-than-animals thought of masturbating instead of raping? Masturbation is humane, hygienic, and convenient.

More and more I am learning that rape happens so much that people are desensitized. It’s like “Oh, yeah, my neighbor was raped last week.” “Ah, my cousin was raped last month”. But these normally happen to poor girls who are in the lower caste. And rapists are often sons of equally dick heads who hold power in politics or commerce.  So the cases go unreported.

In December, a case in Delhi made headlines, because it involved a middle class Indian woman, whose father was somewhat involved in local politics. That is why it became such a big news world wide.

And the Swiss woman was a foreigner, so there again, this made it to the news. But if the rape victim is of the lowest caste, there is no such luck, because caste society does not give a shit about those people – actually they are not considered human. Just another animal that does the jobs the others don’t want to do.

All this may result in my losing opportunities to interact with the locals, but the more time I spend (again, in certain places) in India, the more I feel it is not worth the risk of being harassed.

I’m iron-hard and cold towards Indian men. I give them dirty looks when they stare at me and am not afraid to make a scene by yelling at them to catch other people’s attention. when those scum bags approach me with distasteful, to say the least, behavior and comments.

Thanks, Nobuko, for sharing your insights here with us.

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