Getting a taxi in a large capital city should be simple. Plenty of them ply the roads, you hail one, get in, state your destination, and when you reach there pay the driver the amount as displayed on the meter. That’s how it should work. Unfortunately, in Manila, it’s another story, and in a city with very limited mass transit options, taxi rides are the easiest form of transport to get from A to B. The taxis and taxi drivers in Manila are registered with the authorities, they should follow the simple rules as stated above, but an awful lot of them do not.
- The first problem is actually hailing one from the roadside or waiting at a taxi rank. Lots of the drivers just pass you by, even though their cab is empty with their available light showing on the roof. Waiting at an official taxi rank doesn’t help things, as many drivers ignore these official queues and prefer to try and find a more lucrative fare from elsewhere (something I could never understand, as here for the driver is a whole load of people willing to pay him!).
- The next problem you’ll encounter is telling the driver where you want to go. Quite often they don’t want to take you there. A lot of them don’t even let you get inside until they agree to the destination – elsewhere in the world you sit in the cab first then tell the driver the destination and they take you there. Who knows the reasons for refusing to go to certain destinations: too far, not far enough, ‘wrong’ side of town?
- Next up: once they agree to take you to your destination, will they agree to use the meter? They are bound by law to do so, but sadly, once again, many don’t follow the rules. A lot will just say, “400. OK?”, whereas a local, or frequent visitor, will know if the meter was used it would cost around 150 peso. A lot say they want more because of ‘heavy traffic’ – I’ve been visiting Manila since 2010 and there’s always heavy traffic! Be insistent: ask them to use the meter or you’ll get out. Sometimes this is enough to persuade them to use the meter, other times not. If by this point you’ve been waiting for over 30 minutes, until a taxi actually stopped and agreed to take you where you want to go, you might feel like giving in and just agree to their inflated rate. And thus, the driver’s scam is fruitful!
- OK, so you’re in, the driver’s agreed to take you to your destination, the meter’s on. Everything’s fine, right? Hopefully, yes! But still beware. The meter can actually be altered to display the number of meters travelled, rather than the fare, so when you arrive it’s much more than you should be paying when you look at the meter. Also, I had one occasion where the taxi driver stopped for fuel along the way (not bad in itself, just slightly annoying if you’re in a rush), but after he had paid for the fuel he told me had no more change to give me when I pay. Luckily, I had the correct amount, although that could have potentially been an expensive ride!
A lot of these taxi scams will be limited to non-Filipinos, but I do know even locals have a lot of trouble, especially flagging them down and seeing if the driver will agree to drive to your destination – a lot of drivers just don’t want to know. Inside the cabs are official telephone numbers and taxi registration details – taking note of these and threatening to complain to the authorities often makes the driver change his tune. I’ve caught taxis in other Filipino cities and not had problems and apps such as GrabTaxi make the situation in Manila a little easier. However, Manila taxi drivers need to clean up their act. Their behaviour gives a bad impression of the city – for many visitors, taxi drivers will be some of the only locals they exchange words with: they represent the Philippines and Filipinos! Of course, there are plenty of honest drivers out there, and finding one in Manila where everything goes to plan is a great feeling. If only all the city’s taxi drivers could follow this example!