Tuesday, June 26, 2012


Taxis in Central Asia are different from taxis in the US.  There are your normal, official taxis, cars that say "taxi" on them and have dispatchers and all that.  There are your not-so-normal-yet-still-official taxis, junky old cars that don't say "taxi" yet are connected to some sort of service & dispatcher.  These are the ones that I use when I have someone call me a taxi, usually to get to the airport or vet.

Then there's every other car out there on the road, each one a potential "taxi".  All you have to do is put out your hand and wait.  Sooner or later (usually sooner) someone will pull over, you can tell them where you want to go and negotiate a price, or you can just hop in.  If you sound foreign and clueless, they'll probably ask for 1000 Tenge (about $6).  Locals get taxis for 500 Tenge or less.  I've learned to just ask for 500 Tenge up front, they usually say yes, and if they don't, I don't get in.

Locals have no problem with this system; foreigners usually adjust to it quite quickly.  I, on the other hand, have been here almost 3 years and am still wary of it.  I've gotten over my American paranoia (is the driver really a serial killer?!) but I have other worries.  I know nothing about the guy who picked me up (and it's always a guy).  I don't know how well he drives, I don't know if he's been drinking.  Sure, I've talked with him to bargain the price, and I can tell that he's not completely wasted, but still...  Drivers here are aggressive, getting into a car with a stranger is a bit scary!

I've gotten used to it.  It takes close to an hour to get to church via the bus; in the winter, we took a taxi every Sunday.  It takes under 10 minutes by taxi, and that includes leaving my house, walking to the main street, and hailing a "cab".  Most often, the very first car I see stops for me, it's that common and convenient.

Sophia prefers taxis to walking, of course; she doesn't see the potential danger in riding with a complete stranger who most likely does not have working seatbelts.  My mom preferred the buses.  Aggressive as the bus drivers can be, they're calmer than the taxi drivers.

I'm able to take a taxi, I'm capable of telling the driver where to go, giving directions, bargaining a price.  But I prefer other methods of transportation.

No comments:

Post a Comment