8 Street Smart Tips When Riding A Cab
Metro Manila is a buzzling metropolis in the Philippines. It is a haven for business and commercial establishments. Moreover, it’s a melting pot of cultures where the old and new commingle. In one area, you can enjoy the tranquility of nature, and just a short drive away, you can experience the modern world. Without question, there is something for everyone in Metro Manila. But this is no travel and leisure article. This is about street smart tips when riding a taxi in Metro Manila to make your stay here safer and fun. Making fond memories means ensuring safety.
A real but not so happy story
Several months ago, my brother hailed a cab from his office going home. The trip would not take more than 10 minutes – or so he thought. The driver told my brother he had to take a leak so he stopped at a urinal alongside of the road. Yes, we have those here in the Philippines. But just a few seconds after the driver got out, two other men jumped in the taxi and held my brother at gun point. The driver got back and drove around while the two got his cash, phone, laptop and other valuables. They did not stop there. They got his ATM cards and asked for the PIN. While one went up to the machine to withdraw everything in it, the others stayed with my brother threatening to kill him if he gave the wrong PIN. A few more minutes and several kilometers away from his actual destination, they let my brother go. The experience rattled my brother, but keeping his cool, he managed to get back home in one piece.
This is just one among hundreds of stories about passengers getting robbed in taxis in Metro Manila. Unfortunately not everyone is as lucky as my brother. Others get hurt while other encounters are fatal. Knowing what to do in such situations is very important. It’s your life on the line. But won’t it be better to avoid such scenarios altogether? Here are street smart tips when getting a cab in Metro Manila.
1. Write down the details
Here’s one habit that my wife and I do – we write down the details of the taxi. Should anything happen, at least we have important information. Moreover, send the information to a friend or family via text, phone’s email, instant messaging or carrier pigeon if you have one. Furthermore, take note of the time and location you got the cab. Likewise, include your destination and your estimated time of arrival. There are times when I call my wife and let the driver hear that I am giving the details to her.
Important information to write down:
- Name of taxi company
- Plate number
- Operator/company owner Name
- Contact details of operator
- Pick up point
- Drop off point
- Pick up time
- ETA at destination
The first four details are written on the taxi’s door panel. Furthermore, I usually update my family with my current location. If there is heavy traffic or an accident, I tell them so they can adjust the estimated time of arrival. I make sure that the driver is aware that I am reporting my whereabouts to someone.
A Rotten Few
Surely, there are many honest and excellent taxi drivers in Manila but there are a few really rotten drivers out there that you should avoid.
2. Call a Reputable Taxi Service
In Metro Manila, you can easily get a cab almost anywhere. There’s almost a taxi line waiting for passengers in corners, along main thoroughfares, subdivisions and commercial areas. This makes it really convenient for people to get a ride especially late at night. However, it’s important to note that these taxi lines are not exclusive to one company. As such, expect different types of cabs from really reputable companies to independent taxi drivers.
This is one of the most important safety tips in getting a taxi in Metro Manila – call a reputable taxi company. Through the years, I’ve used the services of a few taxi companies like Shiro Taxi, Reno Taxi, and Dollar Taxi. I already have their dispatcher’s number in my phone so I can call them wherever and whenever I need their services.
Here are other advantages of getting a cab company service:
- You’re assured of a taxi ride anytime of the day
- They pick you up wherever and whenever you need them – without extra charge
- They give important information about the taxi and the driver – plate number, body number, name of driver, etc.
- You can request specific drivers if you want
- They usually have two-way radio to call for another taxi should the one you’re riding breaks down.
- Dispatchers also advise the drivers which routes to take to avoid traffic.
- Dispatcher records details of the driver, taxi unit, time and the passengers pick up and drop off points.
Compute your taxi fare
Here's a cool site to help you calculate the taxi fare from one point to another:
3. Get from taxi line from reputable establishments
A taxi line is a queue of cabs waiting for passengers. Instead of driving around and wasting fuel, many taxi drivers opt to wait for passengers at strategic areas. The line is usually first come first serve basis. Furthermore, establishments like malls, hotels, corporate buildings and areas, even gates of subdivisions may have taxi lines.
Although this is convenient, there are taxi lines that are better than others. For example, taxi lines in malls may have guards on duty. They ensure that every passenger gets a ride safely. Also, they record cab details and even give a copy to the passengers. Likewise, some malls have CCTV cameras that offer a certain level of security. In addition, there are attendants to keep the passengers in order.
Getting a cab from a relatively safe taxi line is essential. The additional level of security does help. But of course, passengers should never let their guard down, even in the most secured places. It may sound like someone is out to get you, but a little precaution helps.
With additional Security from mall guards
Too many people waiting for a cab
Convenient for commuters
No set schedule
Additional security from the guard
May ask for extra payment
There's always one available
May ask for extra payment
4. Get directions from reputable sources and stick to the route
Believe it or not, not many cars and cabs in Metro Manila have GPS devices. So you may want to ask for direction from reputable sources like the hotel concierge, guard on duty, or the ever dependable Google maps.
When you know the route, you can tell the driver to use it. Of course, most taxi drivers know alleys and short cuts that can get you to your destination faster. But, deviating from what you know may be uncomfortable to you. Furthermore, these deviations from the route can be dangerous.
It’s your choice whether to let the driver strictly follow your route or not. Just remember that it’s easy to get lost in a place that you don’t know. Some areas in Metro Manila especially the old ones have roads that crisscross while others have a fairly organized road system.
When I travel to places I don’t know, I have the habit of researching the main roads and the side streets. Also, I try to memorize the names of the street and count the intersections, right turns and left turns to my destination. Then I realized that getting an updated map is easier. A map on your phone is even better.
Here are some tips you may want to keep in mind:
- Learn the names of the street especially the main roads
- Ask for land marks you’ll pass a long the way to your destination
- It pays to know the route of other public transport like buses, jeepney, and trains like the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) and Light rail Transit (LRT)
- It’s a good idea to know the location of hospitals, police stations, malls, public markets and other well-known places in reference to your destinations
- Know which streets are one-way and two-way.
- It’s always a good idea to know alternative routes.
It is one thing to get to your destination, but it’s another to get there fast and safe. Let’s face it; every country has their scary areas you want to avoid.
A map is always handy
5. Lock your doors
Here’s a street smart tip when riding in taxis in metro Manila – lock your doors. This seems common sense, but it’s worth mentioning. When you lock the doors, you prevent easy entry into the cab. There have been reports where passengers get robbed during traffic stops. Be wary of people walking around through the traffic while the vehicles are waiting for the traffic light to turn green. Some would open taxi doors and snatch bags and purses.
On the other hand, there are some taxis with broken door locks. As such, only the driver can open or close the doors. Be careful with that as well. There was a time when my wife and her friend took a cab to the mall. The driver won’t let them out unless they give him additional cash. Of course the two refused and the driver insisted they give additional cash. Since they can’t open the doors, they started shouting and making as much ruckus as they can to get the attention of the mall security. Eventually the driver opened the door and they got out quickly. Unfortunately, they were not able to get details about the cab and its driver.
Just an afterthought, there are times when I feel more comfortable with old taxis with windows that you have to manually crank open as opposed to motorized windows. I can easily open it without worry that the driver can sabotage the mechanism. But as usual, I see a lot of taxis with broken window cranks. Whether they did that on purpose or not, I just don’t know.
6. Whenever possible, go in groups
There is safety in numbers especially when you go to places you don’t know. So, whenever possible, go in groups. Even if you have different destinations, you can still get a cab to drive all of you. Just tell the driver before hand so he can choose the best route. This won’t be much of a problem if you call a cab company. However, if you just hail a cab on the street, they may ask for a little extra for multiple destinations. Or, they may ask to reset the taxi meter every destination point (this is more expensive though). I usually add a few bucks on top of the taxi meter as a tip for the driver.
7. Stash cash in a safe place
It may sound crazy but, I usually keep cash in different places on me. Apart from my wallet, I have cash in small pockets of my pants. I have inconspicuous containers that hold extra cash just for emergency situations. It’s not that you are praying to get robbed, but it would be a good idea to store emergency funds when needed.
To fully maximize these secret stash containers, you may want to write emergency numbers and contacts and keep it with your cash.
It pays to have extra money when you badly need it.
8. Know the emergency numbers to call
We don’t have 911 emergency hotline here. Instead, you may opt to call 143 for Red Cross emergency services or 117 for police hotline. So when you’re in Manila, make sure you store these emergency numbers in your phone.
If you know how to handle yourself in Metro Manila, I’m pretty sure you’ll enjoy your stay. Also, getting around using taxi will become safer if you keep these street smart tips when riding a taxi in Metro Manila.
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