Taxis in Manila – why we need a car (aka white whine)

We’ve decided that we need a car in Manila. As metropolitan and accessible this city is, we’re feeling confined and limited in our options with using taxis. Many expats don’t feel a car is necessary, or even desired when taxis are such an easy part of getting around. I beg to differ.

The last straw came yesterday when, after waiting for 30 minutes in a taxi stand line, we hopped into a run down taxi, exhausted from carrying 70lbs of groceries in our arms, and had a horrible experience. The driver rudely asked where we were going. After telling him, he started literally yelling at us Tom Cruise style for getting in a southbound taxi when we wanted to go north – despite the fact the very car were were sitting in was facing the north side of the street.

I refrained from getting into it with him, but calmly replied that we’ve been waiting a very long time, and will offer him double the fare. He wouldn’t budge. He stared at us, then shifted in his seat and started yelling at Novita in Tagalog! I had enough, and just flatly asked him, “So you’re not going to give us a ride, is that correct?” – he began yelling again, so I just got out. (as a friend said, my best revenge would be to leave the door open)

It took all my patience not to launch into an argument with the guy. Instead I calmly got out, and watched him pull away with another group apparently heading in the ‘right direction’.

In over 7 years of living in Asia, I’ve never been treated so rudely by a taxi driver. Yes, I realize this is a one-off experience and it’s an individual’s own actions, not a general statement of taxi drivers in Manila. However, it was the final push into deciding I need my own car once again. If I was a single guy, I’d probably tough it out with taxis, but for Novita’s safety, I think it may be better to avoid them when possible.

I will say, in brutal honesty, that taxis here are quite bad. There’s no standard that I can see – nothing like “Blue Bird” in Indonesia where you know the car will be in somewhat decent condition, the drivers fairly knowledgeable of directions, they don’t smoke, and things like no radios in the car are a rule.

In just five short weeks, we’ve experienced a dozen drivers refusing to take us somewhere (politely at least), claiming to have no change (could be true but still annoying), using a meter with excessive time on it before even starting, crazy driving (and I’m coming from Jakarta), no car handles on doors (interior as well – seems unsafe), and many many drivers blasting the radio right in your ears.

Do I sound like a whiny expat? Perhaps. But considering I’ve driven in Asian cities for years, and have grown thick skin to these type of things, it must be fairly true for me to bother writing about it. If nothing else, I hope to see some sort of standard develop amongst the taxis in Manila – something along the lines of Blue Bird in Indonesia. It’s great to see progress in a place you enjoy living. (which I’ll save for another post – yes, I’m loving most aspects of living in Manila so far – don’t let this missive give the wrong impression)

The next post I’ll discuss what type of car I’m looking for and why. In the meantime, I think I’ll grab some cheese for my white whine.