Failed taximen

I do feel sorry for these taxi drivers. I get the impression that they are dropped into a fairly alien environment and expected to know about ‘the rules’ intuitively with little training. With the best will in the world, someone coming from Peshawar to work as a driver is unlikely to be familiar with the latest in customer management skills and is likely to treat traffic regulations as general guidelines. To be fair, sensible driving is not always something every car with Sharjah plates practices, either.

Based on conversations with taxi drivers, in Dubai at least, the discipline used to knock them into shape can be fairly harsh. I imagine that many of the guys that end up in Sharjah are those that couldn’t get a job with the Dubai based companies, which would make things harder.

Dubai’s taxis have certainly improved in leaps and bounds since I arrived. Gone are the days, in my experience, of driving down the hard shoulder of Sheikh Zayed Rd, insane speeding, ‘interesting’ smells and so on. In 2002 I used to find myself admonishing the driver during pretty much every journey. Now that’s very rare. Better training, I presume.

I would rate the service you get at Dubai’s airport as being, hands down, the best in the Middle East and Africa. Excellent cars, responsive call centre for central bookings, well trained and (generally) safe drivers, all very well priced. Most of them even use their indicators, these days.

Certainly better than the Beirut airport experience I had this morning. As soon as you exit the airport, you’re surrounded by various men quoting vastly inflated prices, shouting at you, grabbing your bags and trying to rush off with them. Once you negotiate a price that you know is fair – something you’re able to judge after being ripped off several times in the previously – the driver you end up with is inevitably driving something that is falling apart. When you arrive at your destination the price then has to be renegotiated if you want a receipt. It’s an awful way to be introduced to a country – if you’re travelling for work, get whoever you’re meeting to book a trusted company to meet you!

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