Taxi rides here in the Philippines are risky–either you ride with a good and decent taxi driver or you end up with a bad one. Fortunately, I’ve never fallen victim of a taxi crime but I would always keep my guard up. Paranoia helps. There have been times when I would tell the driver to stop the cab and I would exit the car just because I’m not comfortable–I might have overreacted but that might have saved my life too.
Don’t get me wrong–I have met drivers who are really good people and I would actually converse with them about life and all else under the sun. There are plenty who would put your safety and comfort first. Our family driver used to be a taxi driver and he is one of the nicest and most caring people I know. Riding taxis would definitely be more fun here in the Philippines if all of them were like that…but NO. There have been countless stories about women (usually) who are victimized by taxi drivers. Time and again, stories on violence and rape in taxis go viral on social media.
Here are 10 things to remember when riding taxis here in Manila:
1. Get a company taxi.
Company taxis would usually have their names on the taxi signage instead of “TAXI”. You can also call them to pick you up. Here are 8 taxi companies in Manila and their contact numbers.
2. Tell the driver to use the meter.
Some taxi drivers don’t like using the meter. They would dictate the price and it’s always more expensive than the meter fare. They often do this late at night and when they don’t feel like driving you to your destination. The amount you pay depends on their mood. Demand for the meter to be turned on or leave.
3. Keep checking the meter.
Some drivers tamper with their meters so that they can control the taxi fare. Make sure the meter doesn’t shoot up faster than usual.
4. Send the plate number and contact details of the taxi to someone, anyone.
Always get the plate number and contact details of the taxi and send it to any of your family or friends. Someone MUST know the details just in case anything happens.
5. Sit behind the driver and always check his hands.
In case the driver tries to grab you, it would be harder for him to reach you from behind his seat. Make sure that he keeps his hands on the wheel and on the shifting gear. Keep an eye out for things near his seat that looks sketchy. Some have rugs and some sort of liquid that they use to drug the passenger.
6. NEVER pass out in a taxi.
First of all, you should always take responsibility for your actions. If you know that you’re going to ride a taxi going home after a night out, DO NOT GET DRUNK.
7. Slightly open the window
Yes, some taxis stink but other than that, in case the driver tries to drug you with inhalants, you have access to fresh air and it would be easier for you to call the attention of people outside too.
8. Lock all doors.
This is to protect you from people OUTSIDE the taxi. There are street children who would suddenly open the taxi doors and steal your belongings. I’ve witnessed it before and it has been a common crime already. Make sure that all doors are locked, front and back.
9. Make sure you have smaller bills before riding a taxi.
Some drivers don’t have enough change so they would give you around 5 to 40 pesos less than what you’re supposed to get back without explaining or saying sorry–as if it is understood that giving the inexact change is acceptable. It’s not and it is frustrating.
10. Trust your intuition.
If you feel highly uncomfortable and/or you start suspecting danger, ask the driver to stop the car immediately, pay the fee, and leave. It’s better to be safe than sorry. I’ve done this so many times.
There are cellphone applications now such as Grab Taxi that provides the security you need when riding a taxi. Everything about the taxi will be listed and monitored from the driver’s name to the exact location of the vehicle. This is advantageous to those who own smartphones and have access to wifi or 3G/LTE services but whether or not you have the technology, these ten things must still be remembered to safely and surely reach your destination.