JT Guide: Best ways to get around

If you don’t get to travel smoothly in a new city, it can take a toll on your vacation. How do you get to point A from point B? Figuring this out is a lot easier when you are in a familiar place but the calculations can drive you crazy if the place is an away turf.

Taking the local transport is one of the best ways of getting to know the local culture closely. There are 196 countries in the world and most of the countries have their own traditional taxi. While the specific taxis vary from country to country, some times they even differ from city to city in a particular nation.

Hong Kong’s Lantau Taxis. PC: Wikimedia Commons

While taking the traditional transport is always the best idea, there can be several instances when you can get tempted to just hop in a taxi and go around the city without any hassle.

There are generally two types of taxis – the ones where you simply wave your arm in the air and wait for a cab to pull over, and the others where you have to book a taxi in advance and arrange a pick-up.

Also Read: Looking for a budget place in Pondicherry? Stay here!

Speaking of India, you find local taxis only in Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata. The taxis are painted black and yellow in Delhi and Mumbai, while it’s full yellow in Kolkata. It is widely known that auto-rickshaw in India offers the cheapest and the most authentic travelling experience.

Mumbai’s iconic Kaali-Peeli (Black-Yellow) Taxis.

However, that is not true anymore. Most of the local drivers in the country refuse to use the meter, ridiculously overcharge and they have the audacity to pick-and-choose which destinations they will travel to.

These days, the app-based taxis, Uber and Ola, are extensively used in the country to avoid any needless fight with an auto or local taxi driver. Having witnessed this culture in our country, it is understandable when we tend to panic about how to get around in a whole new country.

Pramod made his debut as an international traveller before me and I clearly remember how restless he was before his Hong Kong trip. Two years have passed and his nature of panic remains the same before a trip.

Also Read: India to Hong Kong: My debut as an international traveller

Yes, I do tease him about it but his concerns are usually genuine. One is how will we be interacting with the cab or Tuk-tuk drivers since we do not know the local language?

We have four international trips between us – Hong Kong (Pramod’s solo trip) and we travelled together to Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Maldives. All these countries had one awesome common character – the cab culture was organised and each country had Uber or some other app-based taxi and that made our getting around in the cities very easy.

If you plan to travel to any of these countries and are wondering about the transport, download these apps:

Pick Me – Sri Lanka

When we landed in Sri Lanka, we booked an Uber from the airport to our hotel, somewhere in the Colombo city. That was the first and the last time we used Uber on our trip. The minimum price for a tuk-tuk ride was 50 Sri Lankan Rupees.

Sri Lanka’s famous tuk-tuks in Galle.

After a couple of interactions with the local Tuk-tuk guys, we realised we will not always get a driver who will use the meter. We used the Pick Me app and that turned out to be very convenient for us. You can book either a Tuk-Tuk or a cab through the app. It is as user-friendly as the Uber app.

In fact, we found Uber to be more expensive and that’s why the Pick Me app was the ideal choice.

Grab – Malaysia

Considering how developed Malaysia is in everywhere, it was shocking to witness the same terrible local taxi culture as it is back in India. We did not come across one honest cab driver who agreed to use the meter whenever we chose to stop a cab on our own.

Also Read: Batu Caves: Things you should know before your 272-step climb

Regardless of the local residents or foreigners, the local taxi drivers have constantly shown poor conduct and that has marred the reputation of Malaysia’s taxi culture.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Until 2017, Uber ruled in Malaysia as well. However, last year, it stopped in the country following its South-East Asian operations’ merger with Grab, another taxi app, though it continues to run in Singapore and the Philippines. Thanks to the Grab app, we survived the local taxi scam.

There was one incident I clearly remember: Our hotel was in the buzzing street of Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur and we needed to head to the Merdeka Square. Since there were too many local taxis on the road, we thought we’ll just hop into one those and that might as well be a different experience.

The guy straight away quoted 50 Malaysian Ringette. We were shocked as the distance was not even 4Kms. We just booked a cab via Grab and guess what the price was? Just 22 RM.

So, it’s advice that you avoid taking a local taxi in Malaysia. Just take a Grab!

Avas – Maldives

Until you don’t decide to explore either Male or Hulhumale, you won’t have to take a taxi. Since we spent our last day in Hulhumale, we needed to book a cab from Male’s ferry terminal to our hotel.

Hulhumale Island, Maldives.

The distance was about 8Kms and we asked the hotel to make a last-minute arrange for a pick-up cab. We were asked to pay USD 30 and that was ridiculous for that distance.

Also Read: 13 things you need to know before you travel to the Maldives

At the same time, we were even trying to book a cab through the Avas app. Luckily for us, a cab got booked and that ride cost us just 75 Maldivian Rufiyaa.

Hong Kong – an exception

When Pramod travelled to Hong Kong, not once did he feel the need to book an Uber. The local taxi system in Hong Kong is one of the best across the globe. Apart from a peak hour, rains or during a driver’s shift-change period, it is very easy to flag down a taxi in Hong Kong.

The prices are afforable and more importantly, the drivers are well dressed and behaved and they always use the meters.

Also Read: India to Hong Kong: My debut as an international traveller

The cars are colour-coded for different areas. For example, it was red for Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. The cars, that are green with white tops, indicate the New Territories taxis and the blue ones belong to the Lantau region.

Hong Kong Taxi.

As a small suggestion, taxi drivers are never OK about passing through the harbour or travelling to the airport. So, in that case, either take the trains or book an Uber.

Also, you need to remember that for every suitcase, you have to pay 5 HKD (INR 45 approx) every time you travel by a local taxi in Hong Kong.

Before every trip, Pramod always has all the necessary apps already downloaded and that helps us so much.

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