Friday, May 29, 2009

How To Ride An Amman Taxi

At the end of the day, although you may not be so willing to admit it, you will have to take a taxi somewhere, someday. The only thing certain is that you will ride in a taxi with a taxi driver. Now sometimes they are nice to you even if you have the word newbie on your forehead. But sometimes, and this is usually the case, you will get punished by God and sent Amman's average taxi driver. And if that happens, then God help us all. But, for when that time comes, much similar to the zombie apocalypse, you need to be ready. Here are some tips to take when your time comes.

First off, after you hail a taxi and he actually decides you are worth stopping for, never ever lean through the window, asking him if his majesty can take you to such a far place as your home. Instead, open the door and sit in the seat, and close the door. You may not even turn to talk to him for a while, as if he was not on your schedule for the moment. Wait for when he begins to move again, this is when you tell him your destination, and this is so he cannot say a very lame excuse as to why he cannot do his job for you because he needs to go and eat, or pray at his home, or feed his cat, or drink some coffee, or save the world from an alien invasion and become a superhero.

Next, the destination. When you tell him your destination, don't say it as if you are asking. You do not ask a taxi driver to do his job, he is supposed to do it. And that's mostly the reason why everyone feels the need to boycott Unique Taxis, because you are paying them to do what normal taxis should already do. Moving on, you may wish to annoy him a little when he asks you where your going. I usually tell them to keep moving forward and I will tell them where to go, this annoys the driver as he cannot take longer routes to increase your fare.

Now we all know the driver will tell if your stupid or not to fall for his taxi fare scams, by observing your actions and analysing them using his single celled brain up in his head - well, hopefully its up there. His scams can be anything, for taxi drivers have made it a great art, scamming in all sorts of ways. For example, they could accidentally switch off the fare meter half way through the journey then guess what it should read. Or they could make up vague excuses as to why your journey fare should be higher and why it was lowered by a fault in the system - fat chance. Or that it was raining today, and he shouldn't have gone to work but he did so he could serve the citizens of his country out of the goodness of his golden heart - "bi7amlak ijmeeleh".

There a few things you can do while you are riding with him that will annoy him considerably. If he appears to be in a bad mood, talk to him endlessly about the economic crisis, the country's unemployment, and the Iraqi war. If he's too talkative and more of a chatterbox than you'd like, answer him with nods or monosyllabic answers when he asks, then return to dazing out of the window. If he asks you to go left or right, look both ways very slowly then shrug and say it doesn't matter - "3ala ra7tak ya basha". What you're aiming for is not necessarily to get the guy in a bad mood, but to show him you're not his average rider and you can't be dealt with like any other. You aren't new to the miserable world of taxi drivers.

If you are good enough at acting, you may wish to play along as well. When the taxi brakes or turns, pull back in your seat and clutch your heart for dear life, muttering words like "ya lateef", or "bismallah" or "allah yustor". When he attempts a u-turn or entering a main road, make it as if your life will end here, closing your eyes and saying the "shahadeh" - or the holy trinity for Christians, holding on the seats rests and preparing for impact. After its over, make a large overexagurated sigh of relief then scowl at the taxi driver for having such wild driving manners, or put your face in your hands as if wishing this rollercoaster ride would just arrive at the station.

If your a bit more daring, you may go for the secret service look. Taxis may appear to be careless, wreckless scumbags but they are afraid of someone, other than their reflection in the mirror - police, and even more, secret service police. Before entering the taxi, take a long look at the license plate. When in the taxi, make shifty eye movements around the place, first at the driver then at his drivers license, then at the fare meter. Talk to him about what he thinks of his majesty, the royal family and the current political and economic state of the country. When he appears to dose off, suddenly chant loudly "ya3eesh jallalet ilmalik almu3atham", arabic for "long live his majesty the king", and if he does not reply immediately, stare at him in disbelief as if regarding him as a traitor for the kingdom.

And finally, when it comes to arriving to your destination and paying the fare. The taxi drivers eyes will have become dollar signs and your forehead will have the word money imprinted and blinking like a neon light. But not if you followed my simple steps. Never ask him how much the taxi fare is, for this to the taxi is like asking him how much he wants. Look and read the counter yourself, check for a recent label of those traffic lights and the current year - this means the counter is new and works properly. What appears on the counter is what you pay, don't ask him how much he wants as a tip, just give him the money. Smile innocently and slam the door in his unworthy face.

But lets say the counter is wrong - its over the normal price you usually pay everyday. What you do is look at him and scowl, not reach out for your wallet to hand him more. Inquire why the fare is suspiciously more even though you pay the same everyday. Don't fall for an excuse such as it starts at half a dinar now, or that he has no clue, or that his family of thirty orphans is starving on two loaves of bread a week, or that he now adds his own tax. Give him what's on the counter if you have enough, but tell him that it is wrong to play with the counter and you will note his license plate down for "later use".

And that's all. Of course, as a quick side disclaimer, I with no doubt know there are many good taxi drivers that are polite and kind. I have rode with many of them, and I did not make this post for them, the minority of taxi drivers. Instead, I meant the majority of taxi drivers that you, unfortunately, have a much higher rate of finding that will cheat, lie and annoy you making all the taxi ride unbearable. Anyway, if you have any suggestions to this post you can add them in the comments. Thanks for reading, and good luck next time you face a taxi driver!


  1. Taxi drivers won't eat you. Just be as rude as them. This reminds me of a post that has been in my drafts for over a month now. I NEED TO PUBLISH IT!

  2. Funny:)
    Thank god i don't need them anymore

  3. i used to ride taxis so much at the univ. days as you said there are many of them quiet and really very polite, and some keep talking to you, as a girl i was just looking through the window ignoring them and just answering the ques. about my destination , if the driver is good i used to give a good tip , if not no tips;) al7amdolellah no more taxis! anyway " al taxi al momayaz " is a good choice

  4. very informative! I laughed out loud at some of your suggestions especially shouting "Ya3eesh Jalalat Almalek" half way through :) :) :)
    P.S do you remember the taxi driver who put a tape about salat alfajir & said "that's for you young man. listen carefully!"

  5. This email could qualify as one of the sequence of "Ten things to do when riding a taxi in Amman"

  6. 2 ME it's much better than sarfeees waaaa!! hehehe Never used the sarfeees before but im just saying!! LoooL

    Of course, if the driver is rude to the customer, that Bcoz "sprcial customer'S" >>>lesh fate7 el 3adad mn abel ma afot el taxi? w mashi batee2 3shan el 3dad y7sb aktr?? w lesh ma fe AC?? w ...w..w.. 7aram :(!!

    i miss AMMAN Taxi!!special these who has tisho cover fo2 rason kkk :D

    nice post :>