Thursday, December 23, 2010

Travel Tips: Avoiding Bad Taxis in Jakarta

6 Taxi Companies to Avoid in Jakarta and Important Tips to Traveling this City on a Budget

Parisian Ojek

When you're an intern/student/backpacker or simply not Money-Bags McGee a real kick in the gonads before a night out is getting ripped off by your taxi. In Jakarta the risk is uber high because unlike its Asian neighbours, the capital city doesn't have a metro system and you're obligated most of the time to take taxis everywhere. Weird right? Yea it sucks.

Anyways, not to be your mom or anything but there are some risks to taking taxis. During my UN Safety training we learned about some taxi companies that have bad track records. There have been cases of taxis in Jakarta taking you on the wrong route, feigning a flat tire and then calling their friends over to rob you. Another time, a friend of mine taking a taxi home after a big night out fell asleep and woke up to realize that his stuff was missing from his pockets. Turned out the taxi driver tried to pick pocket him and hid them in the seats. Lastly, there are taxis that will try to rob you stupid with the power of their METER.  When you're new to a city, how the heck can you know what's reliable or not?  To help you out I've compiled a list. Below is a list of taxis that are known for good service and those that the UN have on their blacklist. And while we're on transportation, some other tips to getting around the block.

The Good
  1.  Blue Bird: This is the number one recommended taxi. They usually know their way around, speak a semblance of English and will not cheat you. If anything happens there is a number you can call and give them the ID of your driver to keep them accountable. The kicker: the starting rate is a slight bit higher (6000 IDR rather than 5000). Beware of their evil twin brother that tries to pose as Blue Bird but is not!
  2.  Express: This is the white car with yellow light and my preferred taxi. They are fair, maybe a slight bit less prestigious than Blue Bird, but they are trust worthy. Also, they have the normal starting rate of 5000 IDR, which is key.
  3. Gamya: Don't take this one very often but it is known for being decent and recommended by UN.

The Blacklisted

  1. Korporasi (yellow)
  2.  Family Taxi (blue)
  3. Mira
  4. Sepakat
  5. Concord Taxi
  6. Taxiku: This one may have a cute name but it's the culprit responsible for taking advantage of my friend in his vulnerable state! He reckons that it's normally good, but since he found it outside the sketchy afterhours club (Stadium), it was just a rotten apple.

The Knowledge

  • Be careful about passing out in a taxi. They will take you for a spin,  even the good ones. In a Blue Bird one night at 7 am after a crazy night out (House party + X2 Club + Campus (after hours place) + After party) , what should have taken about 20 000 to get home cost double. I had closed my eyes for a second but when I had opened them I did not recognize the route we were taking home. I was too tired to protest..
  • In a rush, take an Ojek. Once again traffic jams, known as macet (rhymes with hatchet) honestly make this city as annoying as a midnight food craving in France x a billion. An Ojek is what you call the motor bike taxis. They are as expensive as taxis but the benefit is that you don't have to wait around in traffic as their small frames allow you to squeeze through cars. The down sides: there's no air condition, you're breathing in lots of pollution, more dangerous, only one person can fit, the helmet messes up your hair. There are plenty of cons, but for me it's my preferred set of wheels. Negotiate your price from the beginning. I find it mega less stressful because it's a fixed price and you don't have to worry about driving up the meter and taking advantage of your lack of knowledge of the city (unless they already have..).  (Picture: Boyfriend turned Ojek, Paris)
  • Late night taxis speed up their meters ridiculously. When you're partying and with a group of friends it's easy to forget your surroundings, but seriously dudes, keep your eye on the meter if you're traveling in the middle of the night. If you see the numbers whipping by, just stop the taxi and get out immediately. It is better to get out early than fighting with them later. 
  • Get on the proper side of the road. If you are trying to save money and time, going in negative direction will be the death of your wallet and patience. This city is infamous for traffic jams. The one way streets and the physical impossibility due to road set-ups to turn around should prompt you to get on the side of the road that you are traveling to and take a taxi from there. You'll probably have to find an overpass but depending where you are it can save you loads of time!
Once you know your way around the transport system, read this Taxi Driver Quality Exam and see if your taxi drivers pass the test!

Yo Jakartans, if you have any bad taxi stories or know of some rotten companies, be cool and let the rest of us know about it and help save us dolla billz. Also, if I've missed any good guys or tips, share-eezy. Love and Merry Holidays to all!!

Music: Asian Flavours

Cool tunes from this Japanese pop band, The Suzan produced by Peter Bjorn. Funky sound and cute little Japanese accents when they sing!

Download: Home-The Suzan.mp3

Where the taxis take you before they rip you off:

Two Day Hangover Won't Stop Us! Monday Mayhem