More often than not I wish I had a video camera during my taxi rides. Whizzing around the city while being serenaded, driving the wrong way down a one way street on a non-existent shoulder and talking about female lumberjacks from Oregon (my home state) are just a few of my top taxi experiences. On average I take taxis 4 times a day. I teach English and tutor to various students and companies around the city, which requires the always-exciting taxi ride. I am a 27, white, American female who’s Spanish is embarrassingly poor i.e. if these work for me they will work for anyone. Here are my top 5 tips to a smooth taxi ride.
1.) Just Say No
Taxis don’t have a problem telling you no if your desired destination does not fit into their driving schedule. Do not hesitate to tell them NO if the fare that is quoted seems too high. Taxis are a dime a dozen in this city and it may be worth your time (and pride) to keep sending them away until you find one that is willing to take you to your destination for a reasonable price.
2.) Don’t Take it Personal
My friend, and a taxi driver, Franklin, has told me that taxis have tried to rip him off on numerous occasions. It is not until he has expressed his profession that the driver recoils and quotes him the fair price. Panamanians get ripped off the same way Gringos do. Don’t take it personal.
3.) Show Them the Money
If you know the correct fare to your destination, don’t hesitate to give the driver your money without asking how much it costs. I have found this is the easiest and most hassle free way of dealing with cab fare. Every once in awhile a driver might ask you for more cash than what you have given. If this happens you have two options: A.) pay them the balance of what they are asking, or B.) try to muster some cojones (or the female version of) and ignore the request and exit the taxi.
4.) Bring a Book and Relax
Traffic in Panama is awful, especially during rush hour. Add the bumper-to-bumper cars with taxis picking up multiple passengers, and chances are you have some time on your hands. Instead of stressing out about the lengthy ride, read a book or newspaper. Not only does it help pass time, but it also provides those minutes you may be unable to find in your normal, hectic day.
5.) Don’t be Stupid/Trust your Instincts
I would hope the first part of this last one goes without saying, but sometimes we all need a reminder. Try to avoid taking taxis alone at night, ESPECIALLY women; don’t hop into a cab sloppy drunk; don’t flash your wallet bulging with fresh money from your recent ATM stop, yada yada yada. We all know what it means to not be stupid.
The second part of #5 is not so cut and dry. Like most of you I have heard the stories of taxi robberies and sometimes worse. If you find yourself in a situation where inside your screaming “SOS, SOS!” get out or do not enter the car. In my year of taxi transportation I have never had to exit a car based off suspicion, but I have waved plenty of them on after seeing the current clientele in the car. Trust your instincts.
Taxis are many people’s primary form of transportation in the city. The next time you find yourself in one, sit back, enjoy the culture, strike up a conversation and watch your driver defy the laws of physics as s/he whips through the chaotic streets of Panama.
|Written by Hilary Campbell|
This post's rating:
The Amador Causeway in Panama City, Panama
Best Women’s Boutique in Panama
What not to Wear: Panama Edition