Archive for June, 2012

The elusive FIVE star Shanghai taxi driver

Recently I was lucky enough to witness a rare occurrence here in Shanghai. More unusual than hens’ teeth, I had a sighing of the elusive five star Shanghai taxi driver.

It isn’t a secret to most people who know me that I have issues with taxi drivers. I have had so many experiences where they have tried to overcharge me, take the very long way round, or shortchange me (you guys in Italy, you know who you are). Surprisingly I have found the drivers in Shanghai to be actually pretty good. For a start they are all locals (or seem to be) so they know the way around.  They also charge what the meter says and don’t play tricks with change. Fortunately my Mandarin is just about good enough for me to tell them where I want to go then direct them when we get close. The only downside is that they sometimes want to chat so tend to turn all the way around to look at me while doing so. Unfortunately my Mandarin is not up to asking them to look at the road ahead. Ironically, I think they are generally chatting about some idiot other driver which is clearly far from out of the ordinary here.

The trouble is, that for anyone with NO Mandarin it can be tricky, mostly because relatively few drivers speak English. Aha! you say, I have my taxi driver flash cards/ app with all the handy destinations on. Good idea (or hao zhuyi as we say here) , but a lot of them can’t actually read. Ooops.

This problem was identified a few years ago, when legions of foreigners descended on Shanghai Expo and presumably failed to get where they wanted. So a ratings programme was established. Drivers are rated between zero and five stars. There are a lot of conflicting stories about what exactly you need to do for each star, but from what I can gather, three or more stars means the driver understands some English, knows the key tourist spots in town and has not had a recent accident. Very reassuring huh?

Most of those I have used have been zero to three stars (so presumably have no English and possibly recent crashes). Actually they have been fine too. Certainly Ok enough for me to take taxis sometimes (unheard of usually). Either that or I am mellowing in my old age.



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