Taxis in Kolkata

#1 Jun 15th, 2011, 19:12
Join Date:
May 2011
Location:
Mumbai
Posts:
15
  • comradejan is offline
#1
Kolkata Taxis: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly – a series of anecdotes

Brief context: Was in Kolkata this weekend for the first time. Arrived post-midnight on Friday night in domestic. My ‘scams & annoyances’ knowledge prior to Kolkata: medium high thanks to India Mike; was well-versed in the Mumbai Taxi thread, and briefly flipped through the Kolkata Airport Taxi thread, although I noticed there’s no just plain Kolkata Taxi thread (hence this).

Now with that brief introduction, challo with the anecdotes! We’ll start with the bad & ugly first.

Taxi Experience #1: From domestic airport to hotel in Salt Lake City area
Saturday: 1am
  • The indoor pre-paid booth was open (despite it being past midnight), but the two men said there were no taxis available. Went outside, several cabbies outside negotiating with tired passengers, but unwilling to do prepaid fares. For the 17km distance, fare should have been 172 rs. High hopes.
  • Negotiations started at 600 rs., then 550 rs., then 500 rs for the two of us. Ultimately, we shared a taxi with a Kolkatan passenger for 300 per drop-off, so 600 rs. total for the driver for roughly the same neighborhood
  • At the end, the driver hassled us for more “because it was night time” and, when I wasn’t paying attention, my travel-buddy caved and slipped him a 50. Weakling.

Taxi Experience #2: From hotel in Salt Lake City area to central Kolkata (around New Market)
Saturday: 11am
  • Guy was all too willing to use the meter when he pulled up at our hotel. 6’2” hotel front door guy was a doll and, unasked, wrote down the license number of our cab and handed it to me discreetly in case there were problems. Within minutes, we found the meter to be highly sketchy. It was calculating km at 3x the rate, and numbers were a whirring even when we were stopped. Also it was conveniently unclear and unmarked which field on the so-called-meter represented km, and which field represented fare.
  • After a few minutes, we made some hand gestures and murmuring loosely translated as ‘what the hell is up with your sketchy meter, you sketchy cab driver?’, and so he at least started to turn off the car while we were locked in traffic, so the meter would stop running. As if that made our now “35km” journey ok.
  • At some point, he does some unnecessary detour (the rigged meter is not enough for him) until I make him turn back onto the correct road partway through
  • Meanwhile, I’m Google Mapping away on my phone, to determine the actual km distance (5km), and Googling to determine what the actual rate should be (50-60 rs.; click here for taxi tariff card), and mentally preparing myself for the inevitable.
  • We pass our destination, he keeps driving. We make him stop finally. We get out and I push the bills towards him, saying “5 kilometers. 60 rupees. Here.” I didn’t even want to go through the dog & pony show of ‘kitne hai.. kitne!?’
  • He says no, it’s 180 rupees!
  • For the next 5 minutes, he continued to argue with us while I opened the trunk to get out our bags, and slowly pushed my crew of 3 people down the street telling them to keep on walking and ignore him. Naturally a crowd formed, so taxi driver intermittently argued with us, and then turned to the crowd to explain the situation. He also made some big show of locating a rate card and pointing to some random number on it. Note: the rate card made no sense and no where did it list a fare based on kilometers.
  • Post skirmish, I assuaged the other three in the group, reminding them of three things, 1. that we had Google Maps and the online Tariff Card on our side to support the 60 Rs. payment, 2. Aside from following us for half a block, the taxi guy left us alone, which he would never do if we actually shorted him 120 Rs., and 3. some quote from one of IM’s threads, on how “you would have to be a professional scam artist to cheat a taxi driver.” Thanks India Mike.

Taxi Experience #3. From Central Kolkata back to hotel in Salt Lake City area
Saturday: 4pm
  • Nothing distinctly notable happened here that I can remember. Must have been a normal, by the meter, type o ride.

Taxi Experience #4: From hotel in Salt Lake City area to Central Kolkata
Saturday: 7pm
  • If the shortest distance between two points is A to B, you can say this guy took us in a nice semi-circle to C, D, and E… and then B
  • I tried to give him the benefit of a doubt that maybe the longer route was avoiding construction or something, but in the end I was pretty sure it was just a massive round-a-bout (confirmed later when we had other taxis, namely Taxi #6, take us on the normal straight-path route)
  • Note: Props to Taxi #4, for he was the only one who was successful since he sort of “legally” cheated us by using the meter

Taxi Experience #5
Saturday: 10pm
  • It’s nighttime now, maybe 10pm. Just finished dinner at the Indo Chinese ‘Bar-B-Q’ joint. We think, wouldn’t it be great to catch a quick cab from New Market to Howrah Bridge? I bet that bridge would be a nice walk at night.
  • Note: Estimated distance: 6.5 km. Estimated fare: 67 Rs.
  • Wrong. First cab we get: “Meter please.” “No meter. 200 rupees.” “What!?”
  • Taxi #5 then won’t let us out for a couple blocks. We finally yell a bit and he stops and we get out.
  • So much for that Howrah Bridge. We begin looking for a different cab. Now, we just want to get back to the hotel.

Taxi Experience #6
Saturday: 10:30pm
  • Then…
  • After 43 days of India, we finally met our first honest cab driver. Our last driver that evening, I noticed he started to turn onto the long-“overcharge the foreigners” route.. but it was apparently unintentional. Partway into the turn, he realized his error, re-routed, and apologized to us for almost taking us the wrong way.
  • It was pretty much taxi-driver-love-at-first-sight.
  • Later, he tried to refuse our tip saying we paid too much. Trying to resist our awkward urge to hug him, we instead asked if he was working the next day. He said no, he was planning to service his car. (oh my god! He services his car? Too good to be true)
  • We were visibly disappointed and said we had wanted to hire him for a couple hours the next day. After some pause, he said it was OK, he could get it serviced in the afternoon, and drive us around in the morning. We then exchanged numbers and said we’d see him at 10am. And he replied, sharp!

Taxi Experience #6B (continued from above)
Sunday: 10am
  • Long story short, we hired Rai for the day that Sunday and he drove me and 3 others around for an agreed-to fare. No hassle.
  • In addition to seeing various temples, bridges, neighborhoods, etc and updating us on the political parties and new prime minister of Kolkata in his perfect English, he took us to meet his family which turned out to be his wife, her mother in law, his mother, his brother, his sister in law, two nieces, his nephew, and his cat. All in the same building. Unfortunately, his son was out. And we met the neighbors.
  • Basically, it was awesome. And it made our entire Kolkata experience.
  • And at the end when he dropped us off at the airport, we handed him a bunch of bills (and a tip to symbolize our love for him), and he didn’t even count it. He sort of bowed and slipped it in his breast pocket.

So ends my Kolkata Taxis: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly report. I wanted to post because I thought it provided a nice, full spectrum of the taxi experience. And if anyone is planning on going to Kolkata and could use a friendly, nice, and honest taxi driver, please ping me. Rai asked us to share his phone # with any of our friends traveling to Kolkata in the future (I think he also enjoyed the experience of not having rude passengers), and so I would love to do just that.

Safe travels, future visitors of Kolkata.
Last edited by comradejan; Jun 15th, 2011 at 23:27..
#2 Jun 15th, 2011, 20:02
Join Date:
Jun 2010
Location:
Hyderabad, india
Posts:
8,570
  • narendra.d is offline
#2
Great Post. Thanks.
#3 Jun 15th, 2011, 21:01
Join Date:
May 2011
Location:
Mumbai
Posts:
15
  • comradejan is offline
#3
And if others have Kolkata taxi experiences to share- please do so.
#4 Jun 18th, 2011, 21:26
Join Date:
Mar 2007
Location:
Switzerland, at the moment in Thailand
Posts:
3,364
  • atala is offline
#4
On a positive note it should be mentioned that Kolkata taxis are among the least expensive in India. For Rs 60 an auto-rickshaw (sic!) in Delhi would not even start the motor for a 2 km ride. And you got much more for that low price, in a car!
#5 Jun 24th, 2011, 13:37
Join Date:
Apr 2008
Location:
western india
Posts:
2,476
  • new_traveller is offline
#5
Quote:
Guy was all too willing to use the meter when he pulled up at our hotel. 62 hotel front door guy was a doll and, unasked, wrote down the license number of our cab and handed it to me discreetly in case there were problems. Within minutes, we found the meter to be highly sketchy. It was calculating km at 3x the rate, and numbers were a whirring even when we were stopped. Also it was conveniently unclear and unmarked which field on the so-called-meter represented km, and which field represented fare.
Most of the cabs do not show the number of kilometers driven- It could be different in kolkotta and you might be correct on this.

But in mumbai or even in pune in autos and taxis - the meter shows the fare which is a product of kilometers driven * charge per kilometer.

To add - The charge per kiliometrs set in the meters are usually too old and the new conversion factors

Meter reading and actual fare is given in a tarrif card , which he is supposed to carry.

The night charges which do not follow the meter are also very common (not at all advocating the correctness of them)

Like atala said you should visit delhi or for that matter pune autos. I am sure half of your taxi rides described would have moved from bad to good
#6 Jun 25th, 2011, 13:23
Join Date:
May 2011
Location:
Mumbai
Posts:
15
  • comradejan is offline
#6
Hi, thanks for your response. I think you may have missed where I wrote about the actual distance (5 km) and then included a link to the kolkata rate card which indicated a fare around 50-60 rs. No cab from Salt Lake City to central Kolkata should ever cost 180 rs, which is what he quoted.

You are correct, that many cabs don't have up to date meters showing current fares, hence they use tariff cards to indicate price based off the km driven on their meter. That's why I referenced the fare card link. Regardless of those incriminating factors, this guy's meter failed the "which one does not look like the other" test when you compared his little toy meter what what every other meter looked like in Kolkata cabs. And of course, meters do not run when the taxi drivers shut off their cab at an intersection, you can't deny that!

As for the night charges, 200 rs for a 67 rs fare still seems steeper than something to reasonably call a surcharge. I do agree with you though that, regardless of what you call it and what you think of it, it is common that taxis as for a little something extra because its night.

At any rate, with most of the anecdotes, I tried to note what the actual fare & price would be for the benefit of the reader, to illustrate the discrepancy. The point of the post was to show a full spectrum of taxis. 5 out of 6 of them had a real meters, 1 did not, and 1 chose not to use his to ask us for the night surchage as you call it. One of the taxis was fine. One of the taxis was a wonderful experience. But from my experience of taking taxis daily in India for 2 months now (combined with logic), the chances of getting an unscrupolous taxi driver increase dramatically when they self-select to drive up to hotels or airports to pick up fares.

Even now, I have managed to reduce issues w/ taxi drivers in Mumbai to very low compared to my first week here, through a combination of knowing where I'm going and using some Hindi for cred. But still, it happens. 2 days ago, got picked up from the international airport to head back to a Mumbai suburb, a ride I've taken numerous times. The guy deliberately misquoted the toll, and said it was 3x its actual price and fought with me the whole way until I reached out the window at the Sealink and paid the normal, 50 rs. fare myself.

Any of us want to hope for the goodness of society, when reading all these posts, that yes maybe there was just a mistake or misunderstanding on the part of the passenger. But sometimes you just have to admit it happens. And frequently. Which is why these threads, especially the Mumbai Taxi thread, exists in the first place.
#7 Jun 25th, 2011, 19:39
Join Date:
Apr 2008
Location:
western india
Posts:
2,476
  • new_traveller is offline
#7
Quote:
Originally Posted by comradejan View Post Hi, thanks for your response. I think you may have missed where I wrote about the actual distance (5 km) and then included a link to the kolkata rate card which indicated a fare around 50-60 rs. No cab from Salt Lake City to central Kolkata should ever cost 180 rs, which is what he quoted.

Any of us want to hope for the goodness of society, when reading all these posts, that yes maybe there was just a mistake or misunderstanding on the part of the passenger. But sometimes you just have to admit it happens. And frequently. Which is why these threads, especially the Mumbai Taxi thread, exists in the first place.
Ohh yes I missed on the tariff link.
And I do not deny at all on the nuisance of the arrogant Cabbies. I personally hate to think of even dealing with them and so avoid all situations where I have to take a cab. Sometimes its unavoidable though.

The few good taxi/cab/auto walas who are genuinely honest are lost in the sea of the goons.

I still remember the shock I got when I was anticipating the autowala be charging me 200+ Rupees, he actually checked the meter and asked for 96 bucks. We spent 5 minutes trying to find change for the 500 rupee note and he was actually searching his pockets for 4 rupees. He shyly handed me 2 rupees and said he did not have anymore change. I just smiled and thanked him.
#8 Aug 23rd, 2011, 19:09
Join Date:
Aug 2011
Location:
Australia
Posts:
23
  • magichour is offline
#8
Thanks for your comprehensive post. I will be in Kolkata in January, and would be interested in using Rai's services. I am unsure how to send you a private message so thought I would post here.
#9 Aug 23rd, 2011, 19:18
Join Date:
Feb 2009
Location:
U.S.
Posts:
2,484
  • namaste_cat is offline
#9
I just got back from Kolkata. Taxis are much cheaper than in Delhi, and thankfully all except one used the meter. No hassles at all.

I was told to double the amount shown on the meter + Rs 2. There's a minimum fare of 22/- I even got receipts from some of the yellow cabs. All in all, pretty good experiences.

I should say I didn't take a cab from the airport; these were all trips from Sunny Park to various places, some close and some far (by Kolkata standards).
#10 Aug 24th, 2011, 23:10
Join Date:
Aug 2011
Location:
India
Posts:
154
  • Agnimitra is offline
#10
I am not sure if the tariff card in that link is the latest one but you can always ask a taxi driver to produce his rate chart which would have the conversion tables for meter readings.
always insist on going by meter and insist on seeing the fare chart before paying, you can refuse to pay if they do not produce one.
late night trips might cost an additional Rs 40-50 'tips' which is usually agreed upon before starting the journey.
#11 Jan 25th, 2013, 00:00
Join Date:
Jan 2013
Location:
chennai
Posts:
2
  • dreampegasus is offline
#11
We are planning to be in Kolkata by the end of Jan. It would be of great help if you could give me the contact number of Mr Rai, the good cabbie. Thank you in advance.
#12 Jan 26th, 2013, 01:17
Join Date:
Jan 2012
Location:
Cologne
Posts:
10
  • pzinken is offline
#12
Don't worry to much about taxis in Kolkata. I never had a problem with them last year.
Sudder St. and Park St., in the main tourist area, the sometimes ask for fantasy prices. Give them a smile and take the next one, the almost use the meter.
#13 Apr 1st, 2013, 18:25
Join Date:
Aug 2010
Location:
Kolkata
Posts:
276
  • phir_milenge is offline
#13
Hi comradejan,

It was great to learn one of the driver has helped to salvage some of ours(Kolkattans) pride .
#14 Apr 18th, 2013, 04:19
Join Date:
Apr 2013
Location:
New Delhi
Posts:
1,591
  • ashyashwin is offline
#14
Kolkata taxis in my experience have been exceptionally good. They do not take any detours, meters are usually working fine, no haggling, just sit in and order wher ever you need to go etc. But may be, that has to do with me neing an Indian, knowing Kolkata roads. From the date of posting (2011) let me clarify that there was no apparent tariff card. At that time the calculation for taxis in Kolkata was (the amount shown in the meter *2 (+2) = fare). eg: meter shows Rs. 50, then the fare to be paid is 50*2 (+2) = Rs. 102. However, from Nov 2012, revisions in taxi rates have been enforced. The updated taxi rates can be seen in Kolkata taxi facebook page. Now the actual taxi fare is mentioned against the meter reading and there is no calculation involved. The Kolkata traffic police are good and effective, and they even accept complaints via facebook. Most of the Indian metro traffic police departments have facebook accounts and complaints can be registered in facebook as well.
#15 Jun 8th, 2013, 13:52
Join Date:
May 2013
Location:
INDIA
Posts:
124
  • GSG9 is offline
#15
From the new airport it is always better to take a pre-paid taxi. The guys hanging around outside the arrival terminal will ask 50% higher rates.
Please note that the pre-paid taxi booth is located inside the terminal.
Beware of the taxi drivers or agents who try to scam you by saying that they will charge prepaid rates, as their charges are usually 40% - 50% higher than the actual prepaid rates.
If you are travelling light you can also take the AC Volvo buses which are there near the old terminal, you have to turn right after coming out of the airport.
Reply

Similar Threads

Title, Username, & Date Last Post Replies Views Forum
Taxis Dec 9th, 2017 04:38 2 2912 Himachal Pradesh
What's the deal with taxis in Kolkata? Feb 20th, 2010 07:56 35 6691 Kolkata (Calcutta)
taxis for hire Dec 21st, 2008 18:57 1 1360 Sikkim
taxis Dec 19th, 2007 08:19 2 1568 Buses, Automobiles, Motorcycles, and Bicycles


Posting Rules

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
Forum Rules»
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off
Thread Tools
Display Modes

Search Engine Optimization by vBSEO 3.3.2
© IndiaMike.com 2018
Page Load Success