FOR expatriates, Shanghai is no doubt an exciting place to live, but such a huge city can also be incredibly daunting, especially when you’re trying to find your way around an unfamiliar area.
For many of us, taxis may be a convenient means to travel around the city. In my experience, taxi drivers are none too thrilled about picking up foreigners, especially when these foreigners wish to be taken from Puxi to Pudong.
A Chinese friend spoke with one such taxi driver, asking him why this was the case. “There is no return taxi fare when I take people across to Pudong,” said the cabbie, adding that another problem drivers face is that “foreigners usually use big notes and they don’t know where they are going.”
To avoid earning a bad name among taxi drivers, it’s important to know exactly where you’re going and to master basic “taxi Chinese,” so you can direct the driver if necessary. This includes the phrases “go straight” (yi zhi zou), “turn left” (zuo guai), “turn right” (you guai) and “stop” (ting).
As expatriates, we tend to forget the huge task it is for taxi drivers to learn the street names in such a huge city, so try to be patient. I have learned that a lack of patience will only land you in the middle of nowhere, watching your taxi driver cross the street to ask local vendors for directions.
Find the English and Chinese addresses of your favorite restaurants or bars beforehand. Taxi drivers will be relieved when you present them with a Chinese address, and your chances of getting lost will be immediately reduced.
If you are willing to invest US$10 to make traveling around Shanghai easier, the Shanghai Taxi Guide is a useful app that enables you to search for the Chinese addresses of restaurants, Metro stations, etc, offline.
On weekends, in the rain and late at night it can be particularly difficult to hail a taxi, as many drivers see customers and simply continue driving. If you’re hoping to avoid this situation, there is a service in Shanghai called Uber Taxi that allows you to set up an account online, then order a taxi when you need one.
Though these taxis are more expensive that regular cabs in the city — approximately double the price — the drivers are polite and the service will save you the stress of hailing a cab in the rain.
If you are unwilling to pay double — as many of us are — the next best option is to walk to the nearest hotel. Many hotels in Shanghai have bellboys who can call you a taxi or flag one down on the street. Not only is this convenient, but you will have a better chance of finding a reliable taxi driver.
While arriving at your destination may prove to be as challenging as hailing a taxi in the first place, try to embrace the occasional long taxi ride, and put it down to another memorable China experience.