Dealing with Hong Kong taxi drivers can really dive me insane. When I came back to Hong Kong in 2005 I heard stories about non-Cantonese speakers getting kicked out of taxies among other unacceptable situations. Over 10 years on I myself am joining in the growing discontent with some taxi drivers who blatantly overcharge, take lengthy routes, or simply refuse to be hired. As a community we are well aware of these issues reported by SCMP back in 2015. This left the door ajar for Uber to enter the market, but current laws and politics delegitimizes Uber’s existence despite them offering better service.
I have noticed a trend with taxi drivers asking what route to take, something they should be doing autonomously as it is part of the service we are paying for. I am not a fluent Cantonese speaker nor do I drive or know the roads of Hong Kong, but I have taught myself how to respond accordingly in Cantonese (by telling them to pick the fastest route according to their judgement). The number of taxies I have come across that have refused to take the cross harbor tunnel during off-peak hours, or simply refused to be hired is unacceptable, especially when accompanied by my elderly father who can barely walk. The Hong Kong government is considering to tackle such poor behaviour by introducing a demerit point system, which has received a mixed response. As the discussion continues, what can we do in the interim?
Frist thing is first, when confronted with a situation where you feel dishonesty or unfair treatment is involved you need proof. If it is a very serious case call the police immediately. Otherwise wait until the end of the ride and ask for a receipt, which is usually enough to make unscrupulous taxi drivers think twice. Taxi drivers at this point sometimes even offer a discount to avoid being reported. Then note the driver’s name (next to photo ID of driver) and “driver identity plate number” (below photo ID of the driver) both of which should be displayed on top of the dash board on the passenger’s side. Last but not least, note the license plate of the taxi upon exiting and keep in mind the pick-up and drop-off locations as well. As soon as you are near a computer with internet access fill in the Transport Complaints Unit’s Taxi Compliant Form.
I hope the more people complain, the greater pressure we will be able to exert on the government to step in and do something, as the status quo is not good enough for a world class city like Hong Kong. If you have any personal stories or differing opinions, feel free to share with us by commenting below.