Saturday, August 23, 2008

Taxies in Kuwait

This post is coming to you from: Border Crossed

Getting around in Kuwait - by Taxi

A typical taxi-cab

The most common form of transportation in Kuwait is by private car. But if you don’t drive, or don’t want to look bad driving a Toyota next to your friend’s BMW, taxis are the only viable alternative. Buses are infrequent, slow, and the routes they go are very limited. Usually only blue-collar expatriate workers take them

Here are some tips that may help you improve your experience with Kuwaiti taxis

1. Call taxi (241-3414) instead of waiting for street cabs
When I am in Kuwait City, this is the number that I call the most: 241-3414. It is the phone number of one of the larger taxi companies. It is probably the most important number for visitors. I use them for the following reasons
- After you call, they usually come pick you up within 5 minutes
- Cabs are coordinated centrally and are connected to a radio system. They have some English-speaking operators in their call centers. So when I want to go somewhere, as long as I have the address, the driver will find a way to get there through radio

Alternatively, you can wait for street cabs, but you have to believe that you’re lucky. Sometimes they come within 5 minutes, while sometimes they never appear

2. Negotiate the fare before going anywhere
Taxis have meters, but the drivers don’t charge by the meters. At the end of the journey, they’ll just tell you what the fare is. It is EXTREMELY important that you and the driver agree on the fare before you start moving, or you’ll probably pay more than you have to

Here are the going rates, based on my personal experience
- Kuwait International Airport - Kuwait City, 5 KD
- Short distance within Kuwait City - 2 KD
- Long distance within Kuwait City and vicinity - 3 - 4 KD

If they charge you more than that, bargaining helps. Street taxis are usually cheaper than the call-in taxis

Licenses of a taxi driver, photo taken from the back seat
Taxis are heavily regulated in Kuwait. Drivers are required to apply for various licenses (I counted 4) before he can carry passengers in a taxi. This red tape has driven up the price. Comparing journeys of similar distances, fares in Kuwait are up to 50% higher than fares in Dubai. For short-distance journeys, the difference may be even higher

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