Tuesday, 17 July 2007


On the face of it, Singapore taxis are superb. There's loads of them, they're cheap, they know where most places are, they're honest (no tips, strictly using the meter which I've never seen or heard of being tampered with), they're clean and the drivers are nice to the point of being almost chatty.

There's 2 types of taxi; one is the standard type which are 3 year old Japanese exports, Toyota Crowns, with the same auto door closing mechanism as the dead giveaway. Most are in decent condition although I've been in a couple which, frankly, needed a major overhaul or scrapping due to mechanical wear. The other type are the Executive sort which are all Mercs, C-class I think, in white livery.

The only ruse I've heard about is the On Call play by which a driver sets his lights to be "on call" (going to a pickup) for which he can legitimately charge an extra SG$3 (£1) except he's actually cruising. At peak demand times (late at night, heavy rain), people will flag down such empty cabs and willingly pay the extra charge so the driver can earn a small bonus. For true geek-dom on this and other taxi related matters, see the SG Forums.

This utopian transport system is only marred by how much the drivers are paid. Generally self-employed, the driver rents the taxi from a big company by the day for SG$90 (£30). With the Government-controlled low fares, many work 13-hour days to cover the rental and gas costs. Working 7 days a week, they can pull in about $3,000 pm (£1,000), which is not a lot but tends to, ahem, be considered as net pay in such an all-cash economy.

Taxi drivers are therefore, another low-paid cog in the local economy. Lend them your support.