Personally, I’m not a taxi man. I’m more of a train or bus guy. So when I moved to Suva there was some conditioning required to be able to ride in several cabs every day to get around while not pulling my hair out, making fisticuffs with the drivers or getting fed up and resorting to the bus (or as I like to call it, “The pleasure ride to air pollution!”). Generally taxis in this city are cheap, a little rickety, personalised with strange decorations, and only a little bit dodgy. Here I shall break down for you the general aspects of Suva taxis, should you ever come to our fine city for trade or leisure.
It is not hard to holla a taxi here. Taxis make up approximately half of all the traffic on the roads so unless it’s a friday or saturday night, chances are you will have taxis beeping at you constantly whenever you strut the streets, offering passage. This is usually performed by the driver slowing down to cruise speed and leering at you outside the window with eyebrows raised.
In the event that you do in fact need to holla a taxi there are three ways to do it.
1. The tourist method requires a frantic waving or the arm in the direction of the taxi. Continue to wave the arm far longer than is necessary. If you are unsure, just wave until the taxi has come to a complete stop.
2. The second method is for trendy expats pretending to be Fijian, and tourists who have done their research and shows that in fact you are “pretty much Fijian already” despite the fact that they are very much a whitey, detest dalo and only pretend to like the taste of kava. This method involves the use of a ‘kissy lips’ sound to holla at a taxi. While wannabe Fijians continue to kissy holla until the taxi is stopped, locals also perform this manouvre once or twice as a prelude to the last and most advanced taxi-holla method.
3. Eyebrow raise. Once you have eye contact with a taxi driver raise your eyebrows and nod your head upwards slightly. This is the best and most advanced method but should be used with care, as erroneous use of eyebrow raising can holla unwanted bi-products such as other unwanted taxi drivers, street food sellers and committed stalkers.
After you have a taxi, jump in and tell them where you want to go. The conversation about your destination should last at least 30 seconds as they enquire about the specifics. If the conversation ends more abruptly there is a good chance your driver does not understand you, and is taking you on a metered tour of wherever the hell he feels like.
Suva taxis vary from the sublime to the ridiculous. You are probably not in a suva taxi if there are not ornaments and trinkets in every spare piece of dashboard real estate. There is also a good chance you are not in a Suva taxi if the windscreen is completely in tact and chip/crack free. Bail out immediately.
Taxi drivers decorate their rides with neons, leds, video players and other weird and wonderful things. This guy obviously killed a bear somewhere along the way.
Usually you jump in a taxi, and it’s $1.50 flagfall (or $2 after 10pm) and just 10c per 100m. This is standard. Scams usually involve some variation of the following:
- The “My meter is broken” heist – charge you double or triple what you would normally pay because “the meter is broken”. Just threaten to get another cab if they wont take you by meter. This changes outside of town of course, because although it’s technically illegal for a taxi driver to not use the meter, if you want to go outside the city, the drivers all have an agreement to not take you unless you pay their pre-arranged fares. Call around.
- The automatic tip – If you pull up somewhere and it’s a $3.50 fare, and you give $4, usually the taxi driver will take a bit of your change and give you either 30c or 40c back. Just enough so that you feel petty if you ask for it. It’s unavoidable other than giving correct money.
- The “scenic route” job – Always make out like you know where you are going. If they think you are a tourist they will ask you questions like “which way do you want to go?” and if you answer vaguely, you might end up taking a taxi from MHCC to USP via Lami Town. No direct route from A to B in Suva should be more than about 5 bucks, and it’s usually less than 4.
- The “sob story” shenanigan -If a taxi driver starts telling you that he just came from hospital visiting his wife because his house just burned down yesterday, then you have been lucky enough to get the famous scamming taxi driver of Suva!!! *high five*. This guy fleeces everyone, but his memory isn’t too good, so he often tries to fleece the same people twice. There are other sob stories on the rotation, but this one is the most popular at the moment.
- The “I forgot to put my meter on” trick – see the “My meter is broken” heist.
This is a pretty comprehensive list of Suva taxi scams, but I’m sure there are more out there, so if anyone can add to the list then drop a comment below. It’s been a long time between postings for me due to work travel, but I still managed to see a couple of movies that I will now review for you people in horrible “developed” countries where they extort a princely sum for a movie ticket…
Green Hornet – It had Seth Rogan in it, who a few people say I look like (insult?). He was trying a little too hard to be Will Ferrell in this movie, which didn’t work at all. Also, when I heard a guy called Jay Chou was in it, I was expecting this, so I was a bit put off, but the other Jay Chou I think is ok too, he was doing his best Jackie-Chan-inspired “funny Asian guy” bit, but it was kind of just an irritating movie mostly. Rating: Not entirely awful, but competing hard to get there.
The Fighter – I think this is my second marky mark movie while in Fiji? Not sure. Anyway the preview makes it look really really good, but it’s only just pretty good. It’s a little slow to get going, but there are some cool bits, and two girls punch on. Rating: Don’t see the preview and you will be stoked.
I have also been watching a few DVDs while here, the pick of the bunch would be Animal Kingdom, although I saw it on the night I got chilli hands, it was still really good. In terms of TV shows, Avatar the last air bender and The Wire both have my attention.
*** UPDATE ***
Found a version of the jay chou youtube that actually has him singing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iHy0jr145LE