I cringe when I hear people complain about taxi drivers in Egypt. 99% of Cairo taxi horror stories are preventable as long as the rules_of_the_game are understood and followed:
Rule #5 Taxi drivers are not the enemy
Almost every foreigner, and even many Egyptians, have negative taxi stories. The infamous Cairene taxi driver is probably the greatest target of visitors’ wrath but this does not have to be the case. Most taxi-related hassles are caused by the foreign passenger’s ignorance of the rules. Master the system and you will have no trouble. Riding cabs can even be a pleasant and enlightening experience.
The biggest mistake visitors make is to try and bargain before they get in the cab, thinking it is best to agree on a price beforehand and avoid an argument at the end. This is the advice that guidebooks offer but this is not how the system works and by discussing the price at all, the passenger is telling the driver they do not know the system, which may tempt him to ask for a higher price.
A lack of working meters does not mean there is no system. In fact, it is organized and efficient, although unwritten and there are clear rates for how much a ride between different neighborhoods will cost, with slight variations based on level of traffic, time of day, and number of passengers. Ask around and you can quickly learn them. Simply tell the driver where you want to go and pay him the fare when you get out. In most cases, there should be no conversation whatsoever about price.
The image of the taxi driver being “out to get” passengers is incorrect. Perhaps a bit of empathy is in order: Drivers sit in traffic, in non-air conditioned cars, for up to 12 hours a day, often earning just enough to make ends meet. They are usually thrilled to meet foreigners, especially those who can communicate in Arabic. Talk about the things that interest them — usually football, Egyptian films, or American action films — and they will treat you like an old friend. After these friendly conversations, some drivers refuse to take money, however, you should insist on paying. This is a side of the Cairene taxi driver that rarely makes the guidebooks.
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