Posted by: mw23 | September 26, 2009

Danger Taxi

I had the pleasure of waking up my driver en route today.

I’ve become accustomed to calling Santiago (my regular driver) in the evenings to make sure he can pick me up. He often neglects to come and I end up foregoing precious minutes of my free time! Needless to say, he did not pick me up today.

I got a taxi for 10 soles which is about $3.70. I pay Santiago the same, but generally when he doesn’t pick me up I pay 12 soles (~$4.50).

Falling asleep at the wheel is not an uncommon habit of Lima’s taxi elite. Most of the taxi’s you find will be driving with music blaring and windows cracked. This is a common “stay awake” technique employed by drivers working more than they ought to (I gander I encountered one driver who worked at least an 18 hour day – he only charged a whopping 8 soles ~$3.00).

“How to taxi in Peru” Checklist

  1. Stage 1: Choose your destiny
    • You must first determine if you would like to get ripped off by a “taxi seguro” Secure Taxi or wager your life at hailing what I would like to coin, “taxi peligroso” aka Danger Taxi.
  2. Stage 2: I choose Danger Taxi (always adventurous right?)
    • For this mission you must leave the grocery lot, bus station or airport thoroughfare. You must make your way to the busy streets and avenues of Lima, ward off the insistent hails to jump on the combi’s buzzing by and find yourself a taxi worth a gamble.
  3. Stage  3: Evaluate your options:
    1. Evaluate roadworthyness of the car. (variable, start by hailing worthy candidates) Avoid taking the cheap little yellow taxi’s fueled by propane tanks in the back seat. These are likely to explode when rear ended – first casualty, yourself.
    2. Evaluate the roadworthyness of your driver (2-3 seconds) which includes, but may not be limited to:
      • Check for bloodshot eyes (aforementioned 20hr champion definitely failed this test)
      • Check for “Shady” factor – I always look them right in the eye and make a quick judge if their a swindler. This is perhaps the most important test of all.  (Express Kidnappings)
      • Check back seat and trunk space for blankets concealing wood-be assailants.
      • Personally, I avoid the taxi’s that have cages around the driver… it just feels suspicious like I couldn’t fight him off if he locked the doors and abducted me.
      • Also an important aspect in this checking phase is to keep an eye on other traffic and make sure neither you, nor your taxi get’s hit by any unruly drivers who may be swiftly whooshing by with their horns blowing. This is because your taxi is likely stopped in the middle of the street.
  4. Stage 4: Barter your trip (3-5 seconds)
    1. Establish Destination:  If the driver and car pass your quick quality check, you must now tell the driver your approximate destination.
      • It’s important here to gage your driver’s knowledge of the road, often has no no idea where you will be going.
      • If going long distances your driver may not even say anything and just drive off to leave you standing in the street.
    2. First Proposal: Allow for the driver to think and make an initial proposal (make sure to make mentionings of how fast or easy it will be to get there)
    3. Counter Offer: 9 times out of 10 the initial offer is high and the driver will try to justify it for a variety of reasons (it’s early, it’s late, there’s lots of traffic, it’s too far) often though they simply start with the Gringo-rate and you’ve got to barter them down.
      • At this stage too,  you may lose the driver who will speed out from under your nose, again leaving you standing in the street.
    4. Acceptance! If everything goes well you’ve accepted your cab and hopped in. Take note of unpleasant surprises like the pungent smell of gasoline or propane or worse, nauseating urine.
  5. Stage 5: Survive the journey to live another day (for me 25-30 min btw home and office)
    1. Stay attentive: You must keep watch for the route your driver takes and make sure he doesn’t meander down any dark alley where his friends are waiting to mug you.
    2. Weigh the pro’s and con’s: I often find myself in a dilemma of “To lock the door or not to lock the door”. Firstly, I get concerned that locking the door may actually trap me in the car, and make me prime candidate for an express kidnapping. On the other side, it’s good to lock it to prevent eager thugs from pulling you from the cab and kicking the crap out of you.
      • This too is backed by a story from Santiago where he mentioned a group of thugs surrounded the car and had attacked both him and his passenger. He mentioned he got the hell out of there, but oddly didn’t mention anything about him saving the day for his client either. I didn’t ask.
    3. Close the deal:
      • Pay with exact change, almost never use large bills.
      • Check your change, drivers often try their luck at short-changing you.
      • Check for counterfeit bills (they will always check yours – today I exchanged a 20 note for a 10, I laughed when both him and I were duly inspecting each other’s cash!)
      • Jump ship! It’s important to note, other than with Santiago – I tend to get out a block away from home. This is to avoid the dangerous habit of catching a cab who takes note of where you live and decides to make a nasty plan to ransom you off later.

And there you have it! Another colourful reason why life in Lima is just so damn AWESOME.



  1. That is so not a typical street in Lima! The cars are all in line, and there aren’t 3 cars in a two-lane!!

  2. Ack, you’re right!

    Haha… the internet didn’t have any good photos of Lima’s crazy taxis… I should have used Erin’s!

  3. I am still laughing about the time that we got in the cab where the driver was using the emergency brake to stop because the cab had NO BRAKES. And then we went 1/2 a block and he started turning of the main road because “there was something wrong with the car.” I am yelling “Get out Mike! He’s taking us down some dark alley!” I opened the door and basically pushed you out into the street. I can still see the expression on your face…. kinda like a frightened deer in the headlights look. LOL… sigh….I miss those adventures.

  4. That would be called the “Perilous 3 Sole Taxi”

    Beware. 😀 haha yes you are missed! That was a… unique and definitely hilarious experience!!

  5. jajaja the things one starts to automate/ set as a standard when you live abroad… I’m sure you had a blast in Peru 🙂

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