Thursday, November 10, 2011

Public Transportation: Taxis

The third type of public transportation I’m going to blog about is the taxi dun dun DUN!!! While taxis can be scary (as I note here:, they are also super convenient and can be found just about anywhere. That is unless you’re actually looking for one. Taxis seem to have a radar that knows when someone wants to flag one down and they immediately vacate the area. I don’t know how many times I’ve been walking towards a main thoroughfare and can see dozens of taxis zipping down the road, but then, as soon as I get there to catch one, they are all suddenly on the opposite side of the road *grumble*. But oh well. Despite this snag in my plans, they are convenient.

General Info
Taxis can generally be found passing by on just about any street, but catching one can be difficult depending on traffic and the location. The best bet to catch one is to go to a taxi stand. In Yeongtong, there are a few that I can point out:
1) Next to Homeplus (by Coffee Bean)
2) In front of Grand Mart (across the street from Homeplus)
3) Deluxe taxis will be parked in front of the vet clinic next to Holly’s Coffee
4) Next to NOW Bar near A Twosome Place
5) By the foot bridge at the entrance to Yeongtong.

Payment for taxis is generally cash – I’ve never used another form of payment. However, many taxis do have T-Money card terminals in them and credit card terminals. You can look on the window for a sign that says “카드 Taxi” (card taxi). You can also ask for a receipt if you’re able to be reimbursed for you taxi fare by your work. You can just say “yeongsujong” (영수증) and it will get the point across without having to bust out a full sentence in Korean. Drivers will sometimes be very reluctant to take cards as payment because then they can’t fudge their numbers.

Sometimes getting your destination communicated to your driver can be impossible no matter how hard you try. Sometimes drivers just refuse to understand what you’re saying to them in Korean because they expect you to not be able to speak it, or they just don’t know where you want to go. There are two possible solutions to this: show the driver the address in Korean, or use the “Free Interpretation” number posted in the window. A way around this is to have the address or place printed out in Korean. If they don’t know where it is, they’ll either punch the address into the navigation system that nearly all taxis have nowadays, or they’ll call their dispatch place and ask them. Now, if you know where you want to go but don’t have it written down in Korean, you can always call the number posted in the window and explain it to the translator then give your phone to the driver and the translator will relay the information. This number is only available during certain hours, though.

A few things to watch out for when catching a taxi are illegal taxis, picking up extra fare, and the charge if you’re going between cities.

Illegal taxis aren’t a common problem, but they are out there. You can always check the car’s license plate and see if it starts with 자, 바, 아, or 사. Only taxis are issued these opening letters on license plates. If the license plate doesn’t start with one of those, then it isn’t a legally licensed taxi. It’s a good idea if you’re by yourself at night to make sure you’re catching a legal taxi and not some perverted old man.

Occasionally you’ll run across a driver that wants to stop and pick up someone else while there is already a fare in the taxi – especially if you’re going to a common place. I know I’ve had my driver stop and pick up someone else that is going to Samsung for work when I’m already in the taxi. Doesn’t seem like a bad idea really, but it’s illegal. The driver will pick up the extra person and then try to charge both parties the full cab fare.

If you live in a city near Seoul, like Suwon, you might find yourself out past later than the buses and subway run times yet not wanting to stay out the entire night to wait for them to start again. Your only option then is a taxi – and they know it. If you do this often, you might be familiar with the meter fare for the distance, but drivers will often try to negotiate a price for the ride (like 40000 won) and not use the meter. Sometimes this might be your best option if you’re unsure of the meter cost. Also, if you’re using a meter, the driver will charge you for tolls separately and also add a 10000 won “inter-city fee” to the meter. If you’ve negotiated a set fare beforehand, they typically will not try to add anything else to the fare amount.

Car Taxis
There are basically two types of taxis in Korea: regular taxis and deluxe taxis. Regular taxis come in a variety of colors, except black. If you see a black taxi, that is a deluxe taxi. Regular taxis’ base rates start out at 2300 won before midnight and then go up to 2500 after midnight... at least I think it’s midnight - I’m not out very late anymore. The base rate will get you a distance of 2 kilometers. The fare will increase by 100 won for every 144 meters. I’ve noticed an increase in “green taxis” in the Suwon area. These are hybrid vehicles and can be spotted by the “GG” or “Go Green” slogan on the sides. They also have light green striping on the body of the vehicle. Drivers will sometimes speak a bit of English and try to engage you in a broken English/Korean conversation. Sometimes drivers will try to take you a long route to where you’re going because they figure you don’t know any better, but if you know enough Korean to direct them the direction you want to go, they’ll usually stop trying it.

Deluxe taxis are black with a yellow light encasement on top. These taxis will start at a base rate of 4500 won for 3 kilometers and then increase by 200 won for every 164 meters. I typically avoid these taxis since they cost more, but sometimes the difference isn’t that much really if you're going a shorter distance. The deluxe taxi drivers will have a better driving record and they often speak more English than the regular taxi drivers. These taxis also typically have more room inside and the drivers will help put your stuff in the trunk.

International Taxis
There is a subset of the regular taxi that is an international taxi. These are orange in color and will say “International Taxi” on the side. These are typically found by the airports and in foreigner-heavy areas like Itaewon. These drivers will be near fluent in either English or Japanese. International taxis can also be reserved for a time period for a base cost. Reservations can be made here: It’s been my experience in Itaewon that they will only pick up foreigners that don’t look Korean and don’t speak Korean.

Jumbo Taxis
A different type of taxi that is available is the jumbo taxi. These are vans that can hold 8 passengers or just a lot of stuff. These can often be found at airports or near large department stores. Make sure the side of the vehicle says “Jumbo Taxi” (there are other vans out there that charge differently).

Water Taxis
Seoul also has water taxis available along the Han River. These can be a fun little jaunt down the river and maybe even quicker if your destination is near the river. You can check fares and pier locations here: You can even use your T-Money cards for these, as well as cash and credit card. You can also reserve taxis for a river tour on this site.

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