Friday, 25 July 2014

Taxis in Hong Kong

Taxis in Hong Kong are plentiful, clean and efficient - and quite cheap compared to many other large cities.
Hong Kong New Taxi 2013
There are three types of taxis in Hong Kong, easily identified by their colours: red, green and blue. It's important to know the difference, as was highlighted in Week 3 of The Amazing Race Canada's 2nd season!
RED TAXIS (Urban)

The Urban (red) taxis can travel most destinations in Hong Kong and are also the most expensive. Note that on Lantau Island, red taxis are only permitted to go to the airport, Tung Chung and Hong Kong Disneyland.

Byd e6 new territories taxi hong kong
GREEN TAXIS (New Territories)

NT (green) taxis are slightly cheaper than the red ones but are fundamentally confined to rural areas in the New Territories (NT), the airport, and Hong Kong Disneyland.

Toyota Crown Comfort LPG Taxicab (Hong Kong) - Flickr - skinnylawyer
BLUE TAXIS (Lantau)

Lantau (blue) taxis (the cheapest of the three) operate only on Lantau Island (including the airport and Hong Kong Disneyland).

FROM THE AIRPORT

The airport will have taxis with all three colours, however both signs and attendants will make it (relatively) easy for you to make the right choice. If you are unsure, just ask making sure you have your final destination ready.

TO THE AIRPORT

All three taxi types (red, green and blue) serve the airport and Hong Kong Disneyland.

IN THE CITY

Hong Kong Taxi - 10-12-2006 - Cross Harbour Taxi Stand
Cross-harbour taxi stand
What you need to know about taking a taxi in Hong Kong:
  • By law, Hong Kong taxis must take you to your destination, however in practice they tend to ignore this rule if it isn't convenient to them. However unless it is raining extremely hard, then there will be no issue finding another taxi close by to take you.
  • All taxis are equipped with mobile phones and can be reserved and requested via an operator for a token fee of $5 (Hong Kong Dollars), payable to the driver. You are unlikely to need to call a taxi, though, as they are plentiful. 
  • Only during Friday night rush hour in central you might find long lines on taxi stands.
  • The wearing of seat belts is required by law, the driver has the right to refuse to carry the passenger if they fail to comply. In practice this is rarely observed.
  • Drivers are required to provide change for $100 notes, but not for higher denominations.
  • If you only have a $500 or $1,000 note and are going through a tunnel, let the driver know beforehand and he will change it when paying at the toll booth. 
  • Some taxis accept credit cards and Octopus cards to avoid hassles with small change although these are still very rare. If you are unsure, or cannot paid cash, then flash your credit card at the driver before getting in and you'll know if it will be accepted or not.
  • Paying with foreign currency is illegal in China, although some taxi drivers may accept US Dollars for payment, but you will be quoted an unfavourable rate. It is always best to have HK dollars with you.
  • There are no extra late-night charges nor peak-hour surcharges.
  • Luggage carried in the boot ("trunk" in American and Canadian English) will cost you $5 per piece, except for wheelchairs.
  • No charges are levied for travel to/from the airport or within downtown but all toll charges for tunnels are added to the bill. The driver will normally pay on your behalf at the toll booth and you just need to reimburse him at the end of the journey. But you can also just pass the driver the money before the toll booth too.
  • Be aware that crossing the harbour is considered a relatively significant trip, and some taxi drivers may be reluctant to take you. To do this you can stand at a cross-harbour taxi rank (there are not many), by hailing a taxi by making an arm movement like an ocean wave (They will not stop if they don't want to go) or just asking your hotel to call a taxi firm with your destination. Harbour crossing passengers are expected to pay the tolls (add around $70 for your trip).
  • All taxi drivers are required to display inside the vehicle an official name card that includes the driver's photograph and the license plate number. 
  • Unless a taxi has an out of service sign displayed, they are legally required to take you to your destination. 
  • Taxis are required to provide you a receipt upon request.
  • If you think you have been "toured" around the city, or if they refuse to either carry you to your destination or provide for a receipt, you may file a complain to the Transport Complaints Unit Complaint Hotline (Voice mail service after office hours) at 2889-9999.
Tips:
  • Unless you are fluent in Cantonese, it is good practice to get a local person to write the name or address of your destination in Chinese for you to hand to the taxi driver, as many drivers speak limited English.
  • If you wish to take a journey back to your hotel, ask a receptionist for the hotel's business card.
  • It also helps if you have the phone number of your destination, so you can give it to the driver to call there and ask for directions.
  • Nevertheless, even if you don't take these steps, most taxi drivers know enough English to communicate the basics.
  • Be aware that buildings might have an English name used by foreigners and a different English name used by locals. The HSBC building in Central is called "Hong Kong Bank" by taxi drivers for example.
  • Tipping is not expected in taxis but passengers will often round up the fare to the nearest dollar.
  • During a typhoon, when any loss is not covered by insurance, a tip will be expected, or the taxi driver will ask you to pay a surcharge.
  • Read more in our Hong Kong Airport transportation guide's taxi section
Related resources

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Help! I left my iPad on the plane!

IPad
Enjoy your device on your flight, but don't leave it behind!
by Todd Romaine

Ever forgot your phone, iPad, iPod, book or glasses on an airplane before? Maybe you left it in the seat pocket, in the overhead compartment or simply on the seat.

Well unless you remember this shortly after you disembark from your plane and can chase down an agent, be prepared to delve into the frustrating depths of hell trying to get it back.

I left my iPad in the seat pocket on a flight from Heathrow to Edmonton. Admittedly, it was my own fault. I personally blame my own sleep deprivation after a 28 hour trip for such carelessness.

Once I got home, I quickly called Air Canada’s lost baggage department and quickly got a claim number from an Air Canada Agent in an overseas office. I was told in broken English that a system was in place to track down my lost item and once the airline cleaners found it it would be logged in the system, flown to Vancouver and that I would have 5 days to retrieve it before it is sent to the central lost and found in Montreal. Admittedly, it did cross my mind numerous times that the cleaners or another passenger could have swiped the device and have it reformatted but I had faith in humanity and Air Canada!


Over the course of 4 days I called the number I was given 12 times and to no avail they had no update and seem less inclined to go that extra mile and call the Air Canada Edmonton office to check with them on the recovery of any lost iPad.

I decided to then call the Edmonton Airport and request their assistance. It was made clear to me that there is a difference between Lost and Found at the Airport and Lost and Found with Air Canada. They were kind enough to forward me to one lady that works at Air Canada whom was able to track down my iPad at Heathrow!

Yes that’s right, my iPad flew from Heathrow to Edmonton and return without being noticed by the cleaners or the next passenger sitting in my seat.

She sent a note to Heathrow Air Canada to send me my iPad, and 2 days later I called again to check on the status and they never read her note so she sent another message... and still nothing. Since that time I have sent notes to the Heathrow Air Canada office as well as Air Canada customer relations and still nothing back.

Somewhere out there, my iPad is sitting on a shelf somewhere in an arena of corporate indifference to my plight to have back a device that contained many of my life’s contents. :(

Call Center Taxis Libres
The land of 1-800-anywhere...
Here are some tips if you are ever in the same situation as me:
  • Make it a habit to ensure every item is packed away and ready to go 20 minutes before the plane touches down. This includes removing everything from the seat pocket that belongs to you. In your hand should be your passport, tickets, and immigration card, alongside your phone
  • Never leave the airport without your stuff – if an agent tries to direct you towards a 1-800 number push back and force the issue for them to retrieve your item right away, if possible.
  • If you need to handle this matter once you are home, try to go local. In other words, try in desperation to get an airline contact number at the airport where your item was left, otherwise they will put you into the nebulous 1-800 land where wait times are long and answers are few.
  • Here is a good reference site for tracking telephone numbers: GetHuman.com (the site helps you get through to a human at 1000's of companies).
  • Otherwise beg and plea with the local airport to direct you to the local airline number.
  • If nothing is occurring, make a trip out to the airport and make demands to speak to managers there to elevate the issue. This has a chance of them elevating your request versus the 1-800-somewhere else agents whom are rather indifferent about your personal plight for a lost item.
  • If you lost something at an airport, contact the airport’s lost and found department.
  • Check out MissingX.com, a system used by the lost and found departments in many airports.

Related resources

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

We are now blogging about the Amazing Race Canada

The action has begun with Season 2 of The Amazing Race Canada, and we are busy blogging about it on our IHateTaxis Amazing Race Canada blog.

We've gotten creative, and are now blogging information on how to go where the teams went, and how to do what they did - in addition to information on the airports visited (Calgary, Victoria). Read more on our Week 1 blogpost...

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Amazing Race Canada - Season 1 airports recap

ASJ Air Canada - Airbus A320-211 - C-FTJR - 216 - Flight ACA1255 CUN - YYZ (9480219949)
Air Canada flies #RaceCDA teams
With Season 2 almost upon us, we thought we would recap the airports that the Amazing Race Canada teams visited in Season 1.

In Season 1, The Amazing Race Canada's visited 12 Canadian airports... [continue reading on our #RaceCDA blog].



Monday, 7 July 2014

Check out our Amazing Race airport quiz

We're having some fun over on our IHateTaxis Amazing Race Canada Blog.

We created a quiz about all the airports that the Amazing Race Canada teams visited in Season 1.

If you are a fan, or an #avgeek or just love airports, then check it out.

Friday, 4 July 2014

Our Amazing Race Canada Blog is back!

Canada flag map
The Amazing Race Canada is back!
The 2nd season of The Amazing Race Canada is back, with action kicking off on July 8th.

So, we are happy to announce that our IHateTaxis Amazing Race Blog is back! Our first blog post of the season was just posted: Amazing Race Canada Season 2 - starts July 8th!

As there are so many great blogs sharing news about The Amazing Race Canada teams, we take a different approach: our blog posts are about the destinations the teams visit, the airports and transportation in particular. Be sure to follow along to learn about the airports that the teams will visit along the way - great information if you think, "Hey, I want to go there!".
Visit the

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Ray the Parking Robot Valet

Ray the Robot Parking Valet
Image: Copyright serva transport systems GmbH
Don't feel like parking your car at the airport? Are you willing to do anything to avoid driving around trying to find a spot? Running late for your flight, and just want to leave your car and run?

If you live in Düsseldorf, Germany, then you are in luck. If not, read on and be jealous.

Ray, sans car
Copyright serva transport systems GmbH
Meet Ray.

As in, Ray the Robot Parking Valet.

All you need to do is swing your car into one of Ray's designated spots at Düsseldorf Airport (DUS), use the smartphone app to let Ray know (and confirm the car is empty), and walk away. Ray will do the rest.

"Ray" is essentially a high-tech forklift slash valet hybrid, that moves cars from the designated drop-off spots to his own separate parking area. It's more sleek than it sounds, and cars are treated with remarkable care.

Systems are even integrated to the point that Ray will check the status of your return flight, to have your car ready for you when you collect your luggage. Travelers pay a premium for the parking service, but so far the interest is high. Who knows, maybe one of Ray's cloned brothers will take up residence in an airport near you.

Why they named him Ray, we don't know... but admit that "Ray the Valet" has a nice ring to it.

Related resources:

Friday, 20 June 2014

End of Days - YYZ to discontinue bus service

PWT 1139 RYH
Toronto's Airport Express back in 2009 when it was decked out for a Cuba promotion.
The shuttle service to/from Pearson Airport is a common sight outside the Royal York hotel
 in downtown Toronto. But not for much longer... (photo: wikicommons)

Toronto Pearson Airport's infamous shuttle bus service, the Toronto Airport Express, will be ending their service on October 31, 2014.

Porter Airlines.Dash-8.YTZ.2008
Porter Airlines landing at Toronto's Billy Bishop Airport
on Toronto Islands, in the city centre.
The shuttle's operator, Pacific Western Transportation, says the discontinuation is due to Billy Bishop Airport's increased popularity, as well as the planned airport subway system scheduled for 2015.

For many travelers, the bus service was simply becoming too inconvenient with construction and gridlock making the service too long, and too inconvenient for cost conscious travelers looking for a cheap and quick service to downtown Toronto.

The good news is that Toronto will soon join many other cities that have a special subway line that takes passengers to/from the international airport. Metrolinx is well into construction of the new Union Pearson Express line, or UP Express. The project has already won international recognition, as Project of the Year at the 2013 Global AirRail Awards.

GTAA LINK train clip
Don't get too excited if you see the
 Link Train at Pearson, as it only
 provides inter-airport connections.
In Toronto, it will enable many of Canada's snowbirds that live right downtown to walk underground, hop on the airport subway and then get on their plane without ever going outside. Imagine leaving Toronto in the winter time when it is -20° celsius in a shirt and shorts enroute to Mexico in a comfortable climate controlled environment. No more bringing your needless parka to a tropical destination.

While there will be a gap in service between the discontinuance of the Toronto Airport Express line and that of the new airport subway, it is anticipated that travellers will rely on using the city airport (YTZ) more, taking a taxi or shared airport shuttle services.

Related resources:

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Thai Military cleverly clamps down on the Bangkok Airport taxi chaos

The colourful taxis at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport
Photo: omad on flickr (creative commons)
There are new rules coming to clean up the taxi chaos at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK).

You may be pleasantly surprised that the relatively chaotic approach to hailing a taxi and navigating different queues will be sorted through strict guidelines that could even include troops present to ensure taxi operators follow the new rules.

A new computerized punch system will allow taxi drivers to enter the queue in an orderly fashion and chronologically they will move up the line to where travelers are waiting for their taxi. All taxis must take passengers to their desired trip, regardless if it is 1 mile away or 150 miles away. The passenger will continue to be responsible for the taxi airport fee of 50 Baht, which is included in the price of the taxi fare.

In addition, non-airport taxis dropping passengers off at the 4th floor (arrivals) are now legally able to pick-up other travelers during their abbreviated stop. Therefore if a traveler wants to avoid the airport fee and a potentially long queue can make their way up to the 4th floor and try your luck there.

All of this will hopefully eliminate the bullying tactics of the taxi mafia which uses aggressive touts to lure weary eyed travelers to specific taxis and to chase away their competition from the airport.

This change is due to come into place mid-July.

Related resources:

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Uber provides the taxi industry a good kick in the pants

by Todd Romaine
Striking London taxi drivers this morning.
The result? Uber sign-ups up 850%.
Image: @simonjackson80

Ask any seasoned traveler around the world and you will find few fans of the taxi industry and, more specifically, experiences with taxi drivers. Despite hundreds of personalized experiences, we tend to only recall the handful of bad ones and categorically declare disdain on any entire industry and a population of drivers. Throughout my global travels, it would seem that many taxi drivers from all parts of the globe share many of the same undesirable traits of trying to rip me off in variety of different ways. Arguably this is done most commonly in the developing world but we have all had experiences in the West dealing with our shady types here. It would seem, up until very recently, that we are permanently stuck with the taxi industry and its shenanigans.

Uber and various smaller replications may at the very least challenge in the medium term taxi operators and drivers to clean up their act. If travelers will continue to be loyal to the traditional taxi industry monopoly then their experience better be pleasurable and incorporate high tech apps, GPS feeds on the viewer screen and overall enhanced customer service. This will mean attracting drivers that are more conversant in the official languages and will likely mean that the taxi industry will need to pay increased wages and reduce the operator fees in order to be competitive. At the very least, all taxi companies will need to have an online app and be prepared to accept credit cards under all circumstances to compete. Despite protests in Europe and North America from the taxi industry on the issue of 'fairness' and lost fares from increased competition, it is unlikely Uber will go away but rather intensify globally.

The demand from younger travelers on increasing the pool of available drivers for a quicker pick-up, booking online and paying by credit card is a good thing for the travel industry. Maybe its time for taxi drivers themselves to adapt to the new trend, utilize their own car for transporting passengers and throw off the servitude shackles of the taxi industry once and for all. Let us hope that the replacement of the taxi industry with Uber does not create another type of monopoly that encourages long-term lethargy and indifference to customer loyalty and acquisition. And the most promising development on this fearful trend is the development of a driverless car, the idea being actively pursued by a Google/Uber partnership. The belief is that with rapidly evolving technology that cars should be able to safely navigate themselves and without the cost of a driver, the price for transportation should plummet so low to discard the idea of private ownership altogether which will mean less congestion and significantly reduced environmental externalities.

But, of course, Ihatetaxis.com would support any initiative that enhances your travel experience in a positive manner and ends the taxi monopoly!

Related resources:
Plus, in case you missed it; Do we really hate taxis? The story behind our name.