The Weird & Wonderful World of Colombia’s Taxi Drivers

The Weird & Wonderful World of Colombia’s Taxi Drivers

No doubt anyone who lives in Colombia or has visited has an interesting/weird/kooky/cool/[insert adjective here] story to tell about a taxi driver. I personally have many. Ranging from the heartwarming to the downright bizarre, there are a few typical and quirky experiences you can expect to have if you spend enough time here.

Closing the car door

Entering and exiting a taxi here is like playing a game of Russian Roulette. If done incorrectly, there’s a good chance you will have a rather unpleasant ride, or will send the driver speeding off into the sunset with his middle finger erect after you’ve disembarked.

Why? It seems to be a common belief that closing a car door too forcefully will cause it to fall off or in some way cause irreparable harm to their vehicle. That’s right – an average sized person going head to head with 3000+ pounds’ worth of steel and metal could do some real damage.

Case in point: On the way back from the Poblado metro station, a couple of friends got out of the taxi several minutes before me. The taxi driver was so offended by the way his doors were shut that for the remainder of the ride, I had to field questions like: Is that how you people over there close your car doors? Don’t you have any manners?

Rule of thumb: If you ever see the taxi driver put his hand behind him to help you close the door, just leave it ajar. He wants to close it himself. Also, the newer the car, the more likely it is that the driver will be extra particular about your door-closing strategy. Pretend like you just tucked the kids in for the night and close it as softly as possible – no sudden movements.

The customer is always wrong

You hop into the back, tell the driver where you want to go, and he sets off confidently in the right direction. When you fly by your intended destination, or make an impossible 20-minute detour after a wrong turn, don’t be surprised when the driver blames it on you.

Case in point: On Tuesday night, I name a restaurant and the highway it’s on. As I get wrapped up in conversation, we fly past it. When I point it out (too late), I’m told it’s because I didn’t tell him it was in “El Mall.” Except that there are dozens of mini malls along la transversal inferior. I’m not sure how he would know which I was speaking of. But that was my bad, obviously.

Another case in point: After getting a relaxing massage earlier this week, I climb into a taxi and give the cross street of my apartment building. The taxi driver makes a wrong turn, and we end up right back where we started several minutes later. I recommend a landmark and he makes the drive most pleasant by scolding me for not telling him beforehand. While my total bill is double what it should have been, it’s my fault for thinking he knew where he was going.

Umm, can you take me back to the massage place please?

The Solution? Call a friend for the remainder of the drive so you don’t have to listen to his bickering.

Are you a reporter?

Sometimes, a taxi driver will be so excited about having a foreigner in his car that he will begin to fire off a round of questions. While most of these interrogative sessions have friendly intentions, I’ve had more than a few get a little too personal.

How much do you pay in rent? Are you rich? Are you married? Do you have a boyfriend? Is he Paisa?

Damn – I didn’t know my E! True Hollywood story was coming out so soon.

The solution? If questions get too personal, you can pull the old, “No entiendo,” or call a friend (or pretend to) until the drive is over.

I know you!

This can easily be one of the creepiest situations, especially for a lone female. Picture this: You get into the back, glance up at the rear view mirror, and give your directions. You settle into your seat when you’re greeted with, “I remember you,” or worse, “I’ve been thinking about you.”

The Solution? Inducing a sense of both guilt and anxiety, there is no easy way to handle this situation if you have no clue who the guy is. You can try to smile through it, or hurl yourself out of the window at the next red light.

It’s not all bad

One of the best parts about this weird and wonderful world is when I get one of those drivers who is really interested in me and my life, is happy go lucky, friendly, and drops me off at my location with a smile on my face and that reminder of why I love Colombia so much.    Luckily, this happens more than not… but the weird ones make the best stories.

Do you have any weird or wonderful taxi stories? Share them in the comment section below.

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