Last week, Arab News
told its readers “Share your experience of using taxis in your city.
I was giggling at some of the comments. There should be a forum made to tackle the taxi problems in Saudi Arabia. Some of the comments like drivers being gay and smelly are quite funny but the public transportation issue in the Kingdom is serious. Safety, hygiene, and costs… these should be put in the agenda asap!
Most women are afraid to use regular taxis in Riyadh. By regular taxi I mean this kind:
The Pink Tarha’s own fear in using them has spawned different how-to guides which you can read here, here, and here. We can list all the complaints that we can think of and it will probably fill half of this page. So we will not do that. Instead, we will look for a solution. Not fail-proof but at least better than what was used to.
When I was in the Philippines for vacation, I came across a mobile app called Grab Taxi
. It’s an app that lets me find a taxi near my place to take me somewhere else. Some of the time, I had good luck in locating one that arrives promptly. Most of the time, no taxi is available. I blame that for our location that loves traffic so much. So there I was wondering when an app like that would arrive in Riyadh. I find it handy. I mean, I’m not sure I will be fully trusting in using a taxi app like this in Riyadh but it’s worth a try yeah?
Imagine my surprise when I found out that hey… there are taxi apps in Riyadh already! I’m probably the one who’s late in discovering them. I needed taxi most of the time especially with a project I took on recently so these apps are timely. Don’t get me wrong though; I only use them when my trusted, known limo drivers (the service used by most hospitals) are not available and I’m in a hurry. You know how heavy traffic is in Riyadh nowadays? It makes it harder for our trusted drivers to come get us at the appointed time so a faster alternative must always be at hand. So here goes…
First, YOU NEED AN INTERNET CONNECTION TO USE THESE APPS. Just saying. 😛 Also, these taxi apps uses regular taxis. So if you’re allergic to using regular taxis, well, you might want to skip this entry because it’s quite long and it’s not my fault if you won’t still be convinced to give them a try after reading. Haha.
The first app that I downloaded and used is called Easy Taxi. It was founded in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on April 2012 and became the pioneer online taxi service in Latin America. It expanded its services and has now arrived in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. This smartphone application that connects taxi drivers and passengers claims to be the largest taxi booking app in the world.
|Your Taxi in One Click (the once click is not true)
The app itself looks very professional featuring an orange and black theme that uses sleek lines and fonts. It locates you through a GPS and shows you where you are on the map through a pin. Requesting a taxi can be done by pushing the green button that says “Request Taxi.”
|STEP 1: Request taxi | STEP 2: Verify pick up point, provide landmark, select payment method, and continue…
It then goes to a page where it shows the name of your location. You can insert a landmark if you want to be more specific. You can also save the location as a favorite if it’s your house or office since you’re frequently there. You can also choose the method of payment like cash, credit card, or debit card. Press “Continue.”
|STEP 3: Finding Taxi | STEP 4: Taxi is assigned. You wait. (Details above for display only.)
It will then scan the area for taxis registered with Easy Taxi. What it does is send a message to all nearby taxis that there’s a request. The first one to respond would be given the slot. After a taxi has responded, the app will show the taxi driver’s details like name, phone number, and plate number. They even have the driver’s photo sometimes. It shows you how many minutes will the driver arrive. You can also cancel the request any time (of course as long as the driver doesn’t reach you yet!).
My first time to use this app was a success. My friend and I were waiting at the Alkhozama Hotel and it was already past 11 o’clock. Our trusted limo drivers have all gone home and we were left with no one to fetch us. I decided to use the Easy Taxi app. It sent us the details of the taxi driver and the taxi itself. So we waited… The main problem that I encountered with this app is its inability to give a good estimate on how many minutes the driver will arrive. It was just set to 1 minute. Hello?! The driver took around 20 minutes to get to us. However, we actually like the driver because he was nice and his car was clean. He’s even in our roster of trusted taxi drivers now, especially during our late night outs (sorry, we like having coffee and chika too much, haha!). There was no surcharge.
The second time I used the app, that’s when I had problems. I was at the Alakaria 3 building when I requested for a taxi. The app got me one and I waited. I decided I had to call the driver just in case. Good thing I did because the taxi driver informed me that he has passengers! Uhmn, so why take my request?! So I canceled the ride and requested for another one again. This time, upon giving me the details of the driver who responded, I immediately called him only to be told that he’s stuck in traffic and that he’s a bit far from where I am so he couldn’t come to me. Again, why take my request if that’s the case?! I guess the drivers need to be more educated about how the app works.
Handy; can be used anytime, anywhere
Complete information of the driver and car (with photo!)
No additional fees in using the app
Sleek, professional-looking app
Available for download on iOS, Google Play, Samsung, Windows, and Web
Stores usage history (so we can call back the driver again if he’s good)
More cars than Smart Taxi
Location in the map is not precise (the sample above shows me several buildings away from where that locator is pointing)
Time of arrival is not precise (even far from the given estimate)
Drivers lack the knowledge in using the app
No visible sign that it is an Easy Taxi (I made the mistake of entering one taxi that stopped; it just so happens that they had an almost identical plate number!)
Smart Taxi is the second taxi booking app that I have on my phone. It was created by the AiiA group in Lebanon. It aims to serve the Middle East and is now operating in Beirut and Riyadh. This application allows users to get accredited licensed cabs in just two clicks.
|‘The smart way to get a taxi’
I used it one morning to go to work because again, my trusted drivers are busy and I was already running late. The app itself is not that pleasing to the eyes because it has too many information (including a pixelated logo!) and colours up front. The map is more detailed though. It shows the street name in English and Arabic. It also shows the number of taxis are within your area. You will be required to sign up before your first use.
|STEP 1: Press taxi. | STEP 2: App finds a taxi.
When you press “Taxi” it goes directly to work by scanning and looking for an available taxi. It has a “find taxi in your area” and shows that it’s already obtaining the details of the taxi it’s going to send you. In this app, it only shows the taxi code and the kind of taxi. What’s nifty about this app is that it shows you where exactly the taxi is, even providing the route the taxi will use to get to you. It also shows how many minutes before it arrives and tell you to prepare if it’s just one minute away.
|STEP 3: Taxi gets assigned, you follow on the map, and wait.
On the first time I used this app, it got me a taxi immediately and showed me where it was. It also followed a route highlighted in yellow. Every time the taxi moves, it shows a tiny blue dot and shortens the line. So I got to see where precisely the taxi was! Even when it’s stuck on the traffic light, I knew because it’s not moving on my screen. When it got near my place, I received a notification to prepare. The taxi appeared promptly in front of our building at the same time it says so on the map. Coolio. However, the taxi driver must have forgotten to signal his device that I’m already on the taxi that it didn’t record this trip and my arrow on the app kept on moving away from the designated pick-up point. Haha! The taxi driver was quiet and his car was clean.
I tried the app again and it worked like the first time. I was picked up by the driver in the pick up location on the minutes that was shown in the app. The driver was a bit friendlier this time and he let me see the device they use for the Smart Taxi. He wasn’t sure he understood everything about it though so he showed me a Smart Taxi brochure the company provided them. The third time I used the app, I was surprised to see the same driver picking me up (it did say on the app that it’s the same driver based on the code). I’m just curious at the coincidence. Anyway, he seems an okay driver but I have a policy in riding regular taxis to not use the same twice. (That’s just me.)
Handy, easy-to-use (in just two clicks!)
No additional fees in using the app
Precise real-time progress of taxi on the map
Uses accredited, licensed taxi drivers (as stated)
Stores usage history
Not sleek-looking app
Only works in iOS and Android
Doesn’t show in photo how many taxis are in your area
Incomplete details of driver and taxi on the app itself
No visible sign that it’s a Smart Taxi
Fewer taxis available compared to Easy Taxi
Between the two, I use Smart Taxi more often because it’s more hassle-free and it shows the precise location and time of arrival of the taxi so I’m more in control of the situation (control freak!) but I appreciate the more detailed information that Easy Taxi provides when it comes to the driver and car. Here are the most obvious differences:
|Showing the number of taxis around you.
When finding taxis, you get an immediate result on both. Easy taxi gives a graphic number of the taxis near your location while Smart Taxi gives a number (10 taxis out of their 548 taxis are near on the example above). Smart Taxi however doesn’t show where those taxis are on the map.
|Taxi driver and car details
Easy Taxi gives more information about the driver including the name, phone number, type of car, and the license plate. It even shows a picture if available. On the other hand, Smart Taxi just gives a taxi code and the type of car. Although they provide these details, I still want to see a very visible sticker of both apps on the taxis they’re using so we can identify them easily.
The taxi apps in the city are geared more for the ladies because guys can just hail one from the street. I mean, they’re strong enough to fend off advances and harassment just in case right? The advantage of using these apps is we get to know the drivers who are driving for us. Unlike before when we only have the license plate (sometimes we can’t even see and memorize that immediately) and some random numbers inside the car we don’t even know if they’re real or working. When you use the app, you can just take a screenshot of the driver’s info page and send it to your family or friends to inform them of your whereabouts. I can’t say I’m 100% trusting the drivers or their cars but it’s good to know I have a more secure way of riding a regular taxi cab when push comes to shove. And yes, you can haggle the fare before you step inside the cab or ask the driver to use the meter.
Here are some tips in using the taxi apps:
– Request a cab 10 minutes (or more) before your intentional departure time to give the driver enough time to travel from where he is to your location.
– If you see in the map that the driver tasked to pick you up is still a bit far from your location, cancel immediately and try another app.
– It’s rude to cancel the taxi when he’s already in your pick-up point so cancel way ahead when you realise you need to.
– If you don’t like the driver that was tasked to pick you up for random reasons, say you changed your mind and pay him for his trouble in getting to your place. Or you can get in and have him drop you off a few blocks after. Hail another cab. (Always weight the situation and go with your gut feel).
– Haggle fare. Just because you use an app doesn’t mean you can’t ask for a fixed fare before boarding the taxi. We all know fares here in Saudi Arabia are unfair (hello, have they seen how much gasoline costs here? These taxi operators!).
– Take a screen shot of your driver’s and car’s information and send to friends especially if your destination is far.
– Don’t get too friendly with your driver; some might take that on a different light. Be polite in answering questions (or just say Mafi mallum Arabi and he will get off your back.) Some drivers are genuinely friendly too so it depends on the situation and your mood for the day.
– Travel with friends as much as possible. Avoid going solo.
So there you go. I hope my review and experiences helped. I’m sure I forgot a lot of details still so just comment here or message me in The Pink Tarha’s Facebook page for faster replies.
There’s another new taxi app called Uber Taxi but that’s a different story. They don’t use regular cabs for their service. And there’s Careem too where you book a taxi in advance. I’ll talk more about ithem next time. Stay safe on the roads everyone! Stay vigilant. ~ Sundrenched