When traveling to a country for the first time, it’s often that one of the first people you meet is a taxi driver. It can be stressful getting around a city that doesn’t have good public transportation. Relying on taxi’s is the way you have to go. In Myanmar the public transport has gotten a lot better in recent years but the most popular mode of transport for expat business people is by taxi. So here are some tips to help you get around Yangon or Myanmar in general using a taxi.
As in most countries you still have to negotiate with a taxi driver on the fare when getting one on the street. Yes there are taxi apps and I’ll discuss this, but often you will still need to get a taxi without an app when you are certain places. Myanmar taxi drivers usually can tell if you are foreign. If you are white like me then it’s super obvious. They will generally try to charge you higher if you don’t know the prices. You should try to negotiate 1,000 to 2,000 Myanmar Kyat off the price they offer. You can ask several drivers and you’ll figure out what the actual price is. Remember that yes, the prices aren’t that high, but you should always negotiate so the prices don’t raise for the expats that live full time in the city.
There are taxi apps but most people use Grab. You need to make sure that you contact the driver and make sure he or she is coming. They will sometime accept your ride then drive the other direction. Another thing they will do is to call you and ask where you are. This may seem strange as they have a map in from of them, but really they can’t read maps. I’d say 70% of the drivers can’t read a map. When you get in the car they may also ask you where you are going. Again with the map thing.
One of my pet peeves when riding in a Myanmar taxi is the air-conditioning. In Myanmar they call it “Aircon”. Myanmar is a hot country and you would think the taxi drivers would understand that their car should be cold. The reality is that most Myanmar people don’t have aircon at home. This means the driver gets cold really easily. The driver will either not have the air on or will have the air on only level 2. Level 2!! That level cannot keep the backseat cool. I usually ask them to raise the air to 3 or 4. I’ve gotten quite used to the weather so I occasionally tell them to turn off the air and I roll down the windows.
Honking and Waving
When you are walking down the street you might get honked at. This means the taxi is wanting to get your attention and see if you want a ride. This can be a bit annoying. After getting constantly honked at while walking down the street you eventually get used to it. When you are on the side of the road and trying to catch a taxi they will give you a hand motion if they aren’t available. They will stick their hand out the window and wave. This shows you that they have a customer or they are headed somewhere already.
Remember to be nice to your driver and if they speak English you can have a chat with them. They’ll often ask where you are from and what you are doing in Myanmar. Many will share with you what’s currently going on and you can get perspective and catch current events you aren’t usually getting in the news.
By-Ryan Russell (CEO of Myanmar Business Answers)