Taking a cab in country where you don’t speak the local language can be, at first, both a frightening and frustrating experience. This is usually because of a combination of factors such as (a) difficult communication, (b) different type of taxis, and (c) not familiar streets.
Here’s an overview — the ins and outs, if you will — of the taxi system in Seoul, South Korea to help you move around town when you visit dynamic Seoul.
First before we get started, let’s imagine a hypothetical scenario where you’re trying to catch a cab in Seoul, and you (just about now) want to ask someone how to grab a “taxi.”
This sounds quite simple and straight forward, but the way people (Koreans) pronounced taxi is not “Tax+E” (as in Taxation +Easy), so people may not understand your pronunciation of taxi at first.
If this is the case, the reason is because “Taxi” in Korean is pronounced as “Tech+She” or better yet “Teck+She” (as in “heck” – but with a “T” rather than “H”; and then “She”). Thus, try saying “Teck-She” and people will understand you better. To explain a bit further, and in Korean, “Taxi” is translated into, spelt and read as, “택시” which is “Teck-She” – so, more people are familiar with the tone (sounds) of Teck-She as opposed to Tax-E.
♦ Value-Added Insight ♦
From a fare perspective, Seoul has mainly 2 different types of cabs (taxis). One is the “Deluxe Taxi” and the other is a non-Deluxe (or “Regular”) Taxi.
The fare of a “Deluxe Taxi” is much more expensive than a “Regular” Taxi. For instance, and currently during July 2014, the beginning fare for a “Deluxe” taxi is 5,000 KRW (about $5.00 USD) for the first 3 km (kilometer) where as for a “Regular” taxi the beginning fare is 3,000 KRW (about $3.00 USD) for the first 2 km (kilometers).
The meter on the cab, thereafter, runs (goes up) on a combination of distance and time. The meter for the “Deluxe Taxi” goes up by an increment of 200 KRW (20 cents) whereas the “Regular Taxi” meter will go up by 100 KRW (10 cents).
A Late night surcharge (20%) is automatically added, if you ride between midnight and 4:00 am. If you ride outside of Seoul (out-of-town) during late-night hours, another 20% is added. Thus, there is a 40% surcharge.
As seen above, and because all Deluxe Taxis are of color “black” – these cabs are sometimes referred to as “black cabs” if you begin to use street talk.
The “non-Black” cabs — either silver or orange — in Seoul are the “Regular” cabs; and there a two fundamentally different types of “Regular” cabs, which is important to remember because of same-price, but quality differences.
Specifically, (1) one-type is privately owned and operated by an “Individual Owner” and these cabs are called “Individually Owned” Taxis; and (2) second-type of a “Regular” class cab is the “Company Operated” Taxis.
The “Company Operated” cabs in Seoul take on the color “orange” but there are still a good number of old “silver” and/or “white” cabs on the road which are also “Company Operated” which are planned to be phased out – these cabs have a “Blue” crown (night-light-box) on top of the roof of the car.
Although the fare is exactly the same, the level of service your get from an “Individually Owned” cab is at least 2-3 times better than if you would ride a “Company Operated” taxi because of the following reasons.
Ownership: The driver for an “Individually Owned” taxi is actually driving his own vehicle, whereas behind the handle of a “Company Operated” taxi is an employee who is driving a car provided to him (her) by the cab company. Ownership of the cab makes a big difference in the “service” mind-set of the driver. If we look at the “Individually (or Driver) owned” taxi, the driver has already invested in purchasing the cab, and typically considers driving his (her) life-time vocation. Thus, these people are more professional. On the other hand, and if we look at the drivers who are working for a “Company Operated” taxi company; their primary interest is to get a paycheck at the end of the day. In other words, they are not so much concerned about the provision of good quality service.
Experience & Safety: In order qualify to become an “Individually Owned” taxi driver; one must have a driving record of having “no accidents” for at least 3 years. In the past, the requirements to become an “Individually Owned” cab driver were much higher. The “Company Operated” cab company will basically hire anyone who has a driver’s license. Thus, statistically, the “Individually Owned” taxis are less likely to get involved in an auto-accident.
Best Driver: Another sub-class of the regular fare “Individually Owned” taxi is the “Best Driver” class. This is, by far, the best “bang-for-the-buck” cab in Seoul. The drivers behind the handle of these cabs are the same, if not better, than the “Deluxe Taxi” class. In order to quality to have this “crown” on top of your cab, the driver must have had no accident for at least 15 years. Thus, if and when you choose to ride in this type of cab, you could be easily surprised with good service and peace-of-mind.
In addition to its distinctive crown on the roof of the car, the “Best Driver” Individually Owned Regular Taxi also has 90% percent of the time an emblem on its front door.
If we go back to talking about the “Deluxe Taxi” class, it is worth noting that any black color cab (“Deluxe Taxi’) — whether it’s a sedan, limo, foreign SUV and/or large vans (called “Jumbo Taxi”) — will charge at the same (equal) premium rate. Thus, if you are able to spot a stretched limo, and you’ve decided to go premium (deluxe), then the meter for the limo will also start at 5,000 KRW. In other words, “black cabs” all go by the same fare-rate basis.
♦ Food for Thought ♦
If there are many cabs waiting in line, the best way to distinguish taxis in Seoul are by looking at the “crown” that’s located on top of the roof of the vehicle. Here’s a quick guide and summary:
Should you prefer luxury and/or are a business class traveler, then the “Deluxe Taxi” (black cab) with “Yellow” crown is recommended. You will, however, pay a higher price. These cabs are typically parked in front of 5 start hotels or near bars, restaurants and/or nightclubs in the upscale Gangnam district, for example.
If you wish best value, then choose the Regular Fare “Individually Owned (Best Driver) Taxi” for transportation. If you don’t see one of them (none available) in line, then the “Individually Owned (silver cab)” with either a “yellow” or “white” crown is good.
The Regular Fare “Company Operated” taxis are either color Orange, or have a “Blue” color crown. Avoid taking these cabs, if you don’t like to speed. These cabs will typically weave in-and-out of traffic, and try to get you to your designation at the fastest (shortest) time possible.
Among the Orange cabs, a few will have the sign “International Taxi” on the crown. These cabs were intended to provide a free-of-charge phone service for interpretation, but their effectiveness for reducing frustration caused by language barriers haven’t been yet 100% percent measured. Services are provided in Korean, English, Chinese (Mandarin) and Japanese.
♦ Language Footnote ♦
- Deluxe Taxi // 모범택시 // 模範 Taxi
- Individually Owned Taxi // 개인택시 // 個人 Taxi
- Company Operated Taxi // 법인택시 // 法人 Taxi
- Taxi // 택시 (pronounced = Teck-She)
♦ Related Outside Stories and External Links via the World Wide Web ♦
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