Taking A Taxi In China - Vocab and Key Phrases
While riding from point A to point B in a taxi, you will spend roughly 20% of the time actually driving. For the rest of the time in a cab, you’ll spend, 15% beeping the horn, 40% changing lanes, 15% driving on the sidewalk, and 10% driving in the wrong lane. This is just one of the many jokes about Chinese taxi drivers. But with more and more cars on the road and stricter traffic laws, the majority of taxi drivers today try to drive following local laws. So please sit back in your next Taxi ride and enjoy the view. You’ll be surprised that some drivers really like to chat and amazingly they know a lot of insider information about the past and the present of China.
Taking a taxi in China can be a lively learning experience, and of course don’t forget the excellent opportunity to practice your language skills! The below language tips should be universal throughout Chinese speaking countries. First, you flag a taxi and yell 出租车 / chū zū chē. If the signal inside a taxi or on top of it reads For Hire / 空车 / kōng chē/ (literally means vacant taxi) then you can flag it. The signal most of the time is red but it can also be green, so make sure you learn to recognize the characters. 空车 Green.
The availability of the taxi in China doesn’t guarantee you can have it. Don’t take it personally if the driver whizzes past you: he might need to pick up someone, go to lunch or even go to the bathroom. Just prepare to get ready for the next one. Unless it is rush hour or a very pretty girl beside you is also flagging, there is a good chance that you will get a taxi within five minutes. If you see “我被打劫，请报警” on the LED screen of a taxi, call 119 (Chinese 911) . It reads / wǒ bèi dǎ jié ,qǐng bào jǐng / and means that I am being robbed, please call the police.
Keep in mind that could be another reason that the cab doesn’t stop for you. Previously in China, it was not very regulated so you could practically flag a taxi anywhere you wanted as long as the place you were flagging was a place the taxi could stop. Nowadays, you are better to wait at the designated taxi stops. On the stop board there are also phone numbers you can dial to request one to come and pick you up. 打车点 Second, you tell the taxi driver where you want to go.
Taxi drivers are getting more used to taking foreign customers as China is increasingly opening up to the world. There are programs to help them to learn English, but their English level might be similar to your Chinese level. You must take the initiative in the taxi to make yourself understood. One way is to show the business card of the place you need to be driven to so the driver can read the address in Chinese. Or you can write it down or print it out for your driver. These days, with the introduction of taxi apps such as Uber, you can input your destination in Chinese into the app and wait to be picked up in no time. But it would be wise of you to make the best use of this opportunity to show off and hone your language skills.
Here is how you should communicate in Chinese in a taxi. (Vocabulary breakdowns and explanations can be found in the flashcards below. )
Picking up: Driver: 去哪(里)？- / qù nǎ (lǐ )/ - go where? You: 我去北京大学前门。- /wǒ qù běi jīng dà xué qián mén / - I go to the front gate of Beijing University.
On the road: Driver: 你从哪（里）来？- / nǐcóng nǎ（lǐ ）lái / - Where are you from? You: 我从美国来。- / wǒ cóng měi guó lái / - I am from the United States. Driver: 你在中国多久了？- / nǐ zài zhōng guó duō jiǔ le / - How long have you been in China? You: 我刚下飞机。- /wǒ gāng xià fēi jī/ - I just got off the plane. You: 你说英语吗？- / nǐ shuō yīng yǔ ma / - Do you speak English? Driver: a little. You: 太快了！请开慢一点。- / tài kuài le . qǐng kāi màn yī diǎn ./ - (You drive) too fast! Please driver a little slower. Driver: Okay. You: 这里左拐。Or 这里右拐。- / zhè lǐ zuǒ guǎi . or zhè lǐyòu guǎi / - Turn left here. Or turn right here. Driver: 好的。- / hǎo de / - Okay. You: 直走。- / zhí zǒu / - Go straight. Driver: Okay. ...... (You can fill in the time with whatever Chinese you can speak or English he can speak. Trust me, you can always find a way to understand each other!)
Arriving: You: 请停这。多少钱？- / qǐng tíng zhè. duō shǎo qián / - Please stop here. How much? Driver: 五十五块。- / wǔ shí wǔ kuài / - 55 bucks. You: 给你。六十。不用找了。- /gěi nǐ. liù shí. bú yòng zhǎo le / - Here you are. 60. Keep the change. Driver: 谢谢。（给你）发票。- / xiè xiè . gěi nǐ fā piào / - Thank you. Here is your receipt. You: 谢谢。再见。- / xiè xiè . zài jiàn / - Thank you. Bye. Driver: 再见。- / zài jiàn / - Bye.
Safety tips: a. Avoid Black Taxis. These cars are not authorized to take customers. They don’t have meters; the driver can highly overcharge you and you have no where to complain. Bottom line is: avoid taxis that don’t have the brand symbol on the hood and that don’t have meters. In case you are tricked into one and you realize it in time, you can say:
请停车。- / qǐng tíng chē. / - Please stop. 我要下车. – / wǒ yào xià chē/ - I want to get off here.
b. Look for legal taxis in certain colors. For example, in Beijing, all the legal taxis are of two colors, like 首汽出租(shǒu qìTaxi) is yellow and dark blue and 银建出租(yín jiàn Taxi) is yellow and green. Illegal taxis are mostly in a single color. c. Pay with smaller bills. There is a possibility that you get fake bills in return. d. Keep the receipt in case you forget your belongings or you can keep the receipt for the purpose of your complaint. After you get familiar with your surroundings, you can also take the subway or buses. The subway systems in major cities, such as Beijing or Shanghai, are very advanced. You can get almost anywhere you want without having a car. With time, you may even feel safe enough to hit the bicycle lane. But in bad weather or in a rush, a taxi is still an efficient and safe means of transportation. Make sure you are in good hands, then you can relax and practice your Chinese with these local cultural ambassadors. Hopefully I took some anxiety away from you about getting taxis in China. Next time, we will go shopping! 下次再见了！
Flashcards and Pronunciation of the Dialog: