Taxi Please: Tips for Easy Riding
Coming to Seoul from Chicago, I felt that I was equipped with the basics for urban survival. I could use public transportation with ease, large crowds of people did not make me nervous and I was accustomed to simple daily tasks taking extra effort because city dwelling demands it. Little did I know, that something as common as taking a taxi would prove to be challenging in Korea.
Our first ride in Seoul was a breeze, but only because we got the taxi outside our hotel and the doorman directed the cab where we needed to go. He even gave us the helpful hint that black cabs are pricier than the white or silver. It seemed easy enough that on our way back we could simply flag down a white or silver taxi, give the driver our well known hotel name (which sounded the same for Koreans and foreigners alike) and be off.
Much to my surprise, easy it was not. When it came time to return, the first silver cabbie we saw stopped. It was a good start. He rolled down his window and spoke before letting us in the cab. I presumed he was asking where we were going and when I said Shilla Hotel he shooed us away. While it
seemed uncalled for and unfair, I had been refused a ride in more than one city before so I did not think too much of it.
When the next cab pulled up, I decided to be more aggressive and get right in. I enthusiastically used the only Korean I had and said “anyohasayo” followed by ”Shilla Hotel please”. The driver looked ahead blankly and did not move. I tried again slowly, “S-h-i-l-l-a H-o-t-e-l” dropping the please in case that was
confusing him. Nothing happened. After a few more tries, I began to panic. How many ways could I say it? Then my husband tried. After several more slowly spoken Shillas, I was officially sweating, but we were off. As the driver dodged in and out of traffic and I looked out at my new city, all I could think was
this might be a lot harder than I anticipated.
Fourteen months later, amongst many other things, I have mastered taking taxis in Seoul. Ultimately, having a little Korean under your belt will improve your odds of getting where you need to go, but there are things you can do in a pinch that do not require advanced language skills.
While it may not be rocket science, I promise the following bits of information are valuable to taxi takers in Seoul, new and old alike.
BLACK, WHITE or ORANGE: PICKING A TAXI
There are different types of taxis in Seoul and color often determines the taxi’s type. It is important to note that while black cabs are certainly more expensive than white cabs, ALL taxis in South Korea are cheaper than most major global cities around the world. So in a bind, do not fear the black cab, it will
likely only cost you an extra 5,000-7,000KRW.
For more of Mary’s insights into life in Korea, check out her blog Seoul Companion.