TRAVEL TIP OF THE DAY
Always get a taxi card from your hotel, especially when you’re in a different country.
To be honest, I have not heard of the term “taxi card” until my recent trip to Asia. Essentially, it’s
a hotel card for the taxi driver, and it usually comes with the name of the hotel, address, phone number, and a little map. The basic idea is that it provides directional guidance to drivers on how to get to your hotel, and also a way for the taxi driver to contact the hotel if they are still lost.
Even if you don’t have a taxi card, it’d be in your interest to print out the hotel address in the local language. This is true even if you think your hotel is prominently located.
CONFUSING EXPERIENCE WITH A TAXI DRIVER
This tip came about after a taxi ride in Seoul during the family trip.
As the meticulous planner, I had done my research. I had my heart set on taking the jumbo taxi with the International Taxi Service, which comes with a flat rate pricing and the appeal of an English speaking service. I contacted the service prior to my trip and was led to believe that we could just stop by the airport counter at arrival (advance reservation not required).
Well, that didn’t quite pan out.
Upon arrival, I went to the easy-to-locate service counter and asked for a jumbo taxi. The staff responded that they don’t have any jumbo taxis available. She then nonchalantly suggested that we “look into” taking buses and then pointed to that general direction. I actually panicked for a brief moment as this was a service I was counting on. It was getting late in the evening, and the language barrier was potentially problematic.
We thought we might have to split up on the ride, but we decided to step outside to check out our options. We lucked out and a staff near the taxi stands directed us to a lone jumbo taxi on the opposite end of the taxi stands. Once we settled into the taxi, we gave the driver our hotel destination. I had a printout of the reservation, but the address was in English.
Us: Hi, can you take us to the J.W. Marriott in Dongdaemun? (Note: We emphasized the DONG part – representing East) in case it gets mistaken for similar sounding places like Namdaemun, with Nam representing South).
Taxi Driver: (repeated): Marriott ….in Dongdaemun.
Us: No, it’s the JW Marriott in Dongaemum (now emphasizing the J.W. because I’m aware that there are a few Marriotts in Seoul).
The driver nodded to acknowledge that he understood our destination. “Dongdaemun“, he repeated.
Me: “Yes, the J.W Marriott in Dongdaemum“, I echoed back. I was starting to feel like a broken record, but I thought I would just repeat it for good measure. I figured it can’t hurt to be abundantly clear.
So imagine my surprise when the driver pulled up to our destination…at the Courtyard Marriott in Namdaemun!
While I can overlook honest mistakes, I didn’t quite appreciate that the driver did not own up to this mistake. He tried to deflect blame by saying that he took us to our “Marriott”. I thought, “Yes, you got us to a Marriott, but we can’t just do any Marriott.”
Not everyone in the party was pleased. I pulled up my spotty internet to get the hotel address in Korean and presented it to him. He finally said “Dongdaemun” again and then punched in some Korean characters into the car’s built in GPS.
The second time around, he got us to our intended destination. The fare ended up higher than it needs to be because we circled around. Surprisingly, I was not as upset as I probably ought to be. I think it was because I had budgeted for the flat rate and the metered ride came below the target. It still doesn’t justify the lengthened trip, but I’m glad we were able to get a jumbo taxi and get to our hotel, period.
I thought we were incredibly clear in our instructions to the driver. Even if you think the hotel is going to be easy to find, carry a taxi card if you can to remove all doubts. Needless to say, we got ourselves some taxi cards after we check-in to the hotel.
Have you ever run into taxis issues where you thought the destination is easy to find, but the ride didn’t work out quite as smoothly?