How appropriate is it to call pre-paid cab drivers evil? It’s not appropriate, but I am still doing it. The first time I landed at the domestic airport in New Delhi was in 1995. I found a taxi outside – I had to go to the international airport which was quite a distance away then – and he straightaway took me to some hotel without even asking my permission! He insisted that as there was a long time to go for my flight, better I stay there. Very helpful.
That is really scary, especially when you consider the number of abductions, looting, murders and rapes committed by the taxi men at the New Delhi airport.
Pre-paid taxis, introduced not too far back, slightly improved things. My first experience? You go the pre-paid taxi counter inside the domestic airport, tell the guys at the counter (I think they are cops) where you want to go, and pay them there. Take the receipt to the pre-paid taxi stand outside, locate your assigned taxi, and get home. Simple as that. In theory. In practice, it was a nightmare.
First, there is no order to the way the cars are parked outside. You could not locate your pre-paid cab. Say you did after a bit of searching. Sometimes he would outright refuse to come. Sometimes, they would try to palm you off to another taxi driver. If you are a first-timer to the New Delhi airport, you are in for some serious mess. If you are a woman and are new, my advice is, stay inside. DO NOT take a pre-paid taxi.
Once GMR / DIAL took over airport operations, I thought things would change. They became slightly better, for sure. There are helpers now, to find you your taxi. There is a queue for taxis, as well as for passengers. But it all still comes to naught.
What happens is that the taxi drivers refuse to pick up passengers, or drive away when you approach a cab. Is that crazy or what? The helpers are useless, they try hard but the cab-drivers don’t listen to them. They know they can get away with their stunts most of the time.
Do not look for logic here. Do not ask me why the cab-drivers behave the way they do. They just do it. Sometimes, its because its 10:45 PM, and after 11:00 PM, they could charge a night fare. So they wait till it is 11:00 PM, and then appear in front of waiting passengers and then insist on a night fare when you are taken to your destination.
Sometimes its because they are just lazy. Sometimes its because they want a long trip. And I am sure, a few times, its because one of them, or a few of them, have targeted you for their kill. This month, a woman was abducted from the airport by some cab drivers. Years back, there was a killer gang there.
This is scary, sure. But I think after seeing these bastards for a decade and a half, I have to warn you.
What do you have to do, if you are a tourist, woman, kid, or anyone unfamiliar with New Delhi and have to take a taxi from the airport?
Take a private pre-paid taxi. Like QuickCabs or EasyCabs, or some of the other proivate pre-paid taxi operators you can find inside the airport. Stay away from the regular yellow-and-black prepaid taxi counter. Ty can figure out that counter easily – it would look the most bureaucratic, dreary, and it would be called something like the government counter or new delhi tourism prepaid taxi counter or something similar.
Even if you pay a bit more for the private taxi cabs from the New Delhi Airport, you will get a cab almost instantly, you will generally be safe, and there is no wild chasing after taxis. Not to mention that your life is much, much safer with these guys.
My advice to DIAL / GMR – Clamp down on these guys. Try to get a standard pre-paid taxi from outside the airport, and you will see for yourself how nasty it can be. And do not forget that this is the first experience of India’s national capital for most visitors to the city. It is the worst introduction, for sure.