The drivers of Londons black cabs learn their trade the hard way. In order to get their famous green badge, the drivers have to complete The Knowledge. Getting this qualification involves getting on a moped and memorizing every street within six miles of Charing Cross. Taxi drivers are regulated by the Metropolitan Police, and discipline is very important. Exams are conducted with military formality and cabbies are often extremely nervous beforehand. Nevertheless, its worth it. Although the minimum fare is only 1.50, the drivers weekly wage can be up to 800, making Londons cabbies possibly the best paid in the world.
Mexico City, Mexico
In Mexico, the quality of your taxi depends on financial status. If youve got plenty of money, you can ride in a big air-conditioned saloon. If not, you have to take the cheaper option- a Mexican-made Volkswagen Beetle. Beetle cabs are not necessarily cheerful, despite their bright yellow paint (all other Beetles there are dirty brown). The fares are cheap, starting at sixty pence, but the drivers regard cheating customers as quite normal so you may end up paying quite a bit. Because prices in Mexico go up so quickly, the cabs meter is worthless as soon as it is installed, so cabbies do their own mental calculations to work out the correct price. On average they earn about 70 a week.
In towns, the most popular taxi is pousse-pousse, a kind of rickshaw pulled by teenaged boys. Madagascans speak French, but why call a rickshaw a push-push? Well, when these boys are climbing up a hill they shout out to passers-by to get behind the cart and pousse, pousse! You only pay a minimum fare of five pence and since the drivers only make 3.50 a week, you can understand why they ask for the help.
Hong Kongs rickshaw boys – who are usually around the age of 60 – are a dying breed. This is because the city has decided to stop using rickshaws. The last licence was issued in 1975. Nowadays, 4 is the minimum fare for a rickshaw ride. In 1950 there were 8,000 rickshaw boys, but now therere only 20, so it is not surprising that they consider themselves an endangered species. They pay no attention to traffic laws, red lights are always ignored, they often go to wrong way down one-way streets and even pull their embarrassed passengers down pedestrian subways all this for 280 per week! These days rickshaws are used chiefly by tourists.
Most of Moroccos grand taxis are Mercedes limousines, which cater for long journeys between cities. For shorter trips most rely on tetits taxis, which are mainly small European cars and are far cheaper, with a minimum fare of 1.50. Drivers make about 45 per week. Typical cars are the Fiat 124 and late-sixties Simca 1000 (which has an engine in the back rather than the front). These cars are confined to the city limits. To stop them straying, the cars are color-coded: red with a black roof signifies the city of Fez.
Indonesian bicycle rickshaws – called becaks- are unique in that the passengers sit at the front. This can be terrifying because the passengers take the impact of any head- on collisions Of course with a minimum fare of only twenty pence, it can be said that you get what you pay for.
The drivers, who earn about 5 per week, are reckless. Perhaps thats why the use of becaks is now forbidden in the capital, tourist- conscious Jakarta.
Gondolas have been a feature of Venetian life since the 16th century and working as a gondolier used to be a profession that you couldnt get into unless you knew somebody who was already a gondolier – a relative, for example. Two years ago everything changed and now its much more democratic. Training is difficult, since gondoliers are tested not only on skill but also on their knowledge of Venetian history, geography and culture. Of course with a weekly wage about 450, its worth studying a bit. A journey in gondola will cost you at least 28, so be prepared to pay.