Although taxis are ubiquitous in Hong Kong, it is sometimes a challenge to hail a taxi during peak hours or after clubbing especially at LKF on weekends. We have compiled a list of top useful tips when it comes to hailing a taxi in Hong Kong if you are new to the city!
1. Unlike other cities, you do not need to go to official taxi ranks to hail for a ride. Make sure you never stop a taxi driver along double yellow line. Go to smaller lanes and avoid the major roads as police are often on the look- out for illegal pick-ups.
2. If you intend to travel to the other side (Hong Kong island or Kowloon), use the wave gesture and they will stop if they can cross to the other sides as some taxi drivers only operate within the island or Kowloon. What makes this confusing is that both Kowloon and Hong Kong Island cabbies have identical red cars with no difference. If you see the top (TAXI) light on, but have the “out of service” cardboard sign displayed on the dashboard, then you know they are not fetching any customers as they may have dropped off someone on the other side and do not intend to fetch customers until they return to their usual turf. If in doubt, find out where the cross-tunnel taxi ranks are but be prepared to stay in a queue.
3. Taxi drivers in Hong Kong work in 12-hour shifts, with most of them having shift-change time around 3-5pm and then again in early morning between 3-4am. Use alternative public transport during these times if you can.
4. Not all taxi drivers understand English. If you can’t pronounce the street and building in Cantonese, google the name in chinese and show them on your google map.
5. Download the free Hong Kong taxi app (with a driver accountability mechanism) which should have around 45,000 + registered drivers.
The app has a grading system for customers to access drivers and it works similarly to the UBER app except all transactions are paid directly to the cabbies. It includes a complaint system for customers, with complaints to be followed up within 48 hours of being filed.
Other apps include 快的 Taxi (Only available in Chinese) and FLY TAXI. Flytaxi is a similar taxi dispatch platform to connect taxi riders and drivers with more than 10,000 + registered drivers.
6. Always check the toll rates to avoid overcharging. Remember that the Western Harbour Crossing costs more than the other crossings. For a complete list of taxi fare and toll rates, please click the link provided by the Hong Kong Transport department.
7. Always ask for a receipt in the event of dispute and just in case you left something in the cab.
8. Types of taxis
a) Red taxis – Red taxis operate throughout most of Hong Kong, except for Tung Chung Road on Lantau Island and on the entire south side of Lantau Island.
b) Green taxis – Green taxis only service the New Territories.
c) Blue taxis – Blue taxis only operate on Lantau Island.
What to do if a cabbie refuses your ride or behaves irrationally?
If you have lived in Hong Kong long enough, you would have surely encountered in your daily routine some reckless taxi drivers who refused to pick you up because it was inconvenient to them or they were simply not in the mood to fetch you. Some taxi drivers may even turn aggressive and engage in verbal abuse against the customers.
The Hong Kong Transport Department provides the following law :
“The Road Traffic (Public Service Vehicles) Regulations stipulate that the driver of a taxi shall not without reasonable excuse wilfully refuse or neglect to accept a hire from a hirer whether the intention of such hirer is indicated expressly or by implication and refuse or neglect to drive the taxi to any place indicated by a hirer.”
Technically, all taxi drivers are legally obliged to drive you to any of your destination and they are not allowed to refuse reasonable requests. It is a criminal offence for them to refuse and they can be prosecuted. In 2012, a taxi driver, Chau Yui Kwan, 68 was convicted in Kowloon City Court for refusing hire and the cabbie ended up with a HKD4,000 fine. In August 2017, a taxi driver who threatened a couple in Yan Lok Square, Yuen Long with a metal rod pleaded guilty to criminal intimidation and refusing to take passengers at the Tuen Mun Magistrates’ Court.
At 6.30pm February 10, 2018, a couple was not satisfied with a taxi driver who refused to take them at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre and as a result, the agitated taxi driver came down from his cab to threaten and provoke the couple. The girlfriend calmed down the boyfriend relentlessly throughout the ordeal to avoid further conflict. (Video credit : Wai Cheng)
Aggrieved passengers who are mistreated by cabbies should not let them off the hook as this will erode the quality of the service further.
If you experience a negative incident with a Hong Kong cab driver, do complain to the Transport Complaints Unit at this link : http://www.info.gov.hk/tcu/taxi/index.htm or call the TCU hotline at 2889 9999.