Sometimes trying to get a taxi in Cebu City is a dreaded thing to do. At other times, the nearly pull you into their taxies because they are having such a hard time getting a fare. Rarely is there middle ground. Once you are in them, sometimes there are taxi driver games to play if they think you are new.  Even though I am not new, if I take my camera they are more likely to take the “scenic route.” From what I have been told, it is even worse in Manila. One of my favorite tales, was a guy claiming he got in an old beat up taxi and the door feel off. The driver got out, put it in the trunk and kept going. I don’t know if the story is true and I tend to discount expat stories because a lot of them are retold stories. Someone will say it happened to them but they are really telling a story that someone told them. Often the stories can be traced back to the Internet. I suspect most of these stories did happen, I just strongly discount the frequency of such strange tales. It is not as bad in the Philippines as it is in Thailand. In Bangkok, most of the taxies are owned by the same people that own restaurants, jeweler shops and other great places to be scammed.

I have a Varied but Typical History with Taxis in Cebu

Today, I went to the doctor to get a prescription. That taxi ride went just fine. Last month though was a scenic route tour. On the way over to his office the fair was 68 peso. For an American, that’s almost shockingly low. Of course, the shock wore off for me many years ago. On the way back, the fare was over 80 peso. Now it isn’t enough to get worked up about. I think rather than the scenic route, his meter had been tweaked a little bit in his favor. I didn’t notice him taking me on the scenic route but I may have not been paying attention. I did notice the meter going up way too fast, especially once I was close to the hotel. I knew it was not correct.  I have noticed the scenic route several times and asked them where they are going as “I know this is not the right way.” Sometimes they are taking a shortcut because of heavy traffic on the normal route but sometimes they are driving around in circles.

I’ve been coming to this hotel for five years or more.  The streets in this older part of Cebu City are a maze. The buildings all look the

Taxi in Cebu City

A typical taxi in Cebu City with Air Con proudly displayed on the side.

same to me. I am mostly lost when coming back to the hotel partly because the hotel is on a one way street so they have to come in from below the hotel and drive toward it.

When I tried to get my Xanax prescription filled the pharmacy refused as the doctor had not signed it. Most of the time you do not need a prescription to get medication here. Sometimes, quite dangerous medications. But controlled drugs are a different story. You’re lucky if you can find a doctor that will even give them to you. When I was taking 100 milligrams of Prednisone a day and getting my first divorce, I was not doing well at all. I was one step away from being on a long vacation at the funny farm. Either one of those things can put you there but the two together is really a challenge. So the doctor put me on 4Mg of Xanax a day. That is a huge amount. I don’t know how I functioned at all. But I did because I was so wound up from the Prednisone. You see, I woke up with both sides of my face paralyzed one Christmas morning. Bi-lateral Bell’s palsy is what they called it but it wasn’t Bells. It was caused by lupus and the inflammation associated with it, thus the high dose of Prednisone to try to keep me alive. It worked, haha.

What I’m leading up to here as I digress into another story is that here I can get ONLY .5 milligrams a day. I really need one milligram but when I got that I often broke that in half. I asked the doctor if a psychiatrist could write it for a higher dose and he said no. Many doctors cannot write it all. They don’t have the proper license for it. That has nothing to do with a Taxi but it could be useful information for those that wish to move here. If you have pain management issues, you might not be able to get those prescriptions at all here. You can get morphine if you are dying and with a great deal of effort.

Anyway, once I learned I had an improper prescription I sent a text message to the doctor. Yes, I have my doctor’s personal phone number. Try that in the USA!  He asked where I was but didn’t know the place so he left a new prescription at the pharmacy in the hospital. Bad part, it is 5:30PM and I know it is nightmare time for getting a taxi.

Got one fast, the driver was drunk. I couldn’t understand a word he said when he told Jhen that he was not available for hire. I was glad. Then a few minutes later, I got in another one. Again, not available. I think the prior occupant had hired the taxi for the day. He pulled over and parked outside the hotel that he dropped him off at.

Inside a Taxi

Most taxies in Cebu will have a single Santo Nino (Christ child) on the dashboard. This Filipino had a mini shrine of Christian Religous symbols on his dashboard. We are on our way to SM Mall.

Most of the taxies passed by us because they had a fare but four or five did not. They just kept going. I guess its eating or drinking time. I am not sure which. Probably both. The first guy had started early it seems. It took over an hour to finally get a taxi. I was so hungry too. I finally bought some cookies in fear that my blood sugar would crash. It didn’t but I felt like it might so I wanted to be prepared. It usually isn’t serious in my case but it can be deadly if not attended to for long enough.

Got to the Pharmacy, as usual the staff at the window acted as if I was bothering them. They finally found my prescription and told me to take a number. I knew that was coming, I took it already.  Oh and the prescription was hanging off the back of the register. Very easy to see it. None of them had noticed it. Then after waiting for 18 through 25 as my number was 28, a lady came to tell me they were out of it. I would have been so furious if they had waited until my number was up before they told me that!  This was my fourth attempt to get it today so I am pretty much disgusted with it.

Sleep has not come easy to me since I was 15 years old. Long, long before I knew what Xanax even was. So please don’t tell me the Xanax is keeping me awake. You just do not know what you are talking about. It is just me, I am one of those people that really needs a little help with such things. I appear quite but inside there is a fury going on 90 percent of the time.

The Dreaded Taxi Line

Getting back to the hotel was not too bad. I had one person, an American come in behind me and take “my” taxi. Often there is a taxi line. Filipinos love orderly lines. I think it is an Asian thing in general where the individual comes second to society as a whole. That can be hard for an American to swallow, especially at first. Don’t expect a place of business to get you special treatment, It probably will not happen other than perhaps extra smiles and one girl at Western Union even curtsied for me, not long after I arrived in the Philippines. Make an exception from the policies? Ha ha, you can forget that. I hate taxi lines but I also hate no taxi line where there are many people trying to get a taxi. That is even worse than that taxi line itself.

Getting a Taxi in Cebu City during Christmas and Sinulog

If there is a major event in Cebu City, getting a taxi takes on a new challenge. During Christmas time, the waits for a taxi can be

Taxi Line at SM Mall

Taxis waiting for a fare at SM Mall in Cebu City

unbearable. It is often bad between 5 to 7 pm at any time of the year. They do have a taxi line at most malls. All of the ones that I have been too have those. I once waited for more than two hours for a taxi around Christmas time at SM Mall. It may be been three hours, could have even been more. I remember a very unpleasant wait. I cannot stand in a line that long. Jessie was with me and she had difficulty doing it. I can’t stand in a line for an hour, I am sad to say.

Sinulog is another time of the year where taxis are next to impossible to get. Sinulog is a festival in Cebu City that last about a month. There are several parades but on the third Sunday of the month they have the Grand Finale and you can expect one hundred thousand extra people. The press always reports the numbers in the millions but I do not believe that. I have no idea really what an accurate number is. Many roads are closed during this big parade which marks the end to most Sinulog activities.  The parade itself is very much worth seeing, especially if you like to take pictures. You’ll have the chance to get some very good ones.

Other Taxi Driver Games

Besides driving you in circles on the back streets, I’ve heard of taxi drivers getting behind Jeepneys and other slow moving vehicles to drive your fare up. This, I have not had happen and it really doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. That is because the meter runs much faster when the taxi is moving. Jeepneys stop a lot so not much meter activity then. Those might be paranoid foreigners that always expect to be ripped off. I’ve never felt like a driver was doing that. I have had too many take scenic routes but what they don’t know is I tip well and they are pretty much going to get the same fare from me. I know what it should cost for most location and that is what they are going to get. I may even tip less when they pull that junk. I’m not really inclined to argue with them or accuse them. That brings other risk that I do not wish to take on. Things could get out of hand, the police could show up, I could end up with a complaint at the Bureau of Immigration. It isn’t worth that. I recommend that you park your egos because often the best revenge is when the other person is completely unaware of it. Walk away with a smile on your face, you know.

Recently the taxis were ordered to reduce their rates by 10 pesos. There is a 40 peso fee just for getting in the taxi. That was ordered to change to P30 but the taxis were not required to get their meters updated to show this “roll back.”  This has caused some arguments, especially from Filipinos. A couple of taxi drivers got into some serious trouble when they gave customers a difficult time over this roll back. I do not bring it up but I know, so it’s just part of the tip.  I don’t generally tip 20 percent in the Philippines but I do tip more than most do. Someone might yell at me for that but you I do not care at all.  You tip what you wish, I will tip what I wish

The Cost of Taxis in Cebu City

The cost of taxies in Cebu City and the Philippines in general is extremely low compared to the USA.  My last long distance ride in a taxi was about two years ago, maybe even three. The cost was P1900 from Cebu City to Bogo City. That’s less than $50.00. Comparing that to Memphis, Tn. where I lived most of my adult life, you could easily spend that for a one way trip inside the city. I needed to go to the courthouse for my divorce and it was going to cost me that for one way. I ended up paying about half that by paying someone to take me that ran an informal taxi service.

Now that I have been living in the Philippines for seven years, paying P400 for a longer than average taxi ride really is hard for me to stomach. You get use to the prices here and what once seemed super cheap no longer does.

I know some of you have been here so please share your taxi nightmares and other experiences with us using the comments below. It can be in Cebu or anywhere else. One final note, in many smaller cities you cannot get a taxi at all. There were no taxis in Bogo City, the only exception would be when you could find one that had taken someone to Bogo from Cebu City. They are looking only for someone that wants to go back to Cebu City. That can be more difficult for them. The cost is quite low though they may try to get as much as P4000 for the trip you should be able to get it for a little under P2000. If you find this article useful, then please share it on Google Plus, FaceBook and Twitter as it helps me significantly.

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