Around the world in taxis

Taxis are almost the only guaranteed common denominator in any visit to a foreign city. Whether high-end business-tripper or grass-roots backpacker every traveller will ride in a taxi at some point. That first ride into town from the airport – jetlagged but buzzing with curiosity – can so often be your most memorable run-in with the local population…because taxi drivers often know the ins-and-outs of their city in a way that people in few other walks of life ever fathom.

A taxi driver can make a simple car-ride an experience of joy; I remember the ecstatic old man who received a phonecall (midway between Istanbul airport and Sultanahmet) advising him that he had just become a grandfather. Or a moment of shared pain; the Vasco da Gama football supporter whose radio reported three goals scored against his team during the journey from Ipanema to Rio airport. London cabs, Khartoum tuk-tuks or Jakarta motorcycle taxis all offer the chance to see a new city through the eyes of some of its most out-spoken citizens.

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