Taxis in China
If you come to China, it’s inevitable that you will take a taxi.
In the first few days as you make your way around your new city, you realize taking a taxi is fast, convenient, affordable and easy IF you know basic directions.
*Disclaimer: My written translations are not word for word, as this is a blog post to equip you with functional Chinese. I’ve seen friends grind to a halt because they get stuck on the grammar. In my opinion, you should worry more about saying the right phrase, at the right time and to get your desired results. That’s what everyday fluency boils down to. Leave the analysis for Chinese class.
Navigate to Your Destination
Like I said in the video, tell your driver three things about your destination to reduce potential headaches:
- The area in town.
- A well known, nearby landmark (this’ll take some experimenting)
- And finally your destination.
If your driver still seems hesitant AND if you’ve already been to where you’re going say
我一会儿 给你 指挥
wǒ yì huir géi nǐ zhǐ huī I’ll give you directions you later on.
Once you get close, you can add some directions if your driver seems confused.
直走 or 直行
zhí zǒu or zhí xíng Go straight.
guò hóng dēng Head through the light.
zuǒ guǎi Turn left.
yòu guǎi Turn right.
diào tóu Make a u-turn
还直走 我们 还没到
hái zhí zǒu wǒ men hái méi dào Keep going. It’s still up ahead. (lit. We’re not there yet.)
“Stop Here Please”
My friend just says 好好好 (hǎo hǎo hǎo), like good good good, to signal to the taxi driver they have arrived.
Can you measure the frustration potential? To his defense, he’s been in-country a scant two months.
I suggest you learn how to say stop here properly.
The following phrases are essentially variations of “Stop Here Please”.
And they’re pretty natural, no textbook language from me. (You’re welcome.)
zán men tíng zhèr ba
dào le dào le xiè xiè
O, kào yòu bianr tíng chē ba
hǎo le hǎo le zhèr jiù xíng le
wǒ yào tíng zhèr hǎo ba
zhèr jiù dào le
But what if you need to stop on the other side of the road?
Point and say
[ ] 那儿停车吧
[ ] nàr tíng chē ba Lets stop by that/those [visible landmark]
[chāo shì] nàr tíng chē ba Lets stop by that supermarket.
Or you can say, “Make a U-Turn”。
I’ll lay out a few examples, and you choose which way you’re comfortable saying. The thing about Chinese, is that it’s pretty flexible when spoken!
That’s U-Turn, all by itself.
qǐng nǐ diào tóu
You can add a please 请, if you want, before asking your driver to u-turn. 你 means ‘you’, by the way.
zán men diào tóu ba
Lets make a u-turn. 咱们 (zán men). I hear it in northern China more often. Technically it means we, but in the ‘you and me’ sense instead of us (我们wǒmen) which can possibly include other people like in a group.
shīfu zài zhè(r) diàotóu
Adding the 师傅 formalizes your tone a bit, and it increases your politeness. Not a bad thing!
在 is a preposition used to indicate location, 在这儿=here.
shīfu qǐng zài zhè(r) diàotóu
Add the 请 if being super respectful is your deal.
shīfu, zhè lùkǒu diào tóu ba
Ok, while this might disturb a few grammar teachers, it’s simple and effective spoken Mandarin at its finest. Try it. It just feels good.
师傅 红绿灯 掉头
shīfu, hónglùdēng diàotóu
红路灯 is a traffic light (literally red green light). It can also be said 红灯 without the 路
师傅 红灯 掉头
shīfu, hóngdēng diàotóu
SEE? At this point you are communicating casually and efficiently as a Chinese person would. You haven’t necessarily lowered your level of respect, as long as you maintain a respectful tone of voice.
But what about the other directions?
Ok, so you’ve hopped in a taxi, attempted to tell them the name of your destination, but what if they don’t understand you or haven’t heard of it?
You’re only recourse might be to direct them yourself.
Both of these mean turn right:
and both of these mean turn left. Choose the way you like best.
Now if you you want to say, “Turn left here” (the hear being implied by where you point. Don’t make Chinese too complicated, k?)
Then you need to add a 在这儿 (zài zhèr) before 左拐 (zuǒguǎi)
turn left here
Here are two acceptable ways to say stop.
停车 tíng chē; and
靠边儿 kào biānr.
请 qǐng means please which completes the two phrases below:
qǐng zài zhèr tíng chē
qǐng zài zhèr kào biānr
FYI 靠边儿 is more similar to ‘pull over’ than ‘stop here’, just in case you wanted another layer of subtle differentiation.
shīfu wǒ yào tíng zhèr
Sir (driver), I want to stop here.
师傅 shīfu polite term for your driver
我要 wǒ yào I want
停 tíng stop
这儿 zhèr here
Adding the 师傅 (shīfū) formalizes your tone a bit, and it increases your politeness. 师傅 (shīfū) is a polite term for almost any male worker.
Never-NEVER-call your taxi driver 司机 sījī. It’s just not kind, or polite.
zhèr jiù dào le
“Here’s good”, or the semantically similar, “we’ve arrived” are appropriate translations of this phrase.
Want The Fapiao?
The Fapiao (or receipt) is good insurance against say, forgetting your favorite black slate in their back seat. If you’ve lived here long enough, I’m sure you’ve heard more than a few sob stories.
Once, in Xiamen I actually went to taxi central and had my taxi located by GPS in order to place a call and get my phone back. All taxi meters start and stop locations are stamped using the onboard GPS.
So if you DO happen to lose your device of choice and DON’T have a Fapiao, if you’re quick (and remember where you got in and out), HQ can find your cab, call the driver and get the phone. As long as the driver cooperates.
Listen closely. Just as you stop, the driver may ask:
piào yào ma You want a receipt?
To which you can reply:
bú yào Nope.
Here’s how to ask for yourself, if the driver isn’t on the ball.
wǒ yào (fā) piào hǎo ma. I’d like the receipt, ok.
piào yǒu ma You have the receipt?
Now that the language is out of the way, let’s explore those benefits….
- Fast. You can walk outside, see one driving by, wave your hand and hop in. It’s generally the quickest way from point A to point B. No need to wait for the bus or all the stops it makes along the way. No need to stare at a subway map trying to find the line you need or where to transfer. Apart from rush hour traffic-taxis are your best bet.
- Convenient. There are usually taxis EVERYWHERE! No need to figure out which bus or subway stop is closest. All you need is the name of the place you’re going. If you have it written down, just show it to your driver: No Chinese skills necessary. Door to door service baby. Boom.
- Affordable. Taxis are cheap. Not THE cheapest form of transportation, but compared to taxis in most of our home countries, it’s incredible. In my city of Tianjin, they start at eight yuan– just over a dollar. Most of the places I want to go cost me between $2-4.
Other perks include being all by yourself/or with your traveling companion. (Not being sandwiched in a jam-packed bus or subway train that may or may not be full of all kinds of odors, noises and stares can really make a difference-especially in those first few weeks.)
Maybe I’m lazy. Maybe I’m a privileged foreigner. But taxis are my favorite way to get around town.
Knowing a little bit of taxi language CAN be useful however.
Question for you: What the most important phrase for taking a Chinese taxi?
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