Riding in a taxi in China is an experience. I say experience because I don’t think bone chillingly horrible mistake is what people want to read when dreaming about visiting China. But perhaps traveling around in a Chinese taxi is so upsetting because of the simple fact that my expectations were too high. I thought the taxi drivers would stay in-between the white lines; I assumed they would stop at red lights. I also expected them to use turn signals when they turned, to try to avoid pedestrians, not to run them down.
Here are eight things to remember when getting into a taxi in China.
Don’t expect taxi drivers to keep to any speed limit signs, if you can actually manage to spot said signs. It is common to be shooting through the back streets of China at over a hundred kilometers per hour.
Chinese taxi drivers have no idea what the white lines painted on the ground are for. This doesn’t seem to bother anyone; different kinds of cars drift around the road, with no real sense of order as the taxis race each other.
The Chinese people are frighteningly good at multitasking. This would have been an admired skill if I hadn’t been watching the driver speed, while he was talking loudly on the phone, tuning the radio and having a drag race with the taxi next to us – all at the same time. Try not to flinch too much when they do all this multitasking, plus talk to you!
Indicators are not mandatory; in fact, I doubt most drivers even know where the indicators are. It makes it much more difficult to wince in readiness of being thrown against the window.
Seatbelts – strange things. Most taxis don’t supply them. China is not safety conscious
Pedestrians are everywhere; taxis are just as numerous. Drivers don't know what the Chinese people walking around are doing. Don't cringe whenever it looks like the drivers are intentionally trying to run someone down. I learnt that one the hard way.
The roads of China are never quiet; the constant honking of the different taxis and other cars can grate on your nerves, especially if you don’t realize why they doing that. It took me a long while to realize that the constant honks are not only meant to be loud and annoying, it's one of their main ways to communicate. And not only between other cars, between pedestrians as well. A honk is used to inform a pedestrian that there is a taxi behind them, to keep moving, that cannot be stressed enough. People have been killed stopping because the taxi drivers already worked out how they would avoid them.
A type of honk is used to communicate between drivers. At a junction turn, our taxi was turning onto another street; a fence was blocking the view of oncoming traffic. A honk and an answering one, then a car rushed past. Only after that car passed by us did our taxi move.
Red lights usually mean cease all movement, wait until they turn green before movement can commence again. Right. I don’t think anyone ever told the Chinese people that; red lights are strategically ignored.
For all of that, in the entire two weeks I was subject to Chinese taxis, I never saw an accident!