How to be a Taxi Driver in Saigon – Vietnam, Asia
Positions Available: Applicants Sought
Job Title: Taxi Driver
Location: Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)
Qualifications Required: Driving license or some previous experience of having driven a car preferred, but not essential. Applicants must be heavy smokers. For non smokers, stale cigarette "air fresheners" can be issued, and an intensive Nicotine Addiction for Beginners course will be arranged FOC.
1. Excellent Spatial Awareness – you must be able to know exactly where your vehicle begins and ends. This will become apparent when you draw to a halt (from speed) precisely one millimeter away from the scooter in front, or when driving (at speed) through a red light that requires a death-defying manoeuvre between traffic coming from either side.
2. A Strong Right Thumb – this is a must for successful horn operation. The horn has many uses; the following list is by no means exhaustive. Creativity and resourcefulness in this area are particularly welcome. The horn should be sounded when you wish to:
– Hurry vehicles in front along
– Bully smaller vehicles into the slow lane
– Warn any bikes in the right-hand lane of your intention to turn right from the left-hand lane
– Warn other users of your presence (especially when overtaking on a busy street, driving the wrong way down a one way street, running a red light, or taking a corner on the wrong side of the road.)
– Scare pedestrians who have become stranded in the middle of the road (purely entertainment value)
– Inform drivers ahead that the traffic lights have changed. In this instance, the horn should be sounded precisely half a nanosecond after amber turns to green.
– Apologise to someone whom you have cut-up whilst changing lanes
– Show your distress and distaste if any other road user should be inconsiderate enough to run red lights, drive on the wrong side of the road, etc.
3. The ability to "read" your passenger's "type" – Passengers tend to fall into one of four main groups:
– Those who don't know where they are going and show you the address in a guidebook or similar tourist information aid. This is one of the best passenger groups to have in your cab. The chances are they won't know how long it should take to get to their destination, or how much it should cost to get there. These facts combined allow you to turn off the meter, suck your teeth and shake your head sadly saying "Very far to go. Long journey". Once you have worried them, arrange a price with them in US dollars (making the price seem less, and camouflaging the fact you are quadruple or even quintuple charging them).
– Those who know where they are going and roughly how long it should take to get there, but not the fastest route. Some financial gains can be made from this type of passenger, as you can take them down streets you know to be grid-locked with traffic, or claim a road is closed today. Although this type of passenger is generally savvy enough to insist you switch the meter on, they may not be aware that you are "bumping it up" using the paddles conveniently placed beneath the steering wheel.
– Those who drive in Saigon and, therefore, are aware of the roads you are reasonably expected to take. Few monetary gains can be made from this passenger type, as they will know if you are taking a long detour to their destination. At a push you can pretend you don't have the correct change, and earn yourself a "tip". If not, don't worry – this breed of traveller is rare.
– By far the best type of passenger to find in your taxi are those who think they know where they're going, and may indeed during the day when sober. But in attempting to direct you whilst drunk, they become hopelessly lost. This will enable you to drive round aimlessly, following their booze addled directions until they give up, and allow you to drive them to their destination by a suitably circuitous route. The financial gains can be large, depending on the size of their ego and insistence to any other passengers that they "know where they are". The only downside to this fare type is the requirement to suppress a smug grin when the show-off gets egg on their face.
4. A Penchant for Driving in as High a Gear as Possible – If the engine doesn't sound like it's about to stall, or the bodywork doesn't feel like it's going to part from the chassis, you are in too low a gear. As your colleagues will tell you, it is possible to drive at 20 kilometers per hour in fifth gear. This may or may not save petrol, but scientific studies are inconclusive. Still, best to be on the safe side.
5. A Good Ear for Vietnamese – This will enable you to know exactly where your foreign passenger would like to go (despite their inevitable and sometimes hilarious mispronunciations), as well as the ability to take them to somewhere that sounds like where they want to go but is, crucially, on the other side of the city. Once there and the "misunderstanding" becomes apparent, you have carte blanche to act upset as though your time has been wasted. Not only do you fill your wallet from the ever-ticking meter, you may also receive a tip for your "trouble". In some instances, particularly when drunk, non-Vietnamese passengers may attempt to converse with you in Vietnamese. Your ability to take this in good humour and answer back slowly enough for them to understand, may earn you a decent tip.
6. Testicles Made From Steel and Blind Faith – it's not easy to drive flat out towards an oncoming bus with no visible gap in the traffic to merge into, and less easy when your passengers are screaming and reaching for the handbrake and/or doorhandles. The two above qualities will greatly assist you.
7. A Neck Made of Brass – This is required when you are attempting to convince passengers paying, for example, a VND35,000 fare that you have no VND10,000, VND5,000, VND2,000 or VND1,000 notes, so the fare now costs VND50,000. This procedure is risky, but persistence and the above-mentioned metallic neck will aid you to no end.
A Driving License (if applicable) and a passport sized photo of either you, or someone who looks like they could have been you 12 years ago. This is for your taxi driver's ID card.
Competitive. Will rise depending on the proportion of passenger types 1 and 4 (above) you can find.
Applications to be made to any one of the 267 or so taxi companies separating daft foreigners from their cash 24/7!