Thursday, November 10, 2011

Hurghada Rental Cars and Taxis

Recently there has been an apparent increase in road accidents in and around the Hurghada area. They often involve buses being driven by unlicensed drivers, stoned drivers, or simply people that consider themselves the next Michael Schumacher. These drivers are also rampant in Taxis and personal cars. There is no lack in crazy drivers in Hurghada.

For many people that reside in and around the Red Sea area, this begs the question "How can I get to my destination safely?" Getting into a microbus usually means that you will be taking hairpin turns at breakneck speeds, while dealing with not so savory clientele that will accompany you on your microbus journey. For those of us that don't have cars, this leaves taxis as the only option. So we get into a stranger's car, assuming that they are in fact taxi drivers, and hope that they are both licensed and considerate drivers. This is not always the case.

In travelling throughout Hurghada lately, it seems that the number of taxis on the roads driven by children are increasing exponentially. Just the other day, I had to wave away three cabs whose drivers looked not a day over fifteen. Seeing as how many people in Egypt are able to get their driving license by paying a little extra, this is a worrying trend.

Also worrying, is not knowing if your taxi driver is one of the many drivers in Egypt that uses chemicals and drugs to keep himself awake. Cocaine, hashish, dramadol, the list goes on. For many, working long hours into the night is the only way of ensuring that they will be able to cover their expenses, and therefore rely on drugs to see them through. This of course does not include the growing "taxi mafia" such as what you see in locations like Senzo Mall, or that I see directly in front of the Continental Hotel in Mamsha. Taxis will park outside, and knowing that the amount of taxi traffic that passes by is minimal, will quote you outrageous prices - double, often triple what you should legally be paying. Should you tell one taxi driver no, the next taxi driver will quote you the same price - they know that by sticking together you'll end up with no choice but to accept the higher rates. Most frustrating however, is when you tell the drivers that they should do what is legally required of them, i.e. turn on their meter. This will often result in ridicule and curses flung at you, for daring to suggest they actually work by the book. Interesting aside: if taxis are caught going through police check points in Hurghada and do NOT have their meter on, they face immediate fines ranging between 50 LE (just under ten dollars) up to 300 LE. To avoid this fine, you'll notice the cheeky taxi drivers unabashedly turn on their meter just before the check point.



This doesn't even go anywhere near the number of unlicensed taxis that are driving around. For anyone reading this, pay attention to the numbers listed on the side of the taxi cab. If that number is not there, do not get into the taxi. Their registration numbers should be clearly visible, otherwise you have no way of ensuring they are actually registered and licensed. To help residents get around Hurghada, a facebook group has been created documenting both the white listed and reliable taxi drivers, and the black listed taxis that should be avoided. Reasons for their blacklisting include: theft, groping, vulgar language, over-charging, drug use, among others. I recommend you check this link and find a decent and reliable taxi driver - only then will we start to see the number of maniacs reduced on the streets.

For those journeys that you just cannot take with a taxi, renting a car is the only other option. Renting a car in Hurghada is an entirely different headache on its own. You will face either extortionate prices, up to 400 LE a day with a kilometer limit of about 100 km a day, to paying 120 LE a day for a car that will break down within 2 hours of leaving the shop.

Rental cars here are not strictly regulated like they are outside of Egypt. We have rented cars and had to immediately change the oil, reverse our direction to find out what fell off the bottom of the car, dealt with broken and bunk CD players and other electronics in the car, cracked windscreens, and don't even get me started on the tires. For us to rent a car, our first destination has always got to be the mechanic to ensure that the car will safely get us to our destination. If you find any problems, the rental company will tell you it's "not their issue," and that the car was "just fine when you took it." Should you have to pay extra money to get the car working, don't expect to see that money come back to you.

Now the above points are assuming you even GET the car. K and I have had to deal with rental companies in Hurghada more times than I care to mention. We will put in the request for the rental car up to three days in advance, and are always assured "no problem, the car will be here on the day you request." Come the day that we are meant to pick it up, they are always "en route" from either Cairo or Marsa Alam. Once the rental company has told you the car is on its way, and should be expected within a few hours, they will stop answering your phone calls. Normally, 12-24 hours later, they will phone you and let you know that the "car has arrived" and you may now pick it up. Forget about having to get to your destination on time: rental car companies here have no way of ensuring that the cars are returned to them on the days they are meant to. Better still: You are still expected to pay the price you were originally quoted, even if you have to wait an extra day to get the car and potentially miss the appointment you needed the car for in the first place.

The Egyptian idiom of "mafish mushkela" (no problem) and "InshAllah" (God willing) rule in the rental world. If you're looking to rent a car in the Red Sea, expect to pay extortionate prices and not be able to drive anywhere outside of the city limits (or end up paying a dollar extra PER KM you go over), or to pay an acceptable price and have no guarantee that your car will arrive on time. I should note, the last car we rented came through one of the "expensive" rental companies, and this was the car that had items falling off the bottom chassis of the car, with the electronics not working, and overall a P.O.S. vehicle for paying close to 75 dollars a day.

So what's our end solution? Buy our own car. That seems to be the only way to avoid all the hassle and unreliability of taxi cabs and rental companies here. And buying a car? That's a wholeeeee other can of worms that I will open in a blog in the future. 

31 comments:

  1. Hi - great post and I totally agree - our las trip to Hurghada - I nearly got knocked down outside the hotel by a taxi driver - too busy talking to his back passenger to notice me crossing the road - he swerved to miss me and nearly hit a lamp post!

    ReplyDelete
  2. The cost of taxi is generally high for the airport because many airports add additional surcharges. The cost of taxi is also high because the passengers which are coming or going from the airport have luggage.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi Cost,

    The charge into the airport is 5 LE. Why would someone have to pay extra for the luggage? Does it require more petrol? These are excuses we see all the time as people try to take as much money as possible. If there will be a fee for luggage, it should be a set fee. Not just what the driver feels like charging on that day.

    Also, this post isn't about passengers being taken from the airport. It's about residents being over-charged, or fearing for their lives in Taxis.

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