Saga of Beirut Taxi Troubles

1. The airport is teeming with taxi drivers who like to smell out Americans to rip them off with an exorbitant taxi fare. Well our driver smelled out the wrong Americans. Kirsten’s friend told us not to pay more than $15/20 USD (which they use along with the Lira), so there was no way I was going to pay more than $15. Warning: Don’t mess with Caitlin when she is bargaining.

One taxi driver sniffed out the three American girls, most likely assuming we were an easy target. Oh how he was mistaken. He tried to take us for $25. No, no, bud. NO. So I said $15, and not a penny more. He laughed at my $15, so I laughed at his $25 when he said it again. Realizing I wouldn’t budge, he went down to $20. Ok, so now he is showing his weakness. He went down within 5 minutes, so why should I go up?! So I stood my ground. He said no to $15 again, and literally pulled a random guy off the street and claimed he was airport police (umm, yeah, sure…airport police wearing jeans and a t-shirt talking on his cell phone, holding car keys?) and said the policeman would enforce the $20 fare. Well, I was not about to buy into that, so I started walking away to find another cab to start the bargaining all over. But of course once he saw that, $15 it was!

2. So the thing to do in Beirut at night is go clubbing. I am not a clubbing kind of girl, but I bought into the whole “When I Lebanon, do as the Lebanese do” thing after Kirsten spent all of dinner convincing me to come out with her. Well, we left for the club at 11:30 pm, thinking it would take half an hour to get there. So when I checked my phone upon arrival, I was shocked to see that it was already 1 am.

It took us awhile to catch a cab since there were 6 of us, but we managed to cram 5 people in the back seat, and one sat in the front. The driver had no idea where we wanted to go, and neither did we. Great…always a good sign. So we drove in the general direction of the club (which might I add was an underground civil war bomb shelter turned club), but got stuck in traffic. And by stuck in traffic I mean like sitting in the same place for 30 minutes. We stuck up a conversation with the creepy guy in the car next to us, because we were so bored. Then, once we started moving, the guy behind us apparently got so excited we were moving again and rammed into the back of our cab. So that took another 20 minutes to figure out, even though car accidents here always end with a smile and handshake.

So we were finally back en route to this club. Until we no longer knew the route. So the driver pulls off the road onto a side road trying to find the place, and then all of a sudden we see the reflection of flashing red and blue lights. Great. So not only did we get into a car accident, but now we are also getting a ticket. Apparently it was a 1-way street for the night, and we were going the wrong way, and also the fact that we had 5 people crammed into the backseat was also definitely illegal. So that’s two strikes against the driver, but apparently he talked himself out of the ticket, so after another 20 minutes, we started up again. Only to be pulled over, AGAIN. But this time the police made a mistake and returned the wrong drivers’ license to the taxi driver and had to exchange it. Thank goodness.

We finally arrived at the club an hour and a half after our journey had started, and of course the driver wanted to charge us for the traffic, the accident, and the run-in with the police. Umm, I don’t think so, but this time I left the bargaining up to the Lebanese.

3. Jennifer, Kirsten, and I were wandering around Beirut trying to figure out how to go to Pigeon Rock (pretty much just a massive rock off the coast of the Mediterranean), but we had no idea how much the taxi should cost. So we flagged one down and told him where we wanted to go, and he said 4,000 Lira for all of us. We agreed, and got in. Probably 7 minutes later, we were at Pigeon Rock, and he said he wanted 10,000 Lira for all of us. What?! Absolutely not.

So I started arguing with him. There was no way I was going to let him rip us off when we only got in after we agreed on 4,000 Lira. He told us that normally it was 6,000 for a service and 10,000 for a taxi, so he wanted 10,000 and denied that he originally told us 4,000. So I pitched a fit. I was yelling at the guy in Arabic, and wasn’t going to let him take advantage of us.

Then a random guy from the street came up to the window asking if there was a problem. The driver told him what was going on, and I clarified that he had told us 4,000 to begin with, but the random guy on the street started saying “I guarantee he is right. You owe him 10,000 Lira. He didn’t say 4,000. I know. I know he didn’t.” Oh boy. That got me even more upset. I started yelling at him, too! “What do you mean you know? Were you there 5 minutes ago when we got in the cab and he said 4,000? I don’t think so. So you don’t know. I know. So go away and let me talk to the driver.” (I am proud I got this all out in Arabic in the heat of the moment!)

After 5 minutes of bickering, we threw a 5,000 Lira bill in the front seat and got out of the cab. I’m still a little upset he got an extra 1,000, but whatever. At least he didn’t get his 10,000.

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1 Response to Saga of Beirut Taxi Troubles

  1. dimaks says:

    These tactics do exist. In the Philippines, aside from the possibility of getting refused to board, some drivers do contracted fare. They will only drive to bring you to your desired destination if you agree to pay a certain lumped fare or add some peso from the final meter register. Your experience is so disappointing. I wish the authorities in that place do something concrete to prevent such gimmicks.

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