Safety Tips for Traveling by Taxi in Indonesia
Call to order a taxi
Calling for a taxi ensures safe travels, especially at night. Shop around to see which companies provide better service. It is convenient to order by phone as you can wait in your home until the taxi arrives and you can order a taxi from the company you prefer. As the order is monitored by the taxi company, problems can be reported. Your order is recorded in their data base, which assists the taxi firm to keep track of orders, drivers and also helps in tracing belongings left behind in our vehicles.
If the company has a computerized data base, like Blue Bird does, repeat customers just give their phone number and all your location information will show up from the database. Thus, you won't have to repeat your address each time you order a taxi. With the computerized reservation system the taxi firm can trace the telephone orders of each vehicle, including the taxi number, driver's name and route of the taxi. If a taxi is hailed on the street, these details are not recorded.
Blue Bird Group taxis have an ANI bid radio system (Automatic Number Identification), which enables the taxi nearest to your location to take your order. This cuts the time needed for the driver to reach you at your home or office.
Hailing a taxi on the street
Try to spot a taxi from a well known and reliable taxi company. Don't judge a taxi only by its color. There are, for example up to 10 or more companies now using blue-colored cars. Look for the company name on the side of the vehicle and the crown light.
Before you get into the taxi, make sure the driver agrees to take you to your destination. Some drivers don't like to go into congested areas like Kota or routes notorious for traffic jams like Bintaro or Ciputat.
When you get into the taxi, always make note of the taxi firm and the code number displayed on the dashboard or passenger doors. Check the driver's name, ID and photograph on the dashboard. You would need this information to report problems to the taxi company.
In professional taxi companies, the drivers should be well-mannered, with short hair, wear a uniform and shoes. In this instance it may be better to 'judge a book by its cover' as the taxi driver's appearance is reflective of the company's overall attitude towards service. To keep the interior of the taxis fresh and clean, some companies also enforce a no-smoking rule for their drivers and passengers.
If the driver tries to bargain, instead of using the meter or claims his meter is broken, get out of the taxi.
Taking a taxi at a taxi stand
Be cautious when taking a taxi from a taxi queue, especially at the airport, Gambir train station or bus terminals. Usually these taxis try to bargain for a rate and will refuse to go short distances. Always insist on using the meter and if the driver refuses, choose another taxi. If you bargain you may end up paying 2 or 3 times the metered rate. Don't give tips to people who try to act as brokers for the taxi drivers. If the taxi driver is thankful for their service, he can pay them.
You can find Blue Bird Group taxis at all major four and five-star hotels in Jakarta. If you can't find a taxi on the street go to a nearby hotel.
Taking a taxi from the airport
At the airport, never accept transportation from brokers who approach you as you exit baggage claim or customs offering to drive you into town. These are illegal transportation operators and can be risky for a variety of reasons. Aside from the public taxi stands, the companies licensed to operate transportation services at the airport have counters/booths inside the arrival terminals (such as Blue Bird Group, Avis and Hertz). Their representatives wear uniforms with an ID.
At the airport taxi queue, you are supposed to take the first taxi in the queue, so it may not be possible to select a taxi of your choice. Again, beware, as many taxis will refuse to use the meter or invent other charges. If you feel apprehensive about this, choose Silver Bird which also has a taxi stand at the airport. Blue Bird operates Silver Bird and Golden Bird limousine services from their counters in all the arrival terminals.
Most taxi companies have an alert light on the top of the car which is activated in case of an emergency (robbery of or by a passenger). Other taxi drivers or policemen see the light on and realize that the taxi driver or passenger is in need of assistance.
In addition to this standard alert light, all Blue Bird Group taxis have a hidden security device which, if activated, enables the dispatcher to overhear and record the conversation between the driver and passenger using a special radio frequency. This provides protection both for the driver and the passengers. An alert goes out in the case of a true emergency and the taxi is quickly surrounded by other Blue Bird taxis to ensure the safety of the driver and passenger. No need to wait for the uncertain response from the police.
Broken down vehicles
If the taxi you are riding in breaks down, ask the driver to call for a replacement vehicle. You should not have to get out in the middle of a toll road or other street in Jakarta to flag down a taxi off the street.
In these uncertain times it is imperative that those expats who take taxis in Jakarta choose a reputable company in ensure their personal safety. Contact the taxi firm's customer service hotline for reporting items left behind in the taxi, suggestions and feedback.
This section (above) of the article on taxi safety was contributed by Blue Bird Group.
A few more tips from visitors to the Expat Forum
- If you can, choose a cab with good reputation (kind of obvious, isn't it?).
- Take a look at the driver, if you don't feel safe, wave the tax away before you get in it. There will always be another cab (unless it's midnight or you're in a remote part of the city). If you can, take a deep look at the driver's eyes. If you're sensitive enough, usually you can feel a threat if there is one. Trust your guts on this, because your life might depend on it.
- There should be a taxi I.D on the dashboard, which contains the taxi's I.D and the driver's I.D, complete with the picture. Match the picture with the driver. IF they don't match get out.
- After you decide to get into the cab, take the seat BEHIND the driver
(as opposed to next to the driver). The reasons are:
a. You have the control, because he can't see you as clearly.
b. There have been cases where someone hides on the trunk (or boot), and comes out to attack the passenger after the taxi is moving. By sitting in the back seat, you can watch the seat next to you. If it begins to open, quickly slam it back shut, and scream at the driver and get out of the taxi as quickly as possible.
- Sit on the left side of the back seat ... not behind the driver. There have been cases where the driver pushed his seat back and trapped people sitting right behind him.
- Lock the doors as soon as you get it with a resounding click ... this tells the driver in no uncertain terms that you are aware of and knowledgeable about your safety.
- If you do speak Indonesian, chat with the driver a bit so he knows you are not a newcomer and know your way around. They may think all foreigners are unsuspecting, unknowing newcomers and are much less likely to try to rob someone who can demonstrate that they know their way around.
- BEFORE the taxi moves, check your door. Can you open it from inside? If not, tell the driver to stop ... and unlock the child's lock on the inside of the door jam ... OR ... consider taking a different taxi.
- During the drive, pay attention to where the driver takes you. If he's driving into a dark, remote area, COMPLAIN RIGHT AWAY. Depending on the reply you get, prepare to act.
- Remember that noise draws crowds quickly. If you are having a problem with a taxi driver - quickly roll down the windows and yell to attract attention. Chances are people will assist you.
- Most of all, use common sense, just as you would in your own home country.