- Kuwait Times Extra
KUWAIT: Although means of transport are always affected by the fluctuation of oil prices in the global market, in an oil producing country like Kuwait, this is not always the case. Of late, taxi fares have skyrocketed — a new development that has not gone down well with many passengers. In a country where two-thirds of the population are expatriates employed in various fields, almost half of them fall into low-income category, therefore failing to obtain a driving license. Many rely on public transportation, and a taxi is one such mode of transport. Predictably, sudden fare hikes have affected too many households. Regular taxi users complain of unusually high rates charged by taxis plying Salmiya, Farwaniya, Hawally to Kuwait City routes. Many passengers have reported the steep rise, especially during public holidays. According to some, local authorities and taxi service operators are not even aware that high fares are elicited from passengers. “I take taxi to get to work almost every day. I have noticed that higher rates are charged during holidays,” a regular taxi-passenger told Kuwait Times. “During Eid and Christmas, taxi drivers increase rates by half a dinar for a trip from Kuwait City to Salmiya,” the passenger explained, attributing it to what drivers call ‘heavy traffic.’ “Simply because I want to go home and take rest, I have to pay a high fare,” she said, questioning if operators are familiar with drivers’ whims. “Maybe the drivers just want to earn extra money. It is not fair,” she argued.
Taxi operators, however, are quick to dismiss such allegations. “There has been no unlawful hike. The rates have remained the same for so many years. We only charge passengers KD 1.250 fils for a Salmiya to Kuwait City trip from six am until midnight. The fare charged to ply the same route after midnight is KD 1.5,” a taxi operator said. “We cannot increase fares unless a collective decision is taken by all taxi operators in Kuwait or if the government agrees to it,” he said.
Passengers feel trapped when drivers refuse to operate meters. A passenger recollects arguing with a taxi driver for not using a meter. “I remember hiring a cab to go from Salmiya to Maidan Hawally. I bargained with him to pay a KD 1 fare. I was happy at that time, but when reached home and asked the taxi driver to use the meter, he refused. When he eventually realized that I was serious, he complied and I was charged 450 fils only! I paid him 500 fils for the ride.”
There are two types of public taxis plying the streets in Kuwait: call taxi [white] and the roaming [orange and white colored taxi]. The call taxi picks up and drops passengers by request. The roaming taxi picks up passengers along the highway or any street. The roaming taxi charges a minimum of 150 fils while the call taxi charges 250 fils, and an additional 50 fils per kilometer covered.
By Ben Garcia
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