The taxi system in Almaty is like an out of control Uber. But it does work. With no really obvious taxis on the streets the first thoughts are "where are the taxis?", "how do I get one?". Pretty easily actually; just stand on the side of the road, hold up your hand as if you were hitch hiking and wait for offers. Of course, it helps to know where you want to go, or at least in our case, to have a hotel card to show.
Pretty well straight away cars will stop, you tell them where you want to go or hold up the hotel card and they will then work out if they are going in that direction and can take you. If not, try again and someone will soon stop who is happy to take you.
Then the price negotiations start. Naturally, the driver is usually higher and you lower but you soon agree on a price and away you go.
There is also a more formal system of booking and the guys on this system seem to be linked by mobile phones.
Taxi can be in all shapes, sizes, models and makes. We have all heard of the legendary Russian LADA and they are still well and truly still around and in a big way. One of the taxis we took was a LADA, 4 of us squeezed in and it came with religious icons on the dashboard. Were these to make the driver safer in sometimes chaotic traffic, or to reassure otherwise uncertain passengers?
Our taxi experiences were generally very good and one of us even took one to the Krygyzstan border and had a terrific history and cultural lesson on the way.
So UBER beware, you may be taking over the taxi world but there is always another system out there that also works just as well, if seemingly uncontrolled.
By Michael Noyce
By Michael Noyce