Hate flagging down taxis in China? Problem SOLVED [Updated!]

I don’t know about taxis in North America; I can’t remember ever being in one. In China they’re relatively cheap and common, faster than the bus, and you probably don’t own your own car. We take the bus as much as we can, but that still means at least one taxi per week.

Taxis save a ton of time if you don’t get stuck not being able to get one. Flagging down a taxi in China can sometimes be a major pain. They’re all full. Or there aren’t any. Or someone “steals” “yours”. Or — most annoyingly — they’re empty but they inexplicably wave you off. Turns out there are reasons why empty taxis pass right buy you. Sometimes they’re about to change shifts. Sometimes they fear the hassle/awkwardness of a foreigner who might not speak Chinese. But more likely, they’re using one or both of these two free smart phone apps: 快的打车 and 嘀嘀打车. And now that we are, too, our arm-flapping on the side of the road days are mostly a thing of the past.

We’ve been using both these apps for weeks now, and they’re genius. It basically means you never end up wasting time waving your arms at the traffic while trying to out-position all the other roadside arm flappers. You enter where and when you want to be picked up and your destination, it notifies every driver instantly, and they choose whether or not to accept. So far it’s only taken seconds for us to get a reply. You can talk to the drivers directly. And they’re motivated to follow through: this app means they have much less empty car time, but if they fail to show up you can ding them and they risk getting temporarily banned from the software.

UPDATE: Turns out these apps are having an app war, and Zhīfùbǎo is involved, too. That means some great promotions for drivers and riders. You can set them up to use your bank card or 支付宝 (sort of like Paypal). Right now if you use both apps you get 10元 off your fare five times per day (two times with 快的打车 and three times with 嘀嘀打车). Plus you earn points that you can redeem for phone charging or hotel discounts, etc. The drivers get 10 or 15元 for every five people they get to pay with 支付宝,depending on which app they use, which is why they’re all suddenly asking us if we want to use Zhīfùbǎo. – 2014-01-26

This going on our China essentials short-list, along with Pleco (Chinese language learning app), the China Air Quality Index app, and DIY air purifiers.

6 thoughts on “Hate flagging down taxis in China? Problem SOLVED [Updated!]

  1. Looks awesome! I’m just a bit concerned how non-Chinese speakers like myself will be able to use it. Guess I’ll have to give it a try.

    • It might make a great language target for language learners. You don’t have to understand it completely to use it. Being able to input Chinese addresses in the correct boxes, communicate with the driver (“taxi Chinese”)… that’s a doable and super practical language goal.

  2. Is it only for certain cities? I’d be surprised if taxi’s out here in Xinjiang use it (although that would be AWESOME) but I’m sure it is supported in quite a few of China’s major cities. Any idea how many?

  3. I’ve heard about these apps for ages, but always in the context of the first-tier cities. I’m also curious about support in other cities. Am going to dig into it asap.

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