Peru – A Tale Of Two Taxis

While some countries have strict rules regulating taxis, Peru doesn’t, at least it didn’t when I was there a few years ago. Anybody who has a car, no matter how old or dilapidated can be a taxi. All you need is a sign, handwritten or, if you are upmarket, printed, which you stick onto your windscreen and, hey presto, you are a taxi. No need to bother with meters, you simply haggle with the customer before the start of the journey and then you set off, knowing how much you are going to get.

When I needed to get to an appointment in Lima, I hailed such a taxi. It clearly had seen better days; one headlight consisted of a hole with some wires dangling out of it, several rusting dents bore witness to heroic encounters with other objects, and the springs in the back seat had long since given up acting as springs and were lying flat and exhausted under the hard base of the cushion. The driver looked like his vehicle. Dressed in a dirty check shirt and greasy trousers, he had a cigarette hanging from the corner of his mouth and obviously had not shaved for a couple of days.

I was a bit dubious about getting into the vehicle, but he had already jumped out of his seat and opened the door for me to get into the back, so I obediently climbed in and then discovered that I would have a problem getting out again – the door handle was missing. We did our haggling with our two dozen or so words we had in common in English and Spanish, and once we had agreed on the deal, he pulled out into the stream of traffic, without indicating, of course. After all, he needed one hand for his cigarette and the other for driving the car.