Living Like A Local: Taxi’s
No matter who you are or how many times you’ve been to Puerto Vallarta, we’ve all dealt with the taxi situation.
You land at the airport and all of a sudden you’ve got dozens of “your new best friends” offering you a free taxi ride to anywhere you want to go. But first they need to sign you up for a vacation package presentation and the good news is it will only be 90 minutes at the very same hotel where you’re staying. What a coincidence! How lucky can you get?
If you’re not in the market for a “new best friend”, then you’re like everyone else that needs a way to the hotel. If you’re not in some sort of package then you’re on your own transportation wise. Which means you are looking for a taxi. Airport Taxis are special, they’re federal taxis and will cost somewhere in the neighborhood of three to four times what a city taxi will run you. Of course for most people they learn they just spent thirty five dollars for a five mile taxi ride, ouch. If you’re a “local” to PV, you saw this coming! Welcome to the Airport taxi initiation!
Ok, so you learned your first lesson, Airport Taxis are “Muy Carro” or very expensive! But now you’ve made it to the hotel, you’re settled in, you’ve had your first round of Margaritas and you get the idea you’d like to see the Malecon or Boardwalk in English. As you walk out the front door in all the Puerto Vallarta hotels there is a list of how much things should cost to specific areas. They’re great guide and worthy of a picture to remind yourself how much it should cost from area to area. So you make it to the Malecon and you see some great restaurants, you eat dinner, have a few more beers and a shot or three of the “free” knock your socks off Tequila. It’s time to head back to the hotel and give the A/C a chance to do its “thing” on your rapidly melting body.
At the end of every street in El Centro, there is a Taxi looking for business. Some even offer suggestions to “clubs” for lack-of a better word. Some speak English, and they’re all looking to make money. I’ve heard prices from all over the place. “Taxistas” are more or less independent business men who have city guide lines for charging, but how do you know this? You’re literally a guy who just got off the plane negotiating a price in dollars because you don’t quite have a handle on the peso to dollar rates. You settle on a price the Taxi Driver asked for and you get in the taxi.
Now not all taxis are created equally. Some look great, but they won’t deal so easily on price. So as a local you look for the taxi that may have a few too many kilometers on it. Yes it may rattle a lot, you can still see around the crack(s) in the windshield. The inside door panels maybe gone as well, but the handle to roll the window up and down works just fine. Deep cracks in the dash board that you swear has a nest of insects living inside. And really, who needs fancy flooring when the running boards have rubber mats? I mean really, how nice does the Taxi need to be anyway? We’re just going to the Marina Vallarta, we don’t need any “stinking floorboards”!
So you and you’re lovely wife load in as you head out into the “wild west” of Mexican driving in Puerto Vallarta. The first thing you’ll notice it there may not be any seat belts. In fact you’re pretty sure the seat isn’t original equipment to the car. Maybe not a good thing, but what could happen (I can feel you cringing now). And you’re off, you cruise to the end of the street and you notice many cars coming past you from the direction you’re going with rain on the cars. It’s summer, it’s normal to have flash thunder showers that’s just spring up out of nowhere. No biggie as your taxi driver takes a “2G” right hand turn. You swear there’s grease on the seat as you slide to the other side of the taxi like you were sitting on ball bearings. A little breath taking for sure, but your wife straightens out her new wig and off you go. The first thing you notice is there doesn’t seem to be any suspension. Every little cobble stone the front end encounters sounds like a boulder as you pick up speed. Wild lane changes, passing others like they’re standing still, this guy has handmade tacos waiting for him at home! Then the rain starts coming down in buckets, you roll the windows up but there is one that is just being kinda stubborn and you figure it’s half way up, what could happen. Just then a big bus passes you on the left and lands full force with the back tires in a puddle bigger than a small swimming pool! A water fall of water comes exactly and perfectly through the half rolled up window. Imagine Niagara Falls coming in your window and that wouldn’t be an over exaggeration. As you look over at your wife, you realize her new wig looks like a dead Raccoon on her head. But you’ve been married for a long time, you realize it’s bad enough as she’s now complaining about you saving money “again”! Not a good time to tell her, her “hair ” looks dead. The light turns green and you realize why there are no floor boards.
It’s about now you see the Driver pumping the brakes, they’re wet and not working as well as they should, you neglect to point this out to your soaked wife. But with the pumping things are working ok, a little scary but hey, it’s Mexico and everything is an adventure! You look at your wife, dripping wig and all and tell her there are just a few more kilometers and you’ll be back at the hotel and safety once again.
As you pull up to the final stop light, turning left to come into Marina Vallarta you notice the driver has ignored the “full” left turn lanes and has opted to go to the curb, just inside the intersection. Your thinking “what’s up with this guy, we have to make a left turn here”? The light turns green and you’re off again. Your driver, a real Taxista, has decided to jump into the moving traffic of the left turn lanes from the far right hand curb side! Yep, I’m serious. Once again you get the “2G slide” as you’re now pinned to the door with a dead, soaking wet Raccoon in your face. Your scream muted by the fair flying in your mouth.
You finally get to your Hotel in Marina Vallarta. You’re alive! As you open the door water comes out, you didn’t realize you were in water up past your ankles with that dead Raccoon in your face. But you’re back, you’re safe and the taxi driver is looking for a tip. You give him the price agreed upon, you look him in the eye and smile, give him a small tip and think about all the people you’re going to tell this story to. At this point you wish you remembered to take a picture of the wife getting out of the car with the dead Raccoon on her head.
Years later you’ll remember this “adventure” and smile. And in the end, isn’t that what life is all about? Unexpected adventures, vacation disasters and memories that will last a lifetime. As any local knows, Taxis come in all types. So my suggestion would be to you would be to get the more expensive Taxi and have a nice, normal trip home. But if you’re like me, I love the story so bring the adventures on …. YeHa!