Being without a car in a growing city of more than 2.3 million has proven to be at times expense, at times convenient and other times frustrating.
There are at least 3 different types of taxis in Doha.
- Karwa – the corporation that provides actual taxis. They appear to be some kind of department of the Ministry of Transport or a massive corporation. They are all the same light teal colour, with different colour roof-tops to indicate what part of the company they’re from. Karwa also seems to run the ‘transit system’ (which I think is an oxymoron here!), and provide school buses. All the fares start at 4QR (about $1.25), and few of the drivers speak English. Lots of pointing, short sentences and simple directions. Many times I’ve just asked them to stop, paid them out and walked home because it would take less time. Not sure how these guys get their taxi license. Either way, they’re plentiful and cheap.
- Private drivers – One of the first guys we were introduced to in August was ‘Johnson.’ Johnson, over the past decade has developed a relationship with CNA-Q (College of the North Atlantic-Qatar). Johnson is a guy, and that’s his first name. His brother is called Eric – although they look nothing like brothers. Johnson probably has 20+ drivers under his organization and they are totally reliable. Safe, pleasant and every single one of these guys is from Kerala, India. All the cars are spic-and-span clean and the gusy know their way around the city. No matter where you go in Doha, Johnson is 30QR (about $10). We usually tip, because they are so good. Driving to the airport though is different, it’s 70QR. Great thing is, somehow Johnson keeps records of all our cell numbers and names and know exactly where every CNA-Q lives. I just call him up about half an hour in advance and he shows up. Even better, Johnson will wait for you while you run errands (for 10QR each stop). He knows how to do the drivers’ license game – 3 stops, 3 different buildings, waiting time, etc. He picks you up at 6:30 am, we start the driver’s license game at 7 am and we have our official government license by 8 am and are at work by 8:15! Fabulous. So, long or short, a ride with Johnson is 30QR. We could be jet-lagged, have imbibed, or just plain cranky and his team gets us to where we’re going with no muss, no fuss and 30QR.
- Uber – with complete un-regulation of the taxi industry, the taxi service called Uber is thriving here. Completely banned in Canada and much of the western world (where taxis are regulated), Uber is a great alternative here. Thanks to the GPS on my iPhone and a fee Uber app, I ‘request a driver.’ The GPS system on my phone determines my exact location. Then I type in where I want to go and a driver is dispatched. The driver, at the same time, receives the same information on his phone. I can watch on an interactive map on my phone a watch as the driver is approaching. I get a countdown timer that shows me minute by minute how long I will wait. The cars are super clean, the drivers speak good English normally. Again, most are from Kerala, India. The price is cheaper than Johnson, but more expensive than Karwa. The Uber app is linked to my local Qatari credit card and the whole system is cashless. There is a manager of the service who handles complaints (I did have one, and got a refund). Better yet, in a city with no addresses, sometimes explaining to someone (like Johnson) where you are exactly can be quite a problem. However, with the GPS in the Uber app, I don’t need to explain anything.
- Gypsy cabs – these guys are hanging around grocery stores and shopping malls and try to get your business. They honk at you while you’re walking outside (and sometimes I just walk because it’s nice out!). Totally un-regulated and no meters. Never used them and based on what I hear, never will!
Today for example, I walked just over 4 km to the ‘white peoples’ grocery store – MegaMart in al Muntazah neighbourhood. I got my groceries and just as I approached the cashier, I opened up Uber and requested a driver. He arrived 5 minutes later and the drive home cost me 19QR – $6.25. So, my grocery bill always has taxi charges on it. In the winter, I can walk to the grocery store and get a taxi home. In the summer, you can’t go outside for more than 2 blocks before heat exhaustion and dehydration become noticeable. So, in the summer, my taxis to the grocery store will cost me double.
And – that’s the tale of getting around Doha by taxi!