Timor Taxis

Hi folks.  It’s early morning, Sunday 18th as I write this, and in less than an our the bus will come to take me back to the airport for the trip home.  I’ve had such a great time here in Timor Leste, and of course there’s still so much more to write about, not the least of which is a few more days of the Tour de Timor that I know you’re all hanging on the edges of your seats waiting for.  But before I get to that  I want to share some stuff with you about the taxis in these parts, prompted by a little booklet that I just found under my bed here in the Timor Lodge.

(That same bed, by the way, which looked very low rent a week ago before the Tour began was a welcome and luxurious sight indeed after 5 nights of dusty cheek-by-jowl TdT camping.)

If you want to get around here in Dili you have a few options.  You can walk, obviously, but if you’re going more than a few kilometres you’re probably going to want to think of something with wheels.  A bike is a simple choice in this regard, but maybe you’re here without one, or maybe, like me, your bike has already been washed down and disinfected and AQIS inspected and locked up in its little box ready to fly away home.

There’s the Microlet service, and it’s really worth taking.  It’s cheap, with a short ride costing 10 cents, and a longer ride costing maybe 50 cents or even one dollar.  (All in US dollars, since that is the currency in these parts.)

The Microlet - getting there can be a lottery

If you want to ride inside the Microlet it costs double.  Still pretty cheap.

I suppose if your friend has a truck…

The back of a truck

And it’s always good to know someone with a ute:

The back of a ute

If you don’t know a truck or ute owner, and you don’t have your own car, then someone else’s is the time honoured method, known around the world as cabs or taxis.  The word ‘cab’ derives from the French word ‘cabriolet’ which itself is derived from the verb ‘cabrioler’ meaning to jump or to spring in the air.  This in turn comes from the Latin word ‘capreolus’, meaning wild goat or roebuck.  There are no cabs in Dili, as all the caprine words have been taking by the local goat community, and the vehicles for hire are incapable of leaping or jumping in any way at all.

There are taxis in Dili, however.  The word ‘taxi’ is a shortening of  taximeter cab, the ‘taxi’ bit sharing its origins with the word ‘tax’ meaning to charge a fee.  The Dili taxis are appropriately named, for while they will surely get you to the place you seek, the trip may not be comfortable, the price won’t be what you expect necessarily, and the journey through the noisy, hot, humid and sometimes foetid streets of the capital will most likely be somewhat taxing.

Which brings me to the little booklet I found unexpectedly in my less than salubrious little bolt hole this morning.  It was a brief affair, more like a brochure than a booklet, and although it had some instantly recognisable words scattered about it, such at ‘taxi’, ‘tourismo’, ‘incoherent’ and the like, it was written all in Tetun.  With only a limited amount of time available to me I none-the-less quickly typed the foreign words into a Google translator page and waited while the interminably slow Timorese internet facilitated what only a few years ago would have been seen as science fiction.  Eventually the following translation appeared:

Congratulations on get you Dili Taxi Licence.  Now you connect up with many hundred also happy Timor man drive taxi for other country travel visit.  Drive taxi not same drive non-taxi car.  Taxi car is normal although like other car but drive taxi not.  To be rules.

1.  Even as taxi have aircon taxi driver not turn on.  Never.  Important.

2. Even as taxi have clear glass front, clean not.  See through front glass important non taxi.  Not important Dili taxi.

3.  Even as taxi have engine can go 5000 rpm or more;  even as engine is most good  2000, 3000 rpm; Dili taxi not go over 1000 rpm.  If taxi chugs and rattles, taxi driver does good job.  If taxi smooth, driver job bad.

4. At start go slow in gear 1st.  When engine rpm 800 time change gear 2nd.  Repeat for each gear.  If taxi drive 20km per hour must use only gear 5th.  Faster than 30 km/h not permit.

5. See other taxi, toot horn.

6. See pedestrian, toot horn.

7.  See other road user, toot horn.

8. See horn, toot horn.

9. Price make up.  Example, short trip say Five Dollar, long trip say Four Dollar, two people say five dollar twice, night time say five dollar extra.

10. If obnoxious smug western passenger make fun, sit quiet, graceful, be peace.

Taxis are everywhere

Taxis are everywhere


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Sandra Smith
    Sep 18, 2011 @ 19:41:44

    I think the Delhi Lama would have a good laugh at that .. lol


  2. scottsabode
    Sep 20, 2011 @ 04:26:36

    I think you’ll have to go into syndication.


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