I have never been shy about my love-hate relationship of sorts with New York, and one facet of NYC life that I still loathe to this very day is the uncivilized taxi-hailing process. Yes, there is a chance you might walk out your door just as a vacant taxi is approaching your building, and you breath a sigh of relief as it stops to let you in because you know you’ll be on time. But that isn’t always the norm. More often than not, I have walked outside to see a vacant taxi flying past my building and have cursed myself for not being 20 seconds earlier. I have repeatedly found myself at intersection after intersection singlehandedly trying to man a corner from every angle, depending on the green light, so as not to let a vacant taxi get away. And of course, there’s always the panic that anyone leaving their apartment a few yards up from you would snag the taxi that would have been yours if they had just waited five more minutes to leave…or if you had decided to stand in that spot yourself.
Then, if the corner you’re waiting on seems like it’s in a barren, no-man’s-taxi land, you ponder the thought of switching to a corner that could perhaps be a little more auspicious. This choice is a gamble. It could go either way as a taxi has to arrive from some direction and you don’t want to be standing in the wrong spot. After much contemplation, you decide to make the move and while traversing you see a vacant taxi pass the spot where you were previously standing, but you’re too far away to catch it now and/or someone else came along and nabbed the taxi that would have been yours if you had just decided to stay put. And so it goes.
Even in my recent New York State of Mind, I don’t–and haven’t ever–missed hailing a taxi in New York. At all. The more civilized process of getting taxis in Milan is tamer and less anxiety inducing. You don’t have to flag a white taxi in the streets; sure you can try, but it’s not common as the driver is likely on his or her way to collect someone who has just called. You either go to one of the abundant taxi stands or call/text/Whatsapp a taxi company and they come to collect you, sending you a detailed confirmation that includes how far away the driver is in minutes and the taxi name/number. The caveat of the latter is that taxi drivers start the meter as soon as they’re on their way to retrieve you, which ups the fare, but the upside is that taxi is yours and yours alone. He or she won’t stop for anyone else along the way and if you’re in a crowded place, the driver double confirms that it was you who had indeed called. It’s considered gauche to steal another’s taxi so you don’t have to worry about someone doing that to you, and it goes without saying that you shouldn’t do that either.
New York could learn a thing or two from this. I’m just sayin’….
Milan Taxi Tips:
- There are several taxi companies; I use “Radio Taxi.” For text/WhatsApp, the number is 393 9706969. To call, 026969.
- Uber gave Milan’s (as well as most of Europe’s) taxi drivers a run for their money, and taxi drivers weren’t pleased with the competition, so in addition to giving patrons the option of texting and Whatsapp, the Italian taxi driver union has implemented an app as well that you can download from iTunes here. It should also be available in the Google Play store. Honestly, I haven’t used it as I’m happy with WhatsApp, but it’s worth checking out as it covers all of Italy.
- It’s not always rainbows and unicorns; sometimes it can be hard to find a taxi during inclement weather or late-night around the Navigli. If the taxi stand is empty, I usually call one to a nearby address and wait for the taxi there. But this is much better than New York as at least I know the taxi is coming.
- Other taxi numbers: