How often have you had to share a taxi with complete strangers? Have you ever found yourself haggling over the cab fare? Well, if you’re traveling to Iran, you’d better brace yourself.
Taxi rides in Iran is quite an experience and perhaps unlike anything you’ve experienced before, which is not necessarily a bad thing.
First things first; taxi fares in Iran are generally low thanks to cheap fuel, but there is another important reason: In Iran, aside from the conventional taxis you’re used to seeing elsewhere, there is a shared-taxi culture.
If you’ve been to India you may already have a basic idea about what this is but unlike the subcontinent, passenger vehicles (and not minibuses) are used for this purpose. You basically stand by the side of the road and taxis drive up to you to see where you’re going. If your destination is on their route, you get in. The driver will repeat this until their car is at full capacity (4 passengers). And that is the other reason why cab fares are low.
Official taxis are clearly distinguished by their yellow or green color but don’t be surprised if certain private vehicles offer you a ride. Nonetheless, for safety reasons, it’s best to get in a yellow or green cab.
Colored cabs drive around cities looking for passengers but many operate on specific routes, driving back and forth between two stations. The latter group charge a set amount of money, regardless of whether you sit in the cab for the entire route or get out halfway.
One thing you need to remember is that it’s the norm for same-sex individuals to sit next to each other in the car. If one of the three passengers is of a different sex, they usually sit on either side and never in the middle. Also, avoid manspreading!
Sometimes a passenger may get out to allow you to get in. There are two main reasons for this: They either don’t want to be sandwiched between two people of the opposite sex, or they heard you tell the driver where you’re going and they know they’ll get off before you.
Most taxis lack meters, which is why they operate based on fixed prices and you’re expected to haggle. However, you will be able to haggle and drive a hard bargain if you get a “darbast” taxi.
Darbast, which is Persian for “closed door”, is when you hire a cab on the street to drive only you to wherever you want to go. Since the driver won’t be able to pick up passengers, you’ll have to pay a higher fee than normal. The fee is always agreed upon before you get in, and that’s where you have to put your haggling skills to test.
If possible, carry small bills with you as taxi drivers may not have enough money to return your change. depending on the city, Taxi fares varies. In bigger cities you usually have to pay more. To get an idea how much to pay for a specific route, ask locals.
The most common car models for taxis are the Iranian version of Kia Pride, Peugeot Pars and Samand which are all manufactured domestically. You may also find modern hybrid vehicles, but those are still rare.
There is a very small chance that your driver speaks English, which makes communication difficult. Other passengers, however, might be able to accommodate you.
Nonetheless, taxi drivers are very skilled drivers and know their cities inside and out; so if you have an exact address they’ll get you there without an issue.
There are privately-operated taxi agencies known locally as “ajans” (J is pronounced like the French word ‘bonjour’). You just call them up and ask for a ride.
Their drivers usually have a good knowledge of their cities and their cars are well-maintained.
However, with the rise of ride-hailing apps, agencies are rapidly losing both business and drivers to their modern competition.
There is also what is referred to wireless taxi services, whose vehicles are equipped with meters. While not very common anymore, they offer taxis driven by women for women; a niche but rather popular option.
Thanks to fast mobile data in Iran, the ride-hailing industry has blossomed and given rise to smartphone apps Snapp, Tap30 and Carpino. The first two are privately-owned and the latter is operated by the Tehran Taxi Company.
Iranian metropolises, particularly Tehran, suffer from congestion unlike anything you’ve seen before. While getting around in a taxi is convenient, you may find yourself stuck in traffic for a very long time in rush hour. To avoid that, use the subway system—at least in Tehran; it is expansive and should get you where you need to go fast.
Riding around in a taxi in Iran is a unique experience, one you’re unlikely to experience anywhere else. Give it a shot, you might enjoy it!
Anything else to add? Don’t hesitate to comment.
More from this author:
- How to get around Tehran using its Bus Rapid Transit System
- A guide to Tehran Metro
- A simple guide to Traveling in Iran by bus