Orange Colour Taxis. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
So you have decided not to risk life and limb by walking to your destination. Your next idea is to get a taxi. Good luck with that.
Getting a taxi
In 1974 Curitiba had a population of 610, 000 served by 2,252 taxis. Since that time Curitiba has experienced a rapid growth and is now over three times the size with a population of around 1.8 million. This much bigger city is still served by the same fleet of 2, 252 taxis. (Source Curitiba em Dados. Incidentally, this source also claims that there is a grand total of 4 taxis for people with special needs. So disabled people can’t use the pavements and can’t get a taxi.) You can see that there might be a problem here.
If it is raining in Curitiba (something that can happen quite a bit), or if it is rush hour you will wait at least an hour for a taxi. That is assuming that you can get through to somebody on the telephone to order a taxi in the first place. And don’t even think about trying to hail a cab on the street as they are always full. If the taxi driver sees you and deigns to acknowledge your existence he will inform you that he is carrying a passenger by way of the Brazilian body language sign for when something is full up:
On a wet Friday evening the taxi service in almost any city would be stretched. There have been many such times in both London and Birmingham that I have had to wait ages for a taxi. The problem is that this can be the case on any given day and at any given time.
The problem has recently been exacerbated by a long overdue crackdown on drink driving. In previous times, when I have had a row with people who constantly drink and drive one of the reasons they would give was the fact that it was impossible to get a taxi. Now that they are scared of actually getting caught by the police you might as well walk home as try get a cab.
I have been told that the people who own the taxi licenses rarely actually drive a taxi. Instead they rent out their cars three times a day, making about R$1, 000 ($500) a day. I’ve also been told that this is illegal, but then again what does that matter?
Because of these reasons it is virtually impossible to flag down a taxi. You are much better off ringing one or finding a taxi rank. There aren’t many taxi ranks around the city, mind. You might be lucky near a shopping centre or the coach station usually has a queue of taxis, but apart from that you’re on your own.
While not cheap, taxis in Curitiba are not prohibitively expensive. In Brazil, Curitiba is the 14th most expensive state capital for taxis when there is no traffic, and the 8th most expensive in traffic (source Veja). In a survey from 2011 Rio was found to be about half way down the list of most expensive cities in the world to get a taxi (source: Price of Travel) and Curitiba is slightly more expensive than Rio.
Inside the taxi
Once you have found a taxi you are normally quite safe. The drivers usually know where they are going, and if they don’t pretty much all of them now have GPS to guide them. They are relatively safe drivers, especially compared to some of the maniacs I encountered in Rio. The cars are also of a pretty good standard and are quite new and comfortable. If you can speak a bit of Portuguese you will usually be quite entertained by most of them. There seems to be a growing trend for female drivers, but this might just my own impression.
A true story
My brother and some of his friends came out to Curitiba in 2005 for my wedding. We all went off to some restaurant and then ordered taxis to take us back to the hotel. All the taxis got back at about the same time, except for my brother’s. After about 15 minutes some people were starting to worry whether they had been kidnapped or something. I wasn’t too bothered because if anybody can get lost in a foreign city and then miraculously find his way home again, it is my brother.
Lo and behold, after another 5 minutes my brother and 3 of his friends turned up in the taxi with huge grins on their faces and beers in their hands. It turned out that the taxi driver had a TV in the front with a supply of porn films to pass the idle few moments when he wasn’t working. He had taken the boys on a trip around Curitiba while they had a beer and watched his porn. When he eventually arrived he only charged them the normal fare. You don’t get service like that in Birmingham.
Curitiba airport isn’t actually in Curitiba. This means that when you arrive you can only get a taxi with the Sao José dos Pinhais colours to drop you in Curitiba. They charge an extra fee to get back to the airport because they can’t pick up a fare in Curitiba. The same works the other way because you have to get a Curitibano taxi but they can’t get a fare at the airport. Basically, a taxi from the airport to Curitiba city centre is going to cost you about R$60 assuming there is no serious traffic. At the moment they are doing a lot of work on the road into the city, so there is a lot of traffic.
World taxi prices – priceoftravel.com
Ranking of taxi tariffs in Brazil (in Portuguese) – veja.abril.com.br
Curitiba in figures (in Portuguese) – ippucweb.ippuc.org.br