August 6, 2009

Taken for a Ride — Leh to Manali

Filed under: Himachal,Lessons — loggers @ 12:49 am

Due to the existence of local taxi unions in both Leh and Manali (and many other towns in India), Manali taxi drivers are not permitted to solicit customers from Leh. The ones that do (also called ‘vaapsi cars’) must bribe certain ‘authorities’ and also offer customers a better price. For budgetary reasons, we chose to find such a taxi driver.

We were told of such a taxi by Vinod, a man we met at a restaurant in Leh. After serious negotiations, we booked the front and middle rows of a Mahindra Scorpio for INR 3300 total (much cheaper than the official rate of INR 6000), and even paid an INR 2000 advance. It turned out, though, that the person we dealt with was only a middle-man, who actually had booked us seats in the back row of the car (much more uncomfortable) instead of the middle row. We ended up having a very bumpy and painful journey, but somehow got to Manali in one piece.

At Manali, we learnt that Vinod had promised the taxi driver INR 4000 instead of INR 3300. We ended up in an unnecessary tussle at Manali. Throughout this mess, Vinod refused to entertain our calls, leaving us to fend for ourselves against an aggressive taxi driver.

We were taken for quite a ride, but it was worth it:

Where we screwed up:

  1. We made a reservation through a middleman (unknowingly) and paid a premium to fulfill his commission
  2. We paid INR 2000 as advance for a total payment of INR 3300, when the norm is to only pay 50% of the committed amount
  3. At the time of paying the advance, we did not take a written confirmation of the balance left to be paid, and of the seats we reserved in the car
  4. We did not confirm the total amount with the driver before boarding the car

What we learnt:

  1. Sitting in the back seat (third row) of a Mahindra Scorpio for a 17 hour journey across bumpy mountainous roads can be painful, especially when you are 6 feet and 2 inches tall
  2. Never take anything said during negotiations face value

What we recommend:

  1. When looking for ‘vaapsi’ taxis, check out bus stands – you are likely to find taxi drivers hanging around there
  2. Make sure you negotiate with the taxi driver directly, and not his ‘apparent’ friend or brother
  3. Take down any details negotiated in writing, with the name and phone number of the negotiator – more so if any cash payments have been made
  4. Confirm all details with the driver before departure
  5. Carry an inflatable neck-pillow for long car journeys- it will protect your head from slamming into the window

1 Comment »

  1. Saffron: INR 300 per gram; Pearly Bay: INR 1500; Forgetting the contract theory of Oliver Williamson: Priceless? NO, INR 700 & neck pain

    Comment by Aviad — August 14, 2009 @ 3:12 am | Reply

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