Everything you need to know about Sharing a Taxi in Sri Lanka
Q. Is taxi sharing popular in Sri Lanka?
There is no question that taxi sharing is popular in Sri Lanka. The trend has originated from the backpacker and surfing communities due to a generally poor standard of public transport. Taxis are everywhere but can be expensive for a traveller on a budget, so finding others to share it can lower the cost significantly.
Q. What are the advantages of taxi sharing?
There are other less obvious advantages to sharing a taxi aside from saving money such as the environmental benefit and the potential to make friends. Clearly if the alternative is to take the bus or train then there is also a huge increase in comfort levels.
Q. What are the disadvantages of taxi sharing?
You may be surprised to know that there are downsides. People can be unreliable, especially when travelling, so be prepared to have them cancel or change their plans on you at the last minute. When you agree to travel as a group with people you don’t know (or even people you do know!) there is no guarantee that they are going to turn up at the right place at the right time with their share of the costs.
Q. Do taxi drivers support taxi sharing?
There are some drivers that do see the benefits of taxi sharing but of course it ultimately means fewer taxis are needed. This will mean that fewer tourist dollars are flowing into Sri Lanka. Or maybe it just means that those dollars are being spent elsewhere. There is no question though that some drivers do not support taxi sharing among tourists.
Q. What are the options to share a taxi in Sri Lanka?
There are two different types of taxi share in Sri Lanka. The first is the most common and involves booking a taxi and sharing it with other travellers. The second is a great way to save money on a taxi and is not generally well known.
First you need to understand that for most taxi journeys in Sri Lanka, the vehicle travels empty for one leg. An example is if you book a cab from Hikkaduwa to the airport from a local company based in Hikkaduwa. After the driver drops you at the airport they may not be able to find anyone to take back to Hikkaduwa. The driver does not lose any money in this case because they generally will have charged you enough to cover both journeys.
Now, if for example, you want to travel from the airport to somewhere on the south coast at the same time that the taxi is leaving empty there may be the option to negotiate a cheaper price. This is more like sharing a route than sharing a taxi and the coordination can be complicated. The drivers on this site can make special offers on otherwise empty legs of their trip.
When you get an incredibly cheap offer of a taxi it is often based on the idea that the driver will take a risk and find clients for both journeys instead of just one.
Q. Where can I find a shared taxi?
There are three main places where you can find a shared taxi in Sri Lanka; on the street, social media or on websites such as ours.
Q. What are the advantages and disadvantages to finding a shared taxi on the street?
In popular backpacker and surf areas such as Ella and Arugam Bay you will see many signs outside advertising shared taxis. By letting a freelance driver or local taxi business find others to share and organise everything, you will be able to enjoy your day without the stress of doing it yourself. Of course, you will likely pay more for this. The driver will sell you a seat at a fixed cost but you may find yourself paying extra if they do not fill the taxi as they promised.
Unfortunately there are plenty of scams and dishonest operators who know how to make money in these circumstances. The best advice is to never pay any money in advance and always have an understanding of what vehicle will be provided and the maximum cost you will be charged.
Most taxi operators you will find in the street do not need to worry about their reputation especially if they do not have an online profile. If you cannot leave a review for the company then there is a higher risk that they will act in a dishonest manner. Examples of this might be changing the price at the last minute or turning up in a different vehicle to the one that was promised.
Q. What are the advantages and disadvantages to finding a shared taxi on social media?
The points raised above also apply to drivers and taxi companies you may find on social media, especially if they are unregulated freelancers. There are many Facebook groups advertising taxi sharing. The first thing you need to realise is that if you post in one of these groups you will receive a multitude of private message requests from drivers, hoteliers, tuk tuk drivers, massage spa owners etc. If you are happy with this situation then it can be a great place to find fellow travellers and/or a cheap driver as long as you are aware of the risks.
Q. What are the advantages and disadvantages to finding a shared taxi on srilankataxishare.com?
This is our website and so we will try not to be biased. The advantages are that your personal information is safe and you will not receive any unwanted messages or emails. We monitor the website and remove any driver that is contacting travellers pretending to be another traveller.
The process for finding a taxi is more formalised too. You will receive instant prices from our other website srilankacaranddriverhire.com showing driver names, reviews and ratings. You will also receive less formal offers from drivers who are unverified by us, similar to social media. We will make it clear who is sending you the offer so you will know when you are taking a risk and when you can book with confidence.
There is also an option to send private replies to other travellers so your real name and contact details are only shared with the people you want to communicate with.
The main disadvantage with our website is that you will have to register and create an account although logging in using your Google account is an option.
Q. Are all taxi drivers safe in Sri Lanka?
Unfortunately no. The taxi sharing community is generally composed of budget travellers who are willing to take a higher risk in order to save money. While the vast majority of trips are made safely there is a higher risk to you if you book an older, cheaper vehicle with an unregulated driver. The roads in Sri Lanka are very challenging even for the most skilled, fully rested driver in a well serviced vehicle. Accidents can happen and our main advice is to consider the impact of the 5 or 10 USD you are saving by taking a driver that you are not fully 100% sure about.