Standing alone in the scorching heat and unbearable humidity, the expatriate lady was unable to get a Karwa Taxi even after a long wait. Then, an old car stopped near her. The driver offered to drive her to her destination for only QR15. Reluctantly she got into the car. Many people are facing the same choices on the streets having to make do with these unofficial taxis - having run out of time and patience.
The number of motorists using their cars as unauthorised and unlicensed taxis in Doha is on the rise. Their services are also at times needed by the passengers around the city because Karwa taxis are not sometimes available at the right time and place.
An expatriate driver who uses his car as an illegal taxi said: “I do this business in my free time. After work I go around and find some customers that I can trust. I usually negotiate the price and it gives me a good extra income.”
Another said that he works as a labourer at an independent school and in the afternoons, he goes a round with his car especially in popular spots. Sometimes he even gets acquainted with some of his customers and they call him to drive them around at reduced rates.
A luxury car stopped for a passenger and offered to give him a ride for a small sum, and the driver turned out to be exploiting the car of his sponsor, making a small packet while his employer is away.” I get a small salary and my sponsor is in Germany now, I use this time to make some extra money before he comes back,” he said justifying his action.
Some of those admitted that it is a risky business because they operate illegally. However, as they engage more in the business, they learn how to avoid being spotted or caught by the police. They also get a feel on how to spot the potential passenger.
An expatriate woman who has to use such taxis at times said: “I use their services very cautiously, and only if I can’t get a Karwa taxi. I am afraid to get into a car with a stranger so I use the back seat and make sure that I do not start conversations with the driver till I get to my destination.”
Such drivers are regularly found by driving schools, shopping malls, Corniche Street, Grand Hamad Street and popular entertainment areas. Some do it for extra income as part time jobs but others do it as their only means of a living.
An expatriate said he was working as a pneumatic drill operator with a big construction company, but was severely injured in a work accident and has not been able to resume work. He has managed to some how stay in the country. Physically unfit for the only job he is qualified for, he is using his car as a taxi. “This is an easy job for me now. I am my own employer and I make enough money,” he pointed out.
Another expatriate upholster who used to have a lucrative business in curtains and drapes, but unfortunately his old shop had to be pulled down, is also using his car as a taxi. “I cannot afford to rent a new shop in a good area, it is very expensive and I have few other options for the time being.”
While some passengers have their reservations and fears in using such taxis especially women, others indicated that it is sometimes cheaper than regular taxis.
They can negotiate the fare for the trip and get around at reasonable rates. Yet, most people felt it was a nuisance and if there are enough official taxis on the road with reasonable prices, they would never use the services of such people.
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