The inflated taxi fares has made going to clubs, karaoke bars, and staying out late at night more and more expensive for those without their own private vehicles.
However, the Road Safety and Transport Regulations (RSTA) has not approved the excess nighttime taxi fares.
Section 255 of the Road Safety and Transport Regulations 2021 states that the Authority shall determine and fix taxi fares for short and long-distance operations based on operating costs and seating capacity using the fare computation model prescribed in Schedule-VIII of the Regulations and Section 258 states that the driver or owner of the taxi shall not charge fares in excess of the fares prescribed by the Authority.
RSTA’s website provides the general public with a chance to go through the public service transport section, where bus, taxi, and transfer mileage fares are listed. However, there are taxi drivers who do not adhere to the standard taxi fares during the night.
Priyanka describes how she was double-charged when out late at night. “Usually when I reserve a taxi and travel home to Chubogang during the day, I pay Nu 250 to Nu 300. I pay Nu 500 when I go home late at night.”
Tandin agreed, stating, “Honestly, paying double the reserve amount at night is extremely unpleasant. When I travel to Babesa with the other three passengers, we each pay Nu 50, and I pay Nu 200 to reserve the taxi. When it is late at night, I pay Nu 400, and it is quite inappropriate.”
“We go out only to relieve our work stress; nevertheless, taxi drivers taking advantage of us when we are in need is extremely wrong,” he continued.
A few people, nevertheless, believe that charging additional money, but not twice the rate, is reasonable.
“It’s okay to charge by a few amounts as they need to make ends meet,” said Chandra. “But many taxis are charging by two to three folds, which is excessive.”
The additional cost for using a taxi late at night, he said, “It is a clear indicator of either a lack of stringent enforcement of rules by the RSTA or a violation by the taxis, which both must adhere by the laws.”
“However, it is not double the cost; for instance, a person travelling to Changzamtok during the day pays Nu 120, but during the night, I ask for Nu 200,” said one of the nighttime taxi drivers.
“It’s almost like getting paid over time for doing something,” he remarked.
Similarly, daytime taxi drivers argue that low-income groups do not wander around late at night, refuting the allegations.
“When we pick up passengers at night, there aren’t any to bring back, so we charge more. Another factor is that low-income groups typically stay in during the night. Low-income groups began departing early after we began charging extra beginning at 10 pm, thanks to the availability of city buses,” said Pema.
A taxi driver, Kuenga, said taxis charging extra during the night do so due to mutual understanding between the driver and passengers.
“For example, as a taxi driver, when you are done for the day, but you get a passenger who needs to get to that destination and says he will pay for travel back and forth, you would not stay back right,” he explained.
He continued, “I’m not sure if the RSTA has approved it or not.”
“We charged extra taxi fares as driver charges before anticipating that young people who were out till 11 pm or 12 midnight would go home early around 9 pm. But as it turns out, there are always young people running around,” said Chencho.
Chencho acknowledges that nighttime fares are higher for taxis.
Many taxi drivers believe wealthy individuals roam around, as one has to have money to roam and spend. Taxi drivers agree that the fault is at both ends since the ones who roam are staying up at night and the taxis are charging more for over time.
Meanwhile, an official from RSTA, Ugyen Norbu, said, “Penalty for charging excess fare is payment of Nu 1000 + refund of excess fare collected. There is no different fare for day and nighttime. The fare approved by RSTA is applicable at any given time of the day or night. The taxi operators should comply with the approved fare. The approved fare is available online and people can access it anytime.”
“So far, RSTA has not received any complaint on this,” he added.