HK Magazine Tablet App for iPad and Android

What’s up with the cab drivers with the multiple phones on the dashboard?

By Mr. Know-It-All | Oct 03, 2013

Share this article
  • What’s up with the cab drivers with the multiple phones on the dashboard?

Dear Mr. Know-It-All,
Sometimes I get into a taxi and it’s like I’ve entered some kind of airplane cockpit. What’s up with the cab drivers with the multiple phones on the dashboard? — Taxi tales


Taxis with the high-tech communications array are known as baht zeet dic si, 20-percent-discount taxis. They’re syndicates of roving taxi drivers, who operate a complex network of not-entirely-legal discount taxi services.

Here’s how it works: you’re after a long-distance (over $50) taxi ride. You call a conveniently provided number, and a taxi driver picks up your call. With his array of phones he broadcasts your location throughout his network, percolating the news from cab to cab. The word spreads. The message is out. 15 phone calls and five minutes later, a driver arrives to pick you up—and he knocks 20 percent off the meter price.

These men are known to taxi drivers as “car kings,” and if you get into a cab with one of them he’ll be taking orders and spreading the word for your entire journey. They’re hugely in demand: good luck finding one at the 5pm shift change. Some passengers ask for a receipt and claim the difference and Hong Kong trundles happily, though not entirely legally, onwards.

The discount taxi movement began in the early 2000s, as the financial downturns, SARS and then pretty much everything else hit Hong Kong hard. Taxi drivers saw their profits declining and hit on a solution: discounts. By clubbing together they could guarantee that everyone got extra work, and all they had to do was buy a few more phones.

As this is the startup issue, here’s a startup taxi app that could be handy for non-Cantonese speakers: Taxiwise. You book your taxi through the app, and they translate it into Chinese for you: no TALKING SLOWLY AND LOUDLY AND STILL IN ENGLISH necessary. The app is in beta now, and about to launch on iPhone and Android.

And what, you ask, about all the bobbleheads? That’s a whole other question, for a whole other time…


Mr. Know-It-All answers your questions and quells your urban concerns. Send queries, troubles or problems to mrkia@hkmagmedia.com.

Related Articles

Hong Kong Taxi Culture
Dear Mr Know-It-All, Despite having lived in Hong Kong almost all my life, I’ve never figured out why the different colors of taxis exist. I suspect they started back in the day when there were practical reasons to allow/restrict taxis from…
I want to know if you can recommend a good camera course for a beginner
Dear Mr. Know-It-All, I want to know if you can recommend a good camera course for a beginner. I recently bought my son a very good DSLR camera and have noted that there are a lot of advertisements on the net,…
Which bar has $20-Standard-Chartered-banknote happy hour?
Dear Mr. Know-It-All, Do you know which bars do the Standard Chartered banknotes happy hours? As in, if you pay for a drink with their banknotes, you get a discount. - Happy Hour Hunter The deal you’re talking about is offered at Devil’s…
Are there any carpooling websites in Hong Kong?
Dear Mr. Know-It-All, I’ve just moved back here from Germany. Carpooling there is very common and effective. Are there any carpooling websites in Hong Kong? – Sharing Is Caring If you really miss carpooling so much, you should probably waterproof your car and…
What on earth is going on with all these typhoon warning signals?
Dear Mr. Know-It-All, OK, what on earth is going on with all these typhoon warning signals? How come we’re leaping from signal 3 to 8? What the heck happened to signals 2, 4, and 5? — Number Wonder It wasn’t always signal…
HK Magazine Vintage Covers
HK Umbrella