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Franco Cheung taxi driver
Photo by: CS

Things you only know if you’re a Hong Kong taxi driver

...according to Franco Cheung, 32

Cara Hung
Written by
Olivia Lai
Cara Hung

Ever thought of what’s life like as a taxi driver in Hong Kong? We chat with Franco Cheung about little known facts about the occupation and a few secrets of the trade.

It’s difficult to become a taxi driver 
“In Hong Kong, you need to carry a private-car driving license for at least three years before you can apply and take the test for a taxi license. The test itself consists of three sections: a multiple-choice section on housing estates, 20 questions on taxi rules, and 100 questions on traffic regulations. You need to have a comprehensive knowledge of more than 600 areas. Once you get the license, you’re like a tenant of the vehicle and you’ll have to put down a deposit (around 10k) and pay regular rent.”

We pick passengers based on their clothes
“If you don’t have any passengers, surely you’ll pick up anyone who waves for a taxi, right? Actually, if there are several people hailing at the same time, we act like Sherlock Holmes
and guess where they are going based on their outfits. It’s not 100 percent accurate but it does work occasionally. For instance, someone with a suitcase is usually a tourist while a person in a suit from Sheung Wan and Central is more likely to go somewhere nearby, like Robinson Road 
or the Airport Express. Sometimes though, you might assume it’s going to be a short journey because the passenger is in their home wear but it could turn out to be the complete opposite. I’ve had passengers who live in Ma On Shan go to Sha Tin or Mong Kok for groceries.”

We’ve seen it all
“I’ve encountered many different passengers, especially during my night shifts. I once had a female passenger who tried to take her clothes off while asking me if she’s pretty. I’ve also observed different minorities, including a same-sex couple who were more comfortable with each other in the car than in public. Another memorable passenger was a mother from Central who asked to be driven around Chai Wan so she could breast pump in the backseat because she was discouraged to do so at work.”

The most difficult passengers are drunk
“I also find pretty girls to be more troublesome so I try to avoid picking them up. They tend to have a lot of demands, like asking to be dropped off at places where cars can’t stop. Passengers with pets can be annoying too so it’s reasonable to have that additional charge.’”

Passengers have left behind some bizarre items
“Once, a passenger had completely forgotten that they’d placed a stroller in the trunk and left without taking it. Even I’d forgotten about it too. Another time, I found some underwear and stocking, and the underwear didn’t look new either. There was also an iPhone with no password protection – it’s hard to believe there’s someone in this day and age who doesn’t lock their phone. I once also opened up an old and ratty reusable bag to discover a stack of Renminbi inside it.”

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