Cool, private or Premier? Our crash course in Mumbai cabs

Cool, private or Premier? Our crash course in Mumbai cabs

From chick-friendly to cult classic, our taxi guide has everything. Except, that is, a solution to the city's traffic chaos
Mumbai black and yellow cabs
Premier, the makers of the Padmini cabs, discontinued the line in 2000; last year the Mumbai High Court ruled Padminis over 25 years of age off the roads but the drivers petitioned and the kaali peeli rattles on.

We've never been more spoiled for choice when it comes to cabbing it -- with the sealink and this guide, life just got a lot less bumpy.

First up, unlike auto rickshaws which are uniform and restricted to the suburbs, Mumbai's cabs go anywhere, so you'd better know how to pick them.

From newest to oldest, private to public, here is the good oil on the city's taxis.

Mumbai CabsMeru Cabs

Private cabs

New players to Mumbai’s streets, these cabs are fast gaining ground in the battle for supremacy. Run by private companies, they're clean, prompt(ish), safe (track-able on GPS) and a superb value.

To book a cab, you must call and give them your pick-up address. Half an hour to your pick up time they will send you a text with the driver’s details and the cab number. Call way in advance though; they're rarely available on short notice.

Or try a fleet of pink cabs called Priyadarshini (+91 9820221107) driven by women. Chick-friendly, obvs.

Fare structure:

Pick up fare = Rs 15, with every subsequent km = Rs 13.

  • These taxis use tamper-proof electronic fare meters and give you a receipt on payment.
  • Night charge (1:00-5:00am): 25 percent on top of your fare.

Summary: Clean, prompt(ish), safe (track-able on GPS) and superb value for money, Private cabs make driving on Mumbai's roads almost pleasurable.

Mumbai CabsA Cool Cab

Cool cabs

So called for being air-conditioned and easy to identify by their bright blue hue, cool cabs have long been the best (and only) alternative to the old black and yellow cabs in the city.

But now with the influx of new black and yellows and private cabs, Cool Cab patrons are steadily dwindling. Rude drivers, faulty meters and sparse availability have commuters opting for the alternatives.

Fare structure:

Flag down base fare = Rs 16.50.

  • The fare is a combination of distance and time and averages 40 percent more than black and yellow cabs.
  • Night charge (1:00-5:00am) is 25 percent on top of fare.

Summary: The newer private taxis cruise pass the Cool Cabs in service and price.

Mumbai CabsPremier Padminis

Old black + yellow cabs

In keeping with their 30-plus age, the Premier Padminis are:

  • Hard to get in/out of. Doors open only so wide, people only so thin.
  • Upholstered for max heat in summer/mustiness in monsoons.
  • So hot on the cab floor that you may have to raise your feet.
  • The same when it rains.
  • Sluggish up hills, often croaking mid-slope, forcing you to get out.
  • Not air-conditioned.

Yet, they:

  • Are everywhere.
  • Almost never refuse a fare.
  • Are slow and, therefore, feel safer. Speed limits never exceed 50 km/h
  • Allow smoking, but the ashtray can come off in your hand.

New black + yellow cabs

Sensing the demise of the Premier Padminis, a new mismatched fleet of black-and-yellow cabs has taken the streets.

  • They're harder to find, so if you find one, we suggest you take it.
  • Mostly hatchbacks, they rate a lot higher on the comfort meter.
  • Factory-equipped with air conditioners. Most drivers are open to switching it on for additional money above the fare, though they're not licensed to do so.

Fare structure:

Flag down base fare = Rs.14 + Rs 9 for each subsequent kilometer.

  • All taxi’s use a meter. Not all of them work properly, but...
  • Every driver carries a card listing the correct fare corresponding to the meter reading.
  • The new cabs have an electronic meter that tells you the total fare.
  • Night charge (1:00-5:00am) is 25 percent on top of your fare.

Summary: If it’s black and yellow, the fare's the same regardless of the body, so choose a newer hatchback for comfort.