My Adventures with the Airport Taxis in Livingstone, Zambia

Where is Uber/Lyft/app rideshare when you need them?

I arrived in the Livingstone airport in Zambia without a planned pick up. The moment I walked out, I was fed to the wolves taxi drivers, who could smell a lamb to the slaughter. The trip from the airport to downtown is about 6 km/4 miles. I knew that $20 was not a fair price. It didn’t help that seeing a solo Asian female traveling, the pack of taxi drivers decided to start pawing at me (they were trying to grab my bags), insisting it was a fair price. Intimidated, I retreated from them, and retreated into the safety of the airport terminal.

This was a bad time for Google’s ProjectFi not to function. I was trying to get it to load a map of Livingstone, because I decided that I’d rather walk the 6km, than get ripped off.

Protip 1: If you travel with a lot of suitcases, it significantly reduces your bargaining power. I had a 28L backpack, and when I told the taxi drivers I’d rather walk than pay them $20, I meant it.

Eventually, one of the drivers broke from the pack, walked into the airport terminal, and agreed to my price of $15 ($10 is probably closer to the truth).

Protip 2: If you don’t want to get rip off massively (like 10x), do a search on Tripadvisor/Wikitravel or other travel forums before going to a place. You’re doing other travelers a disservice when you agree to ridiculous prices. I knew I was offering a more-than-fair price at $15 from research

My return trip was a lot cheaper, but no less eventful. Instead of taking an overpriced hotel taxi, I decided to flag a cab on the road. The official taxis in Livingstone are blue in color, and have red license plates. I was willing to pay up to $10 for the trip, but the first guy I got gave me a price of $8, which I agreed to immediately.

The cab was in quite a condition. The handles were gone, the radio was gone. Basically, it just had all the bare essentials for the car to continue functioning.

Cab condition aside, that’s when the adventure began. I asked to be taken to the airport, which I assumed was simple enough. That’s where communication broke down. Apparently, instead of airport, he heard air force. So, we pulled into the Air Force Base.

I started flapping my arms, indicating I was trying to get on an airplane. And that’s when he pointed at this decorative plane outside the Air Force Base which looked like something the Wright Brothers would have flown, and he flapped his arms back at me. Yikes

I asked him to give me a few moments while I tried to search where we were in relation to the airport (I knew we weren’t far). Thankfully, at this moment, someone from the Air Base walked out, told the cab driver that he had gone to the wrong place, and pointed him in the right direction (it was 3 mins away by car)

Travel always gives me a new story.

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