The streets of Calcutta (now, officially Kolkata) always seem to be in a state of traffic gridlock. Most sidewalks are lined with vendors and pedestrians are forced to share the roads with trolleys, buses, rickshaws, and the iconic yellow taxicabs. Getting around town by taxi is certainly the most efficient, but it is also the most expensive and thus unaffordable by most of Calcutta’s residents. The taxis are independently owned and so numerous that it usually only takes a moment or two to flag one down. In the typical Indian way, the driver may or may not agree to take you to your desired destination. If he agrees, it is then decided if the trip will be on the meter, which would be the most economical, or off the meter which then requires the fare to be negotiated. If the negotiation is not successful, the driver simply leaves you standing there to start the process over again.
Click for The Ubiquitous Yellow Taxis of Calcutta photo gallery.
The taxis are the Hindustan Ambassador, or Amby, and are manufactured near Calcutta. The design is based on the Morris Oxford, originally made by the Morris Motor Company in the United Kingdom, and has changed very little over fifty years. They are the perfect size and shape for Calcutta’s traffic, but are small and cramped, at least for Westerners, and the air conditioning never seems to work.