6 Problems Faced by Taxi Drivers in Saudi Arabia

The other day, my taxi driver was telling us about the problems, not just him but other taxi drivers have to go through. I was keen to listen to his stories because I thought they would be fun and interesting but that is not true. The stories were a real disappointment to hear and after this, I have just started to feel bad for these drivers and I hope they don’t have to go through all of this again. The stories were all about passengers who are fishy and are most likely to cause harm and trouble to the drivers. Below are some of the things he has witnessed:[irp]

Passengers who have drugs with them: Our taxi driver told us how there are dealers who specifically deal in harmful and illegal drugs and they use these everyday taxis to transport them here and there. They can’t say no to such dealers because that would mean causing harm to them as the dealers could do anything. The dealers are frank about carrying drugs and pretend to be relaxed as if nothing suspicious is being carried with them so no one suspects them during a casual car search. It makes the drivers tensed because if someone gets to know, they would accuse the driver of being involved as well.

Having an Iqama by the Passenger: Our driver was once stopped by an officer because the passenger in his taxi didn’t have an Iqama. He himself had an Iqama, but the passenger didn’t, so the officer at the checking mark decided to stop and blame HIM for that. Sounds absurd, doesn’t it? Yeah, I think so too. The officer held back the passenger and driver for a while to interrogate. The officer kept arguing with the driver and concluded that he MUST check if the passenger has an Iqama or not.

Shady guys: There are guys who sell booze and tend to leave bags full of cash in the hood of the taxi. It makes the drivers doubtful about this act and upon our driver questioning that one guy; he said how it’s none of his business. My driver said how extremely worried he was because if anyone saw a bag full of cash in HIS taxi, he would be in trouble!

Special numbers as the car plate: Our driver told us how some numbers for the license plates are said to be special in Saudi as they have numbers like triple zeros or some other unique number. It is said that these numbers are kept safe for noble and highly important people only. So, if any taxi mistakenly receives a special number means he would be stopped very often by the officers and then questioned like crazy. It’s stupid, in my opinion!

Daily Rent of Taxi: Almost all taxi drivers have to pay around SR 160 per day as rent of the taxi they are driving. They have to pay this rent even if they don’t get a passenger someday. The taxi driver told us that this fixed cost is a huge amount for him. They also have to take care of the petrol expenses. Maintenance of vehicle is the responsibility of the owner of the vehicle so they don’t have to worry about it.

Iqama Renewal: Our taxi driver told us that cost of iqama and iqama renewal is also his responsibility i.e. SR 5,000 a year. They have to save some money every month so that they can pay for their iqama renewal fee. Moreover, the cost of exit re-entry visa, as well as cost of air ticket, is also their responsibility. It is not covered by their contract. It is important to mention here that this is a violation of the Saudi Labor Law. Recommended: Rights of Employees under Saudi Labor Law

So basically, it’s very stressful for drivers to keep a check on their passengers all the time and if they don’t, they have to face the unfair consequences because even if they are not doing anything wrong, they will be blamed if the passengers in their taxi are involved in wrong doings. I felt really bad after listening to all of this and my mood swings had hit the sad side. I just hope the drivers never have to go through something as tensed like this.

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Steve has been living in Saudi Arabia since 2013 and writing about Saudi rules, regulations, guides, and procedures since then.