Paying for taxi in KPW 'defies common sense'

Seol Song Ah  |  2015-11-18 15:20
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As the number of people using taxis in North Koreas capital grows, the depreciating value of the Korean Peoples Won (KPW) has led taxi drivers to include a sizable add on fee to those paying for rides in local currency. 

Drivers prefer customers who pay in dollars and yuan to cut out the hassle of exchanging domestic currency into a foreign, more readily utilized, tender. A source from Pyongyang speaking to us from South Pyongan Province told Daily NK on November 17th, In Pyongyang, if you pay the driver in foreign currency the cost of the ride is normal, but if you pay in won you can expect to get slapped with a fee of 5000 KPW. 

She added, As foreign currency is becoming the standard medium of currency used in markets, drivers are charging extra for the time it takes them to exchange KPW. 

Daily NK crosschecked this information with an additional source in the capital. 

As the general standard of living in Pyongyang rises, the number of people using taxis rather than the subway is also growing. This is particularly the case for destinations more than 10km away. The average taxi fee for a distance of more than 10km is 5 USD; the base fare of taxis is 2 USD for the first four kilometers, and an additional 0.50 USD per kilometer after that. 

In fact, it is so common for people to pay in foreign currency that the taxi fares are listed in dollars, and people who pay in local currency are looked down upon with disdain. Many taxi drivers will even go so far as to refuse payments of local currency, saying that the act "defies common sense."

Taxi drivers have to use dollars to fill up their tanks with gas, so if they accept local currency as payment they have to deal with the hassle of calculating the exchange rate, which changes frequently, and the additional trouble of actually exchanging it for foreign currency, she noted. 

Although there is no rule stating that taxi fares must be paid in foreign currency, it is a natural consequence of the depreciating won for taxi drivers to use dollars as the standard instead, and to prefer foreign currency over the KPW. Because most citizens in Pyongyang are also aware of the situation, making sure they have dollars ready to pay the driver before getting into a taxi is second nature, according to the source. 

*Translated by Natalie Grant

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