On-demand taxi services have recently been gaining popularity in major North Korean cities. The price to summon a taxi by phone is reportedly higher than the base fare for hailing a taxi, but many are happy to pay for the added convenience.
“There is a new service in Sinuiju these days where people can call to summon a taxi at any time of day. Day or night, if you call, a taxi will show up at your location within 10 minutes,” said a Daily NK source from North Pyongan Province on January 3.
Drivers offering the service (now being referred to as “call taxis” or “summonable taxis”) typically take customers short distances within the city on a 1 USD base fare. The service is one of many recent offerings to arrive in cities across North Korea as competition for business continues to create new options.
“The base fare for sedan taxis running short distances in Sinuiju is 3,000 KPW (0.38 USD), but it’s 1 USD for the on-demand service,” the source said. The current unofficial (market) exchange rate in North Korea is 8,000 KPW to 1 USD, making the new service almost three times more expensive.
The client base is nevertheless increasing, with on-demand taxi services gaining ground in another major trade hub, Pyongsong, just north of the capital.
A source in the area told Daily NK that “on-demand taxis first appeared in Pyongsong a few years ago, but now they’re really taking off. Wealthier individuals in the city like to summon a taxi right to their doorstep on special occasions like holidays and birthdays, which then take them to their favorite restaurant, for example.”
However, there are other areas of North Korea without any taxi services at all. New transportation services have followed market growth, exploding in busy trade regions but leaving other quiet parts of the country untouched. This has led to a widening development gap between regions.
Taxi drivers are reportedly promoting their on-demand services by jotting their phone numbers on paper and handing them to customers as they get out of the car.
“Call me anytime!” the drivers say, hoping to expand their business.