Few foreigners find themselves on the same career path after coming to Peru. Perhaps Walter is the exception.
After 17 years behind the wheel of big rigs and tractor trailers, he’s still sitting in the driver’s seat. Only this time, instead of fridges and furniture, he’s hauling you. The man who can drive anything puts his money where his mouth is on the vicious streets of Lima Peru with his smart start up: Gringo Taxis.
The name itself is something of an admission. We Gringos are often naïve, uninformed, and blissfully unaware of the dangers that lurk around every corner. A new arrival fresh off the plane likely has no idea of how many ways things can go wrong. Gringo Taxis are here to make sure that, at least until you get home, things go right.
Walter drives like a Gringo, and that’s a good thing.
Walter arrived to my house around 20 minutes before I had to leave. I figured I could use a fresh coffee before my lunch meeting so I hopped into his clean black Kia and we were off. One thing was readily apparent: Walter definitely drives like a Gringo. Respect for rule of law and ample stopping distances were the norm, and the ride was strangely comfortable. Almost unsettling after having spent so many years in Peruvian cabs having my internal organs bumped around and tossed from side to side.
The sweet sound of English, now in a cab. It’s a welcome change of pace. Any long-term resident in Lima knows that the typical taxi conversation is the same 10-minute interview on repeat. Instead of “Do you like the food?” it’s a lively discussion of business in Peru and the ideological differences between the two business cultures.
A new vision for taxi service in Peru
Walter’s knowledge of the taxi industry in Peru is unparalleled. Makes sense to know your competition, but Walter seems to have analyzed it further than most. From his point of view, the system is rife with problems: Picky drivers, inflated “gringo” prices, shoddy vehicles and dangerous driving, just to name a few. Since the inception of Gringo Taxis, Walter has sought to improve service across the board, without forcing you to break the bank.
Unlike other companies that create fee structures with complex zones and sneaky fees, Walter’s model is simple: 4 soles per district. Miraflores is Miraflores, doesn’t matter if you’re almost in Magdalena or across the Via Expresa. He doesn’t even factor in the time it takes to pick you up. As he puts it, “That’s not your ride, it’s not your problem.”
Rides, or “Flights” as Walter calls them, are the goal. He figures with more flights, he’ll always be able to craft the perfect schedule to optimize his margins. It’s a unique way of seeing the taxi business, one with a much more long-term perspective. Rather than rip off a Gringo today, he’d like to see them coming back again and again.
How to reserve your ride with Gringo Taxis
Walter openly flaunts his snappy response time. I sent him a message last night via the number on the Facebook page and got a response within two minutes. Never one to take his hands fully off the wheel, he sent back a few voicenotes. Within a few minutes we had our plans settled.
While the popular apps will let you hail a cab in a few minutes from your phone, Walter’s service depends on planning. And we gringos love our plans. No amount of time in Peruvian society can force us to abandon our meticulously crafted schedules. In that sense, Gringo Taxis is really the perfect complement to the Gringo mentality in Peru.
From the Facebook page you can also find specific rates for other services offered. Up front pricing and honesty are welcome changes to the taxi world.
Why would I use Gringo Taxis?
As someone who has lived in Peru for more than 8 years, I found myself pondering this question in the backseat. I know how to negotiate with cabs, I have plenty of apps on my phone, and I’m experienced (read: been robbed enough) to know how to spot a shady character. So why would I use Gringo Taxis?
Punctuality and precision makes Walter’s company truly stand out. He drove confidently from La Molina to San Isidro, no doubts about the route or the destination, and was at my door early and got me there on time. Same on the way back. Too often I’ve arranged rides only to have them show up late, forget about me entirely, or take some winding route that circumnavigates the globe twice only to save 40 seconds.
Besides that, the conversation in English is a nice change of pace from the tired, stale conversations that I’ve had a thousand times over.
So I definitely think I’ll give Walter another call in the future, and if a seasoned veteran gringo with all his chevrons likes the service, who wouldn’t? Give it a try on your next airport run, cross-town conference, or weekend trip to the in-laws. You won’t be disappointed.