Bucharest city tales: How to avoid the ‘bad’ taxis

Columnist Eleonore af Schaumburg-Lippe writes in her weekly column about life as an expat in Romania. This time she writes about the taxis in Bucharest, and how to avoid the “bad” taxis.

Taxi drivers in Bucharest, either you hate them or love them. Well, love is probably too strong a word to use, but for sure after a while you will have an opinion about the taxis and the taxi drivers in Bucharest. Taxis are cheap in Bucharest compared to other European capitals and usually I don’t have any problems with them. But sometimes things happen.

Usually the problem is not the price or the unexpected sightseeing tour , it is more the unfairness, and the fact that if going to a meeting, there just isn’t time to see People’s Palace four times in a row.

Therefore, I decided to provide a taxi guide for expats here in Bucharest.

1) I truly recommend calling for a taxi or using one of the mobile applications to get one. The taxis that have caused me the most trouble have always been the ones I stopped on the street.

2) Avoid the taxis around hotels, Otopeni, Baneasa Mall, the entrances to Lipscani, or some touristic places and go a bit further away, if you can’t get through on the phone and have to get a taxi.

3) The rule is always to look at the side of the taxi to see the price, which should be RON 1.39 but sometimes the taxi drivers can be tricky and have the door open, or the price can be covered in some way, so you can’t see it. If it’s late in the evening when you can be a bit tired, then you don’t notice, but try and be alert, as you can be up for quite a ride, both in time and price.

4) A new thing I have experienced is getting into a taxi where the price on the side is RON 1.39 and all seems okay, but suddenly I realize that the meter is not on. Ask the taxi driver to put the meter on, or better still, just get out, because for sure he is either going to tell you, it doesn’t work, or do the “monkey”, which is a term for pressing a button so the kilometer price goes up, or tell you what price he finds reasonable that you should pay, which of course it never is.

5) Try to find a taxi from a company that you know, there are different choices, so you can use others, but I usually go with Meridian, Taxi 2000 or Taxi AS. If I don’t know the name at all, I usually don’t take it.

6) Try before to google the address, before you enter the taxi, so you have an idea where you are going or maybe more important in what direction you are going. I have experienced more than once getting the “test question”. The driver will simply ask you if where you are going is near a certain street, and if you don’t know the street, he will give you a sightseeing tour. If you pretend you know the street, he will.. yes that’s right, also give you a sightseeing tour, as the street is often nowhere near where you are going, it’s just to test if you know your way around.

7) Have small bills on you like RON 10, 5 and 1  notes, as only having RON 50 or 100, will get the answer from the taxi driver that he doesn’t have any money for change.

8) If you enter a taxi with another expat friend and speak in your own language, suddenly you will notice, especially if you are having a good talk, that the taxi driver is taking some different streets than those you are used to. Solutions include not speaking your native language, or if you do, switching to English or Romanian and telling the taxi driver that you are aware of the little detour on which he is taking you.

9) You can actually call the police on 112, if you feel you are being tricked. I have tried it once, when the taxi driver asked for a quite high amount and hadn’t put the meter on. The police came, but the result was not what I had hoped for, we were told to pay what we thought reasonable to pay and the taxi driver’s information was noted. However, the policemen told us, that nothing would happen to taxi driver, but that we were welcome to call again another time.

10) My own personal record is spending 45 minutes in a taxi, going from Bulevardul Balcescu to an address that at the time I did not know. I just went in a taxi on the street with the address on a piece of paper, having no idea where I was going. The problem was I had to be there in 15 minutes. It turned out in the end that I was going to a street near Arc de Triomphe, so the trip should have been around 15 minutes maximum, as it was a Saturday. But what a journey I was on, I saw parts of Bucharest I had never seen before, and probably never will again. I was tricked but what a sightseeing tour I went, so tricky taxi drivers can also be a benefit on some occasions.

By Eleonore af Schaumburg-Lippe, columnist

Eleonore is Danish, she holds a BA in Organization and Management and specializes in Corporate Communication & Strategic Development. She is also a Market Economist and a Multimedia Designer. She is currently working in Bucharest as the Executive Director of UAPR the Romanian Advertising Association. As a Danish Viking in Romania, with a great passion for ’covrigi’, she has a burning desire to find out more about Romania especially Bucharest, and enlighten the small differences in the culture between Denmark and Romania.. Her weekly columns will give you insights into an expats life in Bucharest written with humor and a big Danish smile.

(photo source: Romania-Insider.com/Corina Chirileasa)