Prague mayor goes undercover to expose the great taxi rip-off

An English accent is an expensive thing to have in Prague, as the city's campaigning mayor discovered when he posed as a tourist - and ended up paying six times the normal taxi fare.

An English accent is an expensive thing to have in Prague, as the city's campaigning mayor discovered when he posed as a tourist - and ended up paying six times the normal taxi fare.

Pavel Bem donned a fake beard for the experiment to test claims that Britons, among the city's main visitors, were being routinely ripped off. It didn't take long for him to get a taste of Prague, tourist-style.

"I asked him [a taxi driver] in English to take me to Prague Castle, one of our city's favourite spots for tourists, and was amazed when he went off the wrong way," said Mr Bem. "It's only a two-mile journey, but he took a number of detours and then charged me £18. It should only have cost around three."

The small-time con could prove far more expensive for the driver himself, who now faces a fine of up to £23,000 under a beefed-up penalty system imposed by Mr Bem.

"If this is the first time he has exploited a tourist then he will just face the maximum fine. But if it is proved that he has done the same thing in the past he will lose his licence."

With an average of about 200 flights a week between the UK and the Czech Republic, 500,000 Britons visit Prague every year, and many complain of being ripped off everywhere from exchange agencies to restaurants.

Authorities were quick to recognise the city's potential in the early 90s and spent millions restoring historic sites and re-cobbling the narrow alleyways and lanes immortalised in Franz Kafka's novels.

It remains one of the most popular stag-night destinations for young Brits with pubs catering solely for British parties, as well as being an equally attractive destination for couples on a romantic weekend.

But Britons who have visited Prague often return home complaining about overcharging and "rip-offs". Kiosks also sell tickets for public transport and some foreigners say they have been overcharged for tickets there, but because of language barriers and using a foreign currency they often do not realise until much later.

Others complain that bills in bars and clubs when totalled up afterwards often contain extra items that were not ordered and that waiters and waitresses suddenly lose their ability to speak previously excellent English when questioned by foreigners about what they paid for.

Last year, Prague's taxi drivers made European headlines when the German MP Cornelia Sonntag-Wolgast was charged €15 (£10.50) for a two-mile ride - four times more than she should have been - and when she asked about the price, she was reportedly told: "If you don't like it, take a tram."

Mr Bem took office in the wake of serious flooding in November 2002, vowing to crack down on petty crime. The Mayor said more inspectors would be dispatched, posing as foreign tourists to check on cabbies overcharging. He also advised tourists to always ask about the price of the journey before getting in a taxi and then insist on a receipt.

"Prague's reputation suffers greatly both home and abroad from the fact that there are many fraudulent taxi drivers and hundreds of pickpockets," he said. "There must be zero crime tolerance and a maximum focus on small crime, illegal drug distribution, prostitution, and the operation of erotic clubs that facilitate crime."

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
tech

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again say analysts

News
A Brazilian wandering spider
news

World's most lethal spider found under a bunch of bananas

Life and Style
gaming

I Am Bread could actually a challenging and nuanced title

News
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
tech

Company decides to go for simply scary after criticising other sites for 'creepy and targeted' advertising

Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in the win over QPR
footballInternet reacts to miss shocker for Liverpool striker
News
news

Footage shot by a passerby shows moment an ill man was carried out of his burning home

Voices
Sol Campbell near his home in Chelsea
voices
News
i100
News
Kimi the fox cub
newsBurberry under fire from animal rights group - and their star, Kimi
Sport
Fans of Palmeiras looks dejected during the match between Palmeiras and Santos
footballPalmeiras fan killed trying to 'ambush' bus full of opposition supporters
News
people
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
filmsIt's nearly a wrap on Star Wars: Episode 7, producer reveals
Travel
travel

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

ICT Teacher - NQTs encouraged to apply

£110 - £130 per day + TBC : Randstad Education Reading: ICT Teacher needed up ...

KS2 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: Primary Teaching Job in the Devon We ...

KS1 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: Primary Teaching Job in the Devon We ...

SEN Teaching Assistant

£70 - £75 per day: Randstad Education Group: TA's urgently required. London (S...

Day In a Page

Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

Terry Venables column

Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

Michael Calvin's Inside Word

Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past