Simon Calder: Cabbies in Europe's capital cities are inclined to cash in
Simon Calder’s career in travel started at Gatwick Airport, where he cleaned aircraft for Laker Airways and later worked as a security officer. He became The Independent’s Travel Correspondent in 1994, and is known as “the Man Who Pays His Way” because he does not accept free travel facilities. He writes across the Independent titles, as well as for the Evening Standard.
Monday 02 July 2012
For any villain intent on self-enrichment, the newly arrived tourist is an excellent prospect. And because taxi drivers are often the first people that you and I encounter in a strange city, they are in a prime position to capitalise. You are naïve about every subject from the city's geography to the regulations about taxi fares. So if a smiling gentlemen informs you that fares are fixed according to destination, and that a six-mile ride will cost €27, you pay up (as I did in Cyprus earlier this summer).
It is unsurprising that taxi drivers in countries previously behind the Iron Curtain perform worst in this and similar surveys. Under communism, taxi drivers in every country from Yugoslavia to Ukraine, used their relative entrepreneurial freedom to act as middle managers of the black economy.
Cabbies in EU capitals are also inclined to cash in. In its guide to Athens, Lonely Planet lists taxi drivers under "Dangers & Annoyances", saying: "Athenian taxi drivers have an awful reputation."
So what is the unsuspecting tourist to do? Ask locals what the price should be, and walk away from cabbies who overcharge. Better still, use public transport until the authorities in the offending countries sort out a sensible regime for taxi regulation, as we enjoy in the UK.
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