When it comes to getting a taxi in Romania, things can work out without a problem or turn out into a scam really fast. In today’s article, I will share with a complete guide to taxis in Romania and how not to overpay.
The first thing I told to one of my non-Romanian friends before he set foot in the country was to be really careful with the taxi he will get from the airport to the hotel. And even though he heard stories about how taxi drivers in Romania are trying to scam you of everything you’ve got and he was prepared, he still had the worst luck ever.
Here’s what happened: just as we’ve discussed, he talked with the taxi driver about the cost of the ride before getting in. They agreed that the ride from the airport to the train station will be 15 Euros, which is still a bit over what you should normally expect to pay if it’s not a lot of traffic… but still wasn’t a rip off, so he hopped in.
When they were halfway there, the driver told him: “You know what, the ride will be 50 Euros, I didn’t do the math right when we first talked.”
My friend said that no, he would not pay that much and that they had agreed on a different amount. The taxi driver said that he misunderstood him, as he told “fifty” not “fifteen”, but that was not true since my friend was prepared for this too and used his fingers to explain the “15” they had agreed on.
A bit of a scandal followed, with my friend threatening to call the police or jumping out of the car. Eventually, they settled for 20 Euros, but you can imagine that the entire thing wasn’t really pleasant – and most people are not prepared for that.
But if you were to go through this, you might have not gotten away with 20 Euros. I know I would’ve caved in eventually and paid more, knowing that I am being scammed.
Because taxi drivers can be very intimidating here, they can get loud and curse a lot and, to put it bluntly: scare you and bully you into paying what they want. But you have to keep your cool and make them understand that you’re not their next victim!
Don’t get me wrong: the big majority of taxi drivers in Romania are honest people who would not even negotiate a larger sum and instead turn on the meter and charge you accordingly (you can ask them an estimate of the price though and they will tell you an amount that’s very close).
Most of the taxi drivers won’t drive you around for tens of minutes just to increase their pay, profiting from the fact that you don’t know the area.
But there are some that do this and since it’s better to be prepared than sorry, here is how to make sure you won’t get scammed by a taxi driver in Romania – and especially Bucharest which seems to be the worst place in the country for getting a taxi:
1. Do a bit of research first: find out what the average price per kilometer is in the city you’re in (right now, in Bucharest the general price is about 1.40 Romanian Leu per kilometer, about $0.35, while in the city where I live it is 1.80 Romanian Leu). Cars should always have the tariff listed on the car and inside, just above the meter machine.
Some taxis will cost a lot more – so make sure that you know that before you enter. A ride can cost double simply because of the rates charged per kilometer!
2. With even more research done, if you don’t know the route you should be taking, always ask the taxi driver how much will it cost to get where you want to. If what he says is close to what you know should cost – or it seems like a decent value, go for it! Taxi drivers will ALWAYS be able to estimate the amount you’ll have to pay – choose another if they say otherwise.
3. Go for the official taxis. Generally, every city has a few big firms that are trustworthy. Stay away of no name taxis as these are those that will scam you.
Use common sense when it comes to this: either search the names of the taxi firms in the city you are in before getting there or just look around a bit to notice the ones that are seen more often. Or ask a local, if nothing else can be done.
Fake taxis and scammers are not employed by a taxi company and usually they drive some crappy looking cars. Also, the Bucharest airport (and probably the other airports in Romania too) has a recommended company they’re working with: they usually charge a bit more per kilometer, though, but still A LOT less than what the “sharks” try to get from you.
Also stay away from people who will come to you, asking if you need a taxi – they usually do this in busy train stations. Never choose them as you will end up paying a lot more. Always go with a taxi company instead!
4. Be extremely careful near airports and train stations. That’s where the taxi drivers know that they’re dealing with tourists and they might try to take more money from you.
If you don’t know anything about the taxi companies in the city or the price you would be supposed to pay, it might be the wisest choice to call and order a cab: this way, you know that it’s an official car and chances of getting scammed drop significantly.
5. If you can’t do any of the above, ALWAYS agree on a price before getting in a taxi. Most honest drivers won’t agree on a price though because they MUST turn on the meter. In that case, see number 2.
Remember: it is illegal in Romania for taxis to negotiate the price of the rides and drive without the meter machine turned on. But despite this, some will still do it – that’s the sad reality, unfortunately.
But if you do agree on a price, make sure that it’s clear (so they won’t end up saying that they meant “fifty” not “fifteen”). And even if they try to change their mind and ask for more, hold your ground and don’t accept that. Threaten to call the police – this will usually be enough to make them stop.
Finally, I have to repeat it: generally, taxi drivers are honest and won’t try to overcharge, scam you or drive around just to increase the costs.
Also, in many cases in the big cities, you might get faster where you want to go by using the public transportation system which is a lot cheaper and you will surely find people who speak English and who are willing to help you find your way – so you do have options, like the taxi alternatives listed below.
Alternatives to taxis in Romania
Ridesharing is very big in Romania. So big that in Bucharest, taxi drivers went on strike and protested against Uber. For a while, they managed to outlaw Uber, but that didn’t last long.
As a result, there are several options for you to use in the larger cities. But make sure you do some research before getting there, if you’re planning to use Uber or anything like that, since in many cities they are not available.
The options you have vary from city to city: as I was saying, Uber is the best known and available in all larger cities. You also have Taxify (the biggest Uber competitor in Romania) or BlackCab which is offers more luxuriant cars.
Now you should know everything there is to be known about taxis on Romania and what to do to prevent getting scammed. You also have alternatives which are safe, but unfortunately not available in all cities at the moment of writing this article.