When it comes to getting around Italian cities, we always prefer walking or public transport to taxis. Sometimes, though, you just have to cab it.
But while it seems like the easiest option, taking a taxi can also be the easiest way… to get stung. Don’t be one of those tourists who winds up victim of the super-expensive taxi ride!
(A note: Most cab drivers are professional, friendly, and honest. Even if you didn’t follow all of the below advice, you’d probably be fine. But we’ve heard one too many stories of the €40 ride that should have been €10 to not share these tips with you!).
Want to minimize your chance of being, um, taken advantage of? Don’t be paranoid. Just keep these pointers in mind.
- If you can, get a taxi from an official taxi rank. It lowers the chance that you’ll wind up in unregistered taxis, which are notorious for not playing by the rules.
- Calling a cab for a pickup? Know what to expect: The cab will be a registered taxi (or should be!), which is great. But it’ll arrive with a few euros already on the meter. That’s not because the driver’s cheating you. It’s because, in Italy, drivers start the meter from the moment they get the call… no matter where they are.
- Try to have small change on you. Don’t get in a cab with just a €50 bill, and the more coins you have on you, the better. Cab drivers should, but don’t always, have lots of bills and coins to create change with. And sometimes, they use the “I have no change” routine as a way to pocket the extra.
- Don’t take a ride from a driver who approaches you. In general, if someone is hawking a cab, they’re trying to take advantage.
- A negotiated flat rate… is usually an elevated rate. Unless you know the city very well, you’re not going to come out ahead. Plus, generally speaking, legitimate taxi drivers won’t try to set a rate with you in advance, unless it’s for a long distance. (And popular long trips, like from Rome’s center to one of the airports, have rates that are pre-set by the city — so those shouldn’t be open to negotiation anyway!)
- Make sure the meter’s running. The driver says it’s “broken”? Ask him to let you out of the car. Ninety-nine percent of the time, the “broken meter” is a ploy to take you for a ride, in more ways than one.
- Know your destination address… in Italian! Rome is a confusing city, and not every driver knows every hotel or restaurant. Have the address, too. To be on the safe side, write it down. In Italian.
- And make sure you’re specific. If you say “Vatican,” your driver could drop you anywhere around the small country — if you want, say, the Vatican museum entrance, you have to say it! Ditto, in Rome, for “Borghese” (which could mean the large public park… or the Borghese museum).
- Know about how much your fare should cost, but don’t be too paranoid. There could be extra charges. In Rome, for example, a taxi fare within the city starts at €2.80 from 7am-10pm… but on Sundays at the same time, at €4, and at night, from €5.80! And if you’re leaving from Termini, there’s a €2 surcharge, plus there’s a €1 charge per piece of luggage that has to go in the trunk. So unless it’s really two or three times what you’d expect to pay, err on giving the driver the benefit of the doubt… as long as you’ve picked a legitimate driver. (And you have, right?)
- Feel like you’re getting the “scenic route”? Don’t panic. Yes, the driver might be taking advantage of you. But many streets in Italy’s cities also are one-way and winding, meaning it’s hardly ever possible to take a route that feels direct.
- A small tip’s okay, but not necessary. Italians don’t tip taxi drivers like Americans do — at most, they’ll round “up”, like telling the driver to keep the change when they hand over €10 for a €9.50 fare. But if the driver gives you help, like with your bags, consider tipping €1 or €2.