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No matter how dedicated you are to walking and public transport, when you are traveling in a foreign city sometimes 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. In order to help you avoid a bad travel tale, we’ve put together a list of the most common taxi scams in Italy and how to avoid them. The good news is that there’s a 99% chance that you WON’T ever need this information. Regardless of what you might have heard, most Italian cab drivers are professional, friendly, and honest. These tips are for the other one percent and if you keep them in mind we guarantee you’ll never pay too much on your cab fare.
(If you prefer to be behind the wheel yourself, our blog about how to drive in Italy is compulsory reading.)
- 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 – some extra charges are legit. 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.