As smart a traveler as I sometimes think I am, there are times that I let my guard down. Yesterday was one of those days. I arrived in Bucharest, Romania, four flights and 25 hours after leaving my house. With very little sleep on the planes – maybe 45 minutes total — I wasn’t as sharp mentally as I should have been.
I had everything with me — my backpack, carry-on bag, phone, wallet, passport, etc. I was fine; no issues.
Needing a ride to my hotel in town, I went outside to the taxi stand, take the first taxi I see (I was being beckoned by several drivers). I showed him the hotel name and address, and asked him if he knew where that was. He said he did; he put my bag in the trunk; I got in. It was a hot day, close to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. He raised the windows, turned on the air conditioning, and off we went.
After about 15 minutes, I asked him, “How do I know how much to pay? Is is a set price, a meter, or what?”
“A meter,” he replied as he lifted a meter from the dash. I hadn’t seen it because it was obscured by the large video screen, and I couldn’t read the display because of the sun’s glare. We arrived at the hotel, he lifted the meter again, and read the number. I thought it was high, but what was I going to do? My bag was in the locked trunk, meaning I had no choice but to pay him.
Later that evening I asked another person who’d come in from the airport, but had used an Uber driver. Her price — most likely an accurate reflection of the real price to get downtown — was only slightly lower than mine.
At first, I thought that I’d been cheated — maybe the meter had not been reset to zero or he added more, etc. After hearing of her rice, I felt better. But it told me to be more cautious.
- TIP: When booking a ride, particularly in a taxi — you typically know your price ahead of time with a ride sharing service — do the following:
- Ask how the price is determined
- If using a meter, see that it is zeroed out (unless there is a special charge — after hours; airport pickup, etc.
- Ask to have the meter in plain view so you can see it
- If the price still seems high at the end, ask for a pried receipt that includes the taxi company, the car number, and time
The key is to be smart; know your options, and only get into a vehicle where you feel safe!
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Stuart Gustafson, America’s International Travel Expert®