Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Welcome to Praha - beware of taxi drivers!

Before leaving our own fair shores, we bought a guide book for each of the cities we were to visit.  During our train ride to Prague, I took the opportunity to read up on what Prague had to offer.  Our plan was to catch a taxi from the station to our hotel so I took particular note of any comments pertaining to cabs.  Apparently Prague is notorious for taxi scams and cons.  The book warned the reader to NEVER get into a cab that is unmarked - to always take one that has a yellow sign on its roof declaring taxi and with advertised rates on the door.  It also said to never go with a fixed price, to always insist on a fare meter.
Someone must have been looking down on us - because this advice was invaluable.  As it turned out, a very elderly Czech gentleman took us in hand on the platform and guided us to the lift to get down to the exit.  He then saw us again wandering around aimlessly and asked how we were getting to our hotel.  He then showed us the way out towards the taxis - all the while warning Daddy about the taxi drivers.  He escorted us out to the many waiting cabs and spoke vehemently in Czech to those drivers assembled, warning them off.
The first driver walked us to his car whereupon he starts to brandish this laminated card with prices to various places.  To the city centre (Old Town) he quoted us 980 Czech crowns.  This equates to about $60 AUD for a 5 minute trip. For someone who didn't speak English, he very quickly ascertained what I meant when I said, 'No way, I want a taxi with a meter.'
'OK, 900 then.'  Backwards and forwards we went, with me not backing down.  Finally at 450 (his best offer, apparently) he relented and found us someone with a meter.  I was hoping I hadn't made things worse by standing firm, as to me they all looked as dodgy as each other!
We were then ushered to another cab driver who assures me he has a meter.  We get in and I insist on seeing it.  'Here, meter, here, meter,' the driver assures me vaguely pointing at the dash.  Somehow I am not convinced.  'Show me the meter.  I want to see the meter now!' Reluctantly he pulls out a meter to show me.  But just as quickly, it is put back again.  I watch him in the rear vision mirror and it appears that he is nervously glancing at me.  I watch his every move, only to see him suspiciously and sneakily pressing a button in the vicinity of the meter.  Time will tell what he charges us, but he will be in for one hell of a fight if he tries it on as well!  I think he must have decided it wasn't worth taking me on in the end as he ended up charging us even less again.  We have since seen cab ranks that are government endorsed, guaranteeing a fair price.  Pity they didn’t have one of those at the station!
We didn't bother tipping him!

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