Thursday, 8 March 2012

ITTP TEFL Prague: 6 Prague taxi tips you can't ignore if you want a fair price and stress-free ride

It used to seem to me that all cab/taxi drivers in the world went to the same training school - somewhere horrifically hot and humid which intensified their learning curve - where they camped out in their cars at night and learnt the dirty tricks of the trade during the day, and that when they died they all went directly to the hard shoulder fast lane of their little slice of hell - presumably a taxi sign lit hell where past clients took to the wheel and wreaked revenge at extortionate prices. Extortionate even for hell. 

This opinion stemmed mainly from countless trips to under-developed and developing countries, such as Bolivia, Egypt and India, where taxi drivers traditionally tend to take on the role of shark and we travelers and tourists tend to assume the automatic role of bait.

In Prague, capital of technically a developing country ("developing" but Prague is by far developed and statistically one of the wealthier cities in Europe today), it is unfortunate that it too has it's fair share of sharks on the road. However, follow these instructions on how to hail a cab/taxi in the city of a thousand golden spires and a potential rip-off ride can easily be avoided and turned on it's head into the convenient and semi-affordable experience that it should be.

1. Which taxi?
This is the most important decision you need to make. Which one to choose?
Firstly, the vast majority of taxis in Prague are yellow. There are official taxis, which belong to a reputable registered company, and there are disreputable taxi drivers. The disreputable taxis in most examples belong to some guy who wakes up in the morning (or afternoon), goes outside, sticks his TAXI sign on his private car, and goes out onto the streets hoping to pick up a sucker.

There are a few reputable taxi companies in Prague but at ITTP TEFL Prague we have a long history of excellent customer experience with the services of AAA Radio Taxis. This recommendation not only comes from ITTP but also from all of our Clients who come to Prague and take advantage of their ITTP complimentary AAA taxi airport pickup, and who then use AAA taxis throughout their stay in Prague. We have been using AAA taxis for the past 17 years and have never had a bad ride. The only negative I would write is that some of their drivers who ply the airport route and the long seemingly endless Evropska Road do tend to drive like getaway bank robbers fleeing the scene. If your driver is driving too fast then you are well within your rights to request that he slow down. Incidentally, I have never seen a female taxi driver in Prague.

AAA Radio Taxi parked at a FAIR PLACE taxi rank close to the Prague Old Town Square

2. How to catch a taxi?
There are a few possibilities to catch a AAA taxi:

> The absolute cheapest way and safest way to catch a taxi is to either order online ( or call the AAA hotline: 222333222. When you call this number you will have the option of being put through to an English-speaking operator who will ask you to confirm your phone number and name, who will ask you where you are leaving from and arriving to, and who will then ask you to hold on for a few seconds until a voice comes on confirming how long it will take the taxi to arrive and the number of the taxi. When you get into the taxi you will need to confirm your name with the taxi driver. This is the cheapest option and most secure because you know 100% that you are in the correct taxi from the correct taxi company, and also there is a documented record of your journey in case of the (extremely rare) possibility that you need to complain about your ride. It is also possible to book your ride through sms via their website.
Please note though that it is not possible to book a taxi in this way from Prague airport but at the airport there are taxi booths where you can book your taxi and where a AAA rep will then take you to your waiting AAA taxi car and please refer to my Arrival To Prague Ruzyne Airport blog post for more details regarding this:
Thank you.

> The next best way to catch a AAA taxi is to find a AAA taxi rank. In the center of Prague, close to the main Tourist spots, AAA taxis have FAIR PLACE stands where you can usually find a whole string of AAA cars waiting in line. This option is more expensive than calling or booking online but the prices are clearly written on the FAIR PLACE board (per kilometer and also between popular routes).

> The final way to catch a AAA taxi, and potentially the most expensive of all 3 options, is to flag a moving taxi on the street.

AAA taxi rates range from 17.90 CZK to 28 CZK per kilometer, depending on how you caught the taxi and where you are traveling from/to, plus starting price and waiting fee - as an example catching a AAA taxi at a FAIR PLACE rank will mean a starting fee of 40 CZK, a waiting fee of 6 CZK per minute, and then 28 CZK per km. AAA are currently running a 14.90 CZK per kilometer offer and further details can be found on their website. All AAA taxis have working taxi meters clearly displayed in their taxi cars and you can check the cost of the journey as the journey passes.

AAA Radio Taxi FAIR PLACE taxi rank

3. When to use a taxi?
With such an excellent transport system in Prague there isn't really a significant taxi culture in Prague. You are most likely to need a taxi when traveling from/to the airport. Other times when you might need a taxi would be if needing to transport smaller bulky items from IKEA, or for late nights or early mornings after a night out when your legs have stopped working and you can't be fussed with finding a night bus or night tram (or when you are too intoxicated to read the tram/bus schedule). 

4. What to tip?
When in Rome act like the Romans. Right? Right! This means tipping minimally. People here don't tip nearly as much as they do in the States for example and the general rule of thumb is to simply round up the fare. If your fare from the airport comes to 435 CZK then it is perfectly fine to hand over either 450 CZK or 460 CZK and don't feel pressured into paying more. AAA taxi drivers won't actually pressure you but I think there is an internal pressure to tip big if coming from a country where big tipping is the norm.

5. What can go wrong?
LOTS of things can go wrong IF you choose the wrong taxi.
My advice is always call the AAA taxi hotline: 222333222 (their other hotline is 14014). AAA taxis have the letters 'AAA' clearly marked on the side of their cars and on their car bonnets/hoods but there is another company in Prague also operating cars with the letters 'AAA', but with a difference of size - their AAA letters start large and slope smaller (first A is large, second is medium sized, third is small) and lets just put it politely that this company might charge you more than the official AAA Radio Taxi company. There are also taxi cars which don't belong to the official AAA taxi company which sometimes craftily park at the AAA FAIR PLACE ranks when no official AAA taxi cars are around. We don't recommend taking a taxi from any of Prague's bus or train stations as there are no AAA taxi ranks there and there is a very high risk of taking an unofficial taxi and being ripped off.
There are many horror stories adrift on the net of people taking unofficial taxis and being charged insane amounts for short distances and even cases of aggression and threats by unofficial taxi drivers. If you get into an unofficial taxi then you are completely at the mercy of the taxi driver - some will simply over charge you. Some are capable of muggings and there are reports of unofficial taxis driving people out of the city limits and robbing them and leaving them basically in a field, far from the nearest public transport. This scenario is rare and mostly by taking an unofficial taxi you will simply be charged 2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9, or 10x the normal fare.

6. What to do if you get it wrong?

If you find yourself in an unofficial taxi it means that you are probably at the end of your ride and you have been presented with the bill. Either that or you have got into the car and have seen that there is either no taxi meter or that the taxi meter is not on. If the driver looks dangerous then I'm afraid that you are going to have to put it down to experience and cough up. If there are people around then you can try and unwind the window and call to a local to seek their assistance. You could convince the driver to walk with you to an ATM and then confront him in a public place. It is likely though that the driver won't let you out of the taxi until you pay so it will be a case of either trying to negotiate or simply paying up and learning from the experience. Still, if you have read this article beforehand then you will never find yourself in that unfortunate position.

Hope it helps!

Hezky den!/Lovely day!

Neville :-)