Taxi drivers are bastards. They are born from pure evil and are bound to try and rip you off, while trying to make small talk about the weather and act like your friend. Sure, there is that 2% of them that are decent guys (or also girls) who are making a living and just doing their job. But, there is that other 98% that will try and screw you over on the fare if they get the chance. I’ve seen this in San Francisco when I’ve had to take a taxi on the extremely rare occasion. They’ll act all nonchalant as they take the much longer way to go somewhere until you call them out on it. But, this is nothing compared to when you are in a foreign country and they can obviously tell that you aren’t from around their neck of the woods. They smell fresh meat and pounce.
While in Belgrade, I found the need to take taxis on a couple of occasions because the buses stop running at the ridiculously early hour of 11PM. Undoubtedly this is some decision influenced by the Taxi Mafia there because your only other alternative is to take home a damnable cab. Our general fares were from the Centar near Trg Republika to Novi Beograd. This is no short distance as it’s a 15-20 minute drive with no traffic, so in America, this would be a very expensive ride. Around Belgrade, this is a 500 dinar ride, which is about $8.50.
Out first taxi ended up costing us 800 dinar. This was crap and my cousin was outraged when he heard that we got scammed this badly. To us, it wasn’t a big deal because it was a couple of extra dollars and the taxi driver assumed that we could handle a bit of scraping. But, it was rather annoying to be scammed this badly. So, how did he do it? The normal thought would be that he took some roundabout way to get there. In this case, no, he was very straightforward and went the direct route. The actual trick was that their meters run at different rates depending on where they are going and the time of night. There are three rates and we should have been at the second one, but he used the third instead, which is really just for the airport. Oh yeah, don’t take a taxi from the airport…
So, if you happen to glance at the meter and see a 3 by the fare, mention it to the guy. He’ll most likely make up some excuse that he just picked up someone from the airport or something and then maybe switch it to a 2 or a 1. But, you’ve got to watch him, because sometimes when they shift gears, they’ll switch it back. Sucks to be a foreigner, huh?
Besides being observant, one of the best ways to avoid this is to use a better taxi group like Žuti (Yellow), Pink, or Plavi (Blue) Taxi. The one we used was Maxis and I’m not sure if they’re all bad, but people frowned when I would mention their name, so use your best judgment. Also, if you can, have a local take care of the haggling. My cousins called, talked to the driver, and took care of everything so that the next time we took a taxi, we were charged exactly 500 dinar.