The Taxi Scams of Belgrade

The Taxi Scams of Belgrade

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.

13 Replies to “The Taxi Scams of Belgrade”

  1. Most of the time you can’t really tell that you are being tricked, ie you can’t see the number three or anything suspicious except the meter is running a bit faster. You can always argue and ask for the bill so you could complain by phone later. Ask the driver to write the starting and the ending point and the amount of money you had to pay. Sometimes it works, I mean they lower the price to a normal amount.

    1. My last trip from my apartment to SFO the guy tried the ol’ “forgot to turn on the meter” trick on me. Little did he know that I’ve taken the cab from my apartment to the airport about 100 times so I knew exactly how much the fare is. It’s $15 everytime, so that’s what I paid him. :) But yeah in another country I would have no idea.

      Other funny story though, in Italy this cab I was in nearly got in an accident and my friends and I are laughing and joking about how Italians drive. We figured the cabbie didn’t speak any english since it was so broken in the few words he said to us. When we are joking he turns to us, and without an accent at all says “You don’t like the way Italians drive?” Hahaha.

      In New York City I actually WAS in an accident in a cab. I didn’t pay.

    2. Ah yes Viktor, that was the other way to try and avoid being scammed was to demand a receipt. I was told that, but had forgotten when I wrote the article. Thanks for reminding me. Of course, for a foreigner, trying to explain that in Serbian would be insanely tricky. I know a bit of the language and would still have a tough time, especially if the guy pulls the whole, “no speaka English” thing.

      Vince, you take cabs to the airport in SFO? That Bart connection is so good! I swore off of it once that opened up. Airport taxis are almost always a scam.

    3. I resent the you calling Taxi driver bastards. I drove a cab for ten years in Tampa, Florida. I have had fares open he door and run, go into a house and never come out. Hit me in the back of the head and then run. Like a true coward. I have never ripped off a passanger. Nor have I went the long way around to their destation.

    4. Unfortunately you are right. I can send you the picure of little button on transmission bats. That is TURBINA or turbo. 90% of Belgrade cab drivers are good and honest but 10% make so many problems.

    5. I am a Belgrade taxi driver and unfortunately I must say that there numerous “wild wild west” taxi drivers. They would normally try to rip off any stranger, which is reall bad, leaves a bitter taste for every visitor. Next time when you`re in Belgrade contact me and you will have no problem :-)

    6. We called and took a a taxi from our apartment to Trg Nikole Pašića. It was about 900 dinars. I reminded him that we called, and after the discount we paid 750 dinars.

      Unfortunately, on the way back we paid 2,300 dinars!!! Several taxis were waiting near Trg Nikole Pašića, so we got in one. When the meter was at 1,000 dinars I asked, “How much farther?” He said, “5 minutes”. I told him about our morning taxi fare, and he said it was a Sunday/holiday rate. I again tried to explain that we had just used a different taxi that morning. He said it was because we called the other taxi, and something about a private taxi.

      After reading your article, I understand that he must have had us on a high rate. In the other taxis, the numbers went up normally. In this taxi, the numbers went up 3 at a time :( I tried to just give him 1,300 dinars, but he wanted all of it.

      He was taxi 0048, in a nicer silver car. Now I understand why other posters have said to avoid the nicer cars :P

    7. On tuesday this week I´ve paid for the route Belgrade bus station to the airport 4000 dinars and 40 euros (about 70 euros together)! It was the taxi 0038 – be careful with this driver! It is a dark red/brown taxi.

    8. Just got a 400 -500 car ride from town to hotel the driver had a button that made the meter spin like crazy up to 1800 !!! we got out the cab at the hotel and told him to come and see hotel manager suddenly the meter read 600 !! beware !

    9. Dear people,
      My name is Igor and in the future if you need to drive true Belgrade, from/to airport or around the region of Balkan call me. I represent a group of good and very professional drivers so you not gonna have any bad experience and you can relax and enjoy in your stay in Serbia and region. We offer the best price’s. For any additional questions please send me email.
      Thanks.

      Best regard’s

      Igor Stanojevic

  2. How To Use A Taxi Service When You Are Abroad

    Traveling abroad, whether for a short business trip or on holiday, often involves the use of local taxi services. Although in most cases taxi drivers are people who honestly do their job, there are some situations where the problem occurs. In this article we will try to give some tips how to conduct yourself when using a taxi abroad.

    Although you may be experienced with a taxi service in your country, it is certain that you feel a bit differently when you do it in the foreign country. Your first encounter with a new environment is often made via taxi driver. This meeting may determine the first impression of staying in a country. Here we particularly underline that first meeting, because it usually takes place in a situation where you are “vulnerable” – tired, just emerging from the airport, loaded with luggage etc. Cultural and linguistic diversity, and ignorance of the terrain, creates uncertainty for passengers which feel that taxi drivers view them as potential victims. In the vast majority of cases, of course, it is not so, but it won’t hurt to prepare yourself a bit in advance.

    Before traveling (while your are still at home), check the Internet for usual prices of taxi services in the city in which you travel. Of course, you need not go into details but it is enough to gain some picture of the amount that you will pay. Since maps for many worldwide cities are now available on the Web, estimate the distance to the hotel from the airport (if you’re traveling by the plane). Familiarize yourself with names of some taxi companies in the city (search for city name including name of the service, for example. “Belgrade Taxi”) and try to remember some names, or at least logos and colors. Keep in mind that company that takes seriously its presence on the Web, probably also performs its services correctly.

    When you come into a situation that you are looking for a taxi, you will most likely be with hands full of luggage, while taxi drivers will approach you, offering transportation. Do not rush with a choice. Look around and get in touch with the taxi driver whose appearance and vehicle gives the biggest confidence to you. Salute the man, and ask for the price of driving. You may agree to drive for a fixed price, or a metered one, but be sure to obtain information about the expected price and compare it with previous estimations you got from your research. Don’t forget to specify the currency in which you will pay.

    Driving for a fixed price is more expensive than driving on the meter, but most frequently ensures that your taxi driver uses the shortest route to your destination. Make the agreements and about any other costs (luggage fee, tolls, etc.) in advance. Do not give up of the agreed price later. Here is where the language barrier may play a role, so if you can not communicate otherwise – use a pen and paper or even- fingers.

    As for the security during the ride, the rules are fairly standard for all parts of the world. Store the large luggage in the trunk of the vehicle, and keep smaller bags (with documents and valuables) with you. It would be useful to prepare money for the ride ahead and put it in your pocket in order to avoid having to subsequently search for the wallet. Prepare a small change too, since taxi drivers seem never to have it. Taxi drivers prefer you to sit in the back seat, so respect it (except, of course, if you have more). Remember the name of taxi driver and vehicle number- just in case. If you get in a conversation, keep it light themes – discussion of politics has no place in a cab.

    Like we said, the vast majority of cabbies are correct people, and tips shown above should just help you to protect yourself from dishonorable minority, which, after all, exists in all areas of life, in all parts of the world.
    —————————
    Author is a provider of taxi services and an ex-journalist, living and working in Belgrade, Serbia. His company’s taxi services focus on Belgrade Airport transfers, Mini van and
    Mini bus services and all kinds of private transfers and tours.

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