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January 14, 2006

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Dragos

That was one hell of a story Doug, I couldn't help but smile imagining the taxi driver bargaining like you described.

One thing that I do when I don't have an airport pickup is calling up a cab company (regular, not Fly, which as you said charges 1.5-1.6ron/km as opposed to a regular 1.2) while doing the passport control or waiting for the luggage. They will charge an additional 5-10 RON for coming to the airport but still a downtown total fare would be in the 10 bucks range.

Jen

As far as I know, the airport shuttle (783) has been really good ever since I first used it, about 2 years ago, never crowded or slow. I always prefer it to a cab, since I can pay 50.000 lei instead of 2-300.000.

RedToro

I believe there are plans to extend the underground line to the airport in the next few years. I had a very similar experience with a taxi driver a few years back, it certainly did not paint a very good impression of Romania ...

Larry

Hmmm, Fly taxi or Washington Flyer - out of Dulles Airport. Both monopolies, both give you the same type of conversation, Flyer drivers usually have NO idea where you want to go, unless its downtown DC. True, they don't negotiate, but the route they take you on to your destination (unless you shriek as I have been know to do on VERY rare occasion ;-) will more than make up for a re-negotiation of fare. Even worse, are local DC taxis and their so-called zone charging system. I have no idea how a visitor would be able to determine how many zones they passed through even with the map posted on the seat in front of you. I have had multiple fights with cab drivers over zone charges and surprisingly have been kicked out of a cab a time or two!

Soj

Hmmm... seems to me almost all Bucuresti taxi drivers are horrible. They never want to put the ceas (meter).

I've taken the bus before (843?) and that sucks too.

I had a contact at the airport who drove for DHL.. used to take me anywhere for $20. Not exactly a great deal, but then again not the worst either.

Good story!

kit

Fly is a comfortable ride in the city, too, not only from and to the airport. Clean cars, plenty of space, decent drivers, receipts -- I'm their fan.

Syd Webb

So, as with a lot of things about Romania, I end up of two minds. Fly Taxi is a state-granted monopoly, bestowed in a pretty overtly corrupt manner. It's charging well above the market rate. Every time I use it, I'm putting money in the pocket of a crooked businessman.

But... I'm really glad that Fly Taxi exists

Doug, your sense of contradiction might be less if you think in terms of two axes.

Fly Taxi is not just a monopoly / free-enterprise question. That is just one axis.

There is also the axis of laissez-faire / regulation.

You enjoy the regulation of Fly Taxi, the standards of both drivers and cars. Having a choice of multiple vendors is of less utility if their standards are low and/or inconsistent. Fly Taxi, while expensive by Rumanian standards, give you a consistent and pleasant user experience.

The ideal, I concede, would be the choice of multiple carriers in competition with each other, but conforming to enforced standards.

Choice and regulation is a powerful combination. If you can't have both then depending on utility of money and money/time/comfort trade-offs a regulated monopoly may be preferable to unregulated laissez-faire.

Mihai

That was a great story!

Yes, the Metro is apparently going to be extended to Henri Coanda, and it will be some sort of rapid transit line, perhaps separate from the Metro (if that makes sense). That would be a great thing, particularly since it will link Aurel Vlaicu Airport as well, and Gara de Nord. There may be both a conventional metro to Henri Coanda stopping at about 10-15 or so intermediate stops, as well as a direct service operated on the same line as an "Aeroexpress". This will probably be the biggest improvement in airport transport in Bucharest we've seen for a long time (the Metro is nice to travel on, at least the new trains and the new stations)

By the way, there is second airport in Bucharest, Aurel Vlaicu (previously Baneasa) which is being used more and more by low fares airlines (Blue Air in particular). It will probably have an even bigger role when Ryanair and the like start flying to Romania.

As to the 783 - it's quite a good service, but oddly-timed and quite slow. But everytime I've flown the Bucharest, I've taken the 783 instead of the taxi. It's a much better experience (and Fly Taxi is much more expensive than the 783).

Andy in Ciuc

Glad Mihai netioned Baneasa. Now Sky Europe fly there it's become the cheapest way of getting to the UK. Via Bratislava, but the connections are well structured. (Malev this week started flying from Budapest to Targu Mures which is about my nearest airport. Apparently they're cheap too.)

Liked the taxi stories. Never had to take one from the aiprort as I've alwasy had someone to meet me. However, I have to say, that although everybody I've ever met has warned me about taking taxis in Bucharest, I've never had a bad experience (apart from one bloke who when presented with a 100,000 note to pay a 35,000 fare, and offered the change from 40,000, actually threw me the change from 30,000 in disgust at the miserliness of my tip.)

Sir Francis Burdett

Out of curiosity , are there any major cities in the "Developed World" where there are no regulations on taxis beyond those levied on all motor vehicles?

Undoubtedly there state-owned taxis in Eastern Europe and the USSR? What became of these fleets after '91?

Victor

WTF ... How can be a private company and at the same time ... a STATE monopoly?!
It's the same in US ... But it's not called ... corruption! It's called ... competition! ;) You need some time to see the real ... connections ...
In a single word ... BULLSHIT! Have guys really lived in US?! 'Cause you kinda start confusing me ... badly!
Please pardon my french!

Mihai

Ummm, from what I understand, it's a private company that has sole rights (due to government regulation) to run services to and from the airport. So, it's sort of like the government outsourcing stuff to one private company after an open tender. Or like the Transantiago in Chile, where multiple private companies make up the bus network, but each bus company is only allowed to run on certain routes and it has exclusive rights over those routes. It's done a lot in public transport (correct me if I'm wrong, but I think in the UK, the train operating companies also have licenses that prevents competition beteeen them to an extent).

Of course, the actual tender in the Fly Taxi case is alleged to have been controversial. And there still are other taxi companies plying between Henri Coanda and the Municipality.

POUNCER

Uhm, a twentyfirst century Plunkett? "Honest Graft makes the taxis run on time" or something?

Romerican

I've seen you linked via both ExpatAnchor.net as well as the 'Csikszereda Musings' blog.

I completely relate to the story as you told it. Taxi drivers throughout Romania seek to graft foreign travellers. In Bucuresti, the rip-off instinct is even stronger than normal.

Firstly, I find this attitude to be a shame. A national shame. Primarily because it is not necessarily restricted to taxi drivers, although they are the most obvious example. Fortunately, I have come to believe that the overwhelming majority of Romanians do NOT operate in this way. They are as honest as the general populace of most any western nation (and perhaps the world, at large). The shame is that a small percentage of folks dealing with foreigners are not REPRIMANDED through legal policies and enforcement nor are they subject to peer-pressure. Romania enjoys an arguably increasingly unfair stigma for actions of these type, despite the decrease in frequency. But, in my opinion, that is largely due to acceptance. It seems rare for someone to have the cojones to actually chastise their fellow citizen (not a phenomenon restricted to Romania, of course). If public leaders took on a more encouraging tone to influence popular opinion to not accept such behavior as normal, then I think it would affect change in a relatively short time. I say: step up to the plate!

Secondly, on a practical level, I would like to offer a small piece of experience. Cris Taxi in Bucuresti is widely regarded as a fair taxi company with honest drivers (as far as those things go). If you frequently travel to Romania, keep a phone card and dial up Cris Taxi upon your arrival to Otopeni. If you live here (as a foreigner), you may even have a mobile phone which you can use to call Cris Taxi. If you are a wayward infrequent traveler, you can use your Visa/MC to withdraw money from Otopeni ATM(s)... and just buy a phone card. Again, call Cris Taxi.

Why call? As this post discusses, the Otopeni airport taxi situation is far from a free market. If you buzz Cris on the phone, they'll dispatch a taxi to you within minutes. (Try to ask for the actual cab number, so you know which Cris Taxi is yours. Other people will be doing the same as you and therefore you are likely to find more than one Cris when you get outside.)

It's my experience that this will get you a nice driver at the fair, low rates. Remain vigilant, as there was *one* time where a Cris Taxi driver tried to claim an "Airport Tax" of 500,000 ROL. Obviously, there is no such tax and you should refuse to pay it.

Nice post and thanks for the info on Fly Taxi.

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hcf

I have just returned from Bucharest and wanted to share my experience with taxi cabs over there which, I must say, was quite positive. First of all they now have their fares displayed on front door stickers. Most of them are around 1.4 lei/km although a few can charge up to 7-8 lei/km. At the airport, I managed to avoid Fly Taxi by walking directly to the departures terminal and picking up a "regular" taxi cab after dropping off one of its client. It's easy to spot them because they are all yellow.
During my stay I must have used most of the companies doing business in town and every time I paid the expected price. Also, each driver insisted on handling me a receipt.
However, not everything was perfect. One of my rides was close to a Nascar experience, Although it was around 1 am and the streets were desert, this kind of race gave me an unwanted adrenaline rush. A couple of other times the drivers kept on smoking with their window rolled down after I hopped in but, I confess, I never asked them to stop.
Something which is most confusing is this transition period between the old and new "leu" (local currency). What happened is that they dropped 4 zeros so what used to be, say, 300,000 lei is now 30 lei. All prices are displayed in the new "leu" and the old bills with many zeros are no longer in circulation. However, 99% of the people are still talking of old "lei"-s. To make matters worse, they may say 300 lei as a short for 300,000 old lei which is actually 30 new lei!! So make sure you really understand.

derry

You should try the 783 bus, cheap and 45 mins into town.

Also the two taxi companies i recommend (as with Rough Guide series) is cris-taxi and meridian.

Do a little research before you go ;)

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