Budapest is not the only place in the world to be known for tricky taxi drivers, but when you come as a tourist to Budapest you will for sure do good to have some basic knowledge about the taxis in town. This article will therefore give you advices on how to deal with the taxis in Budapest and information which will hopefully help you avoid overpayment and other sorts of taxi scams.
The largest groups of tourists coming to Budapest arrive from England, Germany, USA, Italy and Scandinavia. For these groups Budapest is normally said to be a cheap city and that is true. One of the activities said to be cheap is to use the local taxis, but that is only true if you get in a real and nice taxi taking paid as he should, and not more than that. Before coming up with our advices let me start with some typical stories I have heard from lots of tourists I have been speaking with in Budapest.
Bad stories about taxis in Budapest
Some nice gentlemen I once guided lived in Hotel Astoria and traveled with taxi from their hotel to Szechenyi Furdo. They ordered the taxi to the bath via their hotel and the trip to the thermal bath costed 2000 Forint. Once they finished their swim in the refreshing springs of the bath they left the building and jumped in a taxi waiting outside. Once arriving to their hotel the taxi driver told them to pay 10,000 Forint for their return trip. The guys only had a 20,000 Forint bill so they paid with this and got 10,000 back. Later they went to the shop to buy something and wanted to pay with the 10,000 bill. They then got to know that the bill they received from the taxi driver was not 10,000 Forint, but 10,000 Romanian Lei (an old bill). They took the case with a smile, but compared to the transfer to the thermal bath they paid 18,000 Forint for more the return transfer (about 65 Euro).
Some reporters from national television once jumped in a taxi outside WestEnd CityCenter pretending to be tourists. They asked for a trip to the Hungarian Parliament (about 1,5km from the shopping mall). Their driver took them on a nice city sightseeing driving them a distance of 7km before arriving to the Hungarian Parliament where he asked them to pay 7000 Forint. They then asked for a formal bill and told the driver to write it to the name of the TV channel (in Hungarian). He then threw them out of the car, and they did not have to pay!
Earlier this year some other guys I guided had to pay 6000 Forint for a small distance trip. Heavy overpayment, but okay. They paid with a 10,000 Forint bill. The driver gave them back 2×200 Forint bills. The tourist was aware and told the driver that he had given them back wrong. The driver said sorry, and said it was a big mistake, and gave them 2×2000 Forint bills. Speaking with the guy the day after I told him that the 200 bills are not in use in Hungary anymore (and hasn’t been for a while), so again this was a typical way a local taxi driver tried to trick a tourist.
Last week I spoke with four nice men. One guy had went to a night club while the other three guys went to Szimpla Budapest. Around 2.00 the three guys wanted to see if everything was okay with the last guy, so they jumped in a taxi on a street and told the driver to take them to the night club where the last guy spent his night. Well, they tried to, but since taxi drivers know where to bring people (against money), the driver didn’t at all want to take the group to the night club, but always tried to bring them somewhere else. In the end they kind of ended up there, but still they had to fight hard to get there!
- One of the safe taxi companies – City Taxi
Advices on how to enjoy Budapest taxis
I guess you would like some advices on how to enjoy Budapest taxis and how to avoid stories such as these mentioned earlier. Here comes some advices which hopefully will help you, though one can never be 100% sure.
1) Walk on foot!
This is the cheapest and safest, but of course, there are times when you need a taxi and then you can forget this advice
2) Do not use taxis waiting on the street
There are lots of taxis standing at busy places in Budapest waiting for people to jump into them. These are typically around night clubs, in the vicinity of Vaci utca, close to shopping centers, in the City Park area and mostly all around Budapest. To jump into one of these is risky, at least if you do not want to be tricked. If you still want to try this, look for a taxi with an official name (City taxi, Radio Taxi, Fő taxi etc…), a telephone number and maybe a list of prices on the doors of the car. If the taxi only has a taxi sign on the top and maybe a taxi name on the side, but nothing else… skip it!
3) Call and order a taxi yourself
There are quite a lot of taxi companies in Budapest which can be trusted and who send nice taxies who do not trick you around. The most praised taxi company is City Taxi and their phone number is +36 1 211 1111. They allow you to pay with card in the taxi and I have not yet heard any complaint on their services. Another company is Fő Taxi. This is the same company which is responsible for the taxi transfers from Budapest Airport to the city center. Their phone number is +36 1 222 2222. Both companies have English speaking operators, so wherever you are in Budapest, give them a call and they will normally have a taxi waiting for you within 10 minutes.
4) Ask for help from your hotel or restaurant
If you live in a nice hotel or have eaten at a nice restaurant in Budapest they can normally help you order a nice taxi. They have an agreement with a company, meaning that they receive some money for every guests they order a cab for, and thus it is important for them to use a company trustworthy and offering good service. In most cases (90%) this works perfectly. If it doesn’t then you should report it to the hotel, and if you have the guts to do so, ask for the name of the driver and write down his license plate number so you can give that information on to the hotel/restaurant as well.
These were just a few advices which will hopefully help you and make your stay in Budapest even more enjoyable. A last piece of advice is to never ask your taxi driver for advice on where to go, especially not if you are looking for a night club. This advice is not only valid in Budapest but lots of other places around the world as well, but since they know where to deliver you against money, they will in most cases take you to the most expensive places and often the quality is not as high as what you pay for.
Good luck and enjoy your ride!