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Not official taxi in Moscow not a good idea
June 3, 2010 16:13

Next to the ordinary registered taxi companies, there are plenty of unofficial taxis in Moscow. They call them bombilas. You can flag one down, like a hitcher, but only on the street, not on the highway. They are considerably cheaper, but we do not recommend anyone, especially foreigners, to use their services. There are many reasons not to, but to emphasize my point, I will tell you a story about what happened to a colleague of mine.

First of all, unofficial taxi-drivers, for the most part, are also foreigners. But they do not speak English. Sometimes, they dont even speak Russian. Most of them are unemployed immigrants from the post-soviet countries. The first question they ask you is: How much (meaning how much will you pay)? The second is: Do you know the way? Taking into account their status (unemployed immigrants), you can imagine the cars they drive; they could fall apart at any moment. Taking into account that these people are not actually drivers, you can also imagine how they drive. Even a professional driver could not drive such vehicles safely. Moreover, there are other dangers of taking such a trip. We are not talking about any kind of xenophobia here. We are talking about safety.

To be fair, the Moscow administration is fighting against unofficial taxis, but they seem to be evergreen. The reasons for this are enough to fill another article in and of itself, but the main reason is prices, which are considerably lower than those of an ordinary taxi.

But I've promised to tell a story, one that substantiates judgments, which might otherwise seem quite rude. My colleague, her name is Tatiana, has had a hard day at work and was scheduled to fly out of Moscow that evening. It was time to leave, and she tried to call a taxi. The first operator, however, couldn't help her. The second one said that she would have to wait a long time due to heavy traffic. After a few more attempts Tatiana realized that she if she didnt find a ride soon, she might miss her plane. She and her friend gave up and decided to hitch a ride.

They had thumbed less than a minute when an ancient scruffy car stopped, a man hopped out, and asked those two sacramental questions in a bad Russian: How much? Do you know the way? When asked if he could take two people to Domodedovo airport. They passed on his offer and waited until the third such car stopped. They hoped they would have at least Russian-speaking driver. It was all in vain. They settled on a price with a driver and the trip began. The guy was driving with one hand, with a cell phone in his other, all while trying to find out what Domodedovo airport was and where it was located. From time to time he lit up a new cigarette. When both girls asked him not to smoke in the car, he rudely replied he couldnt because he was very anxious because he is driving to the unknown place and that driving is a very hard work. But the thing he was doing hardly could be called driving. It was more like a prolonged suicide attempt.

At one point Tatiana and her friend, having realized that risking their lives in order to catch the flight wasnt worth it, asked the driver to stop his car. They received a torrentially abusive refusal. Then they were scared: they could not be sure any more that they would even arrive at the airport. After spending a couple of hours in traffic jams in the car full of smoke, however, they finally arrived.

When they finally reached the airport and were out of the car, they found out that the driver didnt want to open the trunk where the girls' suitcases were, until they paid him the same sum they had already paid him for his questionable-quality service. After a short session of negotiations, the driver got some extra money, and the girls, their luggage. They rushed to the airport and caught their plane in the nick of time, but who knows if the stress they had experienced was worth it.

This story has a happy ending, but it could been different. You can say it was their fault, but I'd say that it was their only their fault that they were not able to make him to stop the car. If you want to take a taxi, book an official one.

Russia-IC offers a taxi service for all foreigners coming to Moscow. Here you can book a taxi to take online from one place of Moscow to another as well as a transfer from/to Sheremetyevo, Domodedovo and Vnukovo airports.

Yulia Buzykina


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