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Guide to Catching a Taxi in Russia
June 7, 2007 21:29

Any traveller in a foreign country often may find themselves in a situation when the best option is to get to the destination by taxi. Here is a quick guide about the peculiarities of travelling by taxi in Russia.

Taxis in Russia can be divided into 2 general types: “official” taxis and private transporters. The main identifier of official taxis is the yellow colour of the cars and the emblem of black checkers along with a light table with the word “taxi” situated on the car roof. A private transporter is any ordinary Russian driver with a private car who does not belong to a taxi company but is willing to make money on giving someone a ride for a certain fee. Private transporters also can use a yellow table with the word “taxi” written on it, and this often makes it impossible to guess whether it is an official taxi car or not.

The main pluses of official taxis are fixed prices (but generally more expensive) and predictability of the drivers` behaviour. Travellers can also order a taxi by phone – in this case a car arrives in 10-15 minutes. However, the number of official taxi cabs in the streets is much less than the number of private transporters; therefore, catching a private car takes less time in this way. At the same time one must be prepared to encounter some undesired behaviour of a private driver, such as smoking without the passenger’s permission, listening to some weird radio turned too loud, or Kamikaze driving.

Although using private cabs in Russia is relatively safe (at least for Russians), here there are some rules and tips foreigners must be familiar with. Here it starts. In order to catch a car, no matter official taxi or a private car, a traveller must raise their hand at the curb of the road. If it is not a deserted place but a thoroughfare and a busy road, a car will stop within a minute. Seeing a potential passenger, private drivers sometimes even start to queue. The price is always negotiated before travelling to the destination. The average price for a 20 minutes drive is around $10USD (250 roubles). Traffic jams can considerably influence the taxi price.

One must keep in mind, that one of the main problems with private drivers in Russia (and perhaps with Russian services on the whole) is the driver`s poor knowledge of foreign languages, including English, along with the belief that all western foreigners are rich.

If a private driver notices that his potential passenger is a foreigner, he most likely will try to double the price. This is especially true for drivers at airports – catching a car there may cost a fortune even for non-poor people. If it seems to a foreign traveller that a Russian private driver wants too much for giving a ride, they’d better try another car. After all there are always drivers offering their service for an honest price.

As for safety, the best advice to foreign travellers who cannot speak even a little Russian is to not catch a private taxi without more or less Russian speaking mate. It is also strongly not recommended to get into cars which already have a passenger and it is better to have the traveller’s destination point written in Russian on a paper and show it to the driver.

Lavrentyeva Natalya

Tags: transportation     

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