Prague is notorious for its corrupt taxis and you don’t have to look very far to find people who can tell you stories of fifty euro taxi fares for a trip that should have cost only ten euros. What many people don’t know is that just a few simple rules will ensure that you won’t get taken for a ride by a corrupt and unscrupulous Prague taxi.
First, a bit of history. Before 1989, under Communism the general state of affairs was rather dreary. Not only were citizens of Eastern bloc countries not allowed to travel, they had little access to the goods and quality of life that is taken for granted in the West. While we look at current day TV shows like Mad Men with a great deal of nostalgia for the fashion and mores of the day, we must remember that many countries under the Soviet yoke had a day to day struggle for survival. Such was the case in the old Czechoslovakia and in Prague, just getting fresh vegetables was mostly an affair of privilege or subterfuge. One way to get those scarce goods was by paying in hard western cash. Dollars, Deutsch Marks, even a French Franc or two could go a long way towards getting you what was not available to John Q Public.
Enter the taxi driver, he had daily access to foreigners and their hard cash. Taxi Haarlem But local prices were so cheap, it would still take a long time to amass any measurable amount of foreign currency. So the taxi drivers often took a shortcut, they drove those foreign visitors around the long way, or just boosted the fare plain in simple.
Old habits die hard and today, many of those same taxi drivers that prospered 25 years ago under Communism are still plying their trade. They offer you a flat rate of five times the normal fare to drive half way across town, select a special fast turn meter rate that would normally never apply to any trip that you would take, or just giving you the scenic tour of the city while you enjoy the view. In short, they have a variety of ways of accomplishing that age old task of getting your hard cash into their pocket and most of the time the unsuspecting tourist gives them a 10 or 15% tip to boot.
Today, fortunately Prague offers other options. First of all, Radio Dispatched taxis almost universally give you an honest rate. And the telephone reservation rate is a good deal cheaper than you would pay for the same taxi hailed on the street. The most reputable such companies are A-A-A Taxi and City Taxi. But any taxi sporting a phone number painted on its door should be considerably more reliable than the independent taxis that don’t have it. Why? Because in the event of any dispute, you can call the dispatcher (who almost always speaks English these days), to report the scoundrel who tried to cheat you. Secondly, in the event that you can’t order a radio-dispatched taxi for whatever reason: because you don’t have a mobile phone, you don’t want to incur roaming fees (false economy) or maybe it’s just a busy night and nobody answers the phone: you can follow the simple rule of negotiating a price before you get in the car.
If you don’t know Prague, the rule of thumb is, any trip within the center of Prague should be 100kc – 150kc. At the date of this writing, One Euro is about 23 Czech crowns (kc), so that means your trip should cost less than 7euros. In the event that you are not sure where you are, ask the hotel reception how much it should cost from X location to get back to the hotel at night if you hail a cab on the street. The only way a trip would cost more than 200kc is if you are venturing off the beaten path to Prague 2 or 3, and then want to go back across the river, to say Prague 6 or 7. But even in those cases 200kc should be the maximum. From the airport to Prague, you’ll generally be paying 500kc – 600kc for any location in the city center. You can also book a transfer in a private luxury sedan for this price, so if you’re planning ahead, you might want to do just that!