Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Vilnius Taxis

Me, I don't like going by taxi in Vilnius/Kiev/Dushanbe/ don't even ask about Moscow - as a foreigner you nearly always get ripped off. But I often use them to go to the airport. In an emergency I can use the public bus (like on 23 December, when not a taxi could be found at 5 am) which leaves quite close to my flat, but taking a taxi is a wee bitty more convenient, even though I often have to lift my case into and out of the taxi....

This year other people and I have had some bad do's with taxis in Vilnius. In the summer some elderly friends needed to use taxis quite a lot, and nearly every time the rate on the meter was the highest rate available - which they should not have been charged - or the taxi took the scenic route. We had quite a few rows then with taxi drivers. Another time I had such a row with a taxi driver than he stormed off without getting paid - for which my visiting relatives felt guilty for days ('I cannot get that poor driver out of my head', Ha!) But the stories I have experienced and heard in the last few days beat all that:

1. When I got back from Germany last Friday the taxi drivers at the airport, belonging to the company Martonas (generally a good company), wanted 50 litas for the trip. Bear in mind that I fly at least twice a month, and know the airport drivers well. We have come to an informal agreement for 25 litas for the trip which is about right (I measured the distance on the map). When I asked the reason for double the rate I was told that it was Christmas/the New Year. Right, I said and took the bus for 1.20 litas.

2. A friend of mine was told the same story the day before (he thinks Lithuanians were asked to pay that much as well); he elected to phone the taxi company who sent him a taxi - which took him to his flat, in roughly the same area of town, for 15 litas. (In Vilnius it is cheaper to prebook a taxi; they then have to charge you less).

3. But these stories are nothing compared to what happened to another friend of mine, who, after possibly quite a few beers, caught a taxi from the town centre to his home near the US embassy, which with a pre-ordered taxi should cost no more than 10 litas, or, in the middle of the night when the rates are up, 20 litas. He did not pay attention to the meter and on arrival at home found to his surprise that the meter read 300 litas!!! What could he do? He 'got away' with paying 200 litas.

There are many such stories, especially around drunken foreigners.

The morals of the stories are:
1) If you are planning to get drunk in Vilnius, stay in a hotel that you can walk home to.
2) Never, as a tourist, pick up a taxi from the street (the bar or restaurant can order you one).
3) Never feel sorry for taxi drivers if you think you have not paid them enough. They can make up the money quickly enough from other naive tourists.


varske said...

The problem with Vilnius taxis is that they are generally too cheap, as the airport is too close (?) to the city centre (30 mins except in rush hours). Using the "20" rule for Eastern Europe, (taxis from the airport are either 20 Euros, 20 dollars, or 20 GBP, or some further multiple) my sister got in her first Vilnius taxi. When told the fare was 20, (must have been a fairly honest taxi-driver), she handed over 20 euros. Only later did she realise she could have got away with litas. Must have been a happy taxi driver.

Jessica said...

We got ripped off in Nice by a taxi driver who said he was charging 30 Euros instead of 20 for the short drive from the airport because it was SUNDAY. It's easier to feel sorry for taxi drivers in Vilnius than on the French riviera!

violainvilnius said...

Not nice, those taxi drivers in Nice!