Taxi to the hotel

How well will your European city vacation start?

2 July 2012

Not one of 22 major cities on the Continent provided a taxi service that could be described as very good

Not one of 22 major cities on the Continent provided a taxi service that could be described as very good

Break-neck speeds, ignoring traffic lights, U-turns to go to a cash machine, double the distance detours and having to share a cab with a female stranger are some of the taxi traumas to taint a traveller’s first impression of a European city.

Test rides by motoring clubs in 14 European countries, covering five routes per city, found that the skills and attitude of the cab drivers were the weakest link.

Not one of 22 major cities on the Continent provided a taxi service that could be described as very good.

Only six of the cities had drivers rated, at best, acceptable. Ten cities averaged poor for their drivers’ abilities and six very poor.

Taking ‘the long route’ and being charged for it is not as big a problem as tourists may fear. Nine of the cities rated very good for taxis sticking to the most direct route, 10 were good, one was acceptable and only Ljubljana in Slovenia was poor.

Driver lost his way,  twice

However, there were some spectacular exceptions. A trip to a landmark church in Hamburg followed a route that was three times longer than it should have been, partly because the driver insisted on going to the wrong church.

In Rome, the driver lost his way twice between the station and an exhibition centre before demanding €69 euros for a €50-euro route extended by two-thirds because of his incompetence.

In Madrid, a trip from the airport to the railway station covered more than twice the mileage it should have.

Vehicle condition

Quality of vehicle was better than one might expect – only in Zagreb and Ljubljana were taxis rated poor while Spanish ones in Barcelona and Madrid were particularly good.

However, one of the taxis in Rotterdam had 400,000 kilometres on the clock, broken windows, holes in the seats and other damage.

Apalling customer care

Despite most vehicles being of a good standard, the standard of driving and customer care was often appalling. Examples include:

  • a third of the taxis wouldn’t accept credit cards and, in Rotterdam, a driver swore loudly when the inspector asked to pay with a credit card,  braked suddenly to do a U-turn and drove back to the airport to find a cashpoint. 
  • some drivers ignored speed limits, one in Hamburg reached 92km/h in a 50km/h zone and drove so aggressively that the tyres squealed going round bends and left the tester feeling sick. Another in Lisbon often drove at 83km/h, weaving in and out of traffic, but was good enough to charge only half the fare because he hadn’t known where he was going.
  • ignoring red lights, pedestrian crossings, cyclists and other road rules was common. One driver in Vienna nearly drove into the back of a bus and another in Milan, who decided to send a text while stopped at lights, was forced to get going again when drivers behind hit their horns.
  • in Amsterdam, the driver picked up a second passenger without asking, drove a detour that increased the journey by a third and, without switching on the taximeter, charged twice – the woman €15 and the tester €30, lowered to €25 when he complained.
  • irritations that would test a travel-weary passenger to the limit included loud music, phone calls on hand-held mobiles, seat belt warning buzzers throughout the trip, swearing at other drivers, complaints that some trips weren’t far enough, and being dropped up to a third of a mile from the destination.

Fortunately most taxi trips went OK but I would urge anyone to wear their seatbelts and stay alert especially to the meter

Edmund King, AA president

Comment

Edmund King AA President says: “Many people making city trips prefer taxis to the mystery of unfamiliar public transport. However the research showed a taxi journey can sometimes be just as daunting as public transport.

"Fortunately most taxi trips went OK but I would urge anyone to wear their seatbelts and stay alert especially to the meter.  Don't get in a taxi if it looks unsafe - bald tyres are normally a tell tale sign".

The key to any successful city trip is doing the homework before you leave – check out the city’s transport system on line or have it with you on a mobile phone app.

Overall though, most taxi drivers know their city well and are usually proud of it, and may even know some short cuts to avoid traffic.

Picking a taxi

  1. Check out official city guides advice on-line before travel. Your hotel may be able to advise how best to book a taxi.
  2. If in doubt, you can reject a poor quality taxi or driver. Some city airports have booking desks for taxis, allowing you to go back and ask for another.
  3. In the UK, local authorities licence taxis. Official tourist websites sometimes have recommended taxi firms.

Recommendations

The survey group’s recommendations for uniform taxi standards were:

  • Introduce transparent and uniform fares with fare information visibly displayed in every taxi to enable passengers to understand the fare system.
  • Allow payment by credit card.
  • Improve driving skills/training of taxi drivers. Adopt uniform regulations for testing and the administration of tests by independent examiners.
  • Include minimum knowledge about a city's places of interest in the drivers' tests to enable taxi drivers to provide basic tourist information to their passengers.
  • Taxi driver ID with photograph to be displayed in all taxis to allow passengers to identify their driver.
  • Prepare and have available info leaflets on the rights and obligations of passengers.
  • Establish a local complaints management system (city-based or with taxi organisation) and ensure the timely and competent handling of complaints by sufficient staff. Make contact data available to passengers.
  • Introduce regular controls by the local taxi organisations to ensure that standards are complied with and to remove deficiencies immediately.

City by city

  • Barcelona: Overall - good, driver - acceptable, vehicle - very good, route – good.
  • Munich: Overall - good, driver – acceptable, vehicle - good, route – very good.
  • Cologne: Overall - good, driver - acceptable, vehicle - good, route – very good.
  • Milan: Overall - good, driver - poor, vehicle - good, route – very good.
  • Berlin: Overall - good, driver - acceptable, vehicle - acceptable, route – very good.
  • Paris: Overall - good, driver - acceptable, vehicle - good, route – good.
  • Lisbon: Overall - good, driver - poor, vehicle - good, route – very good.
  • Salzburg: Overall – acceptable, driver - acceptable, vehicle - acceptable, route – very good.
  • Oslo: Overall - acceptable, driver - poor, vehicle - good, route – very good.
  • Rotterdam: Overall - acceptable, driver - poor, vehicle - good, route – very good.
  • Hamburg: Overall - acceptable, driver - poor, vehicle - good, route – good.
  • Geneva: Overall - acceptable, driver - poor, vehicle - acceptable, route – good.
  • Brussels: Overall - acceptable, driver - poor, vehicle - good, route – good.
  • Zagreb: Overall - acceptable, driver – very poor, vehicle - poor, route – very good.
  • Zurich: Overall - acceptable, driver - poor, vehicle – very good, route – good.
  • Madrid: Overall - poor, driver – very poor, vehicle – very good, route – good.
  • Prague: Overall - poor, driver - poor, vehicle - good, route – acceptable.
  • Vienna: Overall - poor, driver – very poor, vehicle - acceptable, route – good.
  • Amsterdam: Overall - poor, driver – very poor, vehicle - good, route – good.
  • Luxembourg: Overall - poor, driver - poor, vehicle - good, route – acceptable.
  • Rome: Overall - poor, driver – very poor, vehicle - acceptable, route – good.
  • Ljubljana: Overall – very poor, driver – very poor, vehicle - poor, route – poor.

(2 July 2012)

The taxi survey was carried out by EuroTest, a pan-European consumer testing programme coordinated by 14 FIA-affiliated European motoring and touring clubs