It was a field experiment. I would take six taxis to and from the airport to Wenceslas Square in Prague to test the `honesty’ principle of the cab drivers in the city known for questionable taxi pricing to tourists. With five of the six test rides the fares were consistent or reasonably so. However, on my sixth ride when I tried to lock in an actual price or approximation, the driver gave me a shrug and a vague response, saying `Meter, meter price.’ When I asked again he shrugged again and pointed to the meter. I smiled and nodded knowing that the game was on. I was about to be taken for a proverbial ride. As the taxi wound its way through the busy city streets I watched as the meter seemed to be running at a faster pace. Sure enough, when we arrived at the same exact destination over the same route and at the same time as the other taxis I took in the testing process, the driver wanted twice the going rate.
When I questioned him about the price and said it was kind of high, he said it was `Meter price.’ Then when I told him I needed a receipt to show the hotel clerk or perhaps a police officer, the taxi driver hesitated, and then lowered the meter price by two hundred crowns. When I asked for a receipt a second time the driver tossed me a small slip of paper and hurriedly drove off into the night. The slip of paper was a printed ad for a tourist entertainment venue. I had just been scammed which was part of the experiment to determine if it actually happens or is it just another traveler’s tale. It cost me a little to get this story but hey, it was well worth it to test Prague’s taxi scam theory. Rip offs still happen. But not to worry, think of it as a `We do the work so you don’t have to’ program and perhaps as a small cautionary tale.
Here’s the bottom line: Most taxis in Prague will offer you good, honest service. When it comes to taking cabs in the Czech capital you can figure to legitimately pay, at least as of this writing, 650 to 800 Czech Crowns) for a one way ride from the airport to Wenceslas Square. At the airport there are several taxi companies that will give you fair rates and service, but if you decide to venture out on your own then it’s best to negotiate with the driver for the price before you go. Get him to commit to a fixed price and if he can’t give you a price that falls within the acceptable pricing guidelines then find another cab. You can pay with Dollars or Euros but the drivers seem to prefer to Czech Crowns and keep in mind the exchange rate between the currencies may not always be the best you can find.
Prague is a beautiful Bohemian city and well worth a visit just keep in mind that like anything else in life, you pay for what you don’t know.