We were Robbed in Romania : How to Prevent a Taxi Scam
I had a bad feeling the minute we stepped off the plane and into the airport.
We were now in the mysterious land of Vlad the Impaler (Dracula), but that wasn’t it.
We were tired, jet-lagged and not thinking straight, but did that make a difference?
Yet when the man appeared out of nowhere and offered us a taxi ride to our hotel in Bucharest, my instinct said “NO!”. But my resolve was low. I thought maybe I’m too suspicious of everyone. I really never trust anyone in airports. Or locals that harass you at tourist traps.
And I felt foolish…on a previous airport arrival, I was sick of being harassed and, although uncharacteristic of me, I sort of yelled at an old man who was offering us directions to our hotel and then afterwards realized he was well meaning and didn’t want anything from us. Still I like to err on the side of caution because there are scams- everywhere. And we had managed to avoid them thus far by being cautious and trusting our gut instincts.
Yet this time, we just went with the flow. We just wanted to get to the hotel and relax after the long plane ride.
The man led us to a car with a driver already in it and we agreed upon a reasonable price. (yes, ALWAYS good to agree on a price beforehand.)
The man got into the passenger seat and we got in the back.
We were uneasy from the get-go because they were acting shady and not very professional or friendly. Still, they had already put our luggage in the trunk and off we went, out into a strange city we’d never seen before. So what could we do now? After a few miles, we asked again about the cost of the taxi ride just to ease our anxieties.
As if to confirm our anxieties, the man said ‘600 leu’.
Processing that for a minute…it converted to over $150 for just a few miles)
“STOP THE CAR!” Jerrod exclaimed.
And he REVVED the car faster!
“Ohhhh my god”, I thought.
“That isn’t the price we agreed upon”, Jerrod said. “You’re only driving us a few miles. That price is way too high. Just let us out of the car. We’ll pay for the couple miles we’ve went so far.”
“Okay” the man said. “It’ll be $100 if we drop you off now, otherwise $150 to bring you to the hotel.”
So, here we are, not knowing where the hell we are. (In Bucharest, somewhere) and being totally ripped off over $100. They could drop us off and drive off with our luggage. Or worse. We had only about $200 in Romanian currency to last us the whole time in Bucharest and now these men were going to take nearly all of it.
“That’s all the money we have. Can’t you just give us the amount we agreed upon?”
“No”, he said. “That is the price now. It is higher on weekends and it’s a weekend.”
We all argued back and forth and they weren’t giving in so we just said, hell with it, just bring us to the hotel. We didn’t want to chance them driving off with our luggage when they dropped us off, because they seemed capable of it and they were starting to get aggressive and arguing with them didn’t seem like a good idea.
You will NOT believe it, but after we gave them our money and the man got our luggage out of the trunk, he had the gall to ASK US FOR A TIP! :O
We tried to memorize the license plate number as they drove off but we realized nothing would be done about it anyway. We were in a foreign country and this is the way it works sometimes.
All is well, we learned a lesson, and figured it could have been “wayyyy” worse. (Yeah, we watch a lot of horror movies and scenes from “Hostel” crossed our minds.)
We were just grateful to be alive and to have each other and our belongings.
Good thing was, the rest of our time in Romania was really fascinating and the forested medieval area of Transylvania is beautiful! We had already arranged an honest driver to drive us to hike up the mountains of Transylvania to see the original fortress of Vlad the Impaler.
We told this driver about our unfortunate scam with the taxi and he said in his totally awesome Transylvanian accent…”I’d shoot him. I’d shoot him TWICE! They make us ALL look bad!”. And he laughed maniacally.
I’ll do another post on that. In the meantime, see the tips below!
*Disclaimer… we are not in any way blaming the country of Romania. This happens all over the world. It just happened to happen to us in Romania and this was our story. Many people have safe and happy travels in Romania and as well as anywhere in the world. *
Tips to prevent airport taxi scams:
Arrange transportation beforehand.
Trustworthy airport shuttles and drivers can be arranged online. Have someone waiting for you with a sign and only go with them.
Go to a legit taxi cab stand.
Many airports have designated taxi stands somewhere in the airport where you can pay in advance. This is safer than going with a random guy seeking out tourists to scam in the airport.
Agree on a price before you get in the taxi.
(Although this doesn’t always guarantee anything. But still.) Research approximate fares in the area so you have an idea of what it should be, so you can be well-informed. Check out TaxiFareFinder.com. And ask if there will be any additional fees…they could try to charge extra for tolls, bridges, roads, holiday, time of day…anything.
Take down the drivers info.
If they are licensed and legit, there should be an ID in the taxi cab, if not ask them for their name and license plate number. Take photos if you have a camera or phone with you.
Get your luggage out before you pay.
Gather your belongings and then pay. There have been scams where they drive off with your luggage after you pay.
Avoid a taxi and walk or take a bus/train to your destination.
Only walk if it’s within walking distance and ONLY if it’s safe/accessible. We usually avoid taxis as much as possible.
Trust your instinct.
If you gut says “No”, go with your gut and don’t get in the car. Better safe than sorry.
Just remember, use precautions, and if you do find a great, honest and courteous taxi driver, enjoy! It can be awesome to have a driver to bring you from place to place like a chauffeur. Sure it can be spendy, but it shouldn’t be THAT spendy. Just be aware and be safe!
Have you been in a taxi scam or been robbed? Comment below…we’d love to hear your experience and if you have any tips/advice as well!
Peace. Love. Travel.
“Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and enjoy the journey.” – Babs Hoffman