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Conventional wisdom is that there is some degree of risk in using the taxis in Budapest. This is particularly true with the independent taxis at the train stations and independent taxis that are flagged down on the street.
Note that in Budapest taxi fares are not regulated by the government. If you were to pay 3000ft for a trip that one of the major companies would charge 1000ft for no crime has been committed so long as a lower fare was not represented prior to the trip. It is this misunderstanding that adds to the concern over the independent taxi drivers.
It could also be suggested that without an established company to screen and enforce standards of conduct that each independent driver is, well……….independent. This may result in some heightened risks but evidence of actual crime is very difficult to uncover on the Internet. Still, the Hungarian Police and the U.S. State Department recommend calling an established Taxi Company when in need of a cab. The only stated reasons by either entity are quality and cost. This article will stay away from the topic of Independent taxis and transfers to and from the airport and the train stations, as well as private drivers; and concentrate on in-town transportation via one of the established taxi companies.
This article looks at three companies, but this is in no way an endorsement of those companies or a lack of endorsement of the many other companies. The three companies, City Taxi, FoTaxi and Taxi2000 are amongthose most commonly cited as having been used, or as being of good quality. City Taxi advertises a number of awards for quality and service on their website. The most recent of these awards is 2007. Not listed on their website is their 2011 "Best of Budapest" award. FoTaxi claims, "FŐTAXI Inc is Hungary's oldest - Europe's seventh - and still the most popular taxi company of Budapest for 98 years". FoTaxi is also the sanctioned taxi company serving the Budapest airport. Taxi2000 is the newest of the three companies and appears to be competing primarily on a cost basis.
There are a number of opinions and preferences, BudapestHotels.com provides this list in "order of preference"
Taxi 4 4-444-444 http://www.taxi4.hu/en/index.php
City Taxi 2-111-111 http://www.citytaxi.hu/index.php?lang=en
Fõ Taxi 2-222-222
Rádió Taxi 7-777-7777 http://www.radiotaxi.hu/index_eng.php
Tele5 5-555-5555 http://www.tele5taxi.hu/
Hello Taxi +36 1 8-888-666
The message here is that you will not have trouble finding a good convenient taxi while in Budapest and that the differences between the various companies are much more minor than, most likely, the personalities of the various taxi drivers that may be serving you.
Of the three companies addressed in this article City Taxi is the most expensive for phone orders and for orders made by a hotel (300ft basic and 240ft per kilometer plus 60ft per minute to wait) but this provides a good worst case scenario for cost. Keep in mind however that the difference in cost between City Taxi, the most expensive, and Taxi2000 the least expensive of the three, is a mere cents per kilometer (21ft).
The fares for the three companies can be found on their websites. Also on the websites of FoTaxi and Taxi2000 can be found Fare Calculators allowing you to estimate the fare before you call the taxi company. City Taxi did not have a fare calculator. In a recent test all three of these companies had English speaking dispatchers.
To illustrate the sort of costs you can expect for a fairly substantial trip from Pest to Buda: From Vasvari Pal 6 in District VI to Ostrom u. 19 in District l using the FoTaxi Fare Calculator results in a 3 km trip for 1090ft (something less than 2 miles for about $5.00) excluding wait time at 60ft per minute (about 3 cents per minute). To illustrate the impact of the highest vs. lowest fare cab this trip would vary by about 30 cents depending on which of the three taxi companies was used.
Some basic suggestions to make the experience of a Budapest Taxi more secure and enjoyable:
1. Call for a taxi whenever the situation permits, but don’t be terrified to use private taxi if necessary. But you WILL pay more and the following items become more critical:
2. Hungarian paper money is all very similar in appearance and this can be confusing at the time of payment and taxi drivers are not always honest with the change. Especially if they sense you are confused. Prior to getting in the taxi or while in route it isn't a bad idea to separate about 5,000 ft in 1,000 ft bills. Put it in your shirt pocket or some other convenient place. Few tax rides inside of Budapest will cost more than 5,000 ft and you have small bills at hand this way and your are less likely to hand the driver a 20,000 note in lieu of a 2,000 note.
3. Reconfirm the destination before you get into the taxi. Either tell the driver or show him the address on a piece of paper. Make sure the address includes the District as many street names are repeated in different districts.
4. Know the fare before you get into the taxi. You can show the taxi driver a copy of the fare page from the company website and solicit his acceptance. If his English is good you can ask him for an estimate of the fare; or if his English isn’t good you can indicate to him to write the number on a piece of paper you hand him. You can also show him the printed out Fare Calculator results, but remember that “wait time” is not in the calculations.
5. Get out of the taxi and recover your belongings prior to making payment to the driver. Don’t flash a lot of money in the process.
6. If you have any problems at all or feel the least bit intimidated look for assistance from people passing by or pull out your telephone and call the police. (Tourist Police: +36-1-438-8080)
7. A tip is always appreciated. For an average trip around town, rounding up on the change (in 100ft increments) is the norm, but 10% is not unheard of, nor are greater amounts if you feel them deserved.
Rádió Tele 5 Taxi has introduced a GPS-based service for smartphone ownerswhich allows them to order a cab without placing a call. Smartphone users who download the applicationcan send their order to a dispatcher by pushing a button. Passengers can also choose between a smoking or non-smoking cab, check how long it will take to arrive and see the exact address of their location on a map. The service is now available for mobile phones using Windows and Android operating systems as well as Apple's iPhone.
Budapest Taxi Fare Calculator:
For estimates based on typical taxi rates of Budapest, Taxi Fare Calculator is now now available from TaxiFareFinder.com.