Taxi rides can be a tricky/unpleasant experience in some Eastern European countries. I couldn’t find any taxi app in Sofia and Varna that actually worked well during my trip to Bulgaria. I tried to use the ‘Taxi Me’ app in Sofia. The ‘Taxi Me’ app has a very bad interface and the language of the app is Bulgarian. Even if you manage to maneuver around the app, the app takes forever to find you a matching ride. I gave up after trying the ‘Taxi Me’ app for 10 minutes.
Unlike Bulgaria, booking a Taxi on Free Now and Uber is quite easy in Romania. I used Free Now in both Brasov and Bucharest and it worked really very well. Further, I made the payments using Google Pay which was linked to my ‘Free Now’ app.
Taxi Apps in Romania
Here are the Taxi apps currently in operation in Romania:
- Clever Taxi
- Star Taxi
- Free Now
- Bolt (earlier called Taxify).
Yandex has stopped its operation since 2020.
Most of the taxi drivers are honest. The drivers didn’t cancel the rides. Ride cancellation used to be common in Romania before the strong rules and regulations started to be implemented after 2019.
Nevertheless, I had one bad experience with a taxi ride in Bucharest where the driver compelled me to pay a tip. I took a Free Now night taxi in Bucharest. I have traveled to over 20 countries (mostly in Europe and Asia) and I have never really been asked for a tip for taxi rides. It was the first time a taxi driver asked me for a tip for a 7-8 minute or 2.5 km taxi ride in Bucharest city center, with the taxi fare amounting to €2.5 or 12 Lei. The taxi driver didn’t open the locks of the door unless I paid him the tip.
I stood my ground and told him that I have never paid a tip to anyone for such a short taxi ride and I have been taking taxis in Romania for the last 3 days. He was furious, rebuked me but later opened the lock of the door in a disgruntled manner.
Well, it was just one bad experience but the travel in Romania is very safe and Romanians are very hospitable people. I have had many nice experiences.
A bad experience can also happen in a Western European country. The Free Now taxi driver canceled my ride in Lisbon, Portugal after 10 minutes of accepting the ride. I barely managed to make it in time to the Lisbon Autogara bus station with another taxi, just 2 minutes before the bus was about to depart to Faro.
Tips for a Foreigner
1. Use Google Pay or Digital Wallets, not Cards
Make sure to link Google Pay to your taxi app. If your Google Pay is not linked to ‘Free Now’ or Taxi apps, then make sure you have cash with you as a lot of Romanian taxi drivers don’t accept cards.
Free Now allows you to tip x% of your fare as a tip if your taxi driver asks you to pay a tip. You can pay the tip easily with Google Pay. So, I would say linking Google Pay to your taxi app is a great option.
2. Don’t Use Old Fashioned Taxi in Romania
Don’t use old-fashioned taxis that don’t use meters.
3. Pre-Negotiate Private Taxi Services
Be very scrupulous of private taxi services for transfer between two cities, say Bucharest to Giurgiu. They can scam you if you haven’t negotiated the price earlier.
Negotiate the price in advance if you have to take a taxi that doesn’t run on meters or you are booking a long-haul private taxi between two cities.
Relevant Read: 20 Ultimate Travel Tips Before Visiting Romania
4. Don’t Tip Taxi Rides
I would not recommend tipping a short taxi ride of less than 5 km. FYI, in 2017, the Bucharest mayor passed a law that forbids taxi drivers to ask for tips.
However, if a taxi driver asks for a tip at night and I am a solo traveler, I might give in for a 10% tip and avoid a verbal clash. Nevertheless, tipping is very subjective.
Follow your instincts and safe practices. Romania is a very safe country and the people are very hospitable.
If you are visiting Romania for a week or two, try sticking to taxi apps for travel within the city and use public transport for intercity transfers. I know trains are quite slow in Romania for intercity travel. However, they are quite safe and convenient for intercity travel in Romania.
To your assurance, Romania has started initiatives to regulate its taxi system. Fining taxi drivers for refusing trips has been a subject of discussion in Romania in the last few years. In 2019, a law was passed to fine taxi drivers without a license. It has definitely made things better in the last few years.
The Bucharest municipality has gone a step ahead by passing a law that bans taxi drivers from talking about politics, religion, and sex with their clients.
I wish you a safe travel to Romania.
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