After the war against Uber ended with the triumph of taxi companies (not the drivers) and the defeat of customers – here is what you need to know about taxis in Budapest.
1. Uber has been banned
2. Taxis have been regulated, they are all bright yellow – and so are the fake taxis. Regulation doesn’t make illegal things go away. (That is the whole point of illegal.) When flagging down a taxi, make sure that it belongs to a company to limit your exposure to unpleasant experiences. Since they are all regulatory yellow, the only way to see it is the sign on the top, maybe on the side. If is only says “Freelancer” or “TAXI”, move along. It is still not a 100% tip but this is what we follow.
3. Due to price control, taxi is now expensive in Budapest. A ride between the airport and downtown (Ritz-Carlton) is 20+ euros, one way, straight line.
4. Fare calculator under this link: http://www.budapesttaxi.hu/menetdij-kalkulator.html#english (This is not an endorsement of the company.)
UPDATE 15/11/2017 – Taxi drivers demand another 10% raise in state controlled prices.
5. But if you are a foreigner, don’t try to play smart with the drivers… They move the meter with their minds and the meter is always right.
6. Calling a taxi company is tough. There is a serious shortage – due to the regulation. Prepare to be on the phone and listen to Vivaldi for an eternity. Then they will pick up and either apologize because “there is no car available in the foreseeable future” or send one in 20-30 minutes. It happens to us day after day, during daytime, in downtown Budapest. The reason: Even though the controlled prices are higher than the market prices before, more goes up to the companies and whoever is the top dog now – and less stays with the drivers. The ones who stayed in business… well, let’s just say they love their profession the most…
7. Taxi companies all have their own apps now. If you, as a tourist, neglected to learn their names in advance and set up their apps just for your visit, it’s on you.
8. There is Taxify from internationally useful apps. But they run at state controlled prices so no savings there. And they only have 200 cars or so. Budapest has the 8th biggest population (1.7 million within city boundaries) among European cities, so you can feel it.
9. There is no public direct public transport link between the airport and downtown. Airport transfer services are also crony-operated (the minibus service pushed out the previous operator with a single legislative move, the taxi company that is allowed to operate at the airport belongs to some member of government), so they will keep it that way. It’s a 20 km ride (half bus, half underground) but the M3 metro line that serves that direction has not been upgraded because our government could only do it if they could also organize Olympics. We refused to let them steal that much so we are now in punishment. Apologies for the state of that line. If you want to know whether it is burning right now, there is a blog for that. If you were evacuated during your trip, you have a great story and don’t forget to buy yourself a plush burning metro car as souvenir.
Hope we could help.
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