500 Reasons to Read In Your Pocket (or Bucharest Life)

A post that could be subtitled ‘Why on earth do we bother?’

Chances are that if you ask any of the founders of In Your Pocket why, nearly two decades ago, they decided to start publishing a guide to Vilnius, a city which had at the time no telephone directory, one of their answers would be: ‘To help people avoid paying £100 for a ten-minute taxi ride.

While it is perhaps disconcerting that the need to help people avoid paying extravagant amounts for short taxi rides in this part of the world is still valid almost 20 years on, the fact remains that the practice does still go on, and as such we continue to publish a number of warning texts both on the Bucharest In Your Pocket website and in the print guide about how to make sure you do not get ripped off by unscrupulous taxi drivers in Bucharest.

Knowing that Bucharest was to be invaded by Manchester United fans this week ahead of last night’s match against Otelul Galati, we even prepared a special page, Bucharest For Football Fans. We warn people about taxis in the text twice.

We then spent much of Monday reposting on Twitter a number of Bucharest Life posts about dodgy taxis.

And then we spot this on Twitter last night from Mark Ogden, the Daily Telegraph’s man at the game:

Scam City? Hardly, but a fool and his money are easily parted, in Bucharest as easily as anywhere. You just need to be careful, do a bit of research (like finding out how far the stadium is from the city centre) and employ a bit of common sense.

Now we can, if we try hard enough, think of how a Bucharest taxi ride could cost £100, although the taxi would have to be a limousine with complimentary Veuve Clicquot and Elena Udrea lap-dancing for passengers in her underwear. As Ogden failed to mention any half-naked ministers of tourism in his tweet, he probably just chanced upon a shark of a taxi driver who tried his luck and who was probably amazed when Ogden paid up.

There is a school of thought that will insist the taxi driver is a complete shyster who has let down the city, and who is personally to blame for a journalist from a major UK newspaper leaving Bucharest with the idea that the Romanian capital is Scam City.

While we agree up to a point, this is only part of the story. We kind of think that people who get charged £100 for a ten-minute taxi ride need to take a little look at themselves too.

Or is that too harsh?

  • Who ever said that you actually have to pay the taxi driver? I have run from Bucharest taxis before only leaving them the correct fare.

    • Parmalat

      I saw how 2 gypsies did it:

      They came with a taxi to Piata Romana and when the taxi slowed down, one of them jumped out of the car coughing, falling down and pretending to choke. The other one jumped out to pretending he was helping.

      The driver didn’t know what was going on. And then the ‘healthy’ gypsy started to scream “is there any hospital around?” and one of the passers by pointed him to a direction. The ‘ill’ gypsy got up pretending it was hard for him to walk and leaned onto the ‘healthy’ gypsy and they both left for the direction of the hospital while the driver was still unsure about what was going on.

      50 m away they started walking normally again.

  • Mr Rearguard

    What the ruddy hell is going on outside Peoples Palace today eh? All I can see and hear are idiots driving their cars very badly at some daft event! If you want to see bad driving, you only have to look out of your front window at any given time. Bucharest is full of bad drivers. Why not for once organise an event for sensible drivers eh? Rant over…

    • It’s some kind of event for men with small you know whats to play at being big boys. Quite why half the city has to be closed though I do not know.

  • anon

    An idiot and fool is parted from his money.
    There are some fucking nasty scam artists in taxi’s over here though, especially at night time.

    • Parmalat

      =))

    • Parmalat

      Have you heard of that scam with “maimuta”?

      Drivers connect some sort of a button to the meter and drag it somewhere around the steering or down on the floor where they can push it with their foot and when you’re not looking, they push the maimuta and they add 0.5 – 1 leu to the existing fare :))

      And there’s another scam: when they calibrate the meter they use wheels with wide rims which would need less rotations to make 1km, but then when they go out on the street they will replace the wheels and put some with smaller rims; the meter will register the same number of rotations for 1km but in fact the car has not driven for 1 full km.

    • jjoyce

      An idiot and a fool is also parted from decent language. (By the way, are f****g nasty scam artists worse than just your ordinary nasty scam artists?)

      • jjoyce

        Whoops. Sorry, replied to the wrong post.

      • Parmalat

        Of course they’re worse 😀

    • jjoyce

      An idiot and fool is also parted from decent language. (By the way, are f****g nasty scam artists worse than just your ordinary nasty scam artists?)

      • Anon

        Aww aren’t you precious.

        • Parmalat

          :))

      • Mr Rearguard

        Dunno, have a look in the James Joyce pub. A few expat scamsters drinking there I heard…

        • Parmalat

          Expat scamsters doing a career in Romania?! How come? I thought it was only possible the other way around.

          I heard decent fish and chips are to be found at the James Joyce so I’m gonna pay a visit one of these days. This is a taste of old England which I have to feel while I’m still alive.

  • jjoyce

    Most, if not all, blame goes to the rubes who pay the fare: the taxi guys aren’t exactly performing some sort of amazingly devious and mind-blowing sleight-of-hand con. They explicitly tell you how much the fare is going to cost for heaven’s sake. They’re not putting a gun to anyone’s head forcing them to accepts their offer. It’s not their fault these people don’t do their homework. I’ve stupidly bought things online for what I thought was a deal, only to discover later that another site had the same product for half the price. My bad. Live and learn.

  • Mr Rearguard

    I agree with the fella from the Telegraph: Proper Scam City is Bucharest and most Romanians would agree too!!!

    • Parmalat

      But you know, there’s a good side of this: it keeps your brains alert all the time, it’s like an exercise 😀

  • Parmalat

    Only the mentioning of the word “police” would have gotten them a free ride.

    Too bad the lads were from England, that’s a decent country with decent people. Had they been from Holland or Finland, I would have laughed for half an hour.

  • Jen

    Not too harsh… seeing as the price is written right there on the taxi and if you divide 500 lei by 1.4, well, a trip that long would probably land you in Brasov.

    • Mr Rearguard

      ….maybe even Manchester?

    • clau2002

      He is a British journalist not a mathematician.Don”t you know that in Britain for such ecuations they use calculators?They are so much more advanced then us backward Romanians who are forced to learn division and multiplication from the second grade ,and to add fault to the injury ,forced to use our brains!!!Maybe some charity in Britain would be willing to seend us some calculators…..so we have a chance to catch up with the Brits?