One of the reasons that I never became a journalist apart from the fact that I can’t spell, and have suspect grammar is because I was terrified that I might have ended up being sent to some terrible part of the world in the middle of a war zone. So the shallow man took a different, safer path until I ended up moving to the fair and pleasant place known as Amsterdam.

I’ve been to many cities across Europe and the rest of the world and yet, I must say that Amsterdam has the worst and most dishonest taxi drivers I’ve ever had the misfortune to deal with.

When I first moved here, after a night of partying at Palladium (dodging the Golddiggers) and at Jimmy Woo where I’d had a Vodka Orange or four or five, I decided that as it was the middle of Winter that instead of walking for 15 to 20 minutes home that I’d take a Taxi.

So I walked up to the Leidseplein Taxi rank which had a huge line of Taxis lined up, so far so good, however there were hordes of people hanging around. As I reached the Taxi rank you could cut the atmosphere there with a Chainsaw. Tension was in the air, aggressive drivers were arguing with potential passengers as if it was a Moroccan Bazaar.

Leidseplein Taxi rank the aftermath

I approached what I assumed to be an available car. “I’d like to go to the Sarphartipark,” I asked politely. “Where? Sarphartipark? Ok get in,” replied the driver who’d obviously recently graduated from charm school. As soon as the cab pulled away from Leidseplein, the driver shut off the meter, turned to me and said “Sarphartipark that be twenty five euros.” Trying not to laugh I responded “I’ll pay the price that’s on the meter and not a euro cent more, so the first thing I suggest that you do is turn the meter back on.” The driver shook his head, “No, no, no man, you pay 25 euros, no meter.” Unfortunately for the driver, who’d obviously assumed that being an English speaker that I was some dumb tourist, I actually knew a little about the Amsterdam Taxi laws so was able to tell him that the law requires that all journeys in a taxi are compliant to the agreed tariff per KM, per minute and must be measured on the meter which must be turned on.

Getting ready to take cabs at Amsterdam Central Station

“If you don’t turn the meter on I’ll simply take a photo of your license plate and will report you on the website.” Upon hearing this his entire demeanour changed, he indeed turned on the meter and for the rest of the short journey cursed under his breath in a language I could not comprehend. Upon arriving I paid him the exact amount that was on the meter and took my time about finding the money just to annoy him even further.

I’ve had several such experiences with Amsterdam taxi drivers.  Since June 1st the city council have bought in a new law which is intended to make sure that taxi drivers are easily identifiable, with a number of the driver in plain sight on the roof of the car. One of the big problems with the Taxi market in Amsterdam was that many cowboy drivers would come into town from all over the country during the weekends with the sole aim of ripping off tourists. Now it’s only possible to pick up passengers from Taxi ranks or the street if the driver is in possession of an Amsterdam Council permit. If a driver is caught working in Amsterdam without a permit, or behaves as I outlined above they can be fined up to 20,000 euros.

Certainly things have improved at the main taxi ranks however, just as a leopard can’t change its spots there are still some drivers committing shall we say sharp practices. Recently I took a cab from Central station to the Pijp. I noticed that the meter was spinning at an incredible rate and was already at 18 Euros after only being in the cab for ten minutes. When I pointed this out to the driver his response was “WHAT ARE YOU SAYING? I DON’T NEED THIS, GET OUT OF MY CAR.” So I was able to travel across town in a taxi for free. 🙂

My advice, especially to women travelling on their own is when in Amsterdam to use the following Taxi firms that are always reliable and do not see their customers as a human ATM from which to withdraw as much as possible.

  • When at a Taxi rank, you do not have to take the first taxi in the queue. If you see a TCA cab, take that one.
  • If you are sitting in the back seat and you cannot see the meter, ask the driver to display it. By law, it must be visible to passengers at all times.
  • If there is any discussion at all about price, tell the driver that you’ll report him to that should end the discussion.
If you must take a Taxi from the street always make sure that next to the Taxi sign on the roof that there is a 3 digit number displayed. If the sign on the roof simply says Taxi without a number it’s likely to be an illegal cab that’s not allowed to pick up passengers in Amsterdam.
Be safe out there.