The common scams of Amsterdam taxi drivers
One of nature’s greatest events is the great salmon run. Every year grizzly bear families in North America depend for their survival on the return of hundreds of millions of salmon from the Pacific Ocean to the mountain streams where they were born.
The Great Schiphol Taxi Passenger Run
The great salmon run is not dissimilar to the daily arrival of thousands of visitors to Schiphol Airport. Taxi drivers from all over the country, with and without permits, descend on the airport looking for visitors to overcharge. Which brings me to the subject of today’s post, five common scams of Amsterdam taxi drivers.
Amsterdam taxi drivers have long had a well deserved appalling reputation. Only recently, the Shallow Man read a story about a tourist that was charged 980 euros for a journey from Schiphol airport to Amsterdam. The actual price for the trip shouldn’t have been more than seventy to eighty euros.
After twelve years as an Amsterdammer, the Shallow Man has learned the common scams used by Amsterdam Taxi drivers, which I’ll share with you dear reader, so you can hopefully spot their tricks and stop yourself from being scammed. The five I list below are the ones I’ve come across on numerous occasions in Amsterdam.
The things I do for my readers!
Amsterdam Taxi drivers are so friendly!
The first thing you’ll notice as a non-Dutch speaker when you step into a taxi, is that the moment you speak English, the driver will transform from being a brusque and cantankerous individual, and will suddenly smile and be incredibly friendly, leuk! However, be aware, that there’s a reason for their deferential and smarmy behaviour. A lot of taxi drivers in Amsterdam regard English speaking passengers as a biological ATM machine. Even while they’re asking you where you’re from (and praying that you don’t live in Amsterdam as you might know something about the local laws and prices) they’re already thinking about what they’ll do with the money they’ll squeeze out of you.
1. Forgetting to turn on the meter
The Amsterdam Taxi driver will ask lots of jolly questions. You’ll have a super friendly conversation, and will marvel at how well informed taxi drivers are of current events, literature and high culture.
While in the middle of a discussion about why Pigs on the show are middle class, while zebras and bears are members of the proletariat, the driver will suddenly announce that you’ve arrived at your destination. He’ll then be incredibly apologetic and with the pathos of Laurence Olivier regretting having killed Desdemona as Othello, will say, “I’m so sorry, I forgot to turn the meter on”.
Being a reasonable person you’ll say, “not a problem, how much does a journey of approximately five kilometers normally cost?” Suddenly looking very serious, with all friendliness having vanished faster than a Dutchman after a one-night stand, the driver will say, “oh well normally it would cost a lot more, but as you know so much about Peppa Pig, I’m only going to charge you 50 euros”.
2. Offering to do you the favor of driving via the motorway to save time
When taking a taxi across Amsterdam, another common scam by taxi drivers is to offer to save time by taking the highway. This is of course, pardon the pun, highway robbery. The reason taxi drivers are so keen to save you time is that the charges are per kilometer. Yes you’ll reach your destination a lot quicker if you take the highway, however, it will cost you a lot more as you’d have covered more distance, which of course will make your driver very happy indeed.
3. Suggesting a (vastly inflated) fixed price
If when getting into a taxi, the driver upon hearing your destination suggests a fixed price, refuse to get into any negotiations and insist that they use the meter. All licensed taxis in Amsterdam must display an easily identifiable number on the roof of the car. Take note of this, and if they still refuse to use the meter, complain using the website taxiklacht.nl, which also has an English version.
4. Taking the scenic route
Amsterdam is so beautiful, that taxi drivers love nothing better than to show passengers as much of the city and surrounding areas as possible during a journey. Especially if you tell them it’s your first time in the city.
My advice is when taking a taxi from the Airport, that even if it’s your first visit here, pretend that you used to live in Amsterdam, or have been here many times. This might make the driver think twice before attempting to take the scenic route to your destination. Before getting into a taxi (especially at the airport) enter the destination address into Google Maps on your smartphone. This can also prevent you finding yourself passing through Antwerp on your way to Amsterdam from Schiphol.
5. Setting a high minimum price
Some taxi drivers do everything they can to hide the meter from the view of the customer. It should always be visible from the back seat. If you can’t see the meter, ask where it is, and make sure that the minimum price isn’t too high. A common scam at night is to set a starting price of eight or even ten euros or more. The actual maximum starting price on a taxi in Amsterdam is actually €2.83 for four people in a car. For taxi vans the maximum starting price is €5.75. If you ask the driver why they’re charging more than the maximum amount, you’re likely to be told that this is the “night rate” that is charged in Amsterdam. This is of course nonsense.
Common myths about Amsterdam taxi drivers
“TCA are angels, you can’t go wrong with them”
TCA are the largest taxi firm in Amsterdam. They’re the best of a bad bunch, but that’s not really saying much. I’ve experienced both the “let’s take the highway”, and the “oh sorry, I forgot to turn on the meter”, with drivers from TCA, so don’t be lulled into a false sense of security just because it’s a TCA driver. They also have an app which I’m convinced was developed in conjunction with medical researchers wishing to test the effects of high blood pressure and stress on its users.
Uber while far from perfect, are at least pretty transparent about their charges. Having said that, their use of surge pricing at busy times appears to be far more common which can significantly increase the cost of using their service.
How do you know when an Amsterdam taxi driver is lying? Their lips move. Seriously though, there are some honest and good drivers out there, but like many other major cities in the world, the drivers here are quick to squeeze extra cash out of non-Dutch speaking passengers if they can get away with it. With any luck, if you follow my advice, you’ll avoid paying for some taxi drivers next holiday on the French Riviera.
No pigs were hurt during the writing of this post.
Till next time…….