Taking a taxi in Italy can feel like a bit of a lottery.
You might get a crazy behind the wheel, you might get a friendly, chatty professional driver. Or you might get someone intent on ripping you off.
However, although they have a bad reputation, Italian taxis are really no worse that other big cities.
How to find a taxi
One of the main differences to be aware of is you can’t hail a taxi in the street.
I tried to hail a cab in Milan and was so frustrated that all these empty cabs were going past but no-one would stop. The drivers would just wag a finger as they drove by. What was I doing wrong?
Turns out that Italian cabs work to a fairly strict radio booking system and it’s illegal to stop to pick up unbooked fares on the street.
But what if you don’t have a phone?
Keep an eye out for registered taxi stands located around the city. They’re marked with a clear orange Taxi sign.
Stands are often easier than phoning a cab as you need to explain your exact address, and not many operators speak English.
There’s also a quirk where drivers are allowed to start their meter from the time they accept your booking, not the time that you get in the taxi. Often there’ll be a few euros on the meter when they arrive.
If there are no taxis waiting at the stand, there’s usually a phone you can call for a taxi. But don’t be surprised if the phone is broken. Just wait a few minutes and a taxi should arrive though.
Alternatively, look for the nearest hotel. You can ask the front desk or concierge to call a taxi for you. We found this the easiest way to get a cab when we were out, and the most comfortable place to wait.
Now, how to avoid getting ripped off…
- Always check that the taxi is licensed. It’s a good idea to make a note of the driver name and license number, which should be displayed inside the taxi on the left passenger door. Unlicensed taxis are common and aren’t safe.
- Know your destination. Have a look on a map for an approximate location and so you know roughly which way to go and know the address in Italian if possible.
- Ensure the driver starts the meter when you get in. Ask them to do this if you notice it hasn’t started. In Rome, make sure it’s set to ‘Tarriffa 1’ as the higher ‘Tariffa 2’ is only for exiting highways. Some drivers will ‘forget’ the start the meter then charge you a much higher ‘estimated’ rate at the end of the trip.
- Carry small change. Drivers won’t have change for €50 and even if they do, they probably won’t tell you. You also don’t have to tip drivers more than rounding up to the nearest euro, so small note denominations and coins will be very useful.
- Keep an eye on your money, or announce how much money you have passed the driver. I have heard stories of drivers passing a €10 note for a €50 note as they are a similar colour and insisting that the passenger has underpaid.
- Don’t fall for the “fares just went up yesterday” line. You weren’t born yesterday and neither were the fare changes.
- If you do have a problem, don’t be afraid to argue. You can threaten to call the Carabinieri (dial 112) or say ‘denuncia!’ – ‘I’m going to complain!’
We haven’t had many problems but have heard horror stories from friends and other travellers. It can happen to locals and tourists alike so don’t feel bad if it happens to you. Be confident and don’t be afraid to argue back.
Taxis from Rome and Milan airports
- When flying into Italy, there is a set zone for licensed taxis. Don’t fall for the drivers who call to you as you exit. These unofficial drivers will charge more. Head straight for the marked Taxi zone (also very near the exit).
- From Rome airports to the city, there is a fixed rate fare. Drivers don’t necessarily need to start the meter as it is a flat fee.
- From Ciampino to Rome is €30 and from Fiumicino to Rome is €40. Confirm the destination and fee when you get in the taxi.
Check that your cab is marked Commune di Roma not Commune di Fiumicino at the airport. Fiumicino taxis cost €60 to Rome as they charge you for them to get back to the airport. This fare does also include 1 bag per person.
In Rome, it’s not that much more to book a private car to go to the airport (approximately €60) and this is worth it if you have an early or late arrival/departure.
When I was travelling on my own, I booked a private transfer. Who wants to be worried about arguing with a taxi driver after a 24-hour flight?
In Milan, the airport is further from the city and the fixed fare is €90. There is also a train which costs €10, which may be a better option for budget travellers.
In addition to taxi flat fees, there is a €1 charge for every additional item of luggage, and for additional people above 4 passengers.
Hope this helps you on your next trip to Italy. Being half Italian, it’s one of my favourite places to visit, and catching taxis is all part of any adventure.
Do you have any stories about catching taxis in Italy?