Are Taxi Drivers in Sofia Literally Taking Us for a Ride?

Letters to the Editor | August 16, 2011, Tuesday // 11:14

The first time a new visitor encounters a Bulgarian taxi driver, will be arriving at Sofia airport, when they are at their most susceptible (not knowing where their destination is or how to get there?)... But help is on hand! They are quickly marshalled into one of the yellow taxis that are waiting for their unsuspecting prey to arrive and be fleeced by the "low life" driver.

It will soon become apparent that the taxis are not for the passenger's comfort, but for the person who is driving taxi and the other occupants are merely an inconvenience to them, except of course when they pay!

Firstly, most taxis are not so clean inside and normally smell of stale BO or smoke. The drivers seat will be set right back with the position of the back of the seat the same, thus giving the passenger directly behind no room at all. Also, most of the taxis are not in great mechanical or roadworthiness condition.

When the driver does get in the taxi this is when the passenger's worries begin. He will smell, be unshaven, smoking, overweight and suffering from the normal Bulgarian physiologic problems that will make the journey a " white knuckle ride".  Also, don't look for any help in getting your luggage in and out of the boot, because it won't happen! The fares will vary according to the way the meter is set up (to go faster/ normal) or at the driver's discretion. Some people have been charged up to 100 leva for a 10 leva ride, from the airport to the city center.

In April on the instructions of the government, all taxis in Bulgaria were ordered to charge the same rates and not as they thought i.e. exorbitant fares especially from the airports for newly arrived visitors. Of course like all new regulations in Bulgarian no one enforces them and its just another excuse for more bribing and corruption that maintains the status quo of the scum that enjoys the rewards.

I have ridden in hundreds of taxis in Sofia and I believe that every trip is a potential accident waiting to happen, with either the driver having no idea where his going and for sure in a bad mental state or a manic who thinks he's on the last lap of a Grand Prix.

But don't despair because there's a "new kid on the block" called Euro Lease and their taxis are all Fiat cabs with sliding doors, nearly all brand new and the drivers are clean / helpful ..... Also, they will extend your life expectancy!!

Keith Gregory

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