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There are plenty of honest taxi drivers in Budapest but a few too many dishonest ones. If you follow these guidelines you should be able to avoid being one of the many frustrated travelers taken for a ride. Whenever possible, do as locals do and order a taxi by telephone—even if you're on the street. Fotaxi now has a toll-free number, which can be called from any pay phone without using any coins. All the companies we list have English-speaking operators. City Taxi and Fotaxi are especially good with English and handling foreigners. You will be asked for the address, your name, and a contact phone number; if you're at a pay phone, give them the number written on the phone if it's visible. The taxi usually appears in 5 to 10 minutes, and the driver will ask you to confirm your name. Most locals open the front door and hop in the passenger seat next to the driver. If you're at a restaurant, you can ask your waiter to call you a cab, but be sure to specify which company or companies you want. Don't be shy: this is common practice in Budapest.
Hailing a taxi on the street is tricky, as the available ones will tend to be the sharks trolling for tourists. If a gleaming, unmarked white Mercedes offers to take you, don't get in! The reliable ones are easy to spot (but most of them on the streets are occupied by telephone customers): their company logo and phone number will be displayed clearly all over the car—again, it's safest to wait for one of the companies listed below. You're more likely than not to find one at a taxi állomás taxi stand (pronounced, "tuck-see ah-lome-osh").
All legitimate taxis must have a working meter; make sure it is running when you start out. The charge is by distance and time, not by passenger; while taxis are not allowed to charge separate fees for luggage, any help the driver gives you with luggage means that the tip you include with the fee can be on the high end (or higher) of the usual 10%-15%.
If you hail a taxi on the street, the base fare at this writing was no more than 300 HUF during the day and 420 HUF at night. Added to this are 220 HUF per kilometer by day or 336 HUF at night, plus 60 HUF per minute when not in motion by day, 84 HUF at night. Larger companies, including those we recommend, often charge lower rates, especially when called in advance. When you order a taxi by phone, the per-kilometer rate falls by 10% or more per kilometer.
Be especially wary at the airport and train stations, where many visitors run into trouble. Never go along with someone who approaches you on the platform. Outside the train station will be a line of taxis; look there for one of the reliable ones. If you don't find one, call from a pay phone.
Another tip: if you're on a tight budget, avoid taking official hotel taxis, as they tend to be very expensive. Visitors stranded on Castle Hill should avoid the Hilton taxicabs, shiny as they may be, for this reason.
6x6 Taxi (1/266-6666.)
City Taxi (1/211-1111.)
Radio Taxi (1/377-7777.)
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