George Clooney, the newest Batman and star of "The Peacemaker," a film shot in Bratislava last year, poked quite a bit of fun at Bratislava on an American talk show just last month. One of his anecdotes recalled a taxi ride in Bratislava - Clooney complained that the driver smelled and, much to his amazement, couldn't speak a word of English.
Bratislava residents should applaud Clooney's courage - the poor fellow obviously felt all at odds in such a forsaken place. They should also be reminded of how often foreigners bring their prejudices with them when travelling, making a nightmare of a place which in reality is not so bad. So, the following survival tips for taking a taxi in Bratislava may help not only future Clooneys but also current city dwellers.
Clooney had one thing right - it is indeed difficult to decide at first glance which taxi won't rip you off, take you on a joy ride or, heaven forbid, smell. We have all heard the famous taxi horror stories, like the $50 ride from the train station to the Hotel Danube, which normally costs $5. So, the first tip is to avoid the long slick Mercedes and BMWs at the train station.
The best (and probably the cheapest) taxi services in the city are B.P. Taxi at 303-111, V.I.P. at 301-111 or 5414-141, and Oto taxi at 322-322. One of the most professional lines, which may be a little more expensive, is Yellow Express at 525-1111. And remember, it is cheaper to call for a taxi than to pick one up off the street.
And yes, drivers are very unlikely to speak English (though maybe German) - sorry George - so it is safer to prepare your destination address on a piece of paper beforehand. Make sure that the meter is turned on when you get into the car. A general rule of thumb is that the meter should be sitting somewhere between 20 Sk or 30 Sk when you get into the car. If it is higher, watch out! Start making a fuss by asking why (prečo?) while pointing at the meter. Drivers will usually relent and charge normal prices if they think that they have been caught.
After one has been in Bratislava for a longer period, taking a taxi can become quite expensive, so the best alternative - providing you don't have a car - is public transportation.
By public transportation we mean the extensive system of buses, trolley-buses, and trams, all of which have black and yellow numbers. Express buses have red and white numbers and run during rush hours - 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 6 p.m..
Buses and trolley buses run at 8 to 10 minutes intervals during rush hour, and trams at 10 minute intervals. It is safer to give yourself extra time for waiting, since the schedules are not always followed exactly. There also may be times when buses or trams are so crowded that it is hard to breathe, let alone get on. Just think of it as a chance to get to know the people around you. Adult one-way tickets cost 7 Sk, and for children the same ticket is 3 Sk (children under 6 years do not need a ticket). Retired people can use the 3 Sk ticket, and people older than 70 years also do not need a ticket. And remember to punch your ticket in the manual gadgets located near the doors of each vehicle - unpunched tickets are invalid.
It is possible to buy a monthly pass (125 Sk for students, 250 Sk for adults), and three-month passes (320 Sk for students, 650 Sk for adults). To get a pass take two small pictures and your ID card (passport) with you to one of the three locations listed to the left. Students need to show a paper proving that they are still in school.
Beware of plain-clothed ticket checkers, who usually travel in pairs. They identify themselves with a tiny shiny badge and check the validity of everyone's pass or ticket. No ticket or no pass results in a hefty 700 Sk ($20) fine that must be paid on the spot. One can only imagine what Clooney might have said if he had been busted by, yes, a smelly checker who spoke no english. Easy does it, George.
Where to get a public transportation pass:
Mlynarovičova (Petržalka): Tel. 811-804, Mon - Fri 10 - 13:30, 14 - 18
Hodžovo nám.: Tel. 533-3875, Mon - Fri 6 - 19
Hlavná stanica (Main train station): Tel. 395-090,Mon - Fri 5:30 - 21, Sat 6 - 13, Sun 13 - 20
Bus - Autobus
Please, take me from A to B - Prosím, zoberte ma z A do B
Taxi - Taxi
Ticket - Lístok
Tram - Električka
Trolley-bus - Trolejbus
6. Nov 1997 at 0:00 | Daniel J. Stoll