"PROSÍM taxík pred Hotel Carlton, na meno John Black, telefón 0904 111 222 (I would like a taxi in front of the Hotel Carlton, for John Black, telephone 0904 111 222)." This tiny Slovak phrase just might save you money and time.
As a foreigner, you will probably first ask the taxi operator whether he or she speaks English. However, don't be surprised if not, because very few operators do. Instead, if you memorise the above phrase, substituting key facts to suit your situation, half the battle will be won.
After hearing your request, the operator will ask you to wait for a moment while he or she searches for the taxi closest to your location. The operator will then tell you that the taxi will be there in a number of minutes, informing you of the make and colour of the cab on its way.
You may hear this: "Červené Alfa Romeo tam bude o päť minút (a red Alfa Romeo will be there in five minutes)" or something like it. If no car is available, the operator will say: "Prepáčte, nemáme žiadne taxíky voľné. Zavolajte neskôr, prosím (Sorry, there are no cars available. Please call back later)." If you want your taxi to come, let's say, in half an hour (o pol hodinu), make sure you tell the operator.
A word of warning: Your taxi will only wait for five minutes before starting the metre (at Sk5 a minute until you get in).
If you want to take a taxi parked at a taxi rank - and you'll find these near many of the capital's landmarks - first ask the driver if he or she is free: "Ste voľný?" If he or she says yes, get in, and then tell the driver where you want to go: "Rád by som išiel na hlavnú stanicu (I would like to go to the main train station)."
Although flagging down a taxi is uncommon in Slovakia, it is possible, and the rates should be the same as if you caught the cab at a taxi rank.
Whether you ordered the taxi over the phone or caught it on the street, the initial fee will be the same. But once your journey starts, the price per kilometre will differ (see table below). If you called the taxi, the cost will range from Sk12 to Sk17 per kilometre, but if you caught one at a rank, expect the price to almost double.
You can watch how much the journey is costing you on the taxi metre (taxameter), usually installed below the stereo. At one end of the metre you will see a single number. This indicates the rate at which you are being charged, so it's worth checking you're not being ripped off. The number should be 1 for a taxi-rank cab, 2 if you called it, and 3 if you are using the taxi to go out of town.
Just as the prices differ from one taxi company to the next, so do the rules. For example, if you want to take an animal (zviera) with you, some drivers may refuse to let you do that. That is why it is best to check in advance with the taxi operator if you have any doubts about your requirements. Also, if you are a smoker (fajčiar), ask for a taxi with a driver who will not mind it.
A few taxi companies, such as ABC Taxi and Otto Taxi, can even help you with moving furniture. They will ask you to describe the size of your furniture so they know which of their vehicles they should send. For this type of service, the initial price ranges between Sk100 and Sk150, while the price per kilometre (circa Sk14) can get twice as high out of town.
Almost all the 20 taxi companies in Bratislava drive abroad, and the costs are usually fixed. For instance, driving to Vienna airport costs from Sk2,500 to Sk3,000 depending on the company. This price is the same whether you called the taxi or grabbed it off the street.
Finally, tipping: The custom in Slovakia is to round up the fare - say from Sk163 to Sk170. If you want to give the driver more, he probably won't complain.
Foreign Affairs is a regular column devoted to helping expats and foreigners navigate the thrills and spills of life in Slovakia.
31. Mar 2003 at 0:00 | Kristína Havasová