On this day of a national taxi riot, the price, availability and conduct of taxi drivers is being scrutinized, particularly here in Nice, the unhappy home of the world’s highest taxi fares. Furious at competition from Uber, taxi drivers are shown above at Nice Airport demanding papers from rental cars to prove that it’s a “legitimate” rental. Although the government has already declared Uber’s low-cost service, UberPop, illegal, French courts have yet to weigh in on the matter and the highly popular service exists now in a legal limbo.
I’ll tell you a secret. Everyone but everyone living in Nice loathes the local taxi drivers and tries to avoid taking a taxi at all costs. Locals are well aware that €30 to go 8km from Nice Airport to the town center is absurd and only exists because the “taxi mafia”, as they are locally known, has insisted that the airport is in a special zone. Complaints of nastiness, overcharging, refusing short rides, refusing credit cards, refusing receipts and other shenanigans abound.
So what do locals do about it?
- Take Uber if possible Be aware that there are two Uber services in France and only one is illegal. The Uber X service uses professional drivers and is legal. The price is slightly cheaper than a taxi, the drivers are pleasant and payment is through theapp. UberPop is much lower-priced and uses amateur or part-time drivers. Today’s taxi tantrum was directed at both but it is really only UberPop’s service that is in question.
- Take an airport bus The 98 or 99 airport buses go to the train station and along the Promenade des Anglais. At €6 per person, it’s certainly cheaper than a taxi.
- Use Auto Bleu This short-term electric car rental is perfect for short distances and is cheaper than a taxi. Auto-Bleu “Flex” is a one-way option that allows you to drop the car off at a different station than the pick-up station. For Auto-Bleu “Zen” you must pick up and drop off at the same station. There is a station at Nice Airport Terminal 2 that only works with the “Zen” option (the Nice taxi mafia strikes again?) but there’s another station within a short walk of Terminal 1 that allows the “Flex” option. See more at the Auto-Bleu website.
- Be vigilant Act like you know where you are and where you’re going as soon as you get in the taxi. Speak French if you can. There is a card in each taxi that explains all surcharges plus the night, day and waiting rates. Look at it and look at the meter to make sure it corresponds. Keep an eye on the meter during your trip to make sure the driver is not pushing it with his hand. Make sure the meter stays on for the duration. A common trick is to turn it off at some point and then just make up a fare.
- Don’t be intimidated If you know you’ve been cheated, say so. Demand a receipt. Write down the driver’s name and license number. Insist that you settle it in front of a third party at your hotel or holiday rental. The driver will fume and shout. It will be ugly but assaulting a passenger is the end of his license and the driver knows it.
And do as the locals do, don’t tip. Unless the driver has performed some heroic feat he’s already been well-paid for your journey.Follow me!