ATHENS – Long having a notorious reputation for ripping off tourists – and coming off two two years of COVID-19 lockdowns and lost business – Greek taxi drivers were told by Citizens’ Protection Minister Takis Theodorikakos to treat visitors with courtesy as they will begin to start arriving again.
He met with the heads of Greece’s taxi service associations and said that there will be more frequent checks taxis shortly and the Greek police will add more staff at airports and other major travel hubs, said Kathimerini.
Taxi drivers essentially have a monopoly in Greece after their associations browbeat the former ruling Radical Left SYRIZA into passing legislation effectively barring Uber, although there is technically an Uber app that’s hard to use.
In July, 2017, Kathimerini detailed how devious some Greek taxi drivers can be, especially for the unsuspecting and first-time visitors.
“The first question taxi drivers ask foreign clients is whether they’ve been to Greece before. If the answer is ‘no,’ they’re done for,” says a taxi driver with 30 years of experience, who didn’t want his name used.
“Customers coming out of the airport see the sign informing visitors that the fixed fare to downtown Athens is 38 euros ($41.46.) But the driver will strike up a conversation to gain their trust and then say something like there’s traffic on the Attiki Odos highway and he’ll need to take a different route,” says the veteran. “The ‘faster’ way includes tolls, because every municipality – he will say – has its own charge, and more stuff like that,” he said, turning the trip into a 100-euro ($109.10) ride instead, being taken for a real ride.
Uber in 2018 said he had to suspend its licensed service in Greece after the approval of legislation which imposes such strict regulation on the drivers that it was impossible to work.
The site TripSavvy savaged Greek taxi drivers uardand warned tourists and riders to be on guard for various scams and schemes to part them from their money, especially those coming for the first time.
“Unscrupulous taxi drivers have been attempting to rip off arriving tourists (and succeeding) for decades. The Athens airport routes to the city center and the port of Piraeus are notorious for this.
“The situation is so bad that the leading airport taxi website, Athens Airport Taxi is remarkably matter- of-fact when it reports, ‘If you are a tourist, expect that most taxi drivers will try to charge you more than the normal fare.'”
Among the tricks visitors were warned to look for were drivers:
- Failing to start the meter or setting the taximeter for the wrong tariff
- Choosing the longest route possible to travel through traffic clogged back streets
- Demanding payment in advance
- Trying to switch your hotel or restaurant to a different one
- Playing sleight-of-hand with your money
The site said some taxi drivers are faster with their hands in switching notes than Three-Card Monte scamsters, dropping a large denomination note you hand them and claiming it was smaller and you owe more.
The antitode was simple: “Always pay in small notes; ideally 5-euro and 10-euro notes and never larger than 20 euros. And when you pay, look the driver in the face and say the denomination of each note aloud as you hand it over.