Signs call Prague taxis a 'museum of communism'

A new campaign is aimed at warning tourists about overcharging

Prague City Hall has had a long-running battle with taxi drivers who overcharge tourists in the city center. The latest salvo is an information campaign launched April 6 by Prague Mayor Adriana Krnáčová.

Some 35 signs in nine locations will have three different warning messages. One sign states in English: “These cabs are part of a museum of communism exhibition. Want to experience the totalitarian era? Exorbitant prices for an otherwise cheap service! Be careful or get a trustworthy cab.”

Another sign is a but more mundane. It explains that the standard fee in a cab is Kč 28 per kilometer and the fee to go to the airport from the center is around Kč 400, followed by the “be careful” warning and the mayor's photo.

The third design asks, “Do you want to enjoy one of the world's most expensive taxi rides?” The sign lists the unofficial Prague price per kilometer as €11, followed by prices for other cities ranging from €6 for Tokyo to €0.5 for Lisbon. The official rate for Prague is highlighted as €1 per kilometer. The “be careful” warning is at the bottom, but without the mayor's photo this time.

City Hall says the campaign is aimed at “rogue” taxi drivers, and that it is an attempt to warn tourists of the risks they face at some taxi stand locations. These taxi drivers are known for charging much more than the standard taxi fares.

“I have no illusions that this campaign will solve the problem of dishonest taxi drivers; our aim is mainly to warn tourists. That is why we have chosen slightly controversial visuals that should attract attention and also highlight the danger,” Mayor Krnáčová said on the City Hall website.

The signs are on lamp posts near places where rogue taxis tend to park and wait for tourists. “Due to the fact that they will be in the implicated locations plus prominently displayed, I believe that a lot of people can be protected,” Krnáčová said.

The mayor is also pushing for stronger laws. City Hall has been working on an amendment to the Road Act that would allow for a taxi driver's license to be suspended on suspicion of overcharging. The license would remain suspended until the incident is investigated. Driving a taxi without a valid license would be considered a criminal offense. The amendment to the law would also allow for psychological testing of taxi drivers.

“I am convinced that these are precisely the tools that would really help us deal with the group of dishonest taxi drivers who spoil not only Prague's reputation, but also that of the whole taxi profession,” Krnáčová said.

Soon the city will launch a new information website divided into two categories. One part will be for drivers and will explain all the conditions that taxi drivers must meet. The other part will be for travelers and will explain their rights and include a fare calculator.

This is by far not the first time that a Prague mayor has tried to take on dishonest taxi drivers. In January 2005 then-mayor Pavel Bém dressed up as an Italian tourist and was charged 500 percent of the official rate for a short trip to Prague Castle. In another cab, he was charged double for paying in euros.

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