How best to drive a taxi in Moscow
Moscow is a huge metropolis – the capital of the Russian Federation is three times as large and has three times as many inhabitants as Berlin, for example. Of course, getting from A to B is an important topic for visitors and locals alike. The metro is certainly the number one form of transportation in the Russian mega city.
But as practical as the subway may be: in the rush hour it can get damn stuffy on the trains – especially in the city center and on the ring line the trains burst at the seams in the morning and in the evening and sometimes you have wait to be able to get in at all. In addition, you cannot get to the airport by metro. The most obvious solution is certainly the taxi.
As a foreigner, you have to know a lot about Moscow and taxis. In Soviet times, taxis were affordable, but not competitive in comparison to heavily subsidized public transport. In addition, taxi drivers had a bad reputation and often questionable work ethic. Hardly everyone drove a taxi in Moscow and there were accordingly few.
The development in the wild nineties, which were economically difficult for Russia, in which even many doctors, engineers and scientists had to earn something as taxi drivers, was quite different. The so-called “bombily” (from the Russian word bombit’, to earn something extra) came into service.
It became common practice that as a pedestrian on the side of the road you only had to keep your hand out and stop a (usually unmarked) taxi or a bombila in a matter of minutes. A short negotiation about the price and you’re on your way. In 2011, the Moscow city administration estimated that in addition to the 5,000 licensed taxis, at least ten times as many black taxis were on the move.
«Black» taxis – not advisable for tourists
For tourists, especially inexperienced Russia, these taxis are anything but advisable. At first you will have communication problems even with kindly Bombila-drivers without knowledge of Russian. Even with proper school Russian, as a tourist you lack the local knowledge and an idea of the usual prices – which is why you are almost at the mercy of the many black sheep among the «black» taxi drivers.
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However, if you have sufficient knowledge of Russian, are clear about the exact route beforehand and can still negotiate well, it may be worth trying the «black» taxis. Because of the increasingly popular taxi apps, the «black» taxis are a slowly but surely dying phenomenon. As a rule of thumb, you shouldn’t pay more than 500 rubles for a trip within Moscow and if the driver demands too much, just keep going.
Taxi apps: Gett, Yandex, or Uber?
Equipped with a SIM card and mobile internet, it is certainly the best option as a tourist to get around using the taxi app. The world’s leading provider Uber only plays a subordinate role in Russia. Although the app also exists in Russia, Uber works here in cooperation with the local top dog Yandex Taxi. Yandex is often referred to as the Russian Google and is also very popular as a taxi service.
The Yandex app works similarly to that of Uber. You can see in advance the fare to be paid later, the license plate as well as the vehicle type and the driver’s previous ratings. However, at Yandex you can pay not only with a credit card, but also in cash with the driver. The prices that Yandex calls in Moscow for the so-called Eco tariff are very moderate. The basic fare, which includes a five-minute journey and three kilometers, is 129 rubles, or about $ 1.81. Each additional kilometer then costs 10 rubles, i.e. $ 0.14.
Trips to Moscow airports are billed at the normal tariff. However, a pick-up fee of 449 rubles, i.e. $ 6.32, has to be paid from the major international airports Vnukovo, Sheremetyevo and Domodedovo to the city. The standard fare will be 8 rubles per 1 km and 8 rubles per 1 minute.
Of course, Yandex also offers high-quality transport, analogous to Uber’s offer. From the business tariff, in which you are chauffeured in a limousine from 349 rubles ($ 4.91), to the so-called ultimate tariff, in which you drive through in a Mercedes S-Class from 1899 rubles ($ 26.75) Moscow is driven, the Yandex offer knows no limits. Even vehicles specially equipped for transport for children, with special paint can be ordered via the app.
Gett’s competition offers a similar range of products at generally lower prices. The cheapest service in vehicles of the VW Polo class currently starts at 99 rubles ($ 1.39). Trips to Moscow airports cost almost a quarter less than Yandex at 350 rubles ($ 4.93). The VIP service with vehicles that include the BMW 7 Series, the S-Class or the Audi A8 is also significantly more affordable at 700 rubles ($ 9.86) – even if fewer inclusive kilometers are included in the price.
Classic taxi services: Rare and usually only on order
Taxis in the western sense are rarely seen in Moscow. Just wave a taxi up from the street like in Berlin, London or New York? This is rather unlikely because there are simply too few taxis. You have to order a classic taxi in Moscow beforehand. Despite the competition from «black» taxis and the increasingly popular apps, there are still numerous companies that offer this.
However, it is usually impossible to order one of these taxis without knowledge of Russian. Services that are specially designed for tourists and foreign business travelers can usually be paid for dearly. Therefore, as a tourist, unless you prefer a taxi app from the start, you leave the order to the hotel or local friends.