MadridMan: A guide to taxi drivers in Madrid
MadridMan steps up to defend the taxi drivers who are often given a bad name for reckless driving and overcharging clients.
This article is reprinted with permission of MadridMan.
Taxis can be found throughout Madrid - but fewer in the neighbourhoods immediately outside of the downtown (where I live). Taxis are always found around shopping centres, hospitals, and, of course, bus & train stations as well as long lines of them at the airport.
Most taxi drivers in Madrid:
Are men and Spanish
Generally speaking, taxi drivers in Madrid are always very professional, nearly always men, and always Spanish. I've yet to encounter a non-Spanish taxi driver. Why is that? Because the taxi driver permit or license can only be passed from family member to family member but can also be rented, although this is rarely done.
Take good care of their taxis
Taxi drivers normally own their own car and are responsible for its maintenance. You rarely see a dirty taxi, either inside or out. Most drivers spend long periods of time at the train station and airports, waiting their turn to serve, and pass the time cleaning their cars, doing Sudokus, talking with other drivers, or even practicing musical instruments. I've seen one television report of a small garden outside of the Atocha Train Station in Madrid where the taxi drivers care for and cultivate plants and vegetables in their spare time.
Love to talk
Most taxi drivers are talkative. They like to not only share their opinions about the traffic but also about local government and the usefulness (or uselessness) of the tunnels and their camera-vigilant speed limits. Some complain about Real Madrid's latest loss and others complain about other drivers. There was one woman taxi driver, oddly enough, who claimed openly to be a witch, of all things.
Can’t speak English
But one thing seems to be true throughout, few (if any) speak any English. For this reason, it's a good idea to take a written address whenever entering a taxi if you don't speak some Spanish.
Are reputed to be crazy drivers
Taxis in Spain get a bad reputation for being crazy drivers but I don't find this to be true. Sure, they may exceed the speed limit most of the time, dart offensively in and out of lanes and between cars, but these guys are true driving experts and are ultra-aware of the size and power capabilities of their vehicles. You RARELY see one in an accident.
Normally, I don't wear a seat belt while riding in a taxi in Madrid. It's not required by law (at least in the back seat). And, I have to admit, with the seat-belt-wearing awareness in the USA I always feel somewhat naked and vulnerable when I don't wear it. But whenever we get on the M-30 or are on our way to the airport, accessing the faster highways, I ALWAYS lock-and-go.
Tips on taking taxis in Spain
Hailing taxis is pretty easy. Just like in the USA, one stands on or near the curb and raises his arm towards an oncoming taxi which has the "LIBRE" sign visible in the front windshield and the green light turned illuminated on the rooftop next to the "TAXI" sign.
Taxis have a complicated array of pricing. Prices depend on several things including hour, day, airport/train pickup or drop-off, luggage or no luggage, and maybe more that I'm not aware. But generally speaking, prices are not high like in New York City. One can essentially cross the city for no more than EUR 15. A trip to/from the airport can cost up to EUR 30, however, depending on the destination/origin within the city.
Robberies of taxi drivers do happen in Madrid but not very often. When it does, it makes the news. Most taxis do not carry the Plexiglas barrier separating the passengers from the driver but I have seen a few of these before. During the day, these barriers are always open but at night they're more often closed, causing the passage of payment through a small slot.
There has been some talk over the years about unfair or illegal charges for taxi rides. Sure, there are a few bad apples everywhere in any profession. ALWAYS be sure the taxi meter is turned on upon getting in or shortly after moving. The vast majority of drivers are nice, honest, down-to-earth people simply trying to make a living or to augment their day-job income. I always tip them something although it's rare for Spanish clients to do so.
So treat your taxi driver with respect and kindness and they'll always return the sentiment.
MadridMan / Expatica
The writer is from America and has lived in Madrid for four years.
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