Prague's mayor has had the chance to see for himself whether the
many accounts of city taxi drivers ripping off unsuspecting tourists
Pavel Bem posed as an Italian to
catch out drivers with rigged meters
Posing as an Italian visitor, in a fake
moustache and sunglasses, Pavel Bem hailed a taxi for a short ride -
and was promptly overcharged by some 500%.
Mr Bem said he was shocked by the extent of
the problem and has vowed to step up controls on taxi drivers.
The undercover operation in the Czech capital
was thought up by a newspaper.
The daily paper, Dnes - which has been
campaigning against overcharging - persuaded Mr Bem to dye his hair
black, slick it back and put on a moustache, goatee beard and pair
of expensive shades for his disguise.
Once dressed as an "Italian", the
mayor caught a cab for the 3km (1.8 mile) journey to Prague Castle.
He found himself in a taxi with a rigged meter
and was charged the equivalent of 26 euros (£18; $34) for a trip
which should normally have cost 4.3 euros.
"Disguised the way I was, I was certainly
expecting to be charged a higher price, but not to such an
outrageous extent," Mr Bem said.
"The driver deserves to be severely punished - I am putting the
matter into the hands of officials at city hall."
Drivers caught overcharging face a
fine or could lose their licence
The cabbie could face a fine of up to 33,000
euros ($43,000), he added, and is in danger of losing his permit if
In another taxi, Mr Bem saw his fare shoot up
by 200% when he asked if he could pay in euros, rather than koruna.
He said more town hall staff would be tasked
with going undercover to find cab drivers who were flouting the
Prague taxis have regulated meters but some
drivers are said to have installed devices which speed the meters up
to increase the fare.
A German parliamentarian complained last year
she had been overcharged during a visit, while most locals use only
reputable minicab operators booked over the phone.
Officials fear the city's notorious cabbies
could put off some of the millions of tourists who flock to Prague
each year, bringing valuable income.
In the meantime, Mr Bem's advice for visitors
is to agree a fare before getting in the taxi.