Our flight from Berlin landed very early in Sofia, and we were tired… definitely off our game at that hour of the morning.
Despite this being the 3rd stop on our EuroTrip, Sofia was a city neither of us knew much about. Of course, we did the typical Google search and learned how beautiful and understated the city was, especially for its architecture and history.
What appealed to us most when booking Sofia, was the overall price tag, and we were looking forward to getting a bit more bang for our buck, having come from Berlin and Barcelona. In Bulgaria, the local currency is the ‘Bulgarian Lev’; It is roughly half the price of the Euro, and most establishments will still take Euros at their value.
One of the first things we suss out when we visit a new country is how we’re going to get from the airport to our accommodation. Having searched online, we knew that Uber didn’t exist in Bulgaria, and was advised that standard taxis were very cheap and simple to use.
Customs was a breeze, and we hadn’t even made it out of the arrivals area before a Bulgarian man approached us, asking if we wanted a taxi. He was wearing a lanyard, and dressed like the other employees we could see at the airport. We declined, but the man walked alongside us, explaining that he worked for the airport and would help us to flag down a taxi outside, at no extra cost.
As we exited the airport, the man raised his hand, and immediately a yellow cab pulled up. It felt a bit odd, but it was also what we had planned to do anyway, so we went along and thought nothing of it. The man advised us to show the driver the address on our phone maps and bid us a great stay in Sofia.
The driver spoke very little English, so the conversation was pretty limited, but we were able to ask if he would accept Euro, as we hadn’t had a chance to exchange currency yet.
After a short 15 minute ride, we arrived outside our Airbnb. The driver pressed some buttons on his fare calculator, and it came up with a fare of 44.50 Lev (roughly €22.50). We had €25 in cash, and the driver said that would be fine. He didn’t offer change, and we assumed it was customary to tip.
After checking in to our Airbnb, it began to sink in that we paid €25 for a short taxi ride, in what we thought was a much more affordable country, so we hopped online to research the local rates. A quick Google search of ‘Sofia Taxi’ came up with a handful of articles warning tourists of the typical ‘taxi scam’.
As it turns out, there is a cap on what legitimate taxi drivers can charge from the airport, and we were WAY overcharged. A typical journey from the airport to the city centre should cost no more than 10 Lev (€5). HA!
We’d clearly been mugged off, and taken an imitation taxi, using logos so similar to the real taxis that it would have been near impossible to spot out again. Online threads say that paying anything over €10 and you’ve been severely conned.
Safe to say we feel pretty stupid, but have definitely learnt our lesson for next time.
How You Can Avoid This Taxi Scam In The Future
If you’re heading to an airport you’ve never been to before, make sure to do your research on how you will get from the airport to your accommodation.
- Do not speak to anyone in arrivals and allow them to flag down a taxi for you
- Find the official taxi rank and queue with everyone else
- Check if the country you’re in uses apps like Uber, Lyft and Taxify; they will give you fair rates up front and detailed information about your driver
- If you hail a taxi, make sure to ask for the price of the journey upfront, to avoid and unexpected surprises when you reach your destination
- Imitation/fake taxis are usually not allowed to stop and park up, which is why someone had to flag them down for passengers
- Alternatively, look at public transport (buses, trains, free shuttles to the city)
This is Matt and Ally ^^
Matt and Ally didn’t do enough research on where they were travelling to and got scammed right in the airport.
Don’t be like Matt and Ally.