Russia, January 9, 1999
I love Russian taxis!Moscow has the world greatest metro system, but it is not always the most convenient. It can be a bit far to the closest station, with the last trains leaving the center of the city around 12:30 am, so an alternative transportation system exists. If you are in a hurry, and want to see the city on your way, you can "hire a car" as they say here, or take a taxi, as we would say.
The practice arose when there were very few cars and many would-be passengers who needed to get somewhere. You merely go to the roadside and flag down a car by pointing to the middle of the street. Quite soon a car will stop (in the center of Moscow, a line will form) and you tell the driver where you want to go and how much you are willing to pay. If he agrees, you get in and off you go. If he doesn't like the destination or the price, you can haggle, or try your luck with the next car.
Here a woman has two taxis waiting on her.
The ride is usually very uneventful, with you and the driver flying along in silence. If you are traveling with a friend, you can continue the conversation without the driver and not be rude. Once you reach your destination, you pay the man (women drivers are extremely rare), and you're on your way.
At something between $2-10 depending on the length of the trip and the time of day/night, it is a quick but a little pricey way to get around the city. As far as safety is concerned, everyone I know, from single Russian women, to Russian-ignorant expats jump in and go, with the only real threat posed by the driver's incompetence or intoxication. Now the standard rules apply of course, you don't get into a car with two drunk men in the front seat and ask them to take you to a dark corner of the city as you count your $100 bills, and expect to arrive home without incident.
I enjoy my taxi rides, chatting with the drivers about the universal male quandary, women, and checking out the views of this beautiful city.
The Moscow Times, December 30, 1998
The Passenger's Guide to Driving in Moscow
By Nick Allen
"Priyekhali!" my driver muttered with a curse as we came to a sudden halt beside the offices of The Moscow Times ("we've arrived"). 1 sheepishly handed over the 30 rubies we had agreed on for the journey. Sheepishly since we had just hit another car at 50 kilometers per hour after it pulled out in front of us, ricocheted across the road and crumpled into the back of a parked Mitsubishi sports utility vehicle.
Such are the hazards facing all voditeli (drivers) in Mosco'w, where traffic regulations apparently exist to be broken, but particularly the chastniki, gypsy-cab drivers, or peopie who make a bit of spare cash running people about town. Some drivers do nothing else but bombit or cruise around all day looking for fares.
If you feel confident about travcling this way - there is after all always a degree of risk involved - then it's easy enough to ostanovil, or poimat, mashinii (stop or catch a car). Just stand by the roadside and golosovat ("vote").by holding out your arm. If there is a rule of thumb in this game, it is make sure you take. cars with no more than one person, the driver, inside.
When a car stops, there are various ways of asking for a ride. Try Ne podvezyotye na Tversktiyti .Ulitsii? (Will you drop me off on Tverskaya Ulitsa?) or Mne na Tverskiiyu/do aeroporta (1 want to go to Tverskaya Ulitsa/the airport). If the driver is willing to go that way, you then have to dogovorit'sya o tsenye (agree on a price). People usually ask Skol'ko daditye (How much will you give). Once that's agreed, he will say sadis/sadityes (sit down, or get in). When pressed for time, you can say. Kak mozhno bystreye (as fast as possible). In this case know the word ostorozhno! (Watch out!).
As you set off you may be asked nakin'/nakin'lye remen'(throw your scatbeft across you), to avoid being, fined by the traffic police.. This is not the same as fastening your seatbelt, zasiegnut' remen,, (Most drivers don't understand why in the world you would want to actually fasten it, 1 read somewhere that a person has been in Russian too long when he finds himself refraining from fastening his seatbelt so as not to offend the driver.)
Words to know en route are probka and zator, which are both traffic jams, and mnogo/majo dvizheniya (heavy/light traffic). As you approach your destination it will-help to know,also v kontsye/nachalye ulitsy (at the end/beginning of the street),pered svetoforom, or u/posle svetofora (before the traffic lights or at/after the traffic lights) and za ugol (round the corner).
And to stop without the assistance of a parked Mitsubishi, just say ostanovitye's zdes' pozhaluista (stop here, please).
Jan 9 1999 From AFP via Johnson's Russia List
Russians take up "taxi-driving" to make ends meet
SAINT PETERSBURG, - Sergei became an unofficial "taxi-driver" five years ago to make ends meet, and for him and for many other hard-up Russians, their car is now their only source of income. Sergei spent all of New Year's Eve at the wheel of his car, plying the streets of Saint Petersburg looking for fares. "Here in Russia, hitchhiking in the traditional sense, where someone gives you a free lift, does not exist," he said. "If you make a thumbs up sign on the side of the road, it means you are prepared to pay."
Many professional chauffeurs employed by companies and government ministries make extra cash by using their vehicles as "taxis" when they are off duty. "Since the financial crisis in August, there has only been myself and my car to rely on," said Vladimir, 49, who has lost his job.
In one night, an unlicensed taxi driver in Saint Petersburg can earn between 100 and 150 rubles (five and seven dollars, four and six euros) -- fares being higher at night than during the day. Often drivers stop on the off chance to pick up passengers along their usual route home or at bus stops, outside hotels or restaurants. The cost of a ride with them is always cheaper than in a real taxi.
Anatoly, 32, who owns a Ford Scorpio, takes paying passengers just "to pay for petrol", but for Alexei Fyodorov, 50, his "taxi" business is what keeps him and his family from going hungry. His ramshackle Moskovich "feeds the whole family," he said. A few years ago during the Soviet era, Fyodorov, who is a qualified craftsmen had no money problems. "My salary was very high and my wife did not work," he said. "Today, the forge has closed down and the skilled workers are all out of jobs," he said.
But moonlighting as a taxi-driver is not without its dangers too. According to official statistics, such drivers run the highest risk of being attacked and robbed. Alexei, who was the victim of a hold-up a year ago, said that today he was more careful whom he let into his car. Nowadays, "every driver has something to defend himself with, a gun or a baton," he said.