If you watched my YouTube interview, listened to my podcast or read my post about 10 Things You Never Knew About Italy, then you may have caught this valuable information already. But if not, here it is again. Bear in mind, this taxi app I’m about to share and the subsequent tips apply not just to Italy but can be used all around Europe. RELATED: Rick Steves’ Advice For Finding the Best Places to Eat in Europe and Not Getting Ripped Off

For starters, traveling to a foreign country can be nerve-racking, especially if you don’t speak the local language. This makes getting transportation a challenge and was a real problem 10+ years ago before everyone carried around smartphones and before the dawn of Uber. These days, you don’t even need to say a word to a driver. I’ve encountered Uber drivers here in California who had just moved here, didn’t speak English and certainly didn’t know the lay of the land. But that didn’t matter since the technology mapped out the directions and then translated them into their native language.

The problem with taking Ubers in some European countries like Italy is that only official ‘black cars’ are allowed so it’s much more expensive. That’s why Sebastian Harrison, our Italy expert who I recently interviewed (you can watch the video here), uses an app called FreeNow. FreeNow operates just like the Uber app but instead of ordering you a rideshare, you get a local taxi. Here’s how to get €5.00 for your 1st trip.

Just like Uber and other rideshares, you don’t need to speak Italian or even know the local language (it works all over Europe). You also don’t have to exchange money since you connect your credit card to your account. It also keeps the drivers accountable since they won’t take you the long way like some used to do in the past. FYI: Sebastian says he never rents a car in major Italian cities since it’s almost impossible to find parking.

I just returned from Europe this past week and I used FreeNow multiple times. My experience was so-so — especially in Italy. The problem is there’s so many tourist this summer that there’s not enough cars. It’s crazy. It took multiple tries and sometimes I couldn’t even get a driver but it wasn’t exclusive to FreeNow. My hotel concierge tried to connect to their service as well and I tried Uber. So my advice is if you’re in Italy use FreeNow but give yourself plenty of time to find an available driver.

When I travel overseas, I carry very little, if any, local currency. I pay for everything with my credit cards so I get the best exchange rates. I connect my credit cards to my phone so I can just use Apple Pay, which .akes it really easy. However, there are some occasions when you need cash like shopping in small villages or markets. I’ve also had problems getting a bus without cash. But by not paying with cash, you don’t have to worry about some of the old taxi scams.

My tour guide in Istanbul once told me one of the “tourist taxi” driver’s tricks. Say you’re trying to pay your fare with a 50 Turkish Lira (TL) bank note. The driver will sneakily drop it on the floor and switch it to a 5 TL note, which looks very similar. He then argues with the passenger that they only gave him a 5, when in fact they handed him a 50. Most of the time, passengers are in a hurry, aren’t paying attention or just assume it was their own error because they’re unfamiliar with the currency.

Another trick he said they play is when you pay with a 20 TL note, the driver will sneakily rip a corner off the bill and then tell you he can’t accept a torn bill. This forces passengers to open up their wallets again and chances are, they might pull out a 50 TL note, so he can try his original trick on them.

BTW: If this happens to you, call the police by dialing 0090155 from your US cell phone or 155 from a Turkish phone. The police are likely to side with you since they know this old trick and the driver stands to lose his license.

Speaking of Istanbul and other major cities around the world, never take a tourist taxi. Instead, have someone from a hotel or restaurant call one for you. The taxis that are just parked outside the tourist sites are usually waiting for unsuspecting foreigners. If a local tries to get in, the drivers tell them they are waiting for a client but in fact they are waiting for any tourist to rip off.

This is another reason to use an app like FreeNow or Uber or whatever the local rideshare company operating in that country is since you don’t have to deal with getting ripped off, negotiating a price or worrying about the driver taking you the long way and overcharging you.

And don’t think I’m picking on Europe. These sneaky tricks happen all over the world including here in the United States. Have you ever seen the drivers hanging around the exits at JFK airport? Some even hold up signs that read ‘Uber’ when in fact, they’re not Uber drivers. They’re just waiting to overcharge first-time visitors. Here’s that story along with my tips for avoiding falling victim to these scams.


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1 Comment On "The Taxi App You Need to Download When Traveling In Europe"
  1. Sheri|

    I just got back from Berlin and Frankfurt and used both Uber and Freenow. Uber seemed to be reasonable at times and if you scrolled down towards the bottom when looking at the prices, there would be a “taxi” fare listed too. The Freenow app worked very well and as you say, were taxi’s
    I was also in Paris in April and used Uber and one thing there was they won’t let you sit in the front next to the driver so we needed a car for 3 and they made us all squish in the back which was not fun!

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