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Rome vows to crack down on ‘rip-off’ airport taxis targeting tourists

Local authorities in Rome said they were working to address the city’s “shameful” problem with unscrupulous taxi drivers after foreign journalists’ stories of being overcharged were widely shared online.

Rome vows to crack down on ‘rip-off’ airport taxis targeting tourists
Photo by FILIPPO MONTEFORTE / AFP

Reports of taxi drivers ripping off unsuspecting tourists in Rome and other major Italian cities are nothing new. 

But this week, Rome’s local authority has pledged to take action – at least against unscrupulous drivers operating out of the city’s airports – after two foreign correspondents based in the city sharing their accounts of being overcharged.

READ ALSO: Rome taxi drivers clash with police during Uber expansion protest

The BBC’s correspondent in Italy, Mark Lowen, took to Twitter on Tuesday to share the story of how a friend was charged €70 for a journey from Fiumicino airport to the city centre – a trip that has a fixed cost of €50.

The driver also claimed his credit card machine was not working and so he could only take payment in cash, Lowen said.

His story struck a chord with many of Rome’s residents and visitors, with the tweet shared hundreds of times and the city’s mayor repeatedly tagged by social media users.

Another of Rome’s foreign correspondents, Gavin Jones at Reuters, described his own bad experiences with Rome airport taxis in a Twitter thread last month, noting that “there’s nowhere obvious to queue for a taxi at Ciampino” and that a driver quoted 40 euros for a ride that “should cost 20 at most”.

The city now plans to launch a new service for arrivals at both Ciampino and Fiumicino airports aimed at preventing rip-offs and reporting rogue drivers, according to the city’s tourism councillor, Alessandro Onorato.

“The illegalities that we have found in the airport areas are truly shameful,” Onarato told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera on Wednesday.

READ ALSO: Reader question: Why can’t I get an Uber in Italy?

Commenting on Lowen’s tweet, he said the incident was “unacceptable”.

“Unfortunately it wasn’t possible to make a note of the licence number, plate or operator name. In that case we would have report these serious irregularities to the police.”

Onorato said city police and airport authorities were already collaborating to increase the number of checks carried out on the taxi sector, “leading to an increase in regular journeys in the first half of this year by 58 percent compared to the previous year”.

Starting on Tuesday, they also plan to “set up a steward service to welcome passengers at international arrivals, providing timely information to tourists and collaborating with the police to report irregularities,” he said.

Rome’s Fiumicino previously launched a similar initiative in 2020, providing special paths to guide tourists towards licenced taxis and employing security guards to “protect” them from being approached by unauthorised drivers.

But Rome residents and visitors also regularly accuse licenced taxi drivers of unscrupulous behaviour, with many suggesting that the best option is to avoid taxis altogether when travelling to or from the airports.

While Uber isn’t necessarily a cheaper option and isn’t widely used, it does exist in Rome (and Milan). Other frequently recommended options for hailing a reliable cab service include the FreeNow app (in most cities or major towns in Italy) and the Samarcanda taxi company (in Rome).

Public transport options from Fiumicino include the Leonardo Express, a direct train into the city which costs €14 and takes half an hour, or a shuttle bus to Termini train station, with several different services available and tickets costing around six euros.

Member comments

  1. So simple:
    1. You have to queue in the official taxi lane. If any tries to filter you in the terminal or before you get to the queue, they are trying to diddle you.
    2. If you are going ‘Intra Mure’ from FCO or CIA, the rates are marked on the cab door and are fixed, flat rates.
    3. NEVER EVER get into a cab which does not have the official licence and the vehicle number marked on the outside. Best take a picture of the licence and plate with your phone the moment you get in.
    4. If there is a dispute about the flat rate, instruct the driver to go to a police station or if you are near police officers stop there. That will sort things out really quick.
    5. Try and use apps which will only order you official cabs and the price is fixed ahead of the journey.
    6. If cab shows that they take CCs, tell the driver that you do not have cash; rather than not being paid, he will take CC, I bet

  2. Hello,

    Taxis in front of the Vatican Museum:
    – We had a taxi driver tell us, before we even got in the taxi, that it would cost us 30 euros for him to take us to Testaccio (Via Marmorata near Via Galvani). It was mid-afternoon, maybe a 10 – 15 euro trip.
    – A few weeks later we had friends visiting and they were also told (before they even got in the taxi) it would cost them 30 euros to be taken from the Vatican Museum to the same intersection in Testaccio. Also, mid-afternoon.

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TRAVEL NEWS

REVEALED: Countries fear non-EU travellers face delays under new EES border checks

A number of countries in Europe's Schengen area admit they fear delays and insufficient time to test the process ahead of new, more rigorous EU border checks that will be introduced next year, a new document reveals.

REVEALED: Countries fear non-EU travellers face delays under new EES border checks

Schengen countries are tightening up security at the external borders with the introduction of a new digital system (EES) to record the entry and exit of non-EU citizens in May 2023.

The EES will enable the automatic scanning of passports replacing manual stamping by border guards. It will register the person’s name, type of the travel document, biometric data (fingerprints and facial images) and the date and place of entry and exit. The data will be kept in a centralised database on a rolling three-year basis that is re-set at each entry. 

What the EES is intended to do is increase border security, including the enforcement of the 90-day short-stay limit for tourists and visitors.

EU citizens and third-country nationals who reside in a country of the Schengen area will not be subject to such checks as long as they can prove residency in an EU country however they will still be caught up in any delays at passport control if the new system as many fear, causes longer processing times.

READ ALSO: Foreigners living in EU not covered by new EES border checks

But given its scale, the entry into operation of the system has been raising concerns on many fronts, including the readiness of the physical and digital infrastructure, and the time required for border checks, which could subsequently cause massive queues at borders.

A document on the state of preparations was distributed last week by the secretariat of the EU Council (the EU institution representing member states) and published by Statewatch, a non-profit organisation that monitors civil liberties.

The paper contains the responses from 21 countries to a questionnaire about potential impacts on passenger flows, the infrastructure put in place and the possibility of a gradual introduction of the new system over a number of months.

This is what certain the countries have responded. Responses from Denmark, Spain and Sweden do not appear in the report but the answers from other countries will be relevant for readers in those countries.

READ ALSO: What the EU’s new EES border check system means for travel

‘Double processing time’

Austria and Germany are the most vocal in warning that passport processing times will increase when the EES will become operational.

“The additional tasks resulting from the EES regulation will lead to a sharp increase in process times”, which are expected to “double compared to the current situation,” Austrian authorities say. “This will also affect the waiting times at border crossing points (in Austria, the six international airports),” the document continues.

“Furthermore, border control will become more complicated since in addition to the distinction between visa-exempt and visa-required persons, we will also have to differentiate between EES-required and EES-exempt TCN [third country nationals], as well as between registered and unregistered TCN in EES,” Austrian officials note.

Based on an analysis of passenger traffic carried out with the aviation industry, German authorities estimate that checking times will “increase significantly”.

France expects to be ready for the introduction of the EES “in terms of passenger routes, training and national systems,” but admits that “fluidity remains a concern” and “discussions are continuing… to make progress on this point”.

Italy is also “adapting the border operational processes… in order to contain the increased process time and ensure both safety and security”.

“Despite many arguments for the introduction of automated border control systems based on the need for efficiency, the document makes clear that the EES will substantially increase border crossing times,” Statewatch argues.

‘Stable service unlikely by May 2023’

The border infrastructure is also being adapted for collecting and recording the data, with several countries planning for automated checks. So what will change in practice?

France will set up self-service kiosks in airports, where third-country nationals can pre-register their biometric data and personal information before being directed to the booth for verification with the border guard. The same approach will be adopted for visitors arriving by bus, while tablet devices such as iPads will be used for the registration of car passengers at land and sea borders.

Germany also plans to install self-service kiosks at the airports to “pre-capture” biometric data before border checks. But given the little time for testing the full process, German authorities say “a stable working EES system seems to be unlikely in May 2023.”

Austria intends to install self-service kiosks at the airports of Vienna and Salzburg “in the course of 2023”. Later these will be linked to existing e-gates enabling a “fully automated border crossing”. Austrian authorities also explain that airport operators are seeking to provide more space for kiosks and queues, but works will not be completed before the system is operational.

Italy is increasing the “equipment of automated gates in all the main  airport” and plans to install, at least in the first EES phase, about 600 self-service kiosks at the airports of Rome Fiumicino, Milan Malpensa, Venice and in those with “significant volumes of extra-Schengen traffic,” such as Bergamo, Naples, Bologna and Turin.

Switzerland, which is not an EU member but is part of the Schengen area, is also installing self-service kiosks to facilitate the collection of data. Norway, instead, will have “automated camera solutions operated by the border guards”, but will consider self-service options only after the EES is in operation.

Gradual introduction?

One of the possibilities still in consideration is the gradual introduction of the new system. The European Commission has proposed a ‘progressive approach’ that would allow the creation of “incomplete” passenger files for 9 months following the EES entry into operation, and continuing passport stamping for 3 months.

According to the responses, Italy is the only country favourable to this option. For Austria and France this “could result in more confusion for border guards and travellers”. French officials also argue that a lack of biometric data will “present a risk for the security of the Schengen area”.

France suggested to mitigate with “flexibility” the EES impacts in the first months of its entry into service. In particular, France calls for the possibility to not create EES files for third-country nationals who entered the Schengen area before the system becomes operational, leaving this task to when they return later.

This would “significantly ease the pressure” on border guards “during the first three months after entry into service,” French authorities said.

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