Never Trust an Idling Taxi Driver
At the Ruse train station, Tatiana and I got a chance to mock our first aggressive taxi driver in the whole of Eastern Europe.
We needed to segue between the train station and the bus terminal to continue our journey onto Shumen. I couldn't find any information regarding distance between the two beforehand (there might even have been two terminals), so the general idea was that we'd probably need to take a taxi.
Before taking a cab to an unfamiliar destination it's always important to first have an understanding of direction, duration and price. Asking a neutral third party who has no vested interest in seeing you fail is a good place to start. Sometimes this can be a ticketing agent inside a bus terminal, a local selling candy, or even the person sitting next to you on your transport into town.
In this case, I sent Tatiana off to the train ticketing window to ask for assistance. Not only does she have more languages under her belt (there's generally a good chance that someone will speak one that she knows, be it English or one of the romance languages) but she's also a woman and she's carrying a baby. This combination means most people will inherently give her more attention and sympathy, even if there's a large communication gap to bridge.
When you're traveling in pairs, know the strengths and weaknesses of each other so that the best person can be selected for the right job. It saves time and energy.
Fresh into the country, we also needed local currency from an ATM. I typically reserve withdrawals to banking machines that are attached to a bank itself, and within operating hours, but sometimes you've got to work with what you've got—and we had a bus to catch.
Both arrivals and departures all eventually funnel people into the same large station room, where idling taxi drivers casually approached people of interest. Naturally, we stood out and immediately drew a crowd—like piranhas with fresh blood in the water. I'm use to this, and it's always best to not even engage in conversation with such people—wag the finger and turn your back. You can't have a conversation if you don't respond. This goes well for anyone trying to push their wares or services on you.
I had Tatiana watch our gear whilst I pulled money out of one of the large room's ATMs, and returned so that she could go engage the ticketing agent. Meanwhile, one of the taxi drivers took the opportunity to try and offer his services (…yet again), and get our destination out of me.
Even if I was going to take a taxi, it sure as hell would never be from one that's idling. These guys are the wolves on the prowl. Your best bet is always going to be a taxi moving on the street, or sometimes better yet, one that just dropped someone off in front of you. There's pressure for them to behave on the street, and easy to shoo them off and send them on their way if they don't act or seem right.
This piranha was within earshot in the echoing room when she returned, and pounced when she accidently revealed our destination. Most of the time we speak in Spanish when we're in situations like this.
He walked the few paces back over to us:
"OH! You're going to Shumen?" (…looking at watch and pointing)
"Hummm… three o'clock?" (shaking head)
"No… There are no more buses to Shumen today. But I can take you for only €40! Two hours!"
I turned to Tatiana and said in a sad, sarcastic tone: "Awww… Sweetie… There are no more buses… I guess we're going to have to take the taxi there."
The man, obviously not getting the sarcasm had a greedy smile on his face, expecting the two of us to jump in his ride.
We grabbed our bags and started laughing as we walked out of the building. Seriously? Amateur hour in these parts.
Oh, and the bus terminal? It was right next door, less than 100 yards away. And we were on a bus bound for Shumen less than 40 minutes later.
Never trust an idling taxi driver.