Paris taxi drivers are sufficiently notorious that they have been featured in films such as “2 Days in Paris”, where the driver hits on a French woman while her American boyfriend is oblivious to his French pick-up lines. So it is no surprise that when we took a taxi for a drive to Brasserie Lipp (about 2 miles away from our home), the driver went bananas, saying “c’est encroyable” (it’s incredible!), creating a lot of confusion on our part, until he explained it was the tenth time he had been at this taxi stand and the tenth time in a row his patrons asked him to go to Brasserie Lipp (incredible indeed!).
Taxi drivers are reputed to also be unscrupulous, and we have experienced that too, especially by trying to charge an extra fee for our children, though a fee of 3.00 Euros is only applicable for a fourth adult, not child. Extra charges for baggage is normal after the first large bag, and the meter begins to tick when you call a taxi for pick-up, which means charges can be as high as 10 Euros when you get in a taxi if you call for pick-up. Hailing a taxi is not so straightforward, as you can flag unoccupied taxis to no avail — they stop or don’t stop depending upon their mood. Taxi drivers at taxi stands are obligated by law to take you to your destination, but if they don’t like your looks or your destination, they may just leave.
One thing you are guaranteed is a little excitement or conversation with Paris taxi drivers, especially if you know French. Taxi drivers share their views on just about everything, including about President Bush (they don’t like him), President Obama (like), President Sarkozy (indifferent), President Holland (don’t like), sex (like), New York (like), L.A. (like), Seattle (no clue), non-French speaking Americans (don’t like), French speaking Americans (don’t like because our accents are bad). And, of course, taxi drivers incessantly honk their horns and yell at other drivers and pedestrians, which virtually guarantees your ride will not be boring. More to the point, Paris taxi drivers generally know some English, but if it suits them pretend not to understand it (je n’ai pas compris” — I don’t understand), especially if you argue about being overcharged.
G7 Taxi service offers an English speaking service, but be forewarned the wait times on the phone can be several minutes, and it apparently charges a fee for the call, but you can also pre-order a taxi online, though the online form is complicated and not worth the time.