Craziest taxi driver ever… where I least expected it

I’m in Brussels this weekend for TravelMagic, and just landed this afternoon. It’s actually my first time visiting Brussels. I’ve passed through the airport before, but have never actually gone into the city, so I’m quite excited. My perception of Brussels was always that it’s quite civilized and “first world.”

And it absolutely is. Except for the taxi driver we had from the airport to the hotel. I’ve taken taxis where they’re supposed to be nuts, like in Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh City, though they couldn’t hold a candle to this guy. The funny thing is he was an older guy that looked incredibly composed. But of the 20 minutes I was in his car, I think my eyes were closed for half the time and I was giggling uncontrollably for the other half.

As we exited the airport the speed limit was 50km/hr. How fast was he going? 140km/hr!!!!

And the concept of slowing down to turn corners was clearly unheard of to him, since we were sliding in our seats like crazy.

The best part was when we got close to the actual city. He said “sorry, Friday night, lots of traffic.” I said “oh don’t worry, not a problem at all.” He said “I make it go away.”

Huh? After about five seconds he crossed over into the tracks used by the streetcars (completely separate from the street) and drove on those at about 100km/hr. Eventually a streetcar actually came into our path, so he drove over the barrier and back onto the road.

Then we got onto a road where we didn’t have the right of way at any of the intersections, and were supposed to yield to traffic heading in the other direction. Not only did he not yield, but I don’t think he even looked whether there was traffic coming from the other direction. Well, at least till we had a near accident which was only prevented thanks to the car in the other direction slamming on its brakes and honking.

Whew… it’ll be public transportation for me for the rest of this trip!

Comments

  1. It can probably happen almost anywhere. Your life is in the hands of the individual behind the wheel.

    We’ve endured crazy taxi rides in Istanbul, Barcelona, Naples, Shanghai and, oh, New York City, among other places.

    Based on such experiences, we take local transit whenever we can.

  2. Other than the near accident (and was it really a near accident or did the other car just get skittish?) it sounds like he was just a skilled driver with little concern for traffic laws. The fact that he was an older guy who otherwise acted professionally and was operating in a country where you’d likely face penalties if you were an actual dangerous driver makes me think he was simply a great taxi operator.

  3. I had a crazy taxi driver in Brussels too. I remember driving over the tracks, but we were in the city during rush hour so not going anywhere fast. Crazy city!

  4. Definitely a better story than my personal taxi story where the driver tricked me into paying in dollars instead of soles. Knowing what things should cost before you arrive in country is definitely important.

  5. If you like beer at all, Brussels has some fabulous bars. Check out A La Mort Subite or the Delirium complex of bars (love the taproom and the downstairs cafe)

  6. Even though Bruges is nicer than Brussels in my opinion, it’s still a very nice city! You can get great beer anywhere, after all it’s the country of beer ;). I was in Brussels last week, only for a short meeting. Traffic isn’t that bad, traffic lights are. There’s one thing horrible and please take it into consideration: do NOT, EVER take a cab during rush hour. Brussels gets stuck worse than you’d ever imagine.

    When I went last week, I left my house 3.5 hours before the meeting. Normally it’s a 1h40 minute drive, but I arrived exactly 2 minutes before meeting time… Upon entering Belguim (at Antwerp) traffic was stuck and that continued until I got to the meeting.

    Great places: of course the Atomium, but also ‘Manneke Pis'(the peeing child, I kid you not) and the central square. Don’t eat/drink near any of these places, walk 5 minutes and you pay 60% less for food that’s 10 times better. Well, just like any city šŸ˜‰

  7. What Jorg said — Bruges is beautiful and is pretty easy to get to from Brussels by train. And, as others have pointed out, the Brussels Airport Express is really quite convenient and highly recommended.

    (Though, just to be safe, I recommend you check the airport train schedule the night before and get to Central [or Noord] ahead of time — due to a mixup with the ticket salesperson telling us to go to a track, we ended up taking the wrong train. If I knew the times, I’d have stopped before we boarded…)

  8. Doesn’t sound like this explains all of his behavior, but IIRC Belgium actually has an odd traffic rule where traffic on the street has to yield to traffic entering from the right, so it’s possible some cases where he didn’t seem to have right of way he may actually have been doing what he was supposed to — other than doing it at ridiculous speed, anyway.

  9. I kept waiting for the part where you explained what it was like to report a taxi driver for driving like a deranged lunatic.

  10. Have you been to Milan or Istanbul where this type of taxi ride is quite common? Last time I was in Milan, I thought the guy was going to drive down steps somewhere like the movie “Italian Job”.

  11. unfortunately this story is totally routine for brussels expats.

    unprofessional, mostly rude cab drivers, taking their life in their hands without a care for their passengers.

    most of us take the airport bus 12 or 21 to and from the airport, even where we can claim back the cab ride…

  12. OMG, I just had a flashback to my high school trip to Russia. The Moscow cabbie drove on the trolley tracks and cut across traffic and I was sure we were going to die. I’m not religious, but he made me consider converting just so I could cross myself.

  13. ” but IIRC Belgium actually has an odd traffic rule where traffic on the street has to yield to traffic entering from the right,”

    That’s quite common around the world, it’s not exactly a Belgian idiosyncrasy.

  14. ‘Priority to the right’ is indeed common in Europe, the odd thing in Belgium is/was however that if traffic coming from the right slows down/stops, it loses its priority, whereas in the rest of Europe traffic coming from the right never loses its priority.

    So the trick is to ‘play chicken’ by not slowing down and forcing the traffic coming from the right to slow down instead, so you are the one who will have priority… Don’t know if they finally fixed this silly rule however

  15. @gene134. That rule is obsolote. You always have to yield to the right in Belgium, unless otherwise indicated.

    Also, depending on the infrastructure, the road is often shared between cars and streetcars.

    Traffic rules are not well enforced in many parts of Belgium. But if you do get caught, fines are very hefty.

    Personally, I just hate nearly everything in Brussels, including the traffic and driving behaviour. IMO, the city is an insult for Belgium, which is otherwise a nice country.

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