Using Uber, taxis and “NCCs” in Rome: what are the differences
The planet is smaller than it used to seem, don’t you agree? The media, technology and the spread of foreign languages (and expats!) certainly make it look this way. We could argue that it’s the one positive effect of “globalization” – it’s easier, and cheaper, to travel. And it’s simpler to meet people who live thousands of kilometers from us.
One byproduct of this state of things is that we tend, sometimes unconsciously so, to think that things will work like at home wherever we go.
One quick example? Roadsigns! Some may look exactly the same, but others don’t, and when they don’t that’s where we freeze behind the wheel, even getting mildly upset that someone is making it hard for us to go on with our holiday schedule.
That’s true for pretty much every category you can think of: groceries (foreign visitors to Italy have a hard time handling the weighing and labeling of fresh produce at supermarkets, because that’s not the way it works like in their own countries); police (the fact that Italy has several different police corps confuses most foreigners); bureaucracy and tax filing (… don’t even get us started!).
With this in mind, we thought we’d address one of those differences that mystify tourists the most as they travel to Rome, and Italy at large: taxi rides!
Taxis in Rome: what you should know
Taxi cars are always white in Italy, with a visible roof sign, a medallion looking like a white sticker above the license plate with a number on it (usually, a 4-digit one: it’s also on the dashboard inside each taxi) and several useful stickers on the car doors: in Rome, one lists the official rates for the airports, the other indicates which taxi companies the car belongs to.
This is because there are several taxi companies operating in Rome. These stickers (as well as the medallion) are extremely useful because a) they tell you that a taxi is legit and b) they allow you to ID the taxi driver itself in the event you, say, forgot something in it. Noting down the 4 digits in the medallion, or the taxi code as they accept the ride (or even just the license plate) is something we always recommend.
Not everyone can be a taxi driver: to become one in Italy people need to, among other things, be issued a certificate of professional competence; they need to buy a medallion (there is a limited number available in every city); they must not have a criminal record.
If the taxi you are about to enter doesn’t have all of the above feature or is lacking even just one of them, refrain from using it: there are high chances that it’s an unauthorized, illegal driver posing as a legit one.
How to book and pay for a taxi ride in Rome and Italy
Knowing what is the company each taxi belongs to is not only useful for ID-ing a driver – it’s also advertising so you know who to call 🙂
Taxi companies are, in fact, identified by a six digit number: in Rome, you could be seeing a 063570, or a 068822, or a 066645… as mentioned, there are several ones. There is even a city-of-Rome-run taxi company, 060609. These are all phone numbers!
You simply call one and book your ride, stating your address. You will be put on hold and a code for the taxi coming to pick you up will be relayed to you at the end of the search.
If you feel self-conscious about talking in Italian, or to an Italian who may be not completely fluent in English, there are two major free mobile apps to help you book a taxi ride: FreeNow and ItTaxi are available for both Android and iOS devices and work exactly like Uber, in that you book and pay through them and you don’t need to use cash or swipe any cards, if you so wish – everything can be handled digitally.
Speaking of paying: taxi fares are comprised of a fixed cost (that’s usually what the meter shows right after you enter a car, provided you got on a taxi when it was at a taxi stand) and a changeable cost, which is determined both by time and by distance.
Because Rome is a traffic-heavy city, it is possible to save some money by jumping on a taxi at a taxi stand (there are several dozens scattered through the city center) – not much, but for budget-conscious travelers that may be worth it. Taxi stands work on a first come, first served basis.
Why Uber or Lyft are not available in Italy
Without delving too much into the politics behind this decision, judges ruled in 2017 that what we collectively associate with Uber rides (the Uber X, Uber XL and Uber Pop services, where everyone can use their own cars to drive people around) are not admissible in Italy, because only licensed, professional “chaffeurs” are qualified to do so.
In an attempt not to lose its position on this territory, Uber has only made a small portion of their services available, because they comply with the current regulations: UberLux & UberBlack (plus UberEats and Uber Jump).
Therefore your Uber app will technically work when you get to Italy: the service is not banned, it just has to abide by the local law. So you will be absolutely able to use Uber, but will have to expect different, more expensive rates, because when it comes to car rides, only the luxury options are available here.
A Uber competitor like Lyft has not yet started operations in Italy.
NCCs: enter the third “opponent”
“NCC” is an abbreviation you only ever get to see used in Italy. In fact, we believe that this type of transportation is only available in this particular form in our country. We are also under the impression that Uber is having a harder time in our country because its allowed services (UberBlack and UberLux) completely overlap with what is offered by NCCs.
What are NCCs, then? These initials stand for “Noleggio con conducente” (“Chaffeur-driven car rentals”).
The name is pretty self-explanatory: an NCC is a car hire service complete with driver, where rates are more competitive because there is no changeable fares and there is, conversely, only a fixed price that is set beforehand based on the customer’s wishes and planned route. This is usually higher than a regular taxi ride (even though this is not a set rule, and you may actually realize that NCCs are cheaper).
It’s not the only difference with taxis: NCCs can’t be parked in public areas during work hours, which means they cannot pick customers in the middle of the street like a taxi would. They operate on booked appointments only.
NCC drivers are licensed, highly professional and often bilingual, and because of the expectations set on their service, they tend to only drive latest models of limos, vans and other such vehicles: you’ll be traveling in style.
What is From Home to Rome’s preferred choice?
When it comes to our clients, we have been using taxis, Uber Blacks and NCC interchangeably until we partnered with Gianni Conti Car Service.
GCCS is a NCC company and has guaranteed us throughout the years a very high level of service thanks to the drivers’ professionalism and a star-level fleet of vehicles, on top of honest fares and a reputation for absolute punctuality – something that, alas, mass transportation cannot always offer. They are so dependable they are our personal choice when we have to travel out of the city!
Have you booked an apartment in the city through From Home to Rome? Your travel dates are approaching and you don’t know how to get to your accommodation? Feel free to get in touch if you want to compare taxis (this will be a rough estimate), Uber’s and NCCs rates, or even public transport options: we will be happy to explain you all the differences!