Taxi in Istanbul: How to drive safely and without a tourist trap
Before I get to the “but!” I can assure you that most taxi drivers in Turkey do a good job.
Unfortunately, in Istanbul and other parts of the country there are also a good number of small crooks at the wheel.
I first had to learn that myself.
So that the typical taxi scams do not happen to you during your trip to Turkey, I have written down my experiences.
First of all, taxi rides, along with public transport in Istanbul, are a safe and cheap way to get from A to B.
Most taxi drivers usually do their jobs well and honestly.
Unfortunately there are some black sheep among them. They improve their income through small rip-offs towards travellers and Turks. I have something against that!
It is not okay to say that there is a night tariff in Istanbul or that a trip from Istanbul Airport to the old town crosses the Bosphorus.
Know the price of a normal taxi ride in Istanbul!
First of all, I will go into the prices and conditions for a taxi ride in Istanbul. Then I will come to the small and large rip-offs of taxi drivers.
I saw some taxi scams myself, others I know from friends and some made it into the Turkey newspapers. The taxi drivers try their tricks with locals too. They have just as much against the little rip-offs as travellers.
1. The taxi ride is longer than it should be!
This is how it works: The classic in Istanbul and all other cities in the world is a short drive around the actual destination. As a traveller, you don’t know the fastest route from Ataturk Airport to your hotel in Sultanahmet. That’s why your taxi driver will take you on a wonderful city tour right away.
Solution: Without knowing your way around Istanbul, there is very little you can do. One solution is Google Maps. The maps can be saved on the smartphone. This allows you to follow the journey on your mobile phone. The GPS does not need an internet connection.
2. Unfortunately I do not understand you
This is how it works: At the airport, the taxi drivers speak a few words of English. If you pick up a taxi anywhere in Istanbul, the chances are slim. This leads to communication problems, trips in circles and completely wrong places to which you are taken. That doesn’t have to be a taxi scam, it can actually be due to poor communication.
Solution: Write down the address of your destination and show it to the taxi driver or tell him a prominent point to which he should take you (attraction nearby).
3. You pay in euros and receive Turkish lira back as change
This is how it works: You pay in euros. You will get the change back at a very poor exchange rate. The bill is 50 lira? No problem – we’ll just make it € 10, okay?
Solution: The taxi drivers actually do not have enough euros with them as change. Know the exchange rate and get € 10 for 50 Turkish Lira. That is a difference to the actual price of one euro. You should also go to the current one
Inform the exchange rate between the Euro and the Turkish Lira.
4. The trick with the exchanged lira banknote
This is how it works: The trip costs 25 TL and you pay with a 50 TL note. The taxi driver starts rummaging in his wallet and exchanges the 50 TL note for a 5 TL note. Then he wants another 20 teaspoons because you only gave him 5 teaspoons.
Solution: Don’t let yourself be disturbed when paying. Pay close attention to which bill you give the taxi driver and what change he gives you back.
5. I have no change or not enough change with me
This is how it works: The trip cost 37 Lira and you give the taxi driver a 50 Lira note. The taxi driver starts looking and cannot find any change.
Solution: Sit in the car and insist that he get change. You will be amazed how quickly the right coins and notes appear.
6. My friend! – We’ll work out a special price without a taximeter!
This is how it works: The taxi driver suggests a fixed price instead of using the taximeter. This is being argued with a lower price, shortcuts, traffic jams, whatever. Don’t let anything persuade you! As a tourist without a taximeter, you will pay 99% a higher price.
Solution: Insist on using the taximeter! If he fails while driving for an inexplicable reason, insist on getting off at the nearest police car you see.
7. The illegal taxi drivers in Istanbul
This is how it works: 20,000 licensed and just as many illegal taxis drive the streets of Istanbul. The licensed taxis are yellow, have a taximeter and a license number is on the car (example: 34 ABC 12).
Solution: Use the official yellow taxis in Istanbul! – Have a taxi called from your hotel or take one from the public taxi ranks at the airport or in the city.
8. The night tariff applies to your journey: (although it no longer exists)
This is how it works: During the night, the taxi driver claims that the night tariff applies immediately and that the prices are therefore twice as high. He tells you that in combination with: “That’s why I’ll give you a special price without a taximeter” or he will asks you twice what is on the taximeter when you get off.
Solution: If you have just got in: Get out again immediately. That only means trouble for the rest of the journey. He will almost certainly try to work through points 1 to 10 on my list with you completely. If he says so at the end of the journey: Tell him that there is no night tariff and that he can call the police if he thinks he exists. Otherwise, you are welcome to take care of the call for him (if he doesn’t want to understand you: Polis = police). The number of the “Tourism Police Istanbul”: +90 212 527 45 03.
9. The trick with the exchanged currencies
How it works: The Euro and Turkish Lira coins look very similar. You pay in euros and the taxi driver will give you the change in lira coins. Instead of a 1 or 2 euro coin, he’ll give you a 1 lira coin.
Solution: It doesn’t have to be on purpose. The coins look really confusingly similar. Make the taxi driver aware of the mix-up or avoid the problem right away by paying in Turkish Lira.
10. Find the hidden meter in the taxi
How it works: All official taxis in Istanbul are equipped with a working taximeter. Unfortunately, they are often installed in places that are not easily visible. There are taximeters attached to the rear view mirror with a blue LED display. They are difficult to read in the sunlight. Others are hidden behind the gear shift.
Solution: If you don’t see the price, then always lean forward and look closely at the taximeter during the entire journey.
What you can do against the “crooks” of the taxi drivers!
1. You are still in the taxi or you still have to pay
Keep calm and tell him again that there is no night tariff, no fee for crossing the Bosphorus Bridge, you gave him 50 lira and not 5, …
In case of problems you should remember the following Turkish words:
Polis = police!
Ayip = shame on you! / Shameful! / Unheard of!
If you are calm and serenity it will not help you: get out and shout out loud Polis twice! That almost always helps.
In combination with “Ayip” it looks even more impressive, so: Ayip! Polis, Polis!
2. Report the taxi driver to the relevant authorities
Every taxi has a license number on both sides of the car and on the roof. Copy the number down. It starts with “34” and is followed by three letters and two numbers.
Example: “34 ABC 12”
Write down the number of the taxi driver, the date, the location and the nature of the incident and report it to the Transport Management Directorate in Istanbul.
Toplu Ulaşım Hizmetleri Müdürlüğü: (Istanbul Transport Line Directorate)
Beylerbeyi Cad. No: 4
Edirnekapı – İSTANBUL
T: +90 (212) 453 78 78
F: +90 (212) 453 78 77
Tourism Police: (Tourist Police)
Yerebatan Cad. No: 4/6 Sultanahmet
T: +90 212 527 45 03
F: +90 212 636 20 29