Istanbul is unique. It is the only city in the world where two continents meet. Enjoy old and new in the cultural capital of Turkey with Istanbul expert Marc Guillet

Taxi’s in Istanbul: do’s & don’ts

Posted on 12 December 2014

Taxi’s in Istanbul. Photo: Slawomira Kozieniec

Here are my do’s and don’ts when using taxi’s in Istanbul. Based on my own experiences and those of tourists who send me their experiences on my site.

I have met a lot of nice, helpful and friendly taxi drivers in Istanbul. But there are also cabbies in this city who want to make some extra money of the ‘rich’ “yabancılar” (foreigners) in an unfair way. Beware!

1. All taxi’s have meters. The meter starts standard at 2.95 Turkish Lira (TL).

2. There is no night rate.

3. Always pay in Turkish Lira’s. Those who pay in euro’s or U.S. dollars always pay at an unfair exchange rate.

4. Almost all cabbies in the city think that they are Michael Schumacher in a Formula One car on a racetrack. They drive like crazy, but cause seldom accidents, as most other Turks drive in the same style. Always put your seat belt on, even if the driver looks at you as if he’s insulted with a macho look of ‘don’t you think I can drive? ”

5. Always have enough coins, banknotes of 5, 10 and 20 Turkish Lira in your pocket. If you pay with 50 or 100 TL taxi drivers often try their infamous exchange trick. They act as if you gave them 10 or 20 Lira instead of 50 or 100 TL.

6. Never open your wallet sitting in the front seat. It often happens that cabbies grab into your wallet to ‘help’ you getting out your foreign bank notes.

7. Step out of the car if the driver is rude and write down his taxi number. Give that to the desk of the hotel. Istanbul earns a lot of money from tourism so it is in the interest of the city authorities to preserve Istanbul’s image as a tourist friendly, welcoming place. So complaints will eventually have an effect.

8. Take official yellow cabs only. Don’t trust friendly strangers who say they will find you a cab.Prepare yourself well. Take a serious look at the city map and find out where your hotel and most important places are located, so you have a general idea of the direction a cabbie should take going from A to B. Take always a business card of the hotel you are staying, so you can show the address to the driver, and he may – if he really doesn’t know the address – make a phone call to the hotel.

9. Use the Google Map GPS function on your smart phone to see in which direction your cabbie is driving.

10. Download the app BİTAKSİ on your smart phone! It is very easy to use. You can see where the closest taxi is and they are all registered. You can see the name of the taxi driver too!

Taxi’s in Istanbul. Photo Anneke de Leeuw

 

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23 Responses to “Taxi’s in Istanbul: do’s & don’ts”

  1. Effeminate says:

    Thanks, Marc. Good pieces of advice.

    Folks, watch out, especially when drunk, regarding the difference between 5 lira notes and 50 lira notes. They are quite similar in color. My wallet’s main section has 2 parts. I always put 5 lira notes and 50 lira notes in different parts.

  2. msbx says:

    The vast majority of cabbies are honest and hard working individuals. That being said…

    Writing down a number for rude, unsafe or predator drivers does not provide any reliable evidence as to who one is dealing with, although it’s better than nothing if you can remember to do it.

    A better approach is to always be proactive. Routinely get information before you might need it. A cellphone with a camera is very helpful in this respect. Use the camera to take a pic of the outside door of the cab where license plate is written. The name and possibly the phone number of the cab company will be there also. (I as a matter of practice don’t get into cabs without some ‘company’ affiliation.) Another pic or short video clip of the driver will be essential if you need to be able to identify him. That is a more delicate act which takes a little bit more skill as a photographer.

    If you don’t speak the language the phone can also be used to call others as who are bilingual, that tip can be used for all circumstances while in Turkey. Have several other people you can call, with varied personality types depending on the situation. I’d use the external speaker so the driver can hear if I’d have a phone I didn’t want to lose. In real practice, I hand my cheap phone over for them to use.

    If you would insist on wearing a seat belt, don’t shut the door until you confirm there is an operable seat belt at the ready. Seat belts are so rarely used by Turks that it can take a couple of minutes to retrieve the belt from under the back seat and that’s a moot and near impossible feat once the cab is rolling.

    You are hiring the cab. First thing is to let the driver know that you are not in a hurry and he is to drive safely or he’s not gonna retain your business. They’re still gonna have to drive a little crazy according to Western norms because after all, this is Turkey and there isn’t effectively any traffic laws due to lack of traffic enforcement. Stop signs and lines on the road are truly seen as suggestions only, not rules. Drivers seem to be in telepathic negotiation with other drivers whilst using their cars as one would use ones’ body in a crowd. Somehow it works, get used to it.

    Habitually carry small notes with not even the slightest rip in them, do not be prepared to give more than you are willing to lose. Most cabbies and even store merchants never seem to have change. Also, as far as 50s are concerned.. I’ve had a cabby hand one back after taking it and shopping unsuccessfully for change… he gave back a fake 50 to my Turkish friend. So, it’s not just us yabancilar (strangers\foreigners) that get screwed over.

  3. If you are a foreigner i reccomend first , always to use the cabs who are belonging to a taxi stand (durak taksi). You will see the logo of there stand on the both sides of the doors. When there is a logo on the door, the taxi belongs to a taxi stand. I trust the “logo taxi’s” more then the others who have not as a local and a tourist guide in Istanbul…

  4. Jonathan says:

    Hi Guys,

    Nice to meet you here. I went to Istanbul for a conference last week. Before I go, I read the tips. But for only once I took taxi, I encountered the most serious scam, of couse not mentioned above at all, and still I don’t think that scam makes any sense. The taxi driver not only charged for more money, but also were taking me to a place far away from my destination. I would like to share my story with you all.

    In my last day in Istanbul, I wanted to go to Spice Market/Egyption Market to buy something. It is quite near to conference venue (Hilton Istanbul, near Taksim). I planned to go by walk as it was a short distance, but I only had 1 hour to go that day, so I decided to take a taxi to go there faster. I was advised from my friends that I must fix the price before getting on the taxi and without using meter, because if I used meter, taxi driver would surely go around making the trip longer and there was nothing I can do.

    So I took a taxi just arrived at Hilton Istanbul (it was a normal yellow car, but I didn’t notice the company of the taxi), I fixed the price with him before getting on the car. It was 25 lira. I knew clearly that he asked for higher price, but I was in a hurry and I thought that he would take me to destination faster, so 25 lira was acceptable. I was quite relaxed at first. Ten minutes later I found something wrong because it shouldn’t be that long. So I used my iPhone Google Map GPS function, and then I identified that he was going around and driving towards south (Grand Barzaar direction, but I’m not sure whether he was going toward there). I explained to him that I was going to Spice Market/Egyption Market, not Grand Bazaar, showing my Google Map, he said he knew where the Spice Market/Egyption Market was, but when I asked why he is driving to opposite direction (showing with Google Map), he started to pretend to be confused, just saying we would arrive soon, just there, in 3-5 minutes. Then I said you were taking me to a place far away from Spice Market/Egyption Market, he said he knew where Spice Market/Egyption Market. Then I said I need to take a flight in 1 hour, he said Spice Market was not a place I could finish shopping in 1 hour. Right before he was going to cross the bridge, Galata Kpr., I said I must get off the car, and he said OK it’s fine. I didn’t have time to confront with him, so I paid 25 lira. Then I finally get off and walked back a long distance. I didn’t dare to take another taxi.

    So the whole thing confused me is because he asked for more money, and still didn’t take me to destination. Till now I don’t understand where he was driving towards. My friends gave several guesses, kidnapping me, going to a shop his family opened, or going to a very far place and charging much more money to take me back. I think only the next people who take his taxi can find out.

    From my own experience, for many scams, there is no solution at all. Many of the solutions proposed are not useful because the taxi drivers know how to cheat. If you use the meter, he could drive longer. If you fix the price without meter, he can take you far away. If he is not going towards your destination, there is nothing you can do, because he is driving, not you. If you want to call the police, unless you know the number of the car, otherwise how could police find you. Therefore the best choice is to avoid taking taxi, rather taking public transport and walking. Some taxi drivers, they are thinking about how to cheat everyday, and not that easy to deal with, you must know.

    • Fatima says:

      Hello Jonathan,
      I experience same things my sister and I, our hotel was in Sultan Ahmed and the restaurant was about 10 minutes away we took the 1st taxi and he said his broke down and force me to pay him 10 TR and the 2nd taxi took us but it look like they communicate with eatch other about my sister and I beeing 2 ladies alone, the 2nd taxi took us for a two hours trip, finaly i had to ask to taxi driver to stop and ask for direction at near by hotels,that my sister and I refuses to ride with him but instead I walk to the police station and complain, the taxi driver drove behind us to the police station and agreed to take us back to the hotel for just 20 TR, i had horifiying moment. in the end i felt i was smarter than him because he mess with the wrong person, I posted the both taxi drivers plates numbers so peoples can be alert.
      thanks for reading my story, by the way I’m learning Turkish because i’m going back on may 2014 :)

    • Mustafa says:

      Hi Jonathan,

      I live in Turkey. I read whole the story. There is only one know Spice Bazaar/Egyptian Bazaar in Turkey. If you ask someone to go Spice Market, he will understand the one in Eminonü (which is pretty close to Grand Bazaar and you should across the Galata Bridge)and the price is quite OK). If you asked me the direction of Spice Market, I would tell you the same as the taxi driver.

      Please note that, taxi drivers in Turkey are able to do such things (not the one you mention). They drive badly etc.

    • @parlo_turco says:

      Jonathan, the taxi driver was taking you to the right place; in fact, you got off shortly before your destination that is on the other side of Galata bridge.
      The price you fixed is double than the normal one though; in fact, I’m not sure at all that fixing a price in advance is a good piece of advice if you have no idea about the normal fare and it may harm much more than the occasionaly crooked taxi driver.

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  6. Safina says:

    Hi i just came across this post and had to out my experience out there to see if its happened to anyone else. We are currently in Istanbul and we first took a taxi to The Blue Mosque. When paying the driver we handed over two 20 TL notes. He then began handing them back and saying ‘problem money’. Looking at them they had a tiny rip in them. Myself and my mother were surprised to see that because we had just got fresh notes from the exchange bureau. We brushed this under the carpet.

    Today on the way back from Cevhair Mall, we again handed over two 20 TL notes. The driver may not have noticed me looking but he slyly ripped the notes and began handing them back again claiming this was ‘problem money’. I refused to take them back and shouted saying I have just seen you do that. But the language differences didn’t help. I took the money back this time, I got out the taxi, and then handed him the money.

    Is there a particular reason behind this? I don’t understand why they do that!

    • Marc says:

      Hi Safina, very annoying indeed.
      Thanks for sharing this with all of us.
      To be honest I have no clue why they do that, so I put this question on Twitter and Facebook.
      Let’s see who comes up with an explanation.
      Enjoy your stay in Istanbul.
      Marc

  7. W. Serter says:

    Hey Marc, I would highly recommend to download the app BİTAKSİ for everyone who has a smart phone! It is very easy to use, you can see where the closest taxi is and they are all registered. You can see the name of the taxi driver too! So far, we only had very positive experiences!!!!

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