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 10 March 2015

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 3.20 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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28 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.

  5. Bahadir Uzun says:

    istanbul airport transfers
    fixed price, safe and comfortable

  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.

  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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  14. Chris says:

    We had a few cab drivers asking for 80 TL fares what should have been 15.

    We took Uber Taxis and XXL cars everywhere for 1 week.

    The wait was never longer than 5 minutes and if you request a Taxi they are currently running a promotion and you only pay 20% off the metered fare.

    The nice thing it was all cash less, no haggling and they always turned on the meter.

    It also made communication easier as we just typed in the landmarks or restaurant after requesting a car.

  15. john says:

    Point 2 is incorrect. Taximeter 1. is Gündüz or daytime 2. is Gece or nighttime en more expensive.

  16. Rowena says:

    Here are the full details of my complaint of what happened on Sunday 1st March, around 9.45 – 10.15pm with the taxi driver:

    First of all, I had been sightseeing all day with my friend, and when we both returned to the hotel in the evening, we both fell asleep. I woke up around 8.30pm but my friend stayed asleep and I was using wifi for about an hour while I was waiting for my friend to wake up, but she didn’t and I started to get hungry.
    I didn’t want to wake my friend up, so I wrote her a note to tell her that I was going out for food. I left my hotel (Diva’s Hotel, Sultanahmet) around 9.30pm and headed towards the town – I’m not sure what the road name is, but it’s not far from the blue mosque and the fountain. It is where the trams pass and there are restaurants nearby. I was walking and looking at what restaurants were nearby, near a taxi stop where somebody at the taxi stop asked if I wanted a taxi. I said to him that I was looking for a nice rooftop terrace restaurant. He tapped on the window of the first taxi and asked me to explain to the taxi driver where I wanted to go. I explained that I wanted to go to a nice rooftop terrace restaurant and asked if he knew any good ones. He said yes, he’ll take me to one. Then I asked where it was, and he told me “Asia side” near the Bosphorus bridge. I then asked how much it would cost to get there, and the taxi driver said its on a meter. But I said to him that I want to know approximately how much it we be about before I got in his taxi. He then replied that it will be around 35-40 Turkish Lire, so I said that was okay, and got in his taxi.
    I thought he was a friendly taxi driver at first, as he was asking where I was from so I told him Manchester, UK.
    Then he asked my name and where I’d been in Istanbul, so I told him I’d been sightseeing and went to the blue mosque, topkapi palace etc… and that I had booked a cookery class the following day (he didn’t understand what cookery class meant).
    He then stopped at a petrol station and apologised that he won’t be long, and put 50 Turkish Lire of petrol in the taxi. Then got back in and asked if it was okay for him to smoke in the car. I said it was okay as long as he could keep the windows open as I am a non-smoker and don’t like the smell of smoke, which he did. He carried on driving, and asked where else I’d been in Istanbul, and I mentioned that I went to the grand bazaar, and had dinner at a restaurant in Taxim the previous night. He mentioned that Taxim is not a safe area, and that the restaurant he was taking me to is in a safe area, so again I thought he was being nice. I asked if there were any Turkish baths he recommended, and he told me to go to the hamman at Haghia Sofia. I noticed that he’d already passed the Bosphorus bridge, so I asked how far the restaurant was and he said “not far”.
    About 5 minutes later, I noticed the streets where he was driving me to seemed to be quieter and darker, and I started to get scared wondering where he was taking me to. I asked how much longer to the restaurant, and he said 5 minutes. I asked how come it’s so far, and that I thought it was supposed to be quite close to the Bosphorus bridge and that we passed that a while ago, and he said he’s taking me to Asia side. Then I asked how much is it on the meter and he said “190 Turkish lire”. I was very shocked and said why is it that much, and why has he taken me so far when he told me it was going to be 35-40TL before I got in the taxi.
    I asked him to immediately turn the car round and take me back as he’d gone too far.
    I was very scared and rang my boyfriend who was in the UK. I explained the situation to him and asked him to stay on the phone with me as I was scared and didn’t know what to do and where I was as I was in a different country. He was keeping me calm and asked if I recognised any of the roads, how much it was costing etc… and told me to get a picture of the drivers number plate. The taxi driver turned his head a couple of times while I was on the phone – I was still very scared at this stage, as it was just me and him in the car, but felt a little reassured to hear my boyfriends voice, even though there was not much he could’ve done as he was all the way in England. My boyfriend later asked how much longer before I get out the taxi, so I asked the driver, and he said about 10-15 minutes. I then recognised the Bosphorus bridge, and knew that I was getting closer. However, I no longer wanted to stay in that taxi another 10-15 minutes as I just wanted to get out. I told the taxi driver to just stop at the nearest tram stop immediately. He stopped on a main road, and there was a tram stop across the road. I got off the phone to my boyfriend, and the meter said 400 TL, but I gave him 70TL.
    He asked me for the rest, and I said that’s all I had and that I’d already given him double of what he originally told me it was going to be. He said No, and that I need to pay him 400 Lire’s. I said I don’t have that sort of money, and he pointed to the cash machine just near where he had stopped the car. At that point, all I wanted to do was to get out of the taxi. I walked to the cash machine, and withdrawn 50TL. I walked back to the taxi, where the passenger seat window was down. I said to him, “Here is 120TL. 100 is for you, and I need the other 20 to get myself back to the hotel. He said No, and that I owed him 400TL. I told him that he said it was 40TL before I got in his taxi and that me paying him 100TL is already too much. He opened the passenger door from his driver seat and asked me to get in his taxi, and waving his hands saying “come here! And get in the car”. I was very scared, said No and ran off towards the tram stop. I ran towards 2 of the men who were working at the tram stop and told them very briefly what happened, and they had seen how shaken up I was. They asked if I had the taxi drivers number plate, and I said no. They asked me to point out where the taxi was, and when we walked over, he had already driven off. We walked back to the platform and there was a young Turkish couple with a Spanish lady. The man who worked at the tram stop asked me to explain the situation to the 3 people (1 man and 2 women) on the platform as their English was better than his, so I did and the 3 people said they would get the tram to sultanahmet with me and walk me back to my hotel.
    As we were on the tram, they asked where I got the taxi from and whether I would recognise the driver or not. They said they can take me to the police station to report it.
    We arrived at sultanahmet, and walked towards the stop where I got the taxi from. As we reached to the very first taxi, it was the same driver – i said to the 3 people I was with, “It’s him”. The man then spoke to the driver in Turkish, so I didn’t know what they were talking about. At that point, I took a picture of his registration plate. I asked the Turkish girl what the taxi driver was saying to her boyfriend, as her boyfriend was very calm, but the driver seemed aggressive and because they were helping me out, I didn’t want anything bad to happen to them as I was just glad that I got out that taxi and felt like I’d got my life back. The girl said that the driver was saying that I asked to go to the best restaurant, so he took me there and brought me back for 50TL each way, and if I can’t afford 100TL, then why was I asking to go the best restaurant. I then said to the taxi driver that he was a liar because he told me it would be about 40TL, and he tried to charge me 400TL, but I’d given him 100TL. Two other taxi drivers got out of their taxi, and they were all speaking in Turkish so I didn’t understand what was being said. Then one of the other drivers gave me 50 TL, so i got half of my money back, and I said to the 3 people who were with me, that it was okay and that I didn’t want to cause any trouble to them because they helped me a lot. I said that I just wanted the other drivers to be aware what that driver did to me so that it hopefully wouldn’t happen to other foreigner passengers in the future.
    The 3 people walked me back to my hotel, and I was very grateful for what they did.
    I couldn’t sleep till about 3am that night as it was going through my mind over and over again, and during my cookery class the day after, it was constantly on my mind and I was trying not to cry. I am back in England now and still have nightmares about it. I didn’t know what he was going to do to me, what his intentions were, and all I can think about now is him driving me so far in the middle of nowhere and raping me. Maybe it’s me thinking of the worst situation, but it really has left me very scared, as I didn’t know at the time if I was ever going to return to UK to see my family again.

    This is a picture of his registration plate number: (34 TAR 55)

    And this is a picture of where I got the taxi from in sultanahmet.

    I just hope it doesn’t happen to anybody else because it was one of the worst and scariest moments of my life.

    situations like this can put people off visiting a country, but I know there are good and bad people all over the world and it can happen to anyone and anywhere in the world. What the taxi driver has done, is giving Istanbul and the people a very bad name.
    But the Turkish couple who helped me and walked me all the way back to my hotel, I cannot thank enough, and I really appreciate all their help. However after this situation, I will never visit Turkey ever again as I don’t feel it’s a safe country and don’t want any more bad memories like this to happen to me again.

    Sent from my iPhone

  17. Nina Lee says:

    Thanks for the tips, Istanbul is amazing, truly Eastern fairy-tale) I had been to it for 3 times and I always used the same taxi company, with real European service, proffessional drivers and comfortable cabbies ( ). Never took a cab straight from the street just because I am a young woman and I am afraid to travel alone in that way)

  18. Lauren says:

    These are great tips to know if visiting Istanbul. Thanks for sharing!

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