Here are my do’s and don’ts when using taxis in Istanbul. Based on my own experiences and those of friends and other visitors 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 of these ‘cowboys’!
1. All taxis have meters. The meter starts standard at 6 Turkish Lira (TL) and charges 3.25 TL per km.
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 TL, taxi drivers often try their infamous exchange trick. They act as if you gave them 5 TL instead of 50 and you have to pay again because you can’t prove anymore that you gave him a 50 TL bill.
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. Call the municipality White Desk with your complaint. Call: 153.
8. Take official yellow cabs only, with the logo and the official number of the company on both front doors. 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!
11. Almost none of the cabbies speak English. Those who do are quick to ask personal questions. You’re in charge, don’t feel intimidated. If you’re not comfortable answering those questions don’t feel obliged to answer them.
In February 2018 prosecutors in Istanbul were demanding up to 10 years in jail for a taxi driver who cheated a Saudi tourist extending a trip to the airport in a ridiculous long way. He has been accused of committing “aggravated fraud.”
They started their trip Kadıköy, a district on the Asian side of Istanbul, to go to the Sabiha Gökçen Airport, also on the Asian side.
The cabbie took the victim over the Bosphorus to the European side via the 3rd Bridge, before returning to the Asian side. The tourist missed his flight home and filed a criminal complaint at a police station.
Taxi’s in Istanbul. Photo Anneke de Leeuw