I didn't read these warnings before going to Istanbul. We were in the tourist area near the Grand Bazaar. After dinner, we walked back and found a cab parked just waiting for his next victim. We were driven toward the Kempinski Saragon Palace (our hotel) and before getting there he said that the traffic was bad, would we mind getting out and walking. In retrospect, it was dark and we had to hurry. I gave him a 50 TL note and when I was waiting for change for a 35 TL fare, he showed a 5 TL note and said I had only given him a 5. I gave him another 50 TL and again said it was only a 5 TL. I wasn't expecting this and was flustered. He then reached into my wallet and started going through the bills to find the right one. I stopped him, my wife found a 20 and 5 TL note and we got out. I felt that I had given him two 50's but really wasn't sure. When I got back to the hotel, I Googled Taxi scam, 5 for 50 TL and found this was done to others. Our hotel said I should have photographed the taxi before getting in to get his number. Our driver said he was from Trabzon, Turkey. He was at least in his late 50's with gray hair.
1) Flash a picture of the cab before getting in.
2) If you are with someone, show them the 50 to verify it and then hold onto it until the taxi verifies it is a 50.
3) Don't let them drop you off where it is dark and in traffic (I am sure this is part of the scam so you can't see well and you must rush. He probably picked a dark spot. I am sure this scam is carefully planned by this thief who happens to be a taxi driver.)
4) If anyone asks "Is this the first time you have been in Istanbul?", say "No".
I was aware of that when I arrived at the Airport but I thought I would just look for a regular taxi, company-owned, with a decent looking driver and somehow will manage to avoid being overcharged. I was thinking that if I ask for price before I get into the taxi and if show the driver that I am careful and I am not going to let him cheat, I would be fine. But take my word, it is not possible. Those people would lie to you with no shame and there would be nothing you can do about it. On my way back I asked for airport transfer at the hotel and they recommended to me a local company. As I was leaving the hotel, their car was waiting for me, an English speaking driver welcomed me and took me to the airport. He was really kind and professional. I strongly advice anyone going to Istanbul to use a service like that, airport transfers seem to be quite popular there. The price is high, but at least you know it in advance and you don't feel like you are being robbed.
I was in Istanbul in the end of May 2011 for a one-day business meeting. It is my first time to Istanbul and I did not have enough time to read about Istanbul. However, I did read the information supplied by the meeting organizer. It is stated there that people in Istanbul are very friendly and Istanbul is as safe as any European city.
I arrived late in the afternoon the day before the meeting. Therefore, I had some hours to discover the city. Since I was booked in a hotel near the Taksim Square, I went first to the Taksim Square and then along the Istiklal street, a pedestrian street with tram rails in the middle. It was a crowed street. Very soon, I bumped into someone, or someone bumped into me. The person was really friendly and polite. He apologized, took my hand, introduced himself and started a conversation with me. Finally, he suggested to drink a beer somewhere. Since I really did not have time for beer, I politely denied.
Within a couple of hours, I was involved in the same situation four or five times. The encounters had various background. However, they all suggested to take a beer somewhere and I denied them all due to the shortage of time. I started to believe that people in Istanbul are really guest-friendly and I felt guilty to deny all these friendly invitation.
However, now after reading previous stories published here, I realize that all these invitations were probably not friendly at all.
Later, when afternoon turned into evening, I returned to my hotel. On the streets outside the hotel, I met more friendly strangers. Again, they all have different background. However, they all suggested to go to a bar nearby with very beautiful girls, after a friendly and warm conversation. I know that “beautiful girls” usually mean huge expenses, I had no problem to refuse those invitations.
It seems I have avoided all tourist traps so far. However, I did not know that I was going to be a victim for the last trap that a tourist may fall into: the taxi to the airport.
As my return flight was scheduled to 2 PM, I had no need to take a taxi. Instead, I planned to go to the Ataturk airport by bus. I checked the home page for the airport bus. I read that there are buses from Taksim Square directly to the airport and the trip will take at most 75 minutes. However, for whatever reasons, I could only find time table for buses from airport to Taksim Square but not time table for the reverse trip.
Therefore, after the breakfast, at approximately 8:30, I went to the Taksim Square to check out the bus-stop and the departure time. I did find the bus-stop and learnt that the bus has the number 96T. The bus-stop was clearly marked by signpost. The next departure time is 9:20 and after that 10:05. Since I have more than enough time to catch either of these, I did not check other departure times.
Back to the hotel, I started to realize that if I take the bus at 9:20 or 10:05, I will be at the airport around 11 O’clock and I have to kill three hours there. Therefore, I decided to work for a while in the hotel room and take a later bus, which should departure at 10:50, if the interval between the departure times would be 45 minutes, as between 9:20 and 10:05.
Some minutes before 10:50, I was at the bus-stop in Taksim Square again. However, this time, I found neither signpost for airport bus nor bus itself. I asked people around, some pointed at one direction. Others pointed at another. I ran around but I could not find any airport bus. At last, I went into a parked bus and asked the chauffer where the airport bus was. He answered that there was no more airport bus. What?! Was 10:05 the last bus to airport? I had no time to find out the answer or continue searching for airport bus. Instead, I went to one of many taxi-cars nearby and asked the driver to drive me to the Ataturk airport.
I had 53 Lira in my wallet and I thought it was enough. Since the information from the meeting organizer states that a taxi trip between Ataturk airport and Taksim Square costs between 30 and 60 Lira dependent on the traffic. My taxi from Airport to hotel near the Taksim Square when I arrived to the hotel cost 45 Lira. I had also 180 Euros in my wallet.
The driver asked me if we should use taximeter. I said yes and he turned it on. However, on the way to the airport, I saw that the display of the taximeter started flickering and showed random numbers. I started to realize that that taximeter was probably manipulated. However, I also realize that it was too late to do anything.
When we arrived at the airport, he did not park the taxi in front of the entrance to the departure hall. Instead, he stopped on the way out and pushed the taximeter. Now, it displayed 98 and two decimal (Lira).
I told him I do not trust his taximeter. I even showed the receipt for my taxi trip from airport to the hotel. His English is not good and he started to tell things that I did not understand. Obviously, he started behaviour threatening. Meanwhile, he did not stop the car completely. In fact, the car was slowly moving away from the departure hall. I told him that I did not have that much Lira. However, I gave him several options. I can pay him 50 Lira and the rest in Euro, or pay by credit card or I can go to the departure hall and change Euro to Lira. He did not accept any of these options but wanted 50 Euros. Since I had only Euros in 10-Euro bills, I gave him five 10-Euro bills. He took the money but he still said no. He insisted to want a 50-Euro bill. Since I did not have any 50-Euro bill, there was no way to satisfy him. While I was explaining for him, the car moved further away from the airport. I even let him to examine my wallet that there was no 50-Euro bill. After quite some time, he agreed and said “Ok, give me 50 Euros”. I told him that I have already given him the money. He said no. And now in his hand, there were only three 10-Euro bills. Obviously, he has hidden two bills. Since I could not prove it, I had to give him another two 10-Euro bills.
Before I got out of the car, I asked him for the receipt. I even asked him to sign the receipt with his name and I did it. When I got out the car, I was concentrating in checking if I had all my luggage, my passport, my ticket and my jacket etc. The taxi rushed away and I did not notice the registration number of the car.
When I entered the departure hall and checked my wallet again. I discovered that I missed another two 10-Euro bills. I felt how stupid I had been to let the driver to examine my wallet. I was so angry that I went to the airport police. The police looked at the receipt I presented and told me they could do nothing, since there was no identification of the taxi on the receipt. The identification number on the receipt had nothing to do with the car the drivers signature meant only “Turkish Lira” in Turkish.
I thought what I could have done better. Maybe, I could have asked the driver from beginning for a fixed price? Maybe I should have written down the registration number of the car before I entered it?
Nevertheless, Istanbul will never become a place for my private vacation. In my private travel, I want to be able to relax instead of keeping alert all the time. I will avoid such places where I just can not trust anyone.
This is not a negative specifically for Istanbul because this can happen anywhere on earth. Just that we experienced this recently and want others to be careful.
Our group took 3 taxis back to our hotel from old town area. Taxi one was the best, the price very near what the hotel told us would be. Taxi 2 was 10 TL more than Taxi 1, despite also having a meter. We watched and couldn't really tell what happened. Taxi 3 was the worse. It was not only 10 TL more, but the drive gave a faked 20 TL bill as change.
You can tell if the currency is faked if it has a corner cut off. Another person in our group also got a faked 20 TL bill. So when you are getting change, don't take any paper money with a cut corner.
Came back from istanbul yesterday.
The taxi driver made the 50 -> 5 Tl trick. He changed the notes like a
"magician" - really impressing. Although I'm very suspicious about the
strange way of hospitality of the Istanbulians I noticed it 2 minutes to late :-(
So be very very cautious when using a taxi in Istanbul!!
OK, not a good thing! I dropped my wallet with passport (and over 200 TLY) in the back seat of a taxi in Uskudar, Istanbul. I discovered just as taxi left.
I called Traffic police to report (tel 155) and they said to file report with police (553 11 28) and to call taxi complaints (212-325 1515). Friends called the Taxi complaints and they found the taxi driver (I had receipt) and he found the passport and let us know it would be returned in one hour. He showed up with the wallet and nothing was missing. I have sent over six weeks in Istanbul over the last year, and had only experiences like this. Never problems, as I see in these blogs. I have had friends that experienced over charges (usually on late night taxi trips). But my experiences have only been possitive.
It is a good idea to carry a map, so you can communicate where you want to go, as few taxi drivers speak english (although I've run into a few who spoke German).
If your taxi driver decides to reverse into a one way street at speed after dark half a mile, as happened to me. I would recommend you tell him to stop and get out pronto. Despite the Turks in the back telling you "Don't worry, This is Turkey" your life is much more important to you.
I just came back from Istanbul, where I heard from a Brazillian couple exactly the same story of the 5/50 TL trick!
Seems to be a hobby of "some" taxi drivers there!
Advice is to tell the driver loudly that u r handling him a 50 TL and show it clearly to him b4 he hides it in his pocket!!
It's not actually a danger but a warning about taxis in Istanbul - most of taxi drivers are really good persons but:
1- Ask the taxi driver to use taxi-meter. Some drivers ask for double or more than the real fair.
2- Have a map of the city with you to avoid being cheeted by drivers, some of them make a short distance so long to get more money.
3- Most importantly, they know almost no english and you would be in trouble to make yourself understood. So knowing some Turkish would help.
4- As any other places you might ask the driver's advice he gives you on a plan or a place but You know it's a risk , specially in Istanbul.
I took the taxi 6 times but only got ripped off one time! Not that bad ;-)
However that one time was quite memorable. Going from the hotel to the old city cost about 20TL with a taxi from the hotel. If you have the choice, better use them.
On our way back we had to take a taxi from the street. I was already smelling something fishy when the driver was reluctant to drive us back in front of the hotel entrance. I though he didn’t want to be bothered by the gate check (yes, there was a gate check for cars!!)…He first tried to drop us at the Marina nearby while he had perfectly understood we were going to the Sheraton. At the end he drove us a bit closer but still without entering the hotel premises.
He was then asking for 45TL! That’s already the double of the regular price, but still cheap according to Belgian standards. My colleague asked for a receipt which he got and handed over several notes.
The guy was then complaining there was not enough. I suspect, at this stage, he had already flipped a 20 TL note with a 5 one!
Too bad, that’s all my colleague had with him. He took back what was left of his money and I handed over a brand new 50 bank note!
Suddenly the bastard did his trick again: my 50 TL note suddenly turned into a 5TL note!
He tried to rip us twice in a row with the same trick! Amazing!!
I was sure of what I had given and simply got out of the taxi! He hasn’t run after us…
I was on Istiklal Cadessi having dinner and did not realize the Tunel closed at around nine or nine thirty. There were a few taxi drivers near the Tunel entrance and I indicated to them I wanted to go to my hotel, which was near the Grand Bazaar. One guy spoke for the group and said it would cost me 20 liras. It did not seem to me a huge amount, and I did not know how else to get to the hotel, so I said yes. Another driver took me to the hotel and I paid him the 20 liras. He did not use the meter. The next day I discovered the going rate was around nine or ten liras for this ride. So if you are stuck up on Istiklal Cadessi late at night, look for a taxi driver who will use his meter and avoid the ones that congregate near the Tunel entrance!
My son-in-law was taking a taxi from Ataturk Airport to Galata Tower at 6:00 PM on a rainy evening in November. The ony lira he had on him were two 50's he had taken from ATM at the airport. The meter read 42 TLir, when the taxi arrived at Galata tower, and my son-in-law gave he driver at 50 Tlira note. The driver took it but handed him back a 5 T Lira note and said he had given him only 5. He was hoping that in the rain my son-in-law would not notice. Luckily he knew had not had 5 lira note in his wallet. Stay alert for the switcheroo scam even though the new Lira do not have 6 and 7 zeros on them.
In four days I saw (I think) at least three ways in which Istanbul taxi drivers try to rip off tourists
1. By claiming "the meter is broken", then offering to take you to wherever you're going for an amount which is about 6 times what it would have cost if it had been metered. In my case that meant 28 Lira instead of about 4.
2. By claiming that there's a tramway on the direct way, so they have to go by another route. OK, I'm sure it's often the truth, but I'm equally sure that it isn't always, and I find it hard to believe that, when it is true, it necessitates a five-kilometre detour
3. By keeping their right hand on the gear-lever, half-hiding the meter, so that at some time, either on the way or (more likely) when you've just arrived (and they can draw your attention away from the meter by pointing to the museum or whatever you wanted to go to), they can "flick" the meter, so that instead of showing, say, 9 lire (as you thought it showed a few seconds earlier), it turns out to show 39. (Real figures, from experience - trip from Hagia Sophia to the Spice Market.)
And possibly also 4. By finding some excuse to drop you about half a mile before where you wanted to go, where it's convenient for the taxi-driver but not (though he says it is) for you.
I decided that there was just no way in which I could fight this (no language, no knowledge, no telephone, etc), and that my wisest course of action was never, if possible, to hail a taxi in the street or to take one from what was or looked like a taxi-rank, but always to ask the hotel or restaurant where I'd been having tea or whatever to telephone for one for me.
Taxi's generally go by the meter, ensure the meter is on. The taxi that drove myself from Istanbul airport to the sultanahmet area drove like an absolute maniac, seriously, it was insane, be aware the same may happen to you
Istanbul is wonderful exciting city, great food, etc BUT watch out for some Taxi drivers, not all of course
The scam is, you hand them one or two bank notes (TLira), usually you are quite sure that they cover the fare - somehow the driver switches one of the notes for a one TLira note and claims you have not paid the correct fare and can get very aggresive
Also they may claim a note is torn and unuseable, they will try to retain the note whilst asking for another - this happened to me twice, on a short trip in heavy city traffic and a 5K trip to my hotel
If the trip is to hotel, ask the driver to come into the hotel to settle the matter, this usually settles the matter, in your favor