After reading this section prior to my trip, I was really worried about taking a taxi from the airport (Ataturk) to my hotel (in Nisantasi which is just beyond Taksim Square). I prepared myself as much as possible - I wrote down the name and address of my hotel before hand. I spoke confidently (I'm a New Yorker so I spoke in the same tone of voice I use in NYC). He asked me if I "know Istanbul" at all and I (lied) and said I had been once before. I didn't take pictures and kept kind of quiet. I also (lied) and said I was in town for work. These subtleties were my hints that I know what I'm doing.
I felt compelled to add my tip here because in the end my taxi ride was quite pleasant, fast, and he took me directly to the hotel at the price I expected. The Taksimetre was on the entire time (albeit it IS hard to see from the back seat). The ride to Nisantasi cost 49.70TL so I gave him 60TL and declined for him to make change - he was very taken a back and he thanked me repeatedly.
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.
Taxis are easily the single greatest annoyance in this otherwise wonderful city. Apart from drivers who stink with sweat so you can’t breathe and drivers who don’t know the way even with a map held to their nose, you also run a reasonable chance of being cheated. The scam works like this: as you are holding a 50 lira bill in your hand preparing to pay, the taxi driver would snatch it rapidly from you and “return” it in less than a second saying "this is only 5 lira, you need to pay more". And there is nothing you can do to prove you are right. My suggestion is that you try to use small bills only, stay on guard even with the friendliest of drivers, and be careful and attentive when paying. As we experienced this scam twice during the three days we spent in Istanbul, this must be a pretty common thing to happen.
My friend and I had a problem with a taxi we picked up near Asfiya Sophia (I think it was near the big fountain near the gate leading to Topkai Palace). I thought maybe it was just this one guy until I read a travel article the other day telling of a lot of taxi scams from taxis near Asfiya Sophia, so I thought I'd better warn you all. I was with my friend who is Turkish, but lives in America and doesn't really look very Turkish. We got into a taxi and it started to move, once my friend stopped speaking to me in English and gave the directions to her parents' house to the driver in Turkish, his taxi suddenly had "a problem", quite obviously manufactured by him - he clicked the locks up and down repeatedly and made the taxi coast to a stop and said that it was broken...yeah, right. So we got out and found another taxi, no problem with that driver, but he knew my friend was Turkish. I think the first driver was going to "take us for a ride" until he knew he couldn't get away with it and I think that second driver told my friend that that first guy was known for scamming. So beware. I think the article I read said that there is a nearby taxi stand that is ok to take taxis from and that all the drivers there were aware of that scam going on near Asfiya Sophia.
Oh, and make sure that the metre is on when you take a taxi! During the day it should be on "gunduz" and at night "gece". Make sure it is on the correct rate. The night rate is much more expensive, maybe double. I think it starts at midnight. If your driver won't use the metre, get out and find another taxi, there are plenty of them.
I just found the web journal entry about this taxi scam, I'll list it below.
This is the only time I've ever had a problem with a taxi in Istanbul, it happened in April 2005 and the journal entry below is from 2003. So I have no idea if it is still going on or not.
GUNDUZ & GECE
Remember those two words!
those are the name of Taarif you will see in the taximeter.!
Gunguz is the taarif for the morning and noon starts at 1.3 millions lera.
Gece is for night taarif starting at 1.9 millions lera.
they always make the taarif for night even if you are at morning.!
notice the driver to change it if you are at morning and he is using Gece.
Most of the cabbies we met were respectful, friendly, and some actually knew two or three words in English and weren't shy about using them. They were among the nicest parts of our trip.
But some, well, would take the long way to wherever you are going. They realize that Istanbul is terminally disorienting and will pad the fare by taking you the back way. I always traveled with a map open on my lap to make sure I knew just where we were and where we were going and if we deviated much from where we should have been I would let them know I was aware of what was going on.
Taxis in Istanbul do not use meters. This can create an big problem when you reach your destination and your driver demands an exhorbinant amount. Our technique developed through trial and error into two parts. First, ask other travellers, your concierge, someone in-the-know, to estimate a reasonable fare to your destination. Then flag down a taxi and negotiate the fare before you go anywhere. If they won't agree, get a different taxi. There are PLENTY out there.
Thank you to everyone who wrote about the Istanbul taxi scam of telling the passenger they had only given the driver 5 lire instead of the 50 lire bill they had actually handed over. Two days into my Turkey trip, my friend and I encountered the exact scam described and boy, was I ever prepared. We had gotten a taxi near the Blue Mosque and asked to go to an area near the Chora Museum. We were too naive to know that the 60 lire quoted should have been only 12 lire. However, when the driver took us to our destination, I gave him a 50, a 10 and a 5. He then held up a 5, another 5 and a 10 and said I had only given him this. I looked him straight in the face and disagreed. Then I said in a loud voice, "I know what you are doing. I read about this on the internet. Tourists know what you do. You switch the money." I told my friend, "Come on, we are going to take a photo of this cab." I reached for my backpack on the front seat, got out of the cab and memorized his license plate as he sped off. We were quite shook up, but were determined to take action and report him. When we returned to the Sultanahmet district, we immediately ran into a Turkish man we had met who spoke perfect English. He listened to our story and took us up to the security booth at the Blue Bosque area. If we hadn't been with someone we trusted and who spoke perfect English, I don't think we would have done what we did. We went inside the booth and sat with four young undercover policemen while our friend told the story. They then contacted the owner of that cab and summoned in the driver who had bilked us. This all took a very long time. We were very nervous when we saw our very driver appear outside the booth. The policemen then said the report would have to be written up at a police station in the exact district where the incident took place. So, the policemen and our friend took us in a cab back to that district and a policeman wrote up the report. There is no jury system in Turkey and three judges decide the case and they do it immediately. The driver came to the station and they let him talk to us, which I didn't like at all. He said he had two children and if he gave the money back, would we drop the charges. We said no. We then found out he had this happen three times before, but I wasn't clear about whether the charges were pressed or not. What the policemen told me was that the judge had been phoned and that this driver would go to jail that evening and be transported to a larger jail in a few days. The policemen were very thankful that we filed the complaint and stood by it. They were very compassionate. So, I hope that this action will send a message to other dishonest taxi drivers that they can't get away with this.
I will never be going back to Turkey on vacation.
In fact I am typing this from my hotel room (marmara hotel), and I cannot wait until my flight in a few days to get out of here.
Sure, the people there are very nice, probably living like all people around the world, but I do not recommend Istanbul for travelers and tourists.
You will be scammed by taxis 8 or 9 times out of 10, so you should read about their tricks before you visit istanbul, if you disagree with me, you have been scammed without knowing.
When you say you want to visit Istanbul, taksim or sultanahmet, you should actually say: I am going to visit beggars, scammers and annoying people standing in front of their shops, who stop you and pressure you have to come visit their business, so they can charge you high amounts.
While walking in istiklal street, I was approached daily, at least 10 times now by dodgy characters, offering me to come for women, massage, bars and I just ignore them and keep walking (this is a scam).
Do not feel bad for the beggars and don't give them a single lira, because they are actually like a gang and I have recognized 1 beggar from my last trip here, doing his same begging job, and they come for the tourists. The waiter of a restaurant told me the government supplies them with necessities, but they prefer to beg.
Learn how to completley ignore all people who approach you in this city, they have completely ruined the experience, and I am wondering why doesn't the government/police crack down on these people.
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.
Turkish taxis are generally very safe, even late at night, however, the only slight negative I encountered was getting ripped off by a taxi driver. The amount was small so I didn't argue. And with one other driver I had to insist that I didn't want a full tour of the city and that I wanted to go back to my hotel.
If you are a woman, do NOT sit in the front seat of the taxi. It's considered inappropriate (unless the taxi is full, but if you can have a guy sit in the front it's better).
Avoid riding a taxi in the Sultanahmet Area-or the old town in total- as much as possible, unless they are called from your hotel from a trusted cab station. They are all waiting for tourist rip offs, either taking you for a longer than needed ride or exchanging your 50 tl bills for 5. You can see all the major tourist attractions(Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Grand Bazaar etc) and shopping malls if you travel with the metro or tram line
I will say to you: if you come in Istanbul in use Taxi please remember 2 words!!!
that soo important if you are in Taxi to not loose some money in taximetr:)))there is diferend price and some driver make for you in day time -night taxi price:)))
that words you can see in taximetr!!!
A trip from the Airport to the main centre of Istanbul costs around $10, so stand your ground when some cabdrive tries to make you pay the same amout of money for a much shorter trip.
A cabdriver tried to charge me $7 for driving over the bridge (from Galata) to the end of the tramline (only 800 meters) !
Desde el aeropuerto, si tomas un taxi para que te lleve a un hotel determinado, insiste bien en que te lleve al que tu indicas. Puedes llevarte la sorpresa de que te lleva al que el quiera para cobrar la comision.