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.
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.
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.
I was at a conference and got a yellow taxi from the hotel to the conference centre and that was OK and cost 10 lira. The hotel doorman spoke to the driver and told him my destination. On my return I saw a line of yellow taxi cabs outside the conference centre and I got into the first of these. I showed the driver the address of the hotel. He drove past the side street where the entrance of the hotel was and parked further away. I said it should be 10 lira as that was what I had paid for the same journey that morning. He said no give me 20 lira. I said no, not unless you give me change, and i want a receipt. I did not have a 10 lira note and 20 was the smallest I had. He demanded the 20 lira. I handed him the note and he immediately went in his pocket and came back with a 5 lira note and said "you only gave me 5 lira". I said no I did not. He then demanded I give him 50 lira and said it was going to cost 45 lira. I refused and he started to get really nasty. he started ranting on about how he was haran and he prayed. I told him he should be praying for forgiveness then for robbing people. he said I insulted him and started to shout at me in Turkish and looked really threatening. I looked around and could see nobody about. i thought about calling the police but did not know how to. He kept shouting give me 50 lira, and he made to grab at my wallet. In the end I handed over the 50 and incredibly, he handed back 5 lira saying that was all I had given him. so he had taken a 20 and then a 50 off me. I refused to give him anything else and asked for a receipt for what he had taken. he threw a receipt at me and the 5 lira note. The receipt was only for 30 lira. I was so shocked by the experience that I did not take his number. In hindsight I should have done so. I believe he knew exactly where the entrance to the hotel was and that he parked away from it as he knew that I would have shouted the doorman for assistance if he had stopped there. I learned a lesson, never trust the taxi drivers. The next day, I tried walking from the conference back to the hotel, but the heat was terrible, and eventually i admitted defeat and approached a yellow taxi. This time, before I even got in the cab I showed him my two hands with all fingers and thumbs up and said 10 lira to take me to the hotel. He said it would be 15, so I made to walk away and he shouted OK. I again reiterated only 10 lira, and that was all he got and he gave me a receipt for 10 lira. So always know how much roughly it will cost where you are going, and then tell them the price you will pay in advance and make sure you say no more. They do understand English they just play dumb when it suits them. I would never go back there. I felt so threatened by that robbing taxi driver. I also found that some of the men were quite rude. One example was I was getting served at a cafe in the airport on the way back and this man walked up and started to talk over me to the girl serving as if I was not there.
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 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).
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.
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".
Until we got out of the tourist areas, we thought Istanbul was one big scam. Our first taxi was from the Kempinski Ciragan Palace hotel to the Topkapi Palace. The driver kept asking us if this was our first time in Istanbul. I learned later this should always be answered "No". If you answer "Yes", they feel you are the perfect "mark". When we exited the taxi at the area closest to the Topkapi Palace (there is a walking area so they have to drop you off before you get there), there was a guy who spoke good English offering to give us a tour. He said it would be "free" if we would come to some of "his" stores. In Turkey, everyone seems to be on commission if they can bring in the tourists. Our taxi driver said he was "okay". (Our taxi driver had been on the cell phone on our way in, so I'm sure he set all this up and was also in the commission stream.) We went on the tour. We were taken to the Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sophia, and the Blue Mosque. He had a tour guide card, got out tickets without waiting. spoke English well, and moved fast. All in all, it was a good tour. We saw a lot in a short time. We then had to go to "his" stores, a rug shop, a jewelry store, and a porcelain shop, We didn't buy anything. We then went to a currency exchange to get money for dinner and shopping. I made the mistake of asking if he wanted to be paid since we didn't buy anything and he said 400 TL. I got him to 350 TL but should have argued that he said it was free. So for about $200 we got a 3 hour tour with someone who knew how to get around the lines and spoke good English. Not really bad but "not as advertised". If you stay around Istanbul, I imagine you will improve your negotiation skills, be wary of "friends" and scams, and learn how to ignore people. As a tourist, you are definitely a target.