Taxis in Istanbul, Turkey

You will not have a great experience taking one of Istanbul‘s 20,000 yellow taxis. (Here are examples of bad experiences.)

The best you can hope for is an acceptable experience: the cab takes you where you want to go by the shortest route, and you pay the correct fare as shown on the meter.

Far too often, you are likely to have a bad experience:

1. The taxi refuses to take you where you want to go because the distance is not far enough to amount to a large enough fare. No matter that you have lots of luggage, or can’t walk well, or are carrying a baby, or simply have a legal right to be driven to where you want to go. Tough luck!

2. The taxi takes you where you want to go, but refuses to run the meter, and you are charged an exorbitant fare, which you can only reduce by arguing unpleasantly with someone who does not speak your language.

3. The taxi runs the meter and takes you where you want to go by a round about route which wastes your time and cost far more than it should.

4. The trip goes okay, but the driver expects a big tip because you’re a foreigner (Turks don’t tip taxi drivers).

5. The driver drives like a maniac, seeming happily to imperil not only his own life, but that of other drivers, and yours as well.

6. You exit the airport in Istanbul, a taxi driver grabs your bags, locks them in the trunk, you go with him (because he has your bags), he takes you to a bar where others rob you. More…

There is some good news: the first four rules above apply mostly (but dependably) to taxis accepting fares in and around Sultanahmet Square and other super-touristy areas. (Rules 3 and 5 apply to taxi drivers in much of the world.)

Here’s a real-life example from a TTP visitor:

“…every taxi ride, despite settling on fares (even writing it down so it was crystal clear), always ended up being an issue, i.e., more. From the airport in a yellow cab we clearly settle on 30TL with no meter turned on. Half way into town, driving at over 150 kph sometimes, the drive turns on the meter which somehow says 43 TL and when we got to [our hotel] it was about 60TL. But I only paid 30 TL which I made the guy at the hotel handle the transition.”

(By the way, I do not recommend that you haggle and settle on a fare in advance. You should get the taxi driver to use his meter so you pay the official fare. If the metered fare seems excessive (ie, if the driver has taken “the long way”), do try to get your hotel to intervene and mediate.—TB)

Common Taxi Scams

Here are examples of common taxi scams.

Here’s how to avoid them, and how to file a complaint if you have a bad experience.

More About Istanbul Taxis

LNG-Powered

Most are powered by clean-burning LNG (liquified natural gas), and all have digital meters which the drivers are required by law to run—though that doesn’t mean they always do run them.

Taksimetre & Rates

If your driver doesn’t start the taksimetre, or tries to haggle at the start of the trip instead of running it, just point to the meter emphatically and say Taksimetre! (TAHK-see-MEHT-treh) It’ll probably be cheaper on the meter than if you let him just charge you what he wants at the end of your trip.

As the driver starts the meter it should flash the rate: TL4.00 to start, and TL2.50 for each kilometer traveled. Short trips are charged at a minimum of TL10.

The rate is the same day and night. (There used to be separate Gündüz (Day) and Gece (Night) rates. Now there is just one rate.)

Sample Fares

The fare for the 5-km (3-mile) 15- to 25-minute ride between Sultanahmet and Taksim Square is TL18 to TL20.

For the 35- to 75-minute ride from Atatürk Airport to Sultanahmet the official fare is TL70 to TL80. From Atatürk Airport to Taksim Square, it’s TL65 to TL75.

The fare from Sarıyer, on the Northern European shore of the Bosphorus near the Black Sea, to Galata Bridge is about TL90 (but you can take Bus 151 to the M2 Hacıosman Metro terminus and ride the Metro to Taksim for only a few liras—no getting stuck in Bosphorus shore road traffic jams).

Vehicles & Capacities

Many taxis are small yellow cars that seat two comfortably in the rear seat, three in a pinch (or if you’re all endomorphs). One person can sit in the right-front passenger seat if the driver allows, so the total a taxi can carry is four passengers (plus the driver), though most drivers prefer three passengers; and if you have luggage, the taxi may not even be able to take four because few taxis have much trunk/boot space because of the big LNG tank already in there. I doubt that a driver will allow five passengers unless he has a larger car than the standard size (there are some larger ones).

Alternatives

Really, Efendi Travel‘s excellent private transfer service is the better option from the airport to the city center if you want a vehicle to yourself. It’s good for any trip for which you can plan and reserve in advance, and is much more pleasant, comfortable and secure.

Tipping (NOT!)

Turks don’t tip taxi drivers, they round up the fare. If it ends up being, say, TL19.25, a Turk will just round it up to TL20. In many cases if the fare is TL20.50, the driver will require only TL20, and not bother with the change.

As a foreigner, your driver may assume you’ll give a tip, but you needn’t unless the driver provides some special service, such as helping with lots of heavy luggage.

—by Tom Brosnahan


Istanbul Taxi Complaints

How to Avoid Taxi Scams

Istanbul Transport

Istanbul Metro-Tram-Tünel Map

Maps of Istanbul & Region

Transport in Turkey

Istanbul Sights

Istanbul Hotels

Istanbul Restaurants

About Istanbul

Istanbul Love Bus...the new novel by Tom Brosnahan

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