This article (in English, 2018) from Hürriyet Daily News, a prominent Turkish newspaper, shows that the bad taxi drivers victimize not just foreign visitors, but Istanbullus as well.
Here are some real-life bad experiences, sent to me by TTPusers:
Every Trick in the Book
“I returned from several days in Istanbul and want to mention something about the inevitable negative experience with taxis.
“One thing that’s new (for me) is that the taxi meter on most of the cabs we took displayed the information in light blue diodes on the rear-view mirror, and it flashes on and off. This makes it difficult to see what the current fare is when you first get inside (as you are likely looking for a separate box). I got into a scammy driver’s cab and he insisted that I sit in the passenger seat, while my friend got into the back. Being in the passenger seat made it difficult for me to see what was happening on the meter.
“He attempted the switching of money trick (5 TL for the 50 TL that I originally handed him). Then as I argued he tried to have me give him a US$ 10 note instead. This created all kinds of chaos and then I started yelling “Polis! Polis!” out the car window (near Taksim). In that chaos he pulled out his “trick” money to give us back the 50 TL and I saw he had a US $1 bill (ready to switch for our $10, had we given it to him) along with a few Euros, too.
“If any advice can be given, when possible make sure the person paying is in the back seat to make sure he/she can easily see the rear view mirror meter read-out. Before embarking on your trip, make sure that the meter is showing the lowest amount (I think it was 4 TL) – we abandoned a cab when it was already at 25 TL and the driver refused to bring it down.
“After our first negative experience, I took to quite visibly making a big production of my taking a smart-phone photo of the inside placard with his taxi number – this is usually on the passenger dash board and/or in the back passenger compartment (putting him on notice that we didn’t want any BS).
“The other thing I did was to quite audibly recite the denomination of the note as I handed it to him and pausing between each note – the denomination is clearly written on the note itself: “yirmi – yirmi – beş” (I know that you recommend this as well, but I think saying it in Turkish helps).
“Other than that, it was a great trip.”
During the FIBA World Basketball Championships in August 2010, there were numerous complaints from visitors about some drivers using a “magic button” on their taxi meters:
“Visitors to Istanbul for the FIBA World Championship overall look to be having a great time. But there does seem to be at least one very unwelcoming aspect of the city.
Not all Turkish cab drivers are dishonest. The great majority aren’t. But it’s still hard to find a visitor here who has taken taxis and hasn’t run into at least one crooked cabbie….
One scheme is the magic button. I was a victim of it once and so was Slobodan Sarenac, the blogging Serbian TV guy.
“‘Ah, yes, the magic button,’ said Sarenac, knowing exactly what I was talking about.
“‘For one trip I made, the cab’s meter read just over 16 lira (about $11) when we pulled up to our destination. Suddenly, the cab driver pushed a button and it read 27 lira.’
“‘We argued for a while. Well, as much as we could argue since the cabbie, like most of them, could not speak English. He eventually lowered his price to 25 before I finally flipped him a 20 and got out of the cab.’
“The next night I had returned from the arena to the hotel and had paid a fare of around 20 lira. A cab arrived after me, and I noticed a big argument between several Serbian media members and the driver. I walked over to see what was happening, and informed passenger Sarenac my fare from the arena had been around 20.
“‘The meter said 18 and then he pushed a button and it said 38,’ said Sarenac, referring to the magic button. ‘We argued back and forth. We told him we weren’t going to pay him 38. Finally, he agreed to accept 10.'” (Here’s the full story…)
“…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 30TLwith 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.”
(Note from Tom: 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.)
Dodgy Meters & Note-Switching
“I was a a guest at Titanic City Hotel in mid-Jan. On our departure, the front desk asked if we (with my colleague) wanted to call a taxi to airport which we agreed. At the entrance of the hotel, their staff pointed us to take a taxi which claimed to be called by the hotel.
“We believed that the taxi driver is engaged with dodgy behaviour:
“2. On arrival at airport, we paid TL65 with 2 notes (one at TL50 and one at TL20) and got off to get the suitcase from the trunk while the taxi driver was writing the receipt. When we got the suitcase off the trunk, the driver told us that we only paid him TL25 (still two notes, one at TL20 and one at TL5).
“After the argument and in view of time constraint, we paid additional TL30 plus USD5 to the driver to close this incident.”
“Leaving our ship, the NCL Jade, we wanted a taxi to the Grand Bazaar. All “the bargainers…taxi drivers” right near the ship, wanted to play ‘Let’s Make a Deal’…I am so tired of that so we caught a cab right outside the port entrance.
“I was careful to ask…was there a meter?/ would it be about 10 Turkish lira to the Bazaar? yes, yes….
But when we got there…and let me say my husband is not speedy exiting a small taxi or I would have jumped out and thrown him the money…but now the driver is arguing 10 Euroand so in fear of retaliation of some kind, I paid the 10 Euro even though our understanding was LIRA.
“And upon leaving the Bazaar, an older gentleman’s taxi must have been using the ‘old’ meter because as he sped away with us, I knew we were in trouble again. The ride cost 45 Turkish lira…his meter must have been set to the old lira and yes, we did it again.
“Nothing so frustrating as being ‘taken for a ride’.
“All I wanted to do after that was set sail and be done with Istanbul! A shame, because we were happy to return for our 2nd, my husband’s 3rd, trip to Istanbul. But I must say now, I don’t anticipate a return.
How to File a Complaint
The license plate number of each taxi is painted prominently on both sides and the roof of the car. Note the number, which consists of “34” plus three letters and two digits (example: 34 TDY 01), the date, time and location(s) of the incident, and send a description to the Istanbul Public Transport Services Directorate:
You may not get much satisfaction, however.
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