The number of tourists in Istanbul is increasing exponentially. in April, 2012, during Easter, queues at the entrance to the Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace were record-breaking at an all-time high. A sudden increase of foreigners in a city will inevitably attract unbecoming elements that try to take advantage of the situation.
Unfortunately, we hear more and more reports of tourists scammed by taxi drivers. It is never appropriate to generalize, but it’s pretty well known that the category of taxi drivers sometimes put aside honesty when the opportunity presents itself.
There is not much wonder, then, that in a city of 16 million inhabitants, Istanbul taxi drivers are clamoring to unpick as much money as possible from the tourist who has just arrived and may be understandably confused.
Knowing this, we can take precautions.
In theory, the safest way to avoid disappointment would be to select a metered taxi. The rates should be as follows: getting on the taxi meter should indicate 3.20 lira, which is the minimum rate of departure, the price per kilometer is 2 lira (updated to the latest increase of August 2014).
However, be cautioned that the inclusion of the taximeter is unfortunately not enough to be safe.
The trick most frequently played on tourists is to take the longest route possible to reach a destination. Unfortunately, it is also quite common to be led around for half an hour and finish the journey a few meters away from where you started. It has also been reported that a meter will go slow for most of the route and then suddenly triple the amount at the end of the ride.
If a driver is truly criminal, then neither a taximeter nor a pre-negotiated price will be enough to avoid paying 40 lira for a ride that should only cost 10 Llira (it happens!). Therefore, it is essential to know how much it should cost you on average to get around the city center.
Know , therefore, that a ride from Taksim-Sultanahmet, at any time, costs about 10-12 lira (€4-5), even a run from Ortaköy-Taksim costs more or less the same. Sultanahmet-Eminönü can cost up to 7 lira, as well as Sultanahmet-ksaray. Perhaps the longest of which a tourist can use is Sultanahmet-Ortaköy and costs no more than 20 lira.
Know, therefore, that within the tourist perimeter you will never spend more than 20 lira. If the driver asks you for 50 lira (often), then give him 20 and exit quickly from the taxi. If the driver begins to scream do not let that intimidate you. Just threaten to call the police.
Honestly, the taxi fares would be very convenient if you would not run the risk of being scammed. The advice we can give is to use public transport as far as possible. It is more efficient and cheaper. But if you are forced to take a taxi, do not EVER take the first taxi passing by you on the street. Always call a taxi from your hotel, or restaurant, or the room in which you find yourself, or take one from a real taxi station. This way you will be 100% safe from trickery. No driver will dare to do something wrong because they will know that they can be traced in just a few minutes.
The use of some Turkish language generally discourages drivers from trying to cheat. However, the probability of elderly people or groups of girls being scammed is very high.
Some good news is that the taxis from the airports are safe and there is no danger of being scammed. The fare from Ataturk Airport to the city center is about 45-50 lira, while from Sabiha Gökçen airport is about 90 lira.
After giving fair warning, we like to relate two positive episodes of which we were witnesses. Some time ago, we had forgotten our cell phone in a cab. When we realized what happened, we tried to call, hoping that the taxi driver would answer. He did, and the taxi driver returned back to return it to us, without making us pay the extra fare. The second episode concerns a tourist who had left his camera in the back seat, and given it up for lost, only to find it delivered to the hotel the very next day.
I have to admit that I have never liked to take a taxi. I prefer to walk, but lately I have been taking them and I have found them very good. It’s fun to practice speaking Turkish with taxi drivers. I often do and sometimes even receive a discount . A foreigner who speaks the local language always manifests a very positive effect from their audience!
The city of Istanbul is aware of “problem taxi drivers” and is considering strict regulations in the future that protect the public from mistreatment. In the meantime, we hope that you do not have any negative experiences (as it is certainly a question of luck, but we are still masters of our own destinies, so always keep your eyes open and your reflexes swift)!