7 Sneaky Istanbul Taxi Scams and How to Avoid Them

Taxi rides are often the most convenient way of navigating around for a newcomer in Istanbul, saving time figuring out directions and asking strangers hesitantly.

Overview of taking taxi rides in Istanbul
Once you board the taxi, the meter is activated with 3.2 TL displayed — the current flat rate. Every kilometer the meter increments by 2 TL every kilometer. In case stuck in traffic and taxi is not moving a rate of 0.35 TL is incremented every minute.

Taxi fares

Istanbul Taxi Fares from Sultanahmet (and vice versa)

to Akmerkez Shopping Mall — 27 TL
to Bebek — 33 TL
to Beşiktaş — 20 TL
to BuzAda — 29 TL
to Cehavir Shopping Mall — 17 TL
to Dolmabahçe Palace — 15 TL
to Fatih — 12 TL
to Galata Tower — 15 TL
to İstiniye Park Shopping Mall — 35 TL
to Kadıköy — 46 TL
to Kanyon Shopping Mall — 25 TL
to Metrocity Shopping Mall — 25 TL
to Nişantaşı — 19 TL
to Ortaköy — 25 TL
to Pierre Loti Cafe — 19 TL
to Reina — 27 TL
to Rumeli Hisarı — 37 TL
to Taksim — 13 TL
to Yıldız Park — 23 TL

Istanbul Taxi Fares from Taksim (and vice versa)

to Akmerkez Shopping Mall — 21 TL
to Bebek — 25 TL
to Beşiktaş — 8 TL
to BuzAda — 19 TL
to Cehavir Shopping Mall — 11 TL
to Dolmabahçe Palace — 7 TL
to Fatih — 14 TL
to Galata Tower — 12 TL
to İstiniye Park Shopping Mall — 32 TL
to Kadıköy — 39 TL
to Kanyon Shopping Mall — 22 TL
to Metrocity Shopping Mall — 22 TL
to Nişantaşı — 9 TL
to Ortaköy — 17 TL
to Pierre Loti — 39 TL
to Reina — 17 TL
to Rumeli Hisarı — 23 TL
to Sultanahmet — 13 TL
to Yıldız Park — 13 TL

There are about 20,000 taxicabs operate around town and most drivers are presumably fair and helpful. But a number of them as well can easily be categorized as scammers who make the most out of an unsuspecting, innocent passenger. Showing signs of an ignorant, less knowledgeable tourist make it easier for them to fool around. So it’s always good to bear a reasonable level of suspicion to detect commonly employed taxi scams among Istanbul cab drivers.

Longer, more expensive trip

As stated above, one likely reason people take taxis is because they are not very familiar with the way around. So relying to a taxi driver means following his decisions, which may be unfair to the passenger. The trick to make the ride longer — a trick practiced by some taxi drivers all over the world — is aimed at inflating the bill. Even if a passenger quite well-versed with navigation such as Google Map directions, these drivers often have prepared their alibis which end up winning the argument over a tourist who is probably more conscious of visiting places or taking photos than engage the driver into a petty argument.

How to avoid: Be prepared before boarding the taxi. For example, have a basic idea how much to pay for such distance by referring to TaxiFareFinder  or Google Maps pointing the direction to the driver. You’ll have a better idea if the driver is indeed driving you in an unnecessary detour. So having your data-enabled smartphone active would be very helpful.

Better yet, download the taxi-hailing app BiTaksi which helps calculate your taxi fare, illustrate your roadmap and other benefits such as card payment options, identify the driver and taxi in case you left some belongings.

Turkish currency bill switch

Imagine you have reached your destination and the meter tells you the fare is 15 TL. You unsuspectingly hand over 50 TL note, expecting to get the 35 TL change but in a quick glimpse, the Istanbul cab driver picks 5 TL from his pocket and switches 50 TL and shows you the 5 TL bill, expecting you to hand over the “remaining 10 TL.” As a newcomer, you might as well be not so familiar with Turkish money and dismiss your thought that you indeed handed over 50 TL. In the end you paid 60 TL for a 15 TL ride.

How to avoid: Be familiar with the currency of Turkey even without holding them in your posession. Even better, have small bills and coins ready before you board the taxi. As you approach your destination, you can start preparing the amount as shown in the meter. The goal is to avoid instances the driver has to give back change. And don’t worry about tipping, it’s not a standard practice in Turkey to give tips to taxi drivers, unless he was helpful enough to load/unload your luggage.

Taxi touts at tourist areas

You may have experienced this in other places: people approaching you offering taxi services at reduced rates. Don’t fall for the offers as they may be unlicensed and unauthorized, putting you in more trouble. (For example, in case accidents happen you may not get properly compensated or covered by health insurance.)

How to avoid: Simply ignore their offers and take only official taxis. In Istanbul, official taxis are painted yellow, have the “TAKSI” sign above and equipped with meters.

Payment in currencies other than Turkish lira

Some taxi drivers might offer you a discount if you pay in euros or US dollars. Don’t fall for such tricks as they will make unfair exchange rates in return for your foreign currency payment.

How to avoid: Always have with you the local currency, preferrably in smaller denominations and coins so it becomes easier to pay in exact amount.

Taxi driver has no fare change

You hand him 20 TL for a 16 TL fare. But after apparently scouring his pocket and cash box for a minute, he can only muster 1 TL as change back to you. It could be the driver’s way to earn more liras than he is supposed to.

How to avoid: You have two options. First, if it’s only a few Turkish Liras, you may consider giving it to the driver. But if you think every single ride should be paid fairly, you may remain seated and ask the driver to go to the shop and have the money get changed.

Taxi driver sets meter to night fare

Driver puts the taxi meter on night time (gece) and not daytime (gündüz). There used to be a different fare rate for night and day taxi rides in Istanbul. That, however, has been abolished and no longer practiced. The driver must have thought you are unaware and charge more using the night time fare rates.

How to avoid: Now you know that no such “night fare” exists, politely tell the driver there is no such fare structure anymore as fares are now computed the same as the day rates regardless of time of the day.

Driver offering fixed fare instead of using the meter

Driver suggest you to agree for a pre-defined fare for the ride instead of using the taxi meter, saying this is a better option for a variety of reasons. For example, you’ll pay less during peak hour traffic situations instead of a running meter without taxi moving forward. You’d probably wonder why the driver is kind enough to you that he’ll be willing to take less money. He is, in fact, going to earn more if you said yes.

How to avoid: Insist on using the meter. If the driver refuses to do so, you can refuse the ride and hail another taxi. If the offer is made in the middle of the ride, find a parked police car and ask to stop there and get out of the taxi.

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