Though Istanbul's public transportation has a wide web of routes that reach almost any street in the city, it can be hard to commute in a big metropolis like Istanbul. Sometimes it is preferable to opt for a faster and more comfortable journey from A to B, whether you are in a rush or simply want a less crowded means of transportation: Taxis are used by everyone in the city and locals and tourists prefer to take the yellow cabs that swarm on almost every street and can be hailed with the wave of a hand.
If you are a tourist visiting Istanbul, it is likely that you have had a few sour experiences with taxi drivers during your visit. Locals might not have many problems; unfortunately, foreigners are always targets for a variety of cheap rip-off techniques. This guide will help you avoid scams and over charging, allowing you a pleasant cab experience.
If you have decided that a taxi is the best way to reach your destination, look around for a cab. Your taxi journey starts before you even get into one. While looking for a cab, only take official taxis. Make sure that it is bright yellow and not a shade of orange. Keep your eyes open for the word "TAKSİ" printed on the sides and top of the vehicle. Taxi's with a company or hotel name printed on the doors are preferred, because if you have any problems regarding the journey or with the driver, you can always talk to a superior if you know which company the cab belongs to.
Hailing a cab in Istanbul is easier said than done. While trying to get a taxi to stop you might encounter a few difficulties. Taxis in Istanbul do not have an indicator on top showing if the vehicle is occupied, so first you must make sure it is not occupied. Most cabs will stop and ask you where you want to go before allowing you to get inside. If they find that the distance is too short and not worth the fare, they will most likely drive away leaving you stranded once again. Don't let this discourage you; remember that taxi drivers are not allowed to choose customers based on destination, so feel free to tell the driver where you are headed after you get into the car.
Once you are safely seated in the taxi, look for the meter. Taximeters in Istanbul are usually behind the shift stick. They are not that easy to locate unless you know where to look. No meter, no ride... If the taxi does not have a meter, get out immediately. Some cab drivers will try to give you excuses about the meter being broken and get you to agree on a fixed price. Do not fall for this trick. If the cab has a meter, it should read TL 3.20 when you enter the vehicle. If the reading is higher than this fixed amount, tell the cab driver. This is not considered rude; if anything, the driver will be amazed that you know taxi rates in the city. Remember, there are no longer differing day and night rates. The price should be the same regardless of the time of day; some cab drivers will try to tell you otherwise, but stand your ground.
Since you are not acquainted with the city, you should always carry a map with you that will be beneficial to both you and the driver. Most taxi drivers do not speak English, so it might be hard trying to give a street or hotel name; thus, a map or a piece of paper with the street name on it will prove helpful. Taxi drivers will sometimes take a longer route than necessary to boost the fare. Though there isn't much you can do in this situation, you can acquaint yourself with an average price for the distance you are traveling. Sometimes taking a longer route is better if the taxi driver is trying to avoid traffic. Paying a few extra liras to avoid the endless Istanbul traffic could prove beneficial for both parties. Luckily for you, there are apps you can download that can help. The "BiTaksi" app helps find taxis near you, while the "İBB Cep Trafik" app allows you to view the traffic conditions in the city.
For a comfortable, safe journey, warning the driver is completely acceptable if you have a problem. Smoking is prohibited in the cab. If you use a cab late at night, some drivers will casually roll down a window and start smoking without asking. If you are uncomfortable with this, politely ask the driver to butt out the cigarette. In Istanbul, nine times out of 10 your cab driver will think that he's a Formula1 driver and recklessly drive through the back roads of the city at high speeds. Tell the driver to slow down (yavaşla, pronounced yah-wash-la), as this poses a danger to both you and the driver. If the driver refuses to cooperate, take note of the license plate and get out at in a convenient location. You can make complaints about taxi drivers at Beyaz Masa (White Table), a government hotline for any sort of complaint about public transportation. You can send Beyaz Masa an SMS at 1530 or contact them via the Alo153 telephone line.
Also useful if you are crossing the bridge to the other side of the city is information on toll fees. The driver pays the bridge toll, which he adds to the price at the end of the ride. Don't allow the driver to charge you more than TL 5, which is the approximate price of the toll. Additionally, unless the driver has helped you load and unload bags, no tipping is necessary. Rounding up the price is acceptable. Do not fall for the "I don't have change" trick, as some drivers will use this to get more money from you. Avoid this by asking the driver if he has the appropriate change if you are going to be paying in bigger bills. Applying these useful tips, you should be able to have a safe, pleasant taxi experience in Istanbul.