In larger cities such as Istanbul, which is home to more than 20,000 taxis, taking a taxi can be an affordable and convenient means of getting around. The majority of taxi drivers in Turkey are honest and fair; however, there are some drivers looking to take advantage of unknowing tourists whenever the opportunity arises. We’ve created a list of the most common taxi scams and how you can avoid them so they won’t happen to you.
So what are the most common taxi scams in Turkey?
Extending the Ride
This is a common trick pulled on tourists in most big cities. On both long and short trips, the driver can extend the duration by making a huge and unnecessary detour. As a tourist, you probably do not know the direction of where you are going or how much it should cost.
How to Avoid - this can be hard to avoid if you don’t speak Turkish or know the area well. Here is a Taxi Fare Calculator you can use for an estimated fare to expect. You can follow along using the maps feature of your smartphone to get a general idea of the time and direction you should be going.
The Sneaky Note Swap
A driver will swap out the Turkish Lira notes for that of a lower denomination. If your taxi ride costs 25 TL and you hand him a 50 TL note, he will quickly swap the 50 TL note for a 5 TL note while you are not looking. He shows you the 5 TL note and waits for you to hand him the remaining 20 TL.
This can result in quick confusion as you were expecting change and unfamiliar with the currency notes. You now have just paid 70 TL for a 25 TL ride.
How to Avoid - be sure to carry plenty of low denomination notes (5 TL and 10 TL) along with coins so you can give the exact amount. If you do need change, show the driver your note first before you hand it to him so he can prepare the change for you. If possible, try to familiarize yourself with the currency and note the different colors between different banknotes.
“I Have No Change”
You need 5-10TL worth of change from the driver. He shows you that he only has 2-3 TL in coins, trying to score an extra bit on top of the fare.
How to Avoid - Ask the driver to go into a shop to change the note. Usually, the change suddenly appears out of thin air. You can also let it go as it may only be a few liras worth if you don’t want to put up the fight.
An “Agreed” Price
You agree with the taxi driver on a fixed price to your destination before getting in. He may tell you there is a lot of traffic, so it will be a better deal, rather than sitting in traffic running the meter up. He may tell you he can take a shortcut to save you time.
Unfortunately, you are now at the mercy of the driver’s discretion. He can easily change the previously “agreed upon” price, and you may be stuck in a situation with an angry driver asking for a higher than usual amount.
How to Avoid - insist on using the meter, no matter what. Meters in taxis are required by law. If the driver refuses or claims the meter is “malfunctioning,” immediately get out of the taxi and find a new one.
Per Person Fare
If you’ve already made the above mistake of agreeing to a fixed fare with the driver, this can be an add-on scam. Let’s say it’s a short trip and you agree to 15 TL for your group. Once you arrive at your destination, the driver will argue that the fare is for each person in your group.
How to Avoid - taxi fares are always per vehicle and should never be per person. Stick to using the meter from an official taxi and don’t agree on the fare ahead of time unless you know the exact route of how to get where you are going and how much it should be.
The “Private” Taxi Driver
There are nearly 20,000 registered and licensed taxis in Istanbul alone. There are also thousands of taxi drivers who are not licensed or operate as “private” drivers.
You may find these unlicensed drivers working in different hot spots of the city hawking customers instead of waiting at a taxi rank. They may claim to offer a better deal than official taxis, but in the end, most will not.
How to Avoid - only take official taxis which are yellow or blue. They will have a “taksi” sign on the roof and have a meter built into the mirror or dashboard. They will also be clearly labeled with their affiliation to an airport, hotel/resort, or neighborhood taxi rank. Most hotels will be able to call one for you or direct you to the nearest taxi rank. Also, an official taxi will allow you to get a receipt or “fatura” if needed.
The “Nightime” Fare
The taxi driver may switch the meter to the “gece” (nighttime) rate during the day, which is more expensive. Nighttime rates are no longer allowed, and all taxis operate at a standard rate regardless of the time of day.
How to Avoid - make sure the meter says “gündüz” (daytime). If you do not see this, speak up, get out, and find a new taxi.
Higher Starting Fare
Let’s say your taxi driver just dropped off another customer after a short trip, leaving a small fare on the meter (10-20 TL). Instead of resetting the meter, your driver leaves this as the starting fare, so you end up paying more than you should.
How to Avoid - be sure to check the meter upon entering and when you start moving. The meter should display 4 TL as the starting flat rate. The fare should increase by 2.5 TL with every kilometer. If stuck in traffic not moving or waiting for you, .30 TL will be added per minute.
The Rigged Meter
This may not be as common as the other tricks, but it is still something you should watch out for. The meter will be at the bottom of the dashboard by the gearshift, and it may have been previously rigged up by the driver.
The driver may covertly touch a button on the meter while you are not looking as he rests his hand on the gearshift. This can add to or bump up the fare increment.
How to Avoid - if you are in a group, have one person sit upfront so they can keep a close eye on the meter. Be sure to check the meter every 5-10 minutes and make sure you are going at the correct fare.
What to Do If You Get Scammed
If you are the victim of a taxi scam, you may be feeling angry or upset but do not panic. Take a deep breath and remember that scams are very common and happen every day to unknowing tourists.
Fortunately, most taxi scams will not be for a significantly large amount. Therefore, it’s best to put it behind you and learn from your mistake, so it doesn’t happen again.
Should You Tip the Taxi Driver?
Most locals do not tip taxi drivers but will round up the fares. A fare of 24.20 TL will become 25 TL. If the driver carries the luggage to and from the car, they will tip.
Some taxi drivers may expect a tip from a tourist, but do not feel pressured if you were not happy with the service. Many drivers will be very friendly and talkative and even offer you advice on the city, so if you wish to tip a small amount or round up your fee, that is your choice to do so.
BiTaksi is a taxi app you can download on your phone. The app is very similar to Uber or Lyft and has only registered taxi drivers that offer standard meter rates.
The BiTaksi app is now available in English and is pretty straightforward to use if you are familiar with Uber or Lyft. We recommend this if you have a smartphone with a data plan.
Petty theft and muggings are rare in Istanbul but you should be extra cautious when in crowded touristic areas of the city such as Grand Bazaar. The most common thing to watch out for are pickpocketers and other types of tourist scams.
Remember to always buy travel insurance when planning a trip to Turkey, just to be safe! World Nomads has a large selection of travel insurance available.
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Final Things to Remember
The meter should display 4 TL as the starting flat rate. The fare should increase by 2.5 TL with every kilometer. When you are stuck in traffic not moving or the taxi is stalled waiting for you, .30 TL will be added per minute. The minimum fare is 10TL so you can’t take super short rides. There's no difference between day and night rates.
If you are coming from the New Istanbul Airport or Sabiha Gokcen Airport, know that there are other travel options than just taxis. Keep in mind that not all taxi drivers will speak English, so it will help to have your destination address written down or a smartphone available.
Have Turkish liras readily available as some taxis may not be able to take payment by card. Always look for officially licensed taxis that are yellow or blue with “taksi” written on the roof.
The majority of taxi drivers are honest, hardworking, and want to help. This guide on common taxi scams is not to scare you but to give you some insight so you can prevent one from happening to you.
It's always a good idea to have more insight on things you should know about Turkey before your visit, and now you have it. We wish you safe and scam-free taxi travel in Turkey!