Taxis are cheap and plentiful in Turkey. They are usually compact cars or mini-vans which carry three to four passengers (two or three in the back, one in the front passenger seat). The larger mini-vans have a cargo compartment in the back, which provides more luggage space than the regular cars do. Since taxis in some cities (like Istanbul) are fueled by liquefied natural gas (LNG) cylinders in the trunk (boot), this limits their cargo space, making the larger mini-vans a better choice if you have luggage. Practically all taxis in Turkey are air-conditioned.
Turkish taxis are always yellow, with a lighted sign on the top which reads taksi. Their identification numbers are on the front and back license plates, on the sides, and on the roof.
Before using a taxi, consider other forms of public transportation first, such as a dolmuş, city bus, ferry, metro, or tram. These are not only cheaper, but can get you there faster depending on traffic and the distance of your destination.
Taking a Taxi
Besides simply walking up to one or waiving one down, you can also call the local taxi stand and have a taxi come and pick you up. There may also be taxi "call buttons" strategically placed near popular locations, just press the button and wait.
Take a photo of the taxi with your smart phone or camera, or write down the taxi number. If later the driver cheats you, takes off with luggage, or you forget something, you'll be able to find the exact taxi you were in.
Turkish Taxi Drivers
The vast majority of taxi drivers in Turkey are honest, hard-working people who will not cheat you. Some will actually go out of their way to make sure you get where you're going. Unfortunately, some taxi drivers are crooks, and will pull various scams on their passengers. This predominately happens in Istanbul, especially in the very touristy Sultanahmet district. While you are likely to have no problems with taxi drivers during your visit, you should familiarize yourself with how taxi scams work.
Taxi rides and Turkey sometimes border on the scary, with drivers racing to get you to your destination as quickly as possible. To ask the driver to slow down, say "yavaş!" (yah-vahsh). He will probably reply by saying what a good driver he is and not to worry. Don't be afraid to insist that he slow down, or tell him to let you off where you can get another taxi. He will likely slow down then!
The Taxi Meter
By law, when your trip starts, the taxi driver must start the taksimetre (tahk-see-meh-treh). Insist that he does. Numerous incidents of taxi scams have been reported (mostly in Istanbul) concerning the driver "forgetting" to turn on the meter, or offering a verbal price to take travelers to a routine destination that they would ordinarily use the taxi meter for. You will likely be over-charged, so insist that he use the taxi meter for trips inside the city. When the taxi meter starts, it should blink and display the fare like this:
- Starting fare: 2.95 TL
- Every Kilometer: 1.83 TL
- Waiting in Traffic: .30 TL per minute 1
This varies by city, but the above is a basic guide for what to expect.
Keep an eye on the taxi meter Some taxi drivers have a switch that they flip which will make the fare jump higher. They usually do this near the end of the trip.
The only time a taxi is not required to run the taxi meter is when the destination is far, or to a local tourist site outside of town. For these popular destinations, a set trip price will be posted on a sign or placard at the taxi stand and/or inside the taxi. For other long trips, the first price quote will probably be a high one, so you can bargain for a lower one. If the taxi driver won't budge, just say you will find another taxi and walk away. He will likely call you back, since he knows another taxi driver will probably accept that price.
Taxis in Turkey accept cash, although some have credit card machines as well. Pay at the end of the trip. Don't pay until you and all of your luggage is out of the taxi.
Warning: Especially in Istanbul, a popular scam is money-switching. Typically it involves hiding the 50-lira note you gave him and replacing it a five-lira note, since they look similar. The driver will then insist that you gave him five lira instead of 50. In another scam, if you pay with several of the same denomination of note, the driver will hide one and insist you gave him less than you actually did. So when you pay, hold up the money you are using where both of you can see it. Say "I am paying you 50 lira." Make him say it too. Only hand him the money at the same time he is handing the change to you.
It is not customary to tip a taxi driver unless he carries heavy baggage or does something for you besides driving. It is customary to round up the fare if it's within one lira. You will also find that taxi drivers also round down. For example, if the fare is 20.75 Lira, they will usually accept a 20 TL note. Or you can give him 21 TL.
Taxi Scams in Turkey: Learn about the common scams perpetrated by taxi drivers in Turkey.