I am heading back to Denmark after spending more than six months outside the Schengen area on a trip that took me around the ancient Ottoman Empire. I discovered places such as Beirut, Cyprus, North Macedonia, and Albania.
Visiting Istambul was a must on this trip to the former Ottoman Empire. I went there to see the rest of Constantinople and the vibrant life of this economic centre of Europe.
Here are some tips if you are thinking of coming to Istambul:
Beware of the drivers
We heard about Turkish food, sweets, beaches, history, culture and crazy politics, but we never heard about Turkish courtesy. Given that, Türkiye is not France, the most challenging place for a tourist in the world, but still, it is not a haven. At least not in the streets.
Turkish drivers are careless and reckless. They don’t care if you are walking over the crosswalk or if there is a red light. They will do their best to reach faster. No matter if you are in the middle. So beware of the priority “rules” in Istanbul: in first, second, and third place, the drivers are first and the pedestrian last.
Don’t trust Istanbul taxi drivers
If you think that drivers are crazy, taxi drivers are much more. Here are some tips to not lose your mind:
Use the front seat even if you are with a friend or partner
This will help you see the route and guide the driver if he needs to take a better traffic decision. You can use Waze or Google Maps to navigate them. Staying in the front seat will help you see if the meter is malfunctioning.
They barely speak English but will make an effort to understand you
You can use Google Translate to communicate with them. They must know that you will control the route since they may use traffic as an excuse to take you a long way and gain more money.
Ask the price before boarding and also ask to turn on the meter. Even though the driver told you the price before, this strategy will help you reduce the chance they will take you on long routes.
Don’t take taxis for short distances
If you can walk for 15-20 minutes, avoid using taxis for short distances. Drivers will get mad at you because they waited long for their turn in the taxi hub to get only a few liras.
Show the money clearly when you are paying
There is a common scam of taxi drivers that they will try to rob you by confusing you with the bills you gave them. If you give them a 50 liras bill, they will argue that you gave them a 5 liras bill. So speak out about the money you are giving and the one you expect to receive.
Taxi drivers will try to keep your money all the time. If you pay with a bigger bill expecting some change, they might say they don’t have small bills to give you back. To avoid this, try to pay the exact amount, or if the driver is attempting to use this trick on you, you can kindly ask them to go to a small shop with you to make a change. This often motivates the driver to give you your money back.
Don’t brush your shoes
I fell into this one. A charming guy came to me on the streets and asked me to brush my shoes for free. I said no, but he insisted. He said he wanted to stretch out since his shift had just started. I made the mistake of saying yes.
After having my shoes full of spitted Turkish saliva, he claimed me his money. Not begging, not asking nicely. He just asked for his “pay.” When I tried to explain that he offered to do it for free, he denied it and told me to call the police. I had to pay 5 liras for each shoe to escape the awkward situation. Later, I was told that both shoes would cost me 5 liras.
Don’t buy if you don’t see the price
There is a classic tactic to confuse tourists in Istambul by not putting the price tag on goods. Sellers will try to sell you a product for 2 to 10 times the price. You will never, NEVER, must take something and go straight to pay for it. This is like giving a signed blank cheque to your ex-wife. They will rip off your bank account.
Don’t drink tap water for any reason
No, don’t you even consider it. Also, don’t buy plastic water bottles on the street. This is probably a scam, even if you think they are sealed and the bottle looks good. I also failed this one and ended three days with diarrhoea because I was sold tap water in a brand-new plastic bottle.
If you want to know about my personal life, I am heading to Denmark.