Read the Lonely Planet. Read any other travel book and they will all forewarn you that the biggest annoyance in Istanbul are the taxi drivers. There is no meter, so you’re advised to agree on a price before you get in the car. AS IF that works. As we found out, it doesn’t.
We met my sister Emy and her husband Charlie in Istanbul. While the Greiners enjoyed their 4 star hotel (sadly right next to the train tracks, but did the beautiful hotel description mention that? I think not), Tim and I went down the street to a hostel and shared an ok room with yet another stinky and moist bathroom. But this too, shall pass, I kept telling myself.
The first night we met up with my friend Yasemin, a Turkish-German that I met in Seattle a few years ago. Yasemin works for the German embassy in Ankara, but she made the trip out to see us. Being the local and all, Yasemin showed us around, ordered some great Turkish food, took us out for drinks with her cousin and friends and, at the end of the night, got us a cab.
She negotiated the price with our cabbie. 15 Turkish lira, she said. Seemed like a good deal, about 10 bucks for all 4 of us (later we found out the tram is much faster and only $1 per person).
To say that the cab drivers there are crazy is an understatement. They drive horribly whie yelling and raising their hands up in the air as if everybody were a horrible driver (true) except or them (not true).
So the crazy driver stops abruptly–not in front of our hotel, mind you–and rudely motions for us to get out of the car. Guess it’s time to leave, we all figure. My sister gets out. Charlie gets out. Tim gets out. I am still in the car, ready to pay. I give him a 20 lira bill and he nods his head. I wait or my change. He motions me to leave the car. Nothing.
“It’s 15 lira,” I say, indignant.
He holds on to the crisp 20. “20 lira, 20 lira,” he insists.
Nuh-uh. This shady guy is NOT leaving with MY extra 3.5 dollars. On principle. And yes, a little bit out of spite. Ok, so, a lot out of spite. Totally out of spite, in fact.
“NO. My friend already said it was 15! She speaks Turkish and English, and she told ME only 15. “
“No change,” he blurts out, now raising his hand and violently motioning for me to get out–Charlie told me later he thought the Turk was about to slap me.
“Then give me back my money!” I yank the bill out of his hand, determined to find a stranger that will give me change. Out on the street, to the chagrin of my husband, sister and brother-in-law, I ask a couple of tourists if they have change for a 20. No such luck.
From the car, the cabbie starts yelling something. It’s a miracle, he DOES have change after all. Just like that. So Diesel, already embarrassed by my so-called shenanigans, hands him the 20 lira note and gets the change. And then counts the change. A few CENTS! Like four small COINS!!! WTF. By the time Diesel realizes it and most importantly, I realize it, the shady cabbie is gone.
If I had been left to take care of things, this would have not have happened. I would have yelled (yes, indeed). I would have chased him down the busy street (likely). I would have kicked his Turkish butt (not likely, but hey, a girl can still dream, right?)