Istanbul: Tourists Be Aware!

Some Istanbul merchandise!
Some Istanbul merchandise!

I arrived somewhat flustered and dishelved into my Stray Cat Hostel in Istanbul, feeling like a stray cat myself. I had a disappointing start to my arrival to a magical city I had heard so much about. Instead, like a typical unsuspecting silly tourist, I got completely ripped off. But really, it could have been a lot worse.

I landed in Taksim Square the centre of Istanbul, like most tourists do; and was pointed in the direction of a line of cluttered and quite disorganised yellow Taxis. My instincts told me it looked a little chaotic; but being a virginal Istanbul visitor, I could only assume all the taxis where like this in this massive city of 18 million people.

I was encumbered by my monster bag; which I was beginning; correction, continuing to despise lugging and dragging around the world. I needed help. I needed this taxi. So I trusted my gut and went with the flow, what is the worse that can happen?

Be careful when you choose a taxi in Turkey!!
Be careful when you choose a taxi in Turkey!!
As soon as I was in the cab I knew something was not right. For a start there were 2 guys. One in the passenger seat and one driver. Now what proper cab driver ever drives with a mate? Weird. And on closer inspection I realised pretty quickly these guys looked and felt really dodgy. I could feel my skin prickle, I tried not to feel alarmed as they sped through tight streets, accelerating and braking abruptly, my heart thumping in my chest beginning to realise the potential danger in my situation.
Worse case scenario they could drive me to an unknown location, rape me, murder me, dump my body. I know, I think extreme thoughts. Then I sized them up, noticing their weedy thin arms and scrawny necks, I thought quite rationally I am stronger and bigger than these guys. I am a very well built Australian female, broad swimmers shoulders and very impressive calf muscles. I win a lot of competitions with these calves, they are that good. I know if I had to, I would wrestle and punch and fight my way out of a bad situation, using my mega calves and big strong Latvian arms. Ok I exaggerate, but I was once described as “Amazonian” and have not lived it down since.
Fortunately I have never had to fight my way out of a situation, unless it was for fun, but for some reason, my mind can think worse case scenario pretty quickly; call me paranoid.
As my seeming destination approached, the passenger guy jumps out and proclaims that this is the location of my hostel. This random spot, at a junction of roads, busy crazy dirty hectic roads, and I just know I am not where I am meant to be. I do not panic, but I look around and question it, and start to say, ‘this is just not right’; but to be honest I was pretty glad to just be out of the dodgem style taxi, shaken, but alive.
At this point, the clouds opened, sun shone and my guardian angel appeared. No seriously, this really helpful and kind man in perfect english crosses my path, intervening dodgy taxi driver and asks me;
‘Are you okay? Do you need help?’
HELL YES!!
Although I did not know the third stranger in this equation, I realised pretty quickly that this well dressed, well spoken, and kind man was a much better bargain then these knob heads that had driven me in a circle. But here is the clincher.
Not only did they drive me in a circle, and not drop me off at my destination, even though they insisted it was correct, which it wasn’t; they wanted 50 TL for their lame and dangerous and fear mongering efforts. Total pricks. But it gets worse. They had wired up a meter to tick over a million times faster, so while appearing legit and having ‘a meter’, it skyrocketed to 47TL in about 3 minutes. Crazy mental arrival experience.
Let me put it in perspective, a train ticket costs 2TL, a shuttle to airport from the city costs 11TL, a taxi from the actual airport to my hostel directly would have cost me 55TL. Silly me, I should have just got a cab straight from the airport, but I did think it was much more expensive than that.
As I was stupidly paying him 50 TL, I honestly did not quite realise at this stage that I was being momentously ripped off, he then went one step further. The cheeky bastard did the whole “You just gave me 5TL” trick; trying to get another 50TL out of me!!
I realised I had made no mistake, and at this point I knew I was being taken for a ride, literally. I got a bit more indignant with him and said ‘No, I paid you the right money’ and then walked off. I maintained a friendly and firm kind of approach, and gladly had my new acquaintance to help me with my blue monster (aka bag, like 25kg of beast).
The cheeky swines drove off and to be honest I breathed a sigh of relief. It could have been a whole lot worse. My new friend turned out to be a yoga teacher, and he was a teacher at a Yoga school called Cihangir Yoga just a few metres away from my hostel. What a coincidence!
I was very grateful for his help; he walked me all the way to my hostel door wheeling my Blue monster for me. I thanked him profusely; and as it turned out I was able to attend one of his yoga classes later in the week. We became friends on Facebook and he was able to see all my photos that I captured while I was in Istanbul, so that was a happy ending to a bad start to Istanbul!
So be aware of these scammers in Istanbul. Make sure your Taxi looks legitimate, your driver looks legitimate, and do not fall for the ‘You only gave me 5TL’ trick..
So many amazing sceneries to photograph! A real delight for photographers.
So many amazing sceneries to photograph! A real delight for photographers. This is a view from inside the markets…a million things to capture here!
What dodgy thing happened to you on your travels?
I just hate being ripped off!! It was a rough start but the rest of my time in Istanbul turned out really well. I will be sure to write about it and share it with you in coming posts. And I took a million photos, Istanbul is a dream city for anyone interested in photography.
A lovely scenic shot of Istanbul. Photo credit: rarm-scoop.org
A lovely scenic shot of Istanbul. Photo credit: rarm-scoop.org
With love,
Anita xx
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