Buyer, beware in Istanbul

By Peggy Scanlon
This item appears on page 45 of the December 2013 issue.

I was in Istanbul with three family members in September ’13. It was my third trip there, the first for the others. 

One of our group had trouble walking, so we had to use taxis several times. On two occasions, one of us, after giving the driver either a 50- or a 100-lira note, was handed back either a 5- or 20-lira note, far short of what we were owed, with the driver stating that that was the correct change. We couldn’t prove anything so ended up being cheated.

If I ever need to use another taxi in Istanbul, I will, upon paying the driver, say aloud, “I’m handing you 50 liras” or whatever.

Another thing that happened to us — taxi drivers took us the long way around. 

The best way to travel around Istanbul is on foot, if you are able. Many of the big attractions are near each other; the Grand Bazaar, Topkapi Palace, the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia all are in or near the city’s historic center.

The train is excellent, too, and can cost only three liras ($1.50) in one direction. In addition, you can get to and from the airport on the train. If you play your cards right, you’ll never need to get into a taxi. The traffic is awful in Istanbul, anyway, so traveling by train or on foot can sometimes be the fastest way to get around.

Here’s another incident. One of us bought three carpets. Back where we were staying, she unwrapped two of them but not the third, which she had purchased in a different place. The third carpet ended up being not the one she had paid for but a much cheaper one.

I must add that most of the people we encountered in Istanbul were wonderful. After our family member had bought the two “good” carpets, the carpet seller took all four of us out to lunch at a fine restaurant (in addition to serving us tea and snacks while we were in his shop).

I also had not had trouble with taxi drivers on my previous trips to Turkey. 

I would like to return to Istanbul one day. It is a beautiful city and the sights are quite wonderful. There is a lot to do and see. And I love the food!


Bisbee, AZ