‘Your cab is here within minutes’ – that’s what my friendly host from a few weeks ago told me after morning coffee in Turkmen Mahallesi and exactly that happened. A smiling driver, courteous and helping with luggage, a clean spacious car and of course all required hygiene precautions. And a fare that saw me alright. Highly recommended, and not an exception but the rule over here.
But do we not all know horror stories from places elsewhere hoping our dear readers can relate to today’s topic? Let me share with you one such tale from near and another one from afar. Fasten your seatbelts and first up to Istanbul.
Six years ago, in November of 2015 an article in English language Daily Sabah alerted readers to a novel problem: ‘How to take a taxi in Istanbul without getting cheated’. Up until then little was written about what had apparently become a serious issue and ever more so for newcomers to the city. The author Izlem Arsiya had prepared a kind of ‘how to’, why not look up that piece on the internet as it is still a hot pick amongst the paper’s audience.
Since then, the situation deteriorated so much that the municipality started making plans for installing a camera in each vehicle as well as considering drafting a twelve-point catalogue for cabbies how to carry out their profession.
It is a timely development as after all in a soon to be post-pandemic world millions of incoming tourists without any previous proper knowledge of the metropolises’ routes and streets need to rely on taxis as a safe and convenient mode of transport.
Recently a yellow cab I had hailed in Ortaköy and asked to deliver me to the other side by means of crossing the Bosporus via one of its bridges apparently decided that this is a ride too short and sped off into the opposite direction. Actually one could see the bridge approach road from where I stood on the pavement… Me inquiring he said the bridge approach road is blocked. It dawned on me however that he deliberately made that one up consulting my mobile phone route planner. He then said we cannot go across the bridge and would drop me off at another taxi rank of course asking for his fare first. The second driver took the correct road albeit the distance was much longer than under normal circumstances as the first driver had driven away from the bridge approach road, not into its direction. Verdict: one positive, one negative experience. However, picture this: not a single man but a single woman passenger, new to the city, without command of the Turkish language and no Mobile phone route planner installed. Late at night. I am neither suggesting only men should take taxis at night nor suggesting anything untoward would happen, of course not. But it would be a very awkward, unpleasant situation to say the least. In particular as we are taking taxis to get home safely instead of facing more troubles!
Stay safely seated as now it is off to London. As traveling has become an option once again a trip to that splendid city is most definitely always something special. However as one had slight doubts about the required hygiene and distance measures on a crowded subway train hailing a black cab was the logic thing to do. Or so it seemed…
Off to one of my favourite eateries in Covent Garden and starting my journey in Holland Park the ride is nothing special and for an experienced cabbie standard fare so to speak. Until we had reached Park Lane all was well but as if out of nowhere, he seemed to panic, turned right and basically drove halfway back towards Victoria. Eventually emerging on the embankment thoroughfare, I politely asked why that detour and heard per response, Piccadilly Circus was blocked. Eventually reaching Holborn exit which would at least have allowed me to walk for the last ten minutes or so he decided to take a further sightseeing trip up until Russell Square only then to apparently realizing the restaurant is tucked away just off the Opera to the far-left, not the far-right.
Not in a mood for arguments on what was a rare trip back home after such a long absence time to settle my bill – a startling 28 Pound Sterling for what is supposed to be not more than 15 in a worst traffic scenario. Needless to say: this passenger discreetly overlooked the otherwise common practice of leaving a tip…
In a nutshell and what this article is all about is the following: we as the paying public should get in touch with local authorities when we are short changed and that includes forking out too much change for a taxi ride. This is not an issue limited to a fantastic city such as Istanbul or for a great metropolis such as London; sure it happens in Berlin or Buenos Aires, too.
So why does it not happen in our role model resort of Kusadasi?
Granted, we do not live in a 17 million strong city (not even in a nine million strong one for that matter comparing Istanbul with London) but imagine a less trustworthy cabbie would take you to Aqualand via the far southern end of Ladies Beach although you had hailed that taxi at the coach station. But this simply would not happen in Kusadasi, it did not 15 years ago, and it still does not.
So it must be about the people, the highly skilled drivers, the captains of the road. They take great pride in their profession. They love meeting locals and tourists alike. They want to show off the best sides of town. They want to be remembered as part and parcel of a perfect holiday destination. Their cars are shiny, the inside comfortable, there is always enough space for that extra piece of luggage.
Often shying away from hailing a cab elsewhere – in Kusadasi it is a serious alternative to our cherished minibuses which most of us are frequently using, too.
Have a lovely month of November, enjoy!