Winter in Istanbul: Taxis & Driving

5

Sunday 05 July, 2015 by Uncle Spike

More from that mid winter trip to Istanbul…

Traffic ! That’s a defining statement in itself when one talks about Istanbul. This city is officially the most congested in the world, beating Mexico City, Moscow and Bucharest, to name but a few. So, when it came to driving there, it seemed a good idea to add a little ‘extra’ to our anticipated journey time. We chose our times carefully, enabling us to tackle horrendous rather than diabolical traffic levels – only ever so slightly different to our village roads back home!

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Back home it’s normal to see some cars driving at breakneck speeds, overtaking on dangerous bends, aggressively pushing to get past ‘anything’ at all… and they are nearly always carrying a 34 plate – a licence plate prefixed with 34, the province number for Istanbul of course!!

Yes, Istanbul drivers are renowned for driving like lunatics throughout Türkiye. However, I too have ‘driven’ on their home turf, and my take on it is that they drive like lunatics when outside of Istanbul, as that’s the only chance they get all year to go beyond 1st gear!

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Where we have goats everywhere, Istanbul has over 20,000 taxis….

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As in most major cities, crossing the road is a national sport in Istanbul, and one for which t-shirts should be awarded. Whilst driving here is considered tiresome, dangerous and challenging, the life of the pedestrian is pretty much the same, just without the metal cage for protection.

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There are no straight, wide open roads. This is not some American city created from scratch… no, this is Istanbul, a city with a history stretching back to the 7th millennium BC. So when it comes to trying to find a parking space, or navigating one’s vehicle around the myriad of one-way streets, it’s quite a challenge.

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One interesting observation though… I’m amazed at the difference between driving in Istanbul (our most populous city), compared to Ankara (our capital city).

In Ankara, the driving is fast and aggressive. Nobody gives way, let’s you out or gives a crap – you are on your own buddy! Personally, I find it ok, provided that you join in the fun. My wife says my driving ‘changes’ immediately we enter the outer limits of Ankara! I always stick a pretend one lira coin into my cars pretend coin slot – it’s like driving the dodgems after all 🙂

However, astonishingly, as jam-packed, slow and over-bearing the experience of driving in Istanbul was, I lost count of the number of times I was ‘offered’ a space to pull out into the traffic! They may be nutters when driving around the rest of the country, but on home turf, Istanbul drivers were actually very polite (relatively speaking).

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5 thoughts on “Winter in Istanbul: Taxis & Driving

  1. Makes me glad we chose to walk everywhere in Istanbul on our only visit. The traffic tales remind me of Bombay.

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  2. Husband drives a school bus. Drives him crazy that many people seem to think that stopping for children getting on / off the school bus (with bus light flashing red) has somehow become optional. Instead they zoom past or around the bus even as the littlest children are getting on / off.

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  3. Colin Huggins says:

    One reason that I got rid of my car!
    I fully understand the Istanbul congestion with the
    traffic being such an old city.
    Imagine the international furore if buildings were knocked down
    just for a superhighway to appear.
    So I guess you just have to “grin and hope for the best”???
    Bangkok is shocking also but they have built now highways
    above the buildings – not the nicest of spectacles but the traffic
    does now move.
    When in Rome to cross a street – the lights mean nothing so it
    appears – just keeping walking and the cars will miss you.
    I must say it does test your nerves – ha ha.
    Cheers
    Colin (Brisbane. Australia)

    Liked by 1 person

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