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ALM Feature

Istanbul taxi problem pits Gulf tourists against Turkey's locals

Turkish people have long blamed Arab tourists’ generous tips for the city’s cab shortage, but this may not be the case anymore.
Official yellow taxis and van vehicles wait for their customers at the Eminonu district in Istanbul, on March 30, 2018.  (Photo credit OZAN KOSE/AFP via Getty Images)

Standing in Istanbul’s main Taksim Square, Abubakir raises his hand and a yellow taxi appears instantly. Happy to close a lucrative deal, the driver helps the family with their bags as Abubakir, his wife and their two kids take their seats for the ride. Meanwhile, a Turkish woman who has long been waiting for a taxi across the street stares and sighs furiously.

Taxi drivers picking up foreigners over local customers has long been a common scene in Istanbul’s tourist hotspots. Videos showing drivers not accepting Turkish customers and choosing Arabs over Turks have been prevalent on social media over the past months. A TikTok user went even further to prove the point, carrying empty luggage in order to look like a tourist while attempting to flag down a taxi.

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