If you travel a lot then it is inevitable that, on occasion, you will have some bad experiences. Generally, I try and not judge a place based on these, although sometimes it is hard not to. When my bag was stolen in Bangkok, I left the country with a bad taste in my mouth which I’ve never been able to shake. I know that 2 nights in Istanbul isn’t enough to really get a feel for a place but, I can’t deny the fact that I haven’t been wowed by the city, perhaps partly down to 2 unfortunate experiences.
A terrible taxi experience
When I stepped of the airport shuttle bus, I was completely bombarded by men asking me if I wanted a taxi. ‘No’ I said, repeatedly, just wanting to get my bags out from the carrier first. Despite saying no, they kept hassling me so I just ignored them, grabbed my rucksack and pushing through the crowd to get away from the madness. I pulled out my instructions to look at the name of the hotel and the directions. It didn’t take long before more ‘taxi men’ were upon me. I sighed and said yes to one going against my usual rule of picking someone who is not hassling you in the hope that it which teach the locals that it is not an effective way to interact with tourists. He took mine and Gils bags, put them in the boot and we got in. I insisted that he put the metre on, which he did.
The taxi driver shot off way too fast whizzing in and out of traffic and putting his foot down excessively on every stretch of road. He was driving like an idiot. My instructions said the journey should only take 10 minutes so I didn’t bother saying anything.
He suddenly pulled over next to a main road and said ‘your hotel is 2 minutes that way’. I could see from my map where he had dropped us off and it wasn’t far from the hotel, although I couldn’t understand why he didn’t take us directly there. He pressed a few buttons on his meter and said it would be 83 turkish lire. Thats about £26…for a 10 minute drive…in a country where most of my meals had come to £2 total.
‘I don’t think that can be right’ I said looking at my notes which indicated how much a taxi should cost. Without warning, he suddenly exploded, whacking his steering wheel and yelling, I can’t even remember what. His reaction was completely out of proportion and when I said a second time that I think the amount is too high for what it should be (very calmly) he shouted even louder. He was a really big guy and, although I was shocked, I didn’t actually feel that scared, partly, I think, because I felt like his reaction was all just a show to try and scare us into giving him money. I tried to suggest that we compromise on an amount but he wouldn’t calm down and I suggested that he drive us right up to the hotel and we can speak with the receptionist. He started to drive off saying he will take away and we can walk…we were being kidnapped!
I was very thankful to have Gil with me who whipped out his phone and said he was calling the police. The taxi driver instantly stopped and shouted for us to get out. Worried that he would drive off with our bags in the boot, I stayed in the back while Gil got the bags out and then jumped out myself. Gil suggested giving him 30 Turkish Lire. But I didn’t want to give this rude and aggressive man anything. Anyway, he knows where our hotel is and can meet us there and we can pay him with the help of the receptionist.
He yelled after us as we walked away. My heart was racing and we both rushed to the hotel. I knew he wouldn’t follow us for the same reason I knew he hadn’t dropped us to the hotel – he was a crook. We told the receptionist what had happened who helped lighten the situation by making a joke of it, ‘no taxis today’ he said the next morning when we asked for walking directions into the city. He also confirmed that the fare should have been no more than 20 lira.
This certainly wasn’t the first time I had been ripped off by a taxi but his aggression was not nice. Oh well, he’s the one who missed out in the end as we got a free ride! I shook it off and got on with exploring the city.
A visit to the hospital
The next morning I woke up and groaned…
Some people when they travel like to collect magnets or souvenirs. I, however, like to collect UTI’s. I’ve had a bladder infection in Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Glastonbury Festival, Scotland, Netherlands and, now….Turkey! By now, I know the deal. Call up the insurance company (always take out medical travel insurance!) and get yourself to the nearest private hospital.
The hospital seemed nice enough except that there was only 1 person in the entire building who spoke english and she was bossy, rude and completely unhelpful. She didn’t want to let us see a doctor because she didn’t know our insurance company (Virgin!) and when we explained the process she just kept talking over us. Eventually she let us call our insurance who spoke to her and got it solved.
I got ushered in to a room to see a female doctor. Gil came with me, along with the translator…and 3 other woman who I really hope were nurses. The 7 of us were crammed in a tiny room. I told the translator what the problem was and she fired away in Turkish to doctor. My symptoms were simple and the same I have every time, pressure in my bladder, feeling like I need to wee ALL the time and pain when I do wee. I had been here lots before and knew all I needed was antibiotics.
The doctor did lots of checks which had nothing to do with having a UTI so I went along with it. All the people in the room kept talking in Turkish and laughing. It was really starting to piss me off and I was feeling like I was so foreign circus act.
The translator then took me out the room, ‘She thinks you have a kiss’ she said ‘you do some blood tests and come back in 2 weeks.’. What?! ‘A kiss, a kiss’ she kept saying, ‘a kiss. It is really normal. But you might have a kiss’
‘A cist’ I said, finally getting what she is saying.
‘Yes. That is why you have a lot of pain here’ she points to her belly
‘I don’t have pain there!’
‘You said you did’
‘No I didn’t’
‘We’ll….we will do the tests anyway.’ I was getting really frustrated with this translator who clearly thought she was a doctor so after a deep breath explained that all I want is antibiotics for the UTI. I don’t have any pain but will get checked when I get home. I will not be back in 2 weeks because I won’t be in Turkey. Can I please see the doctor again.
‘She’s gone on her lunch’
I waited. Then the doctor decided to do a urine test because she thought that maybe, I might have a urine infection!!! Goodness knows what the translator told her! She took me through the crowded hospital into a cramped room where people were having blood taken and swab sticks stuck down their throat. She started talking to one of the doctors across the room, pointing at me then making gestures pointing at her stomach area. All the patients were looking at me and saying things in Turkish…so much for patient confidentiality.
We had to wait for another hour for the results which came back….confirming I had a UTI. At last, I had a prescription and could collect the medicine from a pharmacy where the male pharmacist pretended I didn’t exist and spoke to me through Gil. I really wasn’t in the mood.
It isn’t Istanbul’s fault that I got a bladder infection or that we got an unlucky taxi driver but, compared to Capadoccia where we had just been and the people are so friendly and kind, I found everyone to be just rude. I didn’t get a warm feeling from Istanbul and felt on edge a lot of the time. The city landscape is undeniably beautiful with the most stunning mosques I’ve ever seen. However, the grand bazaar didn’t wow me and the markets of Jerusalem or Marrakech have so much more character to offer. Turkey is a great country that I would definitely recommend, but, I doubt I will be returning to Istanbul anytime soon.