A Foolproof Guide for Getting around Istanbul

in Turkey and Turkish culture

A mini-van is one way to travel around Turkey

Have dolmu?, will travel!


Okay, it’s quiz time! What do New Delhi, Istanbul and Port-au-Prince have in common? If you said massive amounts of people and legendary traffic jams, you’re on the right track.

These cities are home to the shared taxi, the best way to get from point A to B without breaking the bank or getting hopelessly tied up in traffic.

Contrary to what the name implies, a Turkish dolmu? (DOLE-mush, stuffed) is anything but cramped. In fact, compared to the Indian tap-tap, the Haitian tuk-tuk and the Kenyan matutu, a ride in a Turkish dolmu? is relatively tame. You don’t have to hang out windows, worry about bouncing off the truck bed, or share a seat with livestock.

Trust me, I’ve done all three. The dolmu? is a piece of cake in comparison.

Seeing as how my kids and I will be spending the summer in Turkey, I figured I’d better refresh myself on dolmu? etiquette.

Wanna’ come along for the ride?

Your Fool-proof Guide to Dominating the Dolmu?

    Step 1: Make sure you’ve spotted a dolmu? and not a regular taxi. If there’s a placard on the dashboard with a destination – say, Besikta?-Taksim, for example – you’ve found a dolmu?. Unlike a regular taxi, a dolmu? services a fixed route, hence the placard.

    Step 2: Get clear on the cash! To find out how much the fare is, you tell the driver your destination and ask “Ne kadar?” (NAY kadar, how much?).
    Step 3: Climb into a vacant seat. Standard etiquette for a mini-van dolmus is three passengers in the last row, three in the middle row and two up front next to the driver. If it’s a taxi dolmus, only one passenger may ride up front.
    Step 4: Pay your fee. It’s like “pass the baton”, only with money. Hand your TL (Turkish lira) to the driver or to a passenger in front of you. That person will pass it on to the driver and then pass any change back to you. If you’re traveling in a group, simply multiple the fare by the number of people.
    Step 5: Say “Dur!” (DER, stop) to signal to the driver when you want to get off.

See? I told you it was easy! :-) Now, getting off a boat in Turkey, not so much.

Come back here next week and see for yourself.

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