Before discussing the rental market in Istanbul, a housing source shared an old Ottoman wives’ tale about Turkish coffee. It is often said, back in the Ottoman empire when you entered someone’s house, they would offer both coffee and water. If you drank the coffee, they would bring you dessert, but if you drank the water, they would bring you food because you’re likely hungry.
These days you’d be lucky to have a house to offer coffee to guests. Since COVID-19, it is difficult to find the perfect rental in Istanbul. One source I spoke with said people are reluctant to move out of their apartment or house unless it's to move to a bigger space. Also, there has been a huge influx of Syrian migrants who are buying property. Demand is much stronger than supply, which is increasing rents. Although Istanbul is a bustling city, it's not an expatriate-led market. Landlords are taking advantage of the limited options, regardless of housing budgets.
There's even a shortage of yellow taxis. Despite a population of almost 20 million, there are only 10,000 yellow taxis in Istanbul. As you can imagine, it’s sheer luck to call an available taxi at any time. The government will not increase the number of taxis to avoid paying for registration plates. According to one source, ten taxi increase requests were made and shut down in 2021.
Based on my recent experience in Istanbul, it can take 10-30 minutes to find a taxi using a rideshare app, and if you find one it can take up to 20 minutes just to get to your location. Trying to hail a taxi feels futile because they’re always occupied. It was sheer pain hailing a full taxi and watching it drive by with all my hopes, dreams, and I’d even say a piece of my heart. However, there are a few consolations to waiting, like grabbing a small cup of tea on the street, a simit (bagel), roasted chestnuts, or simply enjoy people watching the hustle and bustle of Istanbul until the taxi arrives. Or you can do what I did—just use the metro.
Metro Istanbul is a well-oiled rapid transit machine. It’s a beautifully well-run and organized train and bus system that is very reasonably priced (15 TRY for 3 ride bus or train rides, an equivalent to approximately $2 USD, depending on the current exchange rate). It’s exactly what you would expect from a metropolis and, might I add, much more loyal and reliable than a taxi. It runs on schedule, it’s clean, it has different translations on the fare vending machine, and it easily takes you to almost every part of the city.
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Lakeisha joined AIRINC in 2019 where she has fascinating role of conducting international cost of living and housing research.