Day 17(2): Tired of being ripped off - already!

Izmir Travel Blog

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Otel Hikmet, my ome for the last three days
In hindsight Izmir probably wasn't the best place to use as a base for my daytrips. The bus station is way out of the city centre, and public transportation to the bus station is virtually non-existent. Well, no, it exists, but it is not particularly convenient or practical to use for tourists. The buses require a pass and I haven't quite figured out how it works, only that buying a pass is way too expensive an option for just a single bus ride. Then there are dolmuş, which are basically a cross between a taxi and a bus. In most towns these are mini-vans, but the ones in Izmir are just regular cars, which means they are practically always full.

So that leaves you with taxis, which are surprisingly expensive in Turkey.
Turkish sense of humour
Several times already I had been surprised at how much the prices had increased since the publication of my guidebook. Normally I allow for a 10% increase of the prices published, but in the case of Turkey (or at least Izmir and surroundings) 50% to 100% is more the norm. I was getting really worried about my travel budget and started to wonder how I was going to last three weeks in this country. Some serious re-budgeting was needed.

But it wasn't the prices that frustrated me, it was the people. Everywhere I read stories about how nice the Turks are, with the exceptions of some rotten eggs that spoil it. So far it seemed the rotten eggs were the norm though, as everyone seemed to be wanting to rip me off.

Taxi drivers, ok, they are a breed apart, I knew that already from other countries.
My daily routine: Beer, Blog and B... uhm... Bloody good sheesha!
I took a taxi from the Ephesus ruins back to town and the guy first wanted me to pay an inflated price, then offered it for half, then refused to switch on his metre because it was broken. Only after I had forced him to drive back to the taxi stand and his manager gave him a reprimand did his metre magically repair itself again. So taxi drivers, I am sort of used to that. But bus drivers? On my way back from Selçuk the co-driver asked me where I wanted to get out in Izmir. I had seen this the day before, and sometimes the bus makes a small detour to drop people off closer to their final destination. So I mentioned Konak, the central area. The guy nodded and five minutes later the bus stopped in a suburb and I was told to change to a city bus to get to the centre.
The best kebab in town

Hmm, not a good idea. I wasn't able to travel the bus without a pass, so I said I would go to the bus station instead. At least from the bus station there are shared taxis available, which leave every 15 minutes for the centre. So another 5 minutes later the bus stopped in front of another bus, and I was told to change. Since I was the last passenger on the bus they wouldn't drive all the way to the terminal, and I had to change to another minibus. Which I then had to pay for again... And this bus went all over the city before finally arriving at the station, so this whole joke added an additional 2 hours to my travel time (for the record: Izmir - Selçuk is only one hour under normal circumstances).

Also, the hotel I stayed in wasn't all that good either, and I was beginning to think that I got charged more than the going rate (I was pretty much the only guest), and it wasn't very good value for the money I paid.
The Çankaya area, where my hotel was located

Then the restaurants. The first day I in Izmir I had a simple kebab lunch and I was seriously over-charged. Not to mention the beer I had down at the waterfront. Sure, I expected drinks to be more expensive down at the waterfront, but these European prices I am talking about.
Again, when I went for dinner yesterday, I made sure to see the menu and prices before I sat down. But here too the bill ended up double the amount: I was charged for a salad I had not ordered, and also charged a hefty 'service' charge. A service charge? In a kebab shop?
When I protested the owner quickly took these amounts off, but in such a way that I felt bad about complaining. Was I really that much out of line for insisting to pay the price listed in the menu?

But worst was the shoe polisher. I never have my shoes polished when I travel. I mean, my boots aren't much to look at, and they certainly aren't going to improve with a bit of shine. But this was a one-legged guy who obviously didn't have much in his life apart from the shoe-polishing business. And it looked like that business was bad. So when he quoted me one lira for polishing my shoes I let him. Then he changed his mind and charged me 10! (that is 5 Euros!). When I reminded him he had quoted 1 in the first place he said he had meant 10, but only used one finger. For chrissake, the guy may have had only five toes, he sure still had ten fingers!
Then he said I had to pay per shoe. Then he said 5 would be sufficient as well. Mind you, his English got a lot better all of a sudden when we had this argument. Fuck him, he should have said so in the first place.
When I travel I try to treat the people I meet with respect, but I do expect a similar amount of respect in return!

I dunno, maybe I am just fed up at the moment. I was seriously doubting whether I should stay the full three weeks in Turkey. While it had been difficult communicating with the people I met while travelling through Eastern Europe, at least they had been sincere. I had hoped Turkish people would be similar to the people I had met in the Middle East but alas. They may have the religion, they don't share the same natural hospitality. Or maybe they do, but in the areas frequented by tourists this attitude is long gone...

Still, Izmir is not completely without merit. The Çankaya area genuinely is a nice place to be. And the kebab shop around the corner from my hotel might well be the best in all of Izmir! I went there for a quick dinner on the first night, and it had been so good (and the place where I went the second night so bad) that I went back there on my last night. Here you can choose from a variety of kebab sandwiches which they will then combine into a delicious mixed grill. All succulent and delicious and costing next to nothing! And salad is included!

Also, the nargileh bar where I had taken my refuge the second and third evening, for a sunset drink and smoke, had been a very enjoyable place. Very nice, welcoming people and no attempts to rip me off.

Another good thing about Izmir - I was well-rested and refreshed after my three nights in the Otel Hikmet. I had slept. A lot. Guess I needed it.

Still, there isn't much for me to recommend Izmir to others. It is a nice place for a day, but rather than day-tripping to Ephesus you would be much better off travelling to Selçuk and stay the night there (and you may as well skip Bergama altogether).
Biedjee says:
Thankfully it got a lot better as I travelled further east
Posted on: May 06, 2013
emre-selcuk says:
I am sorry to hear that as a Turkish. It never is safe anywere in or out Turkey... Smaller cities like Selcuk has less problem like that than bigger cities as İzmir.
Posted on: May 06, 2013
sylviandavid says:
Enjoyed your recount of the area.... We often get ripped off as I'm blond and they love to think we are rich Americans... nope... not rich but we do love traveling on a budget... thanks for writing this. sylvia
Posted on: Sep 10, 2011
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Otel Hikmet, my ome for the last t…
Otel Hikmet, my ome for the last …
Turkish sense of humour
Turkish sense of humour
My daily routine: Beer, Blog and B…
My daily routine: Beer, Blog and …
The best kebab in town
The best kebab in town
The Çankaya area, where my hotel …
The Çankaya area, where my hotel…
photo by: Deehu