A Guide to Correctly Queuing in Istanbul

A few days ago I was waiting for the bus in the ridiculously long line at Beşiktaş Square – some mornings the line turns around the whole square and forms surrealistic spirals – when a guy just cut a few places in front of me. That was followed by a general silence and a tacit acceptance of his outrageous behavior. Then, I surprised myself by telling him off. A half-voiced “Sıra var, abi” got out of my mouth. In an ideal world, I would swiftly admonish him and send him on his way to the back of the queue, to the crowd’s acclaim. Of course, in the reality of Istanbul, my weak complaint was received with some shy nods, and the guy still jumped the queue and got on the bus anyway.

At that very moment I had two choices –which crossed my mind like a cheap version of “Sliding doors.” I could either confront the guy and start a fight (and get my ass kicked, as he seemed the kind of “kıro” guy really up for a fight). Or I could come to Yabangee and rant about it in a passive-aggressive piece with futile results. I enjoy writing and I am chicken, so I chose the second option.

So, what more unhealthy way to transform my frustration and negativity than writing my own rules to queue in Istanbul? Because in Istanbul, everywhere is a queue: queuing is almost a way of life. I am aware that some of the behaviors I describe here are not at all exclusive to Istanbul. But after three years of admiring the curious human behavior behind the act of forming a line I decided it was time to leave proof of some of the ludicrous situations I’ve encountered. So here is the list of the rules of etiquette for queuing properly in Istanbul. And remember folks, this is just for giggles:

Waiting for the Metrobus (Source: T. Anjarwalla)
Waiting for the metrobus (Source: T. Anjarwalla)
  1. If you are waiting in line to exit a ferryboat, it’s allowed to form a second line parallel to the main one to test if two people can fit at the same time through the tiny doorway.
  2. When standing in line to board the metro, you are encouraged to get on the train as soon as the doors open instead of letting passengers get out first, because this totally makes sense.
  3. If you are queuing to board a bus, it’s acceptable to align yourself next to the person in front of you, start talking loudly on your phone and sneak in first.
  4. Be aware that there is not just one queue to access the bus, but a range of them according to which side of the street from which people are approaching. Priority is assigned according to your level of strength to claw your way in.
  5. During the boarding of a transportation vehicle, if the person in front of you takes more than half a second to place their Istanbulkart on the electronic reader, it’s permissible to scan yours first and cut the line because God forbid you have some patience. Also, if the person in front of you has an insufficient amount on their card, please grumble loudly.
  6. While waiting in line at an ATM. it’s understandable that you leave no space between you and the person completing their transaction so you can properly check their financial status.
  7. When you have to wait in a traffic jam, the general rule is whoever honks the most has priority.
  8. If you are elderly, especially a teyze, you can directly jump the queue. Then, when someone objects, you can act surprised and reason that you didn’t notice the long queue and/or you thought it was a different line. Next, display an adorably naive attitude, remain there and cut the line.
  9. When waiting for a taxi, it’s acceptable behavior to walk against the flow of traffic to gain a positional advantage, wave your hand at the oncoming taxi and proceed to skip the line.
  10. For every situation above, the general the rule is: Don’t be patient. Forget that everyone’s in the same boat and always display exasperation and aggressive behavior.

So what do you think dear readers? Did this list leave out some odd behavior? Share your funny stories in the comments.

Santi is an architect passionate about travelling and writing about the hidden corners and the ordinary beauty of cities. He left his home in Barcelona and moved to Istanbul following the blend of architecture and energy, new challenges for his insatiable curiosity and love. He now thoroughly enjoys writing for Time Out Istanbul and Yabangee.


  1. If you happen to see a foreigner, behave as you wish because said foreigner probably won’t be able to argue with you and will let you proceed unchallenged. If the foreigner does happen to speak Turkish and reacts to your impoliteness, act surprised and say, “Çok pardon.”

  2. Also, while waiting in any line, one should make sure to get as close as one can to the person in front of them. You’re not waiting in a proper line unless you are literally breathing on someone’s neck and they can feel it. What’s personal space?

  3. I always have a lot of fun in making myself as big as possible when people want to enter the metro or alike and have them getting really nervous because they can’t run into the people trying t leave the train. Or just bumping into people that try entering the train while I am leaving the train. Aw their faces are brilliant 😀

  4. You forgot the one where you are paying for your shopping and the person behind you comes into your space before you have paid the money. Therefor either trying to see you put your pin number in or just see how much you paid. There is no personal space here. It is amazing.

  5. […] 7. Metrobus – This bus has its own private lane through the middle of traffic and will take you across the Bosphorus from the European to the Asian side and back again. Why then, you may ask, is this not a train line? I don’t have an answer for that, but good question! The Metrobus charges you depending on how far you take it (still very reasonable). Unlike San Francisco’s BART, which functions the same way and where one scans their card to pass through a turn-style getting on and off, the Metrobus puts the onus on the rider to get their refund. So, no waiting at the turn style on your way out, but don’t forget to scan! One note of caution – the line on the Metrobus can get a bit insane during rush hour. For more on that, check in with fellow Yanbagee, Santiago Brusadin, who wrote the very accurate, helpful and hilarious, “A Guide to Correctly Queuing in Istanbul“. […]

  6. what about “I’ve already queued once and bought something so I am completely entitled (on my way put of the store) to pick up other merchandise and jettison right to the front of the queue.
    The Cashier will take my exact money, write down the code (customer leaves at this point) AND CASHIER WILL THEN PROCEED TO MANUALLY TYPE IN THE TRANSACTION WHILST ALL THE OTHER CUSTOMERS ARE WAITING !! not me …I was really miffed at this point !!

  7. Reading your article İ felt my blood boiling just as if İ was experiencing any of the above mentioned queueings right now sitting on my couch. 🙂

    Good job! 🙂

  8. You know, people don’t queue in London any more either. Like the dense fogs, it’s something that lives on in people’s memories of the past but has little to do with the present. Now you just group yourself around the bus stop until vehicle pulls up, then all push in together. Believe me, I’m a Londoner.

  9. I find that standing between the opening doors of the metro and physically lifting the opposing person up, and placing them to one side, while staying perfectly silent, works well when you want to exit (bear in mind I am 6′ 2″, so there are not many threats to my height here). The last time I did it, I received a general “acknowledgement” of my efforts from a couple of other passengers!

  10. Back in the day when I would argue upon exiting the metro, I encountered an elderly gentleman, shoving his way through “our” crowd. I, politely, asked him to wait (in my bestest Turkish) and he showed me a little band-aid on his finger “But I’m ILL” he barked at me as he attempted to push me out of the way.

    So they’re you have it, a boo-boo on your pinkie gives you automatic rights to the front of the queue too! 🙂


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