Istanbul is a fascinating city; it is the 3rd most visited city in Europe. There’s so many reasons why it is so popular;
the history, the culture, the nightlife. It is defiantly a place not to be missed. People travel here from all over the world to enjoy the frills and cultural experience, Turkeys largest city has to offer.
Like any city in the world, travellers need to be careful as they are in an unfamiliar country. Unfortunately, there can be a few unpleasant people who will take advantage of this and use various dishonest schemes to their advantage.
Although it is unusual to experience such a thing, tourists need to be vigilant about such scams while visiting Istanbul.
1) Shoe shine scam
You spot a local shoeshine man drop his brush in front of you; naturally you pick it up and hand it to him. He then overly thanks you, and offers to shine your shoes. Once he is finished he will demand a vastly greater amount than what it would have ordinarily cost.
You can always be a decent human being, however if you are badgered into receiving a shoeshine, simply decline and walk away. There are many honest, hard working shoe-shine men in Istanbul, who will do a fantastic job for around 5-10TL for both shoes.
Only use taxis which have a taximeter, you can arrange the price of the fare before you travel and agree on a selected amount, however if you do op for the meter remember this:
Some deceitful tax drivers will switch the tariff to a night setting even if its 12 noon, which will cost you double the fare.
The taximeter will display ‘GÜNDÜZ’ for daytime, ‘GECE’ is for nighttime.
If you are not happy with your driver note down his taxi number and inform the police, they are clamping down on rouge taxi drivers in Istanbul.
3) Stranger offers you a drink
A friendly local will start chatting to you, he/she will pretend that they are your friend and offer to show you a better place to eat/drink. They will then lure you to a club, order rounds of drinks and carry on the pretense of this new friendship. When it comes to paying for the bill you will be handed a receipt for thousands of lira for a couple of drinks. Many unfortunate people have experienced this, the club owners will turn very aggressive and will demand the payment from you and will even frogmarch you to a cash machine to pay the money. Your ‘friend’ will no doubt be in on this scam.
Its always fun to get chatting to new people, and most are genuinely friendly but remember if someone is persistent about changing the venue insist that you are happy where you are.
Do not follow locals to their shops; many touts will operate outside the main tourist sites. They will talk to you, ask questions etc then try to convince you to visit their ‘friends’ rug shop or leather goods shop. These people can be overly pushy and many of these stores sell overpriced goods to tourists.
5) Ferry cruise touts
Avoid the touts selling overpriced boat trips, instead head for Galata Bridge and take a local ferry for 12tl.
If you do want to take a luxury riverside cruise book in advance with a reputable company. Do your research and only chose a company, which is highly recommended.
Never pay the first price offered, always haggle down the price. Remember if you do not get anywhere you can always shop somewhere else. Chances are once you have left the store the sales person will run after you accepting your final offer.
Keep your valuables very close to you. Even innocent looking children selling tissues could be operating a 'pickpocketing scam' on unexpecting tourists.
When bargaining over the price of a desired item make sure you are both clear the price is in lira. Some untrustworthy shop owners will switch the price to euro or even change the currency when you come to pay for the item on your credit card. Before you entre your pin check the currency added.
9) Street perfume sellers
It is not a good idea to buy items from people on the streets. Those selling goods such a perfume will be very pushy if you engage them, it is best to ignore and walk past these people. Also these perfumes are fake and the ingredients used could be harmful to your skin.
Some will offer you water, bread, mezzes all of which you had never ordered, so naturally, you presume they are on the house – which they should be. However the waiter then adds this items to your bill. Complain and do not pay for anything you did not order. In Turkey it is customary for most restaurants, if you are having a meal to provide free water, bread and some mezzes/olives free of charge.
Please bear in mind that the dishonest scams listed are few and far between, and most travellers will never encounter such a thing. Many locals in Istanbul are sincere, helpful people who will always help if they see a tourist lost or needing advice for genuine reasons.
What can you do if you have been affected by a scam?
There are tourist police, which deal with these matters.
Istanbul Tourism Police Hotline – (212) 527 4505
Address: Emniyet Müdürlüğü Turizm Şube Müdürlüğü Yerebatan Cad. No: 6 Sultanahmet, Istanbul
The Department of Customer Rights Office – you should go here in person or the caller needs to speak Turkish.
Address: 133 Istiklal Ave, head down the street (with the old tram) away from Taksim Square and it will be on your left about a quarter of the way down.
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