How to Avoid Tourist Traps in Istanbul
Regardless of where you travel in the world today, you are likely to encounter tourist scams. Tourist scams can come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some may be obvious, while others are layered. The ultimate goal is to fleece tourists of their money, possessions, or both.
If you are planning a holiday to Istanbul, you shouldn’t be put off from visiting due to tourist scams. This is merely meant to warn and protect you. By the time you finish reading this blog, you will be able to avoid anyone attempting to rip you off.
In this blog, you will learn about the different Istanbul tourist scams. You should note that most scams take place in Istanbul’s busiest tourism areas. These crowded, busy places attract thousands of people each day with many being sightseers from other countries.
Istanbul Tourist Traps: The Location
Like every other major city in the world and tourist destination, Istanbul has to deal with the typical tourist scams. The majority of people in Istanbul are not in the business of ripping off tourists. However, the city is home to more than 18 million residents and there are a few bad apples in the bunch. Not everyone has good intentions and they set out to separate travellers from their money.
Locations such as Sultanahmet Square, Istiklal Caddesi, Cumhurriyet Caddesi, and Taksim Square are popular places for scam artists to set up. It is less likely that you will come across a scam outside of these areas. However, you should be aware of your location and surroundings at all times.
Istanbul tourist scams typical involve individuals travelling alone or in small numbers. A scam artist may approach you with an invitation. These people are always friendly which makes them seem sincere. However, there is nothing sincere about their intentions. If you avoid them or turn down their invitation, they are likely to move on quickly. Scammers do not want to make a scene or attract attention.
Istanbul Tourist Scams: Let’s get a drink
One of the more common Istanbul tourist scams has been dubbed “let’s get a drink” or “let’s have a drink”. The scammer’s goal is to get you to go to one of their drinking establishments. The bars typically have overpriced drinks and scantily clad women. In the end, you will rack up a massive bar bill and are forced to pay hundreds of Euros.
Single white men are typically the target. Why? Because scammers believe these men have a lot of money and to be lonely. The mark will be approached by an English-speaking, well-dressed man. They will make small talk with you. The conversation will ultimately lead the man to ask if you would like to have a drink at a bar he often goes to.
You should never take advice from strangers you meet on the streets. You can avoid this situation by simply stating you are not interested and meeting up with friends.
Istanbul Tourist Scams: The Carpet and Leather Shop
In this scam, the fraudster wants you to buy carpet and/or leather goods in the shop he works at. Although the person claims you will get a bargain, this is not the case at all. Scammers typically target individuals walking around the Sultanahmet area and Grand Bazaar.
You will be approached by a friendly man, who typically speaks several languages fluently. They will speak to you about sightseeing and whether you need help locating tourist sites. If you say ‘yes’, the person will take you around. As they guide you, the man will walk past shops that he or a person he knows owns. The man will invite you into the shop(s) to meet family members or friends.
You will likely be offered tea to drink and to listen to stories. They will speak about the quality of their products and offer them to you to buy. If you resist buying anything, the man is likely to offer to take you to more shops to buy products.
One way to avoid this scam is to turndown advice from strangers who approach you in the street. If you are lost, approach someone to get advice rather than accepting it from a stranger.
Istanbul Tourist Scams: Pickpocketing
Pickpocketing is a common scam that occurs around the world. You don’t even need to be a tourist to have your wallet or money stolen. Careless tourists are often the targets of pickpockets. They will quickly deduce a way to snatch your wallet, watch, or other valuables without you knowing.
Scammers use large crowds in heavy tourism areas to pickpocket individuals. If people are close together, it makes it even easier for pickpockets to work. It is incredibly easy to avoid having your wallet stolen. Men should carry their wallets in the front pocket of their trousers.
Backpacks should be worn on the front of your body (chest) and not the back. Women should keep all handbags in front of them and within eyesight. Items such as mobile phones, jewellry, and other expensive products should never be left unattended.
Istanbul Tourist Traps: The Shoe Shine
Fraudsters promise a free shoe shine to individuals but overcharge them for their services after completing it. Solo travellers, couples, small families, and small groups are all targets of the shoe shine scam.
The scam is set up in two ways. One of which occurs when the scammer walks past you and drops a brush on one of your shoes. The other set up involves the scammer walking in front of you and dropping a brush. They expect you to pick it up and hand it back to them. Regardless of the set up, they apologise and as a goodwill gesture, begin shining your shoes.
You expect the shoe shine to be free since you didn’t ask for it. However, once they finish, they will demand payment and it is always overpriced. The best way to avoid this scam is to never pick up the brush. Simply keep on walking. If the brush falls on your shoe, simply say it is ‘ok’ and move on.
Traps in Restaurants 1
There are two restaurant scams that tourists may encounter. The ultimate goal of both scams is to overcharge tourists and make them pay more money. The first restaurant scam targets tourists that are not paying attention.
Tourists are provided a different menu in English or the language of their choice to the Turkish menu. Due to the menu not being in Turkish, the price for the items is significantly higher. You can avoid this scam by comparing the Turkish menu to the one you were given. In addition, do not go into restaurants that look shady or dodgy.
Traps in Restaurants 2
The second restaurant scam aims to make tourists pay for food that they didn’t order but still ate. This scam is used on hungry tourists unaware of what they ordered. The scam often takes place in restaurants designed for tourists.
Tourists sit down at a table and flip through the menu ordering food and drinks. When tourists don’t pay attention to what they have ordered, the restaurant takes advantage of them, providing appetisers and other items. You will be billed for these additional foods.
In addition, you may not have specified which brand of beer or soft drink you wanted. The waiter will bring you the most expensive brand the restaurant carries rather than a cheaper local brand. You are just happy to have the appetisers and drinks, and don’t realise they cost additional money to the meal you ordered.
This scam is highly avoidable. You simply need to pay attention to the foods you order at the restaurant. Read the menu thoroughly and understand what comes with the menu.
By knowing more about the various Istanbul tourist scams, you can stay safe and have a wonderful holiday.