How to Spot and Avoid Common Istanbul Tourist Scams
Like any city with a high tourist quotient, Istanbul has its fair share of tourist scams. That being said, most Turkish people are extremely forthright and honest, with a natural instinct to be helpful and kind.
We at Hotel Büyük Keban are intent on making sure that our guests have the best possible time in our city. For this reason, we want to help you learn how to spot and avoid common tourist scams while you’re enjoying the sights. These are a few of the most common ones:
Honing Your Sixth Sense
Most scams occur in heavy tourist areas like Sultanhamet Square, Cumhurriyet Caddesi, Istiklal Caddesi, Taksim Square and their environments. You are less likely to run into people with bad intentions in Istanbul's residential areas. Scammers usually target people traveling alone or in small groups, so if this means you, its time to hone your sixth sense so that you can spot a scam before it happens.
Join Me For a Drink!
You might be approached by someone who asks you for a light. A conversation begins and you find yourself going to a bar in the name of friendliness, ultimately being left with a big bill for drinks you never bargained for.
A shoeshine guy drops a brush on one of your shoes or in front of you, awakening your instinct to pick it up for him. He apologizes profusely and starts shining your shoes. You feel awkward pulling away, so you let him finish and he ends up asking you for more money than the cost of a regular shine.
Come and Meet My Brother!
Carpet and leather shops are notorious work areas for professional scammers. You might be at the Grand Bazaar when a friendly guy asks if you are lost, which is very possible. He offers to help you find what you are looking for and offers you incredibly low prices on extremely high quality goods in one specific locale. You enter, intrigued and feeling special, drink a few glasses of tea, and find yourself being seduced into spending a lot more money than you had planned.
There's nothing like a crowded tourist area for professional pickpockets to have a field day. Keep your precious items close to the vest, with your wallet in the front pocket of your pants, your handbag secure against you, your backpack on the front of your body, and all of your zippers closed. Never leave valuables like your mobile phone unattended, even if for a few seconds on a tabletop.
Overcharging for a ride is one of the oldest scams in the city. Though taxis provide an easy way to get around Istanbul, we recommend you take public transportation when you can. It’s fast and simple and a great way to learn the city, avoid traffic, and steer clear of trouble. That being said, most taxi drivers are completely above-board and honest.
But…there are a handful of sneaky drivers who will make your ride longer if you don't know the city; who will switch notes to smaller denominations and wait for you to give them the rest of what they say you own them, even as you wait for change; or charge you a higher night rate, even though this is illegal.
The way to avoid problems is to carry small bank notes and coins for rides so that you can give the exact fare. If a taxi driver says he has no change, tell him to change the larger note in a shop and he will do it if you stay put and insist. Make sure the meter is set to daytime rate by checking to see “gündüz” written on the meter. And speaking of meters, don't get into a taxi unless there is one. Fixed prices are almost always scams.
Scams like these happen in almost every country, no matter where you travel. Don’t let the thought deter you from travelling. The world was meant to be explored. Just stay alert, know what to look for, and don’t get sucked in. So what are you waiting for, contact us today to start your travels and book a room at Hotel Buyuk Keban!