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Avoiding Scams in Istanbul Turkey – Get the Scoop
Travel is not always sunshine and lollipops. Scams are everywhere – more prominent in some places than others. Istanbul and Prague are two places to beware of smooth operators who don’t have your best interests at heart.
Istanbul, the focus of our recent magazine issue, is one place to heed warnings of tourist rouses. A couple examples are unofficial guides that guide you from the attractions right into their shops, shoe shine cons, and surprise bar bills that could either break the bank or your face.
The risk of negative experiences could put off some people, but what a shame to miss world class destinations just because of a few meanies. And, to be honest, people’s naivety is what gets them into trouble much of the time – if you order a meal in a foreign restaurant not knowing the prices or bothering to ask, sorry but you’re just asking for trouble.
Here are some tips to avoid potential Istanbul bummers. These tips are not to make you paranoid but just aware of what’s out there so you can be prepared to say no, walk away and/or ask the right questions before getting into an awkward situation. With planning and awareness hopefully you can avoid known scams abroad.
Be prepared to tip
Some professions depend on tips for the bulk of their pay. Istanbul’s tourism industry is one of them. Guides, carrying bags, etc – people who approach you with an insistent offer to help may be looking for compensation. Certainly if you ask a random person on the street for directions they aren’t going to ask for a tip. And, who can blame them – they have taken their time to provide a service. If you’re not prepared to tip or pay for “helpfulness” then don’t accept the offer.
Say no to service offers
Unless you can handle your own, steer clear of offers for tours, etc. Sometimes it’s hard to say no. But, if you don’t want the awkward interaction that can follow then the initial discomfort of saying “no” will be much less than discomfort that follows. If they offer a tour of an attraction, like in the above video, they’re likely looking to get something out of it. Be prepared for some purchasing pressure or to provide a tip.
Confirm prices before buying
That’s advice for everyday living people. There are videos about restaurant “scams” in which tourists get ripped off with exorbitant bills And in Istanbul it could save you even more grief. A video undercover can show what happens. Simple management must involve knowing how much you spend.
Plan your night spots
In Istanbul, and reportedly in other major cities, nightclubs are a place where your pockets are quickly emptied. And that’s not for typical entry fees or high priced drinks. In the popular scams, tourists are duped into paying many times the regular price for drinks in some bars as seen in the video below. Then, if they refuse to pay they are threatened.
One way to avoid this is to plan your nightspot destinations in advance and refrain from accepting random offers for drinks where you can’t confirm the price. You can use a resource like Time Out Istanbul to narrow down your venues of choice and even get in on current events so you don’t miss those real once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to do something unique.
Wear appropriate attire
This can mean many things. Here we’re referring to a unique piece of attire that can protect your belongings whether in the markets or nightclubs or hitting the beach (in other parts of Turkey).
You can stash your “goods” in a pair of Adventure Underwear, that are specially designed for your comfort and protection of your essential belongings. More about these smart travel undies here.
Armed and ready for Istanbul
So now you have a few tricks up your sleeve to stay safe and avoid getting ripped off in Istanbul. Mainly, if you remember to ask how much, say “no” and plan ahead, you’ll be in the clear.
It’s unfair to generalize and blame an entire culture for the bad apples (like some of the Youtube comments do). Arguably, most countries have scammers they just run their scams in different ways – some more obvious and in-your-face than others.
ENJOY your time in Istanbul and don’t be paranoid. In fact, as you can read in some of the video comments under the shoeshine scam video, people who know the scam are having fun watching these scammers attempt to reel in their next “victim” (and warning others when they can).
If you haven’t already, read some more positive travel experiences in our Istanbul magazine edition.