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The most popular scams and tourist traps in Istanbul

Istanbul is a mix of old and new, tourists and locals, the most crowded and busiest city in Turkey (there are over 14 million people living in Istanbul), so it’s easy to understand why there are all kind of scams and methods developed by swindlers to cheat unaware tourists. Read the lines below and learn how to avoid tourist traps in Istanbul!

Beware of pickpockets

Pickpocketing is one of the most wide-spread methods of theft in the world. It sucks to lose your money and valuables while you’re on vacation, so keep your wallet in your bag or in the front pockets of your pants, close the zippers and just be careful, especially in crowded areas.


Tea/coffee invitation

This method is very common here, as it is in China. Usually a friendly local who speaks good english invites you for a cup of coffee/tea in a cool place, and in the end he disappears, leaving you to take care of the bill.


Shop stories

Many shop keepers will tell you unbelievable stories about their products – „the last rug my grandmother made before she died„, „the last wooden horse my uncle made before he went blind” and so on, just to make you buy it. Sadly, the stories are often heart-breaking so people end up paying double for a common object, even though the story is a complete lie.


Agree upon a price before saying yes

For example, when you’re in a restaurant, check with the waiter if the prices shown are per person, per 100 grams, etc. Or when you’re getting a taxi, agree upon a price with the cab driver before you get in.


Don’t accept getting a tour from a stranger unless you’re willing to pay him in the end, or ask beforehand how much will it cost. Even though they say it’s free of charge, if you don’t really need that service, don’t go for it.


The shoe-shiner scam

One of the most common scams. There are many shoe-shiners in Istanbul and usually they charge you a few turkish Lira for their service, BUT the scam goes like this:
1. The shoe shiner walks past tourists and drops one of his brushes
2. The tourist picks it up and returns it to the shoe-shiner
3. The shoe shiner is very grateful and offers to shine the shoes to show his appreciation
4. While he works, he tells about his poor family, sick wife and many poverty problems
5. When he’s done he’ll request a bigger sum than usual for his service and the tourist pays him out of guilt


Cab drivers

They say the taxi drivers in Istanbul are always trying to rip off the tourists. They don’t use a meter and they charge you at least double for the fare. We were lucky and got a very nice and honest driver.
After partying in one of Istanbul’s night clubs, we headed home, having only 20 Turkish Liras in our pockets. We told the cab driver where we wanted to go and the maximum amount we were willing to pay. Unfortunately we didn’t make ourselves clear about the destination so he took us to a totally different place. When we saw the meter going above our budget, we asked the driver to drop us off and explain how we can get to the hostel, but he refused and insisted to get us closer. As we were approaching, the surroundings started to look familiar and we convinced him that we could manage from there on out, so he dropped us off without asking for us to pay the whole fare.
I think these are the most common scams in Istanbul. Do you know any others?
I’m thinking of writing a similar article for India, do you have any other favorite destinations?

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