Just like the other metropolises, street scamming can also happen around Istanbul. Although many vendors are genuine and sincere, there are also sellers waiting to rip off both tourists and residents. Here is an inside look at how these scams occur and some tips to avoid them
Istanbul is a historically rich and culturally magnificent city, but it would be misrepresented if we only discussed the good aspects of the city. If you have lived here long enough, its safe to assume that you have been scammed at some point or another, perhaps without even knowing it. Especially if you ware a tourist here in Istanbul, then it's even safer to assume that you have a greater chance of being scammed at some point during your visit. In order to help you avoid these scams and possibly save you from the panic and frustration of realizing you have had such an experience, we have compiled a list of things to look out for and avoid in Istanbul.
As you walk down İstiklal Avenue or around Sultanahmet, you will come across numerous shoe shiners buffing and polishing the shoes of businessmen and tourists. They set up boxes filled with little tools and polishes on every corner, and this sight is unavoidable in most parts of Istanbul. Do not get us wrong - we are not implying that all of these shoe shiners are scammers, but there is a particular scam that some will attempt if given the chance. The scam unfolds as follows:
1. The shoe shiner will walk by and knowingly drop a brush or a sponge.
2. The tourist will notice, pick up the item and chase after the shoe shiner to return the item.
3. The shoe shiner will in return express his gratitude by telling you he will shine your shoes for free.
4. While shining your shoe he will tell you about his poverty stricken or sick family, causing you to feel sorry for him.
5. After the shining is done, he will charge you a crazy amount to which you cannot say no because you pity his situation.
To avoid this scam, do not pick up any item dropped by shoe shiners. If you find yourself too far into the scam already, however, then a polite "No, thank you," as well as walking away will suffice. There are a many great, legitimate shoe shiners in Istanbul; just make sure that you agree on the price beforehand.
A big part of Istanbul's beauty is centered on the Bosporus, the strait that connects the Black Sea with the Sea of Marmara. This next scam is found mostly in tourist-friendly areas along the Bosporus in places such as Eminönü and Ortaköy. You may have noticed stands with trays full of little, folded papers, but what probably catches your attention with these stands are the little rabbits or pigeons hanging from them. They look adorable and you might want to go over to see what it is, but beware of the sham you are stepping into. The scam unfolds as follows:
1. You approach the stand to look at the animals and to comprehend what is going on.
2. The man or women in charge tells you that the bunny will tell you your fortune – they might even say that it is free – urging you to pick up the bunny or hold a tray.
3. The bunny will then grab a paper from the tray that tells your fortune and another one after that.
4. The sales person will then go on to tell you any number of things, telling you either to throw the papers in the water or burn them in order to lock you in.
5. When the fortune telling is done, he or she will charge you a ridiculous amount of money to which they will keep insisting on until you pay. He or she will also tell you things like they need the money to feed the animals in order to make you feel sorry.
To avoid this scam, do not get caught up in the chaos purposely created by the owner of the stand. Moreover, telling him or her "I'm just looking" is more than a sufficient answer.
You may have also noticed women in floral print skirts and sandals selling roses or daisies out of baskets in crowded parts of the city. They may look harmless, and most of them probably are, but it's probably safer to avoid these sellers unless you are actually looking to buy a rose for someone. This scam unfolds as follows:
1. The seller will approach you when you are with a significant other hoping to take advantage of the situation and sell you an overpriced flower.
2. They will pray for your happiness and say nice things about you as a couple hoping to win you over.
3. They will go on to talk about their sick or hungry children to stir an emotional reaction.
4. When you refuse to pay for the flower, the seller will tell you that it is a gift and that you do not have to pay for it.
5. Once you have accepted the flower, however, they will ask for the money. And when you try to give the flower back, they will refuse to take it and insist that you pay for it.
To avoid this scam, simply avoid being approached by these sellers. Also, whatever you do, do not accept the "gifted" flower.
As you walk around the city you might find it hard not to get lost in the busy and bustling streets running in all directions. You never know when people will be waiting to take advantage of a lost tourist's bulky wallet, especially when you are in a shopping area such as the Grand Bazaar. People who may seem like helpful citizens might have other agendas, however. The related scam here unfolds as follows:
1. You get lost in a crowded area not sure whether to turn left or right, or continue straight ahead. Suddenly, a seemingly helpful citizen approaches, asks if you are lost and if you would like some assistance.
2. After admitting you are a tourist, they strike up conversation and agree to take you to the stores you want.
3. On the way he will "remember" that he had to "drop something off "at a friend's store and he will invite you in.
4. In no time, you will find yourself drinking tea and listening to how this one store sells the best carpets or leather goods in the entire bazaar.
5. If you do not fall for it the first time, the whole thing will happen again in another store just around the corner.
To avoid this scam, simply be cautious about people who offer to show you around. When in doubt, ask for help before you are approached. Always keep in mind that a simple, yet stern "No, thank you" is enough to get your message across.