It’s easy to fall in love with Istanbul. It’s the melting pot of the old and the new; the glittering and the glum. There’s something for the sober Susans; and a lot more for the hedonist Helens. The conservative—stands side by side with the liberal—in look, charm, and feel. And just as it’s easy to fall in love with the city that once vied with Rome for power and prestige, it’s also so easy to fall for the many scams that await Istanbul’s enamored guests and patrons.
Therefore, while one should not miss any of the dull and dazzling attractions that hold the city’s visitors in a spellbinding allure, it’ll be important to be on the lookout for the many traps that con artists lay for unsuspecting, unknowing travelers. In this article, we’ll reveal some of these scams and how travelers can avoid being easy prey to them.
Top Istanbul Scams You’ll Want To Avoid
Many people who’ve visited Istanbul have encountered scamming incidents involving taxi drivers. Granted, the majority of Istanbul taxi drivers are fair; and probably honest and decent people. But there are rotten apples as well. And in many cases, these spoil the whole taxi transport reputation in Istanbul. Usually, this is how it goes. A visitor doesn’t know her way to the hotel. The taxi driver then informs his innocent passenger that there’s a traffic jam on the main street or pathway. Subsequently, he'll then pull up what will look like a reasonable suggestion: let’s use another route. It’s obvious where this is all headed. The taxi bill will be inflated; sometimes by as much as two times, or even three times—the standard rate.
At other times, the drivers will offer what looks like sensible arguments against using the taxi meter. Either there’s a lot of traffic so that it’ll be expensive for the passenger, or the meter is faulty. At other times, they’ll profess they don’t have a meter. Then there’s currency swapping. This is where a taxi driver quotes, say 25 Lira (Turkish currency) for a trip. The passenger hands him a 20 Lira note as he looks for another 5 Lira banknote. In that split second, the driver turns around waving a 5 Lira note and requesting his 20 Lira balance. Obviously, the driver has quickly swapped the 20 Lira he was given—with a 5 Lira note that he already had in his pocket. Usually, the passenger becomes confused, bewildered, and disoriented. Some will just pay up the difference and assume the currency mistake was with them. Aside from currency swapping, some will feign the inability to get change when handed large amounts while desiring to keep the difference.
And then there’s this: A shoe shiner will “accidentally” drop his brush almost at the feet of one who’s strolling by. On picking up the brush and returning it, the shoe shiner will persuade or coerce the passerby—to pay for a shoe shine.
How To Avoid Being Scammed In Istanbul?
There are several tips that can minimize or eliminate the likelihood of being a scamming victim in Istanbul. One of them involves being aware of the route one intends to use with respect to distance and mileage. With Google Maps, this should be easy. Google Maps or similar apps, can also help you evaluate traffic conditions. Then it’s always advisable to ensure beforehand that the taxi driver will use his meter—and that the meter will be the basis of the charges. To prevent currency-swapping scams, it’s crucial to carry Turkish currency in small denominations and to give the amount charged—all at once. But being firm and unyielding can also come in handy. For taxi drivers who claim that their meter has broken down along the way, informing them to stop at the next police station usually works like a charm.
Another appealing strategy is to use Google Translate. This is because—beyond the pleasantries, many Istanbul taxi drivers cannot speak English. Therefore, having Google Translate will help one master his environment, reduce misunderstandings, and generally be more confident—and reasonably conscious of the situation. Also, one can opt for uber. They are far less prone to scamming incidents. Lastly, if one has to use taxis, it’s better to ensure that it’s an official yellow-painted taxi. All official taxis in Istanbul have digital meters.
Let’s face it. There’s no arguing that Istanbul is a sweep-off-the-feet destination—with many attractive spots that would almost be a crime to miss. And while there are scams, many have traveled to—and enjoyed the “Red Apple” without one glitch—or scamming incident. Still, to be taken advantage of is never a pleasant experience. However, if someone has a heads-up on the most common tricks that scammers employ, he’ll be on guard—and will be able to save his hard-earned money. But again, it’s never wise to obsess on stuff like this. That’s just how life is. There’ll always be people who try to take advantage of others’ naivety or innocence. It shouldn’t make up all holed up in some little corner of the earth where we were born.