Common Tourist Scams to Avoid in Turkey
In every country of the world, tourist scams exist and Turkey is not an exception. This is an unfortunate fact of life and probably made more prominent because the scammers are relying on tourists lack of local knowledge.
A majority of the time, 99.9% of the people in the country that you travel to, are hard-working and friendly, while being eager to help tourists so don’t let that 0.01% ruin your trip. Arming yourself with knowledge, before you travel to your chosen country is the best way to prevent an unwanted and upsetting incident.
So, what tourist scams can you expect to see in Turkey?
1: Shoe Shine Scam
Most often occurring in Istanbul, the shoe shiner will drop his box or brushes, while walking past you. If you pick the items up for him, he will offer a free shoeshine. So you take a seat, and while he shines your shoes, he will chat quite innocently while casually mentioning about extras he has included in the shoeshine. At the end, you will be presented with an over-priced bill and if you refuse to pay, his street colleagues will join in demands to hand over your cash.
How to Prevent This Scam: Never accept a free shoe shine, no matter how much they insist.
2: Fake Coins and Artefacts
This scam occurs typically at the entrance to historical sites but has most frequently been experienced in the town of Selcuk on the Aegean coast of Turkey. Scammers will insist they have original antique coins dating from the Byzantine or Roman periods and you are getting a bargain because he / she only charges 500 USD.
Sadly, the coins are really just metal with poor engravings. It is also worth mentioning that in Turkey, any artefact over 100 years old belongs to the government by law. A few people have been arrested at airports while trying to leave the country with artefacts that were later discovered to be fake.
How to Prevent This Scam: Politely decline, and walk away.
3: Solo Male Traveller
The solo male traveller will be approached by another male who will strike up conversation. That person fakes an interest in shared hobbies such as football and will suggest heading onto a bar for drinks. Usually, women will join them at the table and at the end of the evening; the tourist is presented with an outrageous bill like 1500 euros for 4 drinks and a bowl of peanuts.
If they refuse to pay, heavy-hander bouncers will suddenly appear with the aim of forcibly gaining money, even if they have to walk the tourist to the ATM.
How to Prevent This Scam: Be careful who you choose to have drinks with. If you are uncertain, use your hotel lobby but be aware that the scam can still happen on the 4th or 5th occasion you meet them.
4: Fake Carpets
The Turkish carpet is a national symbol and a popular holiday souvenir. In some cases, they sell for thousands of pounds, depending on their size, age and region that they were made. Unfortunately though, the Turkish carpet market is flooded with Chinese fakes made in factories.
The most common scam in this area is the silk carpet sold as a Herke original. People have been known to pay thousands of pounds or dollars over what the Chinese carpet is worth. Even if a vendor produces a certificate, it usually means nothing more than the paper it is printed on.
How to Avoid This Scam: If you buy a carpet in Turkey, realise that it is a gamble. If you want a genuine Turkish carpet, research the internet to find licensed and experienced dealers with a good reputation.
5: Currency exchange
This scam most often happens when buying items worth a lot of money. Let’s use the Turkish carpet as an example. You have sat down and bargained over the price, which is finally agreed at 2000 Turkish lira. You hand over your credit card and the amount deducted is 2000 Euros. The same often happens with jewellery or leather purchases.
How to Prevent This Scam: Bargain and buy in the same currency, otherwise, know the currency exchange rate for that day. When entering your credit card number into the machine, check the amount deducted.
6: Restaurant Bills
This happened to our group in a restaurant under Galata Bridge. Maybe it was an innocent mistake but it is something to watch out for, especially if you are a large group and are drinking alcohol. We ordered our bill and there were two expensive fish dishes on there that we never ordered and never ate.
How to Prevent This Scam: Check the items listed on the bill and ask to see the manager if there is any discrepancy.
7: Taxi Drivers
In places like Istanbul, where there are thousands of taxi drivers, this is one scam that you should definitely keep an eye out for. Common complaints include distracting the passenger after they have handed money over, so they can hide it, therefore claiming you gave them 5 lira instead of 50 lira. Sometimes they will insist that they have no change or will neglect to use the meter or agree on a set price before setting off.
How to Prevent This Scam: Insist on a set price or that the meter is switched on before you set off. Keep an eye on your money at all times and if the taxi driver says he has no change, take back your money and tell him to wait while you go into the nearest shop for change.
Readers: Let us know in the comments below if you have been the victim of a scam, while travelling.