As a solo female traveller I've always felt very safe indeed in Istanbul and, although normal city commonsense is required, have also felt that the risk of pickpocketing and petty theft is likely to be lower than in many other European cities.
But I would warn you about the area around Suleymaniye mosque. There is a Roma community on nearby waste ground, and in nearby derelict houses (I was told they were refugee Roma from Syria and Iraq, but how true that is I do not know). Whilst I sat with my tea directly opposite the mosque I watched women and children and young girls collecting water from the mosque wudu area, the little boys more-or-less having a bath.
I watched the littlest children wandering into and out of the row of cafes and souvenir shops, seeing what they could 'find'.
For the first time ever in my travels, I saw the classic 'several children surround a traveller and distract him while one tries to pick his pocket'. The traveller the children surrounded was wise to their actions and quickly made his getaway without losing anything, but the experience did underline that in this area one needs to be very alert. I felt particularly wary when walking through a couple of the surrounding side-streets and actually made a point of closely following a male/female couple, just in case (and I wonder if I spooked *them* by doing so?)
There is also a small group of streetchildren in Eminonu, sometimes sitting on the pavement with a box lid for coins. I saw them when I last visited and I saw them again this time (obviously they were different children). I suspect there are Roma families in that area too. This time I gave them some food; they immediately started fighting viciously over it. That hugely saddened me because although Turkey may not be vastly wealthy it is not a country where any child truly needs to live on the streets or go hungry.
So do keep your cash and cards safely underneath your clothing, use your commonsense and be aware of potentials. Trust your instincts and prepare yourself for the occasional saddening sight.
Whilst at the Han Restaurant my partner and I sat beside the open window to the street. Relaxing and having a pleasant, if over priced, meal I was brought to life when a guy from the street reached over the chair to grab my partners hand bag. Luckily she had been sitting on the strap and was alerted to the danger.
Istanbul is a great city but you do need to be on your toes and alert to these sort of people.
I think this tip is applicable in all the major touristy areas, but especially in the Grand Bazaar. Do not ignore warnings! The risk is great. Luckily I read warnings before I ventured in the Bazaar, and sure enough I felt fingers reach in my back pocket for my wallet, to turn around and make direct eye contact with a Turkish Teenage Boy. Luckily I kept my wallet in a zippered pocket. You must take the necessary precautions while in the Bazaar, consider that at some point you will have at least one person making an attempt to steal from you. The bazaar is enjoyable, just be at heightened awareness.
My wallet was pickpocketed on 8 May in a tram going to the terminal at Kabatas. the 3 gang members got on at Silecki and although the tram was packed they squashed me up even more and leapt of the tram at the next stop Tophane. They were only in the tram for about a minute. I immediately realised that my wallet had gone including cash and cards. The first time I have had anything stolen whilst travelling (and I am 58). My wife was with me and we managed to cancel all my cards within 30 minutes of the theft by phoning Australia (15 minutes of that was holding on time to get the call answered at one bank's customer service centre) but they still managed to get into 1 card and buy $5,000 worth of "building materials". So these gangs are very well organised and have the facilities to speedily access your cards.
My tips are: Be especially careful in packed public transport; If you have to stand and hold the rail above your head, do not have anything valuable in your pockets; carry only what you really need for the day leave the rest in the hotel room safe; enter all card call centre numbers with overseas prefix in your mobile phone so that if necessary you can phone to cancel extra quickly; where possible ensure your partner has different card numbers so that even if yours are stolen you can still continue your holiday.
When the tram is packed you might feel people squishing you-- be careful my wallet which was on a clip in my pocket disapeared. I have travelled all over the world and this is the first time it happened -- lesson learned. The police were useless and the Tourist Police even worse. They were hostile and indifferent. Fortunately I only lost cards and a little money. I cancelled everything instantanously.
be careful when you pay for something on the street. I was going to buy a set of postcards and opened my wallet to pay the guy, when he shoved all these items in my face above my hands and wallet so that i couldn't see my wallet. With his two small fingers that were free from holding the postcards in my face, he tried to steal the money out of my wallet when it was open and i couldn't see it. He was pretty sneaky, obviously had done it before. But I am slitghly paranoid when it comes to opening my wallet in the first place so he could take anything out because i was holding it so tightly, but i felt his little fingers trying to tug at it. Beware of this type of incident,
Be careful if someone is telling you "i know better places,let me show you" tell you to follow him.
Especially people with eastern Turkey accent.(You can find out their accent's sounds like arabic or speaking from the throat while they are speaking)
They can threat you with a gun ! or something else.!
If you don't know this person/people,if you think they are following you just ask for help .
You can even enter to a restaurant to ask for a help if you can not see any cops around.
These people can speak English (w/ very bad accent or grammar).As I said before, do not follow anyone you don't know!
To find a closer Police Offices in the area you are,just click on the name of place,you will see addresses and phone numbers.
ATTENTION PLS :Since this article misunderstood by some people (and they are right,i should add something to fix) This kind of situations are very rarely happening.I just wanted write in case if this rare situation finds you.In General its safe the city but like all many metropolitan cities,you have more risk compare to little towns.
It is safer not to leave the main thoroughfares in Istanbul.
We turned down a street near our 4 star hotel. A group of four young men passed us, and suddenly two of them started fighting, really thumping each other. A third started to join in, while the fourth held back.
They expected my husband to interfere, so that the fourth could then mug him.
I kept my back to the wall, like a coward, fearing for my husband. He was more streetwise than me, and knew he was being set up, so just ignored the scuffle.
I was scared, and we never moved away from main roads again.
Actually not everywhere in Istanbul but most of the places you should be aware of your vallets, cell phones, etc. Especially in local buses. Also late at night in some places it is not safe to walk alone. It is better to ask to hotel officers where you stay...
My mother put her bag down on another chair and luckily i was walking back when noticed a young girl getting ready to snatch it,with another older guy also getting ready to block any pursuit i guess,so keep all belongings close and in eyesight.
When i first planned my trip to Istanbul i heard about Pickpockets and i was very worried.
The bazaars are very crowded and so are the streets.
Watch your bag all the time and don't leave him alone.
When you are going in a crowded place like the bazaars , Istiklal street and the ferries try to keep the bag close to your body and pay extra attention.
Take care your bag's n beyoglu. Be cafefull and don't carry your important things n your bag like passports.
After midnight don't go to back streets of Beyoglu. If u want fun, go to upright bar's. After midnight, walkin n back streets of beyoglu is dangerous and nobody wants to go there...
Here is the dish on istanbul. I'm a turkish-american and travel to istanbul regurarly. The people you have to look out for are children, and young teenagers (that look like they might be on drugs...thinner ect. ) If they approach you, they might ask you for something like a smoke, or a light. But the best thing to do is just keep walking away from them, but try to keep an eye on them. Some of them carry knives. If your with a woman, try to walk so that her purse is nestled in between you two.
Transvestites- there are many transvestites around istanbul, especially in the Taksim area. They are easibly noticabile. Best thing to do with them, is avoid eye contact and try not to stare at them, they dont like that. And they can turn dangerous.
Driving- never leave purses or expensive items visiable in your car. I've seen people pull up at redlights, and kids have jumped through windows, opened up doors and stealen things.
Other then these dangers and others :( Istanbul is great. Just use common sense, and be aware of your surroundings. If someone does hassale you, there usaully is some good Turks that might step in and help you out.
The area around the Grand Bazaar, Spice Bazaar, Suleyaniye Mosque, and Rustem Pasa Mosque can get very crowded and congested, especially in the narrow alleys and walkways. A tourist with a backpack or other easily accessible bag or purse is an easy target for pickpockets, and we narrowly avoided being victimized when my wife caught some guy blatantly unzipping her backpack and trying to reach inside. Imagine his surprise when my wife used her stern teacher voice to command him to leave her alone! Fortunately he backed off quickly and several locals asked whether we were OK, but from then on we became very vigilant about carrying bags through crowded areas of the city.
Stopped by a youn man I was asked to change coins for Euro notes, 20 euro coins.
Once accepted, the man counted the 20 euro in his hand(the amount was made by 2,1 0,50, 0,20, 0,10 euro coins), took the note and gave me only the smaller coins, saving in his hand the rest!
Once I was aware I took his arm and he asked for sorrow.... he was not a dangerous looking man!!