Women's Safety, Istanbul
To all travelers, you can never be too careful in big cities. I'm not singling out Istanbul as a crime ridden place but I have been traveling there back and forth there for nearly 10 years for work and leisure and for the first time last summer, I became a victim of robbery in the apartment I was staying in in what locals consider a safe area, Ortakoy. As a female foreigner, I was targeted by a group of thieves perhaps in collaboration with taxi drivers who may have provided my location since we used a taxi service quite often to go places. I don't really know how I got singled out or who is responsible but it became obvious the morning I came home to my friend's apartment and found my room was ransacked that they were clearly monitoring my movement. All of my valuables incuding my Mac Book, my cell phone, my new Louis Vuitton designer handbag and all its contents including my passport were all stolen! Also my jewelry and even my car keys were taken! It looked like it was a well-planned operation as access from outside to the upper floor wasn't easy but they did it and they also devised a method of cutting and bending the thick iron bars without being seen nor heard by neighbors! Please lock your belongings in a safe or better yet, don't bring valuables with you on your travels abroad. I was in Greece prior to my stay in Istanbul and there was no incident. I consider Istanbul my second home and I learned my lesson the hard way last summer! The policemen didn' t come up with prints and were not really able to do anything but file the report for me to take to the U.S Embassy so I could get a temporary passport to leave the country.
I would like to advise you not to visit Istanbul as a female alone. It is to dangerous, especially the men are very intrusive,loud and can be aggressive. You don`t have to flirt with them, please do not tell them anything of your stay ( hotel, with who you are, how long you will stay there,...) or even smile them. For most of them it is an invitation for sex.
Istanbul is a very beautiful place with all his colours,archictecures,history,food,sightseeings spots but please take care of yourself. Try not to communicate with strangers. I was overwhelmed with all the nosies, street traffic and the people.
My experience was a nightmare, I was blackmailed with a kneef and raped in Istanbul streets and this happened not in the night in a small, empty street. It took place last summer in the miday. I believed a stranger who said that he is a souvenir shop owner and wanted to show me the store so I can buy something for my beloved. I followed him, then the nightmare started.
Please be very careful as a women in Istanbul. It is a fashionable & modern city but it does not have the western mind and opinion about the behavoir towards women.
While on my second trip in Istanbul I decided to go to the grand bazaar by myself, while I was shopping around, this guy ask me if I wanted to purchase leather bags and I said no, but he would not leave me so I gave in. He offered me Turkish Apple Tea and told me I did not need to buy anything. The next thing I know, I'm in this small room with him and all of these leather bags. He ask me to pick out which one I liked and I hesitated, but he was very persistent so I picked out a purple one. He took the bag and and put on my shoulder. I was holding the bag when I felt him brushing up against me. I pushed him off and when I reached for the door, it was locked. I did not realized he had locked the doors. He began to get more aggressive - this was going back and forth for a while - I don't know how but I pushed him off. I'm sure people heard the commotion outside, but no-one did or say anything. When I finally made it back into the grand bazaar, I wanted to report the incident so I wrote down the following information, His name is Selim and he is from Madrid, Barcelona. He has been a vendor at the Grand Bazaar for about 12 years. He is white, with shoulder length dark blond hair, he is about 5'5" - 5'7" and weights about 130 pounds. When I got back to my hotel room, I was so devastated, that I did not want to think about it, so I just try to forget about it.
I think Istanbul is very beautiful. I met some wonderful people there who were amazingly kind and helpful to me. I am not trying to generalize, but if you're a female, you should go to the Grand Bazaar with a friend, preferably a male. With a male you won't have to worry about the men degrading you.
For a solo female traveler be careful especially walking alone at night in an area like Istiqlal street at Taxim square. It can get very dangerous for both men and women. I've witnessed very bad things during my stay there. I've been harassed myself more than onetime and I've seen from my room's window at 4:00 AM a man chasing a woman who was screaming and trying to escape from him. also a man who have been roped and severely wounded in front of everyone and no one tried to help him.
First of all, I would like to say that my visit to Istanbul was lovely. It is the most beautiful city I have ever seen. I would love to go again for the shopping and sightseeing. A week long visit was not long enough to visit all the beautiful places. Now comes the warning: Nothing bad happened to me or my husband but be careful. I am an American woman but I have a heavy East European look (blond hair, blue eyes, high cheek bones etc...) and while walking with my husband more than once I saw a man look over at me, slow down their car or stop their car before speeding away after noticing my husband. I believe that these men were mistaking me for a prostitute. Note: I was not dressed in anything sexy. If I had not had my husband with me I think there very well would have been an altercation. If any man come to close to you or tries to touch you (don't be shy or nervous) shout at them as loud as you can. Make sure (what ever language they understand) they know you DON'T want anything to do with them.
I am a blonde haired, green-eyed female who has travelled to Istanbul many times ALONE and have never been scammed or in danger! I am like others who have written in amazement of the naivete of travellers. If you have a little common sense you can avoid scams and traps....it does not take a rocket scientist.
Every city in every country I have been to has had bad sections and scam artists and prostitution, etc. That's why you find out where these areas are BEFORE you go to that city in that country and avoid it! Simple!
Yes, the men flirt with foreign women a lot but so what?! Every country I have been to I have had men flirt with me. It is just the difference and excitement of different cultures. Also, Istanbul is not nearly as bad in this area as the "resort" cities in Turkey or once again, any other country. You go to a resort area in another country and the men (and some women) are going to try to seduce you and get you in bed. If you are silly enough to fall for their lines five minutes after you meet them then it is your own fault.
I love Istanbul and I have a few female friends from different parts of the world that travel to Istanbul alone and have done so for years without problems. I'm sorry but I get tired of people singling out a particular city in a particular country and making it sound so much worse than any other place on the planet. Believe me, I can find the same scam artists and dangerous areas in many, many, many states in America.
So go and enjoy Istanbul and feel safe. Just use common sense and if you lack common sense then just don't travel anywhere!
I spent ten days in Turkey alone--part in Central Turkey and part in Istanbul--and had no problems anywhere. I am a 35-year-old American woman with light eyes and long dark blonde hair. Living in Washington, DC and having lived and worked in New York City, I am shocked at how naive people act while on vacation. Many scams can be avoided. Would I follow a guy into a bar in my own city? No. Would I ask for recommendations and be careful when making large purchases? Yes. Would I watch my money like a hawk? Absolutely.
In central Turkey I was offered to go sightseeing with a private guide, offered rides from tourist sites back to town by shop workers, offered to get drinks at night, offered rides to the airport, etc. Did I accept any of these offers?...of course not! This is common sense. And yet I chatted with lovely people, drank wine alone in restaurants with no problem and conversed with staff and owners, and walked (quickly and with purpose) at night back to my guest house.
In Istanbul I stayed in a private apartment near the fish market in Beyoglu. I wandered around for days and not once made eye contact on the street. This will protect you. If you need directions, go into a shop and preferably ask a woman. People were polite, not aggressive, and kind. Quite helpful too. I ate at restaurants with prices listed or asked before buying. I even bought wine at a corner shop and the owner opened it for me to take back to the apartment.
The street where I stayed is near an infamous and dangerous area but I experienced no problems. I walked quickly on streets where I felt like there were too many men and no woman and never said a word to anyone, and still never looked afraid. I returned to the apartment late but never drank too much, looked for drugs, or hung out near strip clubs or sex workers.
I am not big on Grand Bazaar crap so I did not waste time there and practically ran through. I knew I wanted some hammam towels and so only went into a shop when I knew for sure I wanted something. I bargained and we all left happy. But you can find that stuff in other places, cheaper and with less hassle. I did yell at one taxi driver when he tried to overcharge in the Old City. He said we did not need the meter and I asked him how much to my address. He quote a price more than three times what a friend said it should cost. I yelled at him, got out and and slammed the door, yelled more when he got out too, and then yelled at the men near him and found another taxi. The following day I told another taxi driver about it and he offered me free transport, which I declined, and in fact tipped him generously. But that sort of sums up Istanbul. You will always find people trying to take advantage but plan ahead, be smart, and it will not happen to you.
4 months ago while staying in a hostel in Istanbul I met a dozen young girls and middle aged woman tourist that fell victim to a really terrible scam in Istanbul.
The first tragic tale was from a girl I met staying at my hostel in Istanbul. She is 23 and was with her friends in Istanbul for a week before heading back to Canada. One of the girls met a guy by the Blue Mosque who offered to take her and her friends out for dinner. He was local and told her he was a finance major at a local university. The young Turkish guy brought along 3 friends and they took the girls to a four star place for dinner and drinks. The evening was going beautifully with high priced wine and cocktail along with a lavish four course meal. Right after dessert and coffee the guys said one of their friends was outside asking if the girls wanted to come to a club. The guys left saying that they would return in a few moments and went to meet their friend who was supposed to be waiting outside the restaurant. Well after 40 minutes the girls realized they had been scammed and spoke to the manager about the bill which was over 1200 US dollars. The manger took off the coffee and desert but the girls were not allowed to leave with out paying the bill and two of them were accompanied to a ATM machine.
I heard variations of this scam pulled on at least a dozen women all over Istanbul.
The saddest tale of woe was an obese middle aged woman from Germany who fell under the spell of a handsome, 25 year old lawyer. He pursued her for days and the two were engaged within a few weeks. He insisted it was a Turkish tradition that the bride to be come to the marriage with a large dowry. Blinded by love this woman emptied her BANK ACCOUNT and bought gold jewelry and costly rugs for his family. A few days later her fiancee would not return her calls and she found out through a local hotel manager that the man was not a lawyer at but worked as a janitor at a highshool and he was already married with two young children.
Ladies if you want to meet a handsome Turkish guy please be aware that the one who approaches in a tourist area may be a con man who wants your cash. They will whisper sweet nothings in your ear but you are only valued for your credit card and seen as a cash cow. I really love Istanbul but have heard so many sad stories.
I will say that the vast majority of Turkish people, including men, are honest, kind and decent. It is to bad that a few bad apples spoil the bushel.
I traveled to Istanbul alone 2 years ago. As a young woman, off course I had men saying I was beautiful, asking if I had a bf etc etc, but they never hounded me, as soon as I walked away, it stopped. What i found really annoying was walking through the Grand Bazaar and being hassled to buy stuff "come into my store, this will look beautiful on you! try it on..do you have a bf? etc etc'. I am Indian and most of them figured I was Middle Eastern or Turkish, when they saw me with my suitcase, it would be the regular "where are you from', but all in all, rather helpful, very friendly, lovely people. I ended up meeting my bf in Turkey, not a bartender or waiter, but a businessman who has come to the US already, so no Visa hunter! I'd say, be careful, I never stayed out late, I just hated shopping and being hassled to buy things, or having men stare at me, which Turkish men seem to do a lot of, but I also lived in Korea, and because I was different looking, I would also get stares from there, so no biggie...never felt unsafe.
As a local I have to say that Jetgirly's experience and advices are true. There are millions of street vagrants who bother girls in Turkey. But the formula is SIMPLY IGNORE them. Saying "no, thanks" by a smiling face would only encourage them, this is not Europe.
I am really bored of hearing this "Istanbul is much safer than other metropols". No it is not. I have travelled 30 countries and never felt as unsafe as I feel in my own city (okay, except Mongolia). People don't kill each other on the streets much, but petty crime is high. Pickpocking, grabbing and home robbery are frequent. Traffic is horroble, no driver cares zebra crossings. You may simply die if you rely on crossings if you are from a civilar country thinking that all the world is like at home.
For your daughter: she will be safe with just a common sense, leave her to come. Istanbul is great and yes, that is true people are friendy and helpful.
I've found several of the remarks from women here to be spot on, but there is something missing: the way they gain your trust and can get you feeling like you're the only female tourist they are in a real relationship with. Sultanahmet is crawling with cute, charming, fun, young, helpful guys who seem to care about you so much, act like they're your guardian angels. They'll protect you from all the (other) scumbags out there, right? Meanwhile they are getting to know what you like to hear and see, and they are playing the part. Pay attention to all the little red flags you might like to ignore for the sake of your holiday fantasy: they tell you things to fit what you've said about yourself. Notice the little bits of money you end up paying for them while you're together - they will become bigger! It starts small, but eventually they'll want more stuff. They'll spend every available moment with you in an attempt to tie you in to them, because you're their meal ticket and always a mark. (And you'll be missing things you really wanted to do, so they're robbing you of precious time in a great place.) They'll have their friends watch your movements, and they'll know where you are most or all of the time - not just to protect you. They don't want any of the other guys like them to get hold of you. When you go home they'll act like they miss you so much, want you to come back, they might even say they love you if that's what you want to hear... What you won't know without digging is how many other women they've done the same thing with and are doing it at the same time. They're continuing to work locally at this while writing multiple women internationally to get them to visit. This is how they make extra money because they are poor and their salaries are too low. Feel sorry for that, but don't believe all the lies. And don't believe you can change their lives - they like doing this to women and will continue as long as it pays in sex, money and ego trips.
Don't let anyone tell you this is harmless! It's only harmless to those who walk away after one conversation! Women who think it's harmless don't know where it can lead. For many others it has led to a lot of wasted money and time and energy. Sometimes it's also dangerous to your health: these men are promiscuous and don't believe in using condoms.
The one I encountered - nickname Gurhan (see picture) - was a hotel receptionist and got my cell phone number from the registration information. Engaging in relationships with hotel guests is against all hotel policies, for good reason! So they'll meet you elsewhere. Sometimes they have little apartments they share with other guys doing the same thing. Sometimes they'll have deals with friends who own rental apartments - they erase the record or have it in your name because even this is illegal. Even the carpet dealers will flirt with you, 'fall in love with you', be your best friend, whatever they think will get you to trust them so you give them your money.
My advice if any of this has already happened to you: make a written complaint to the hotel in question; make a police report as soon as you know the truth. If you bought anything big, have it appraised at home as soon as possible, and get the merchant's written Certificate with price you paid and the nature of the product. That way you will have documentation behind whatever you do. If the guy pressured you to do things you didn't want, report it! The police want to know.
Here are the email addresses to write to and a tourism police phone number. If you are in Istanbul you can just dial 155. It is like 911.
Emails: email@example.com , firstname.lastname@example.org , email@example.com
Phone: +90 212 638 81 27
Watch your back - even with those men you feel great around. And go enjoy all the wonderful things Istanbul has to offer.
We were traveling to Istanbul as 2 married couple from Europe. We enjoyed markets and bargain until we experienced it outside markets - in almost every shop you will be overcharged and it is annoying as you don't want to spend all your holidays calculating and searching for appropriate rate. Even at Topkapi palace pay-office they lie about one cost for all sights, we felt not jiggered when we saw extra cost for Harem in Topkapi palace. Worse things were ahead when our wives went for shopping alone. If you want to avoid inappropriate touching never smile to Turk, watch your back in public transports and crowded places, and wear long dress even if its 35C degrees. However it haven't helped for our woman. Endless discourteous staring at European woman and Turkish man abusive attitude to their own woman made memorable experience. I believe some Turkish man fail to conflate and survive strict religion and some live aspects in new century what lead to gauche behavior they are not even aware of. We made few conclusions- Turks think tourists are stupid and they didn't make pleasant stay for us , we will never come back.
Just came back from a quick 3 day tour to Istanbul traveling by myself. One of my dream trips is now a bad memory. I have lots of beautiful pictures of historical places but in my head is all about the hussle I went trough. From the moment I sat foot at the airport, all the prior arrangements I had made were changed or shortdelivered. I am not a person to have patience for bargaining, which is a bad thing in Istanbul. Took 3 taxi trips and all of them I had major issues with what they wanted to charge. One even charged me $40 for a 15 minute drive, threaten me to look for me at the hotel. I took the taxi number to issue a complaint and I was told it was useless.
Everywhere I went I was overcharged. Everywhere!
My previously arranged hotel was not centrally located, my private tour ended up being shared, the list of tourism attractions in the tours skipped a few of the described places. The fish I was charged by the kilo at the restaurant lost a lot of weight in the process of being prepared.
So, unless you are a savvy at bargaining, have lots of patience, do not care about spending money to enjoy a moment and can easily get rid of people who are pursuing you for whatever objetive (money or .,,,,,) I suggest you do not go alone but join a group tour or bring in some adventorous and courageous compagnions
I did read all the tips described in this blog prior to my trip and some where right on the dot, specially about the taxis.
I am envious of all the ladies that expressed how wonderful their trips were, I wish I had the same experience.
One last recommendation I will make, do change money to the local currency or you are going to be spending more money on the currency translation in all the places.
Before I went to Istanbul, I read all the warnings and tips I could possibly found online. Some tips or warnings were a bit "scary" to me. In March of 2009, I traveled alone and stayed in Istanbul 4 nights. I really loved the city. I stayed somewhere close to the Tulip Mosque. I basically walked in old town, took the tram, and visited palaces, mosques, bazaar, shops, etc. I generally was outside until 9pm. Sometimes I walked outside after 11pm (e.g. checking out the bus stop where I would take to the airport).
It is a lively city with so many people on the streets until midnight. I grew up in Beijing. While I was in Istanbul, I felt like I was in Beijing, very comfortable with surroundings. I walked around at night and there were people all over the places. Later in the evening street vendors set up their "carpet" with small crafts just like those in downtown Beijing. I never felt unsafe at all. While shopping or dining, sales or waiters were very friendly. They were saying hello and were very polite. They chatted with me asking me where I was from, what I was doing there, how I liked Istanbul, etc. During the entire time when I was in Istanbul, I did not see any Asian woman walking alone like myself, but no one bothered me.
I am writing here is to tell women who are like myself enjoying travel alone that as long as you stay in major attraction areas with a lot of people and are aware of surroundings, you are generally safe in Istanbul.
Please do not stop going to a place when you read or hear something negative. Bad things can happen in any place. I now live in the US, I feel like that the city closing to my home is more dangerous than Istanbul. I would never want to walk downtown there myself even during the day. Some US cities are terrible! There are so many "scum bags" hanging out on the streets in some cities in the US. I got most hassles when I was visiting places in the US. The worst I got was some crazy teenager was coming to me screaming right off my ear and left laughing loud. On the contrary, these cities in the foreign countries with world famous attractions and tourists are much safer than the cities or towns I live close by. I traveled by myself to several cities in Europe and Istanbul, no one ever has getting that close to me and doing these type of silly things like the kids or adults did to me in the US.
I agree that the area around the Blue Mosque is crawling with pushy romeos and rug salesmen but once you head off to the Eastern part of the country the men are courteous and chivalrous as opposed to crude and sleazy. I found the hassle much less in places like Kars, Van and Ezurum.