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.
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.
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.
To all travelers, you can never be too careful in big cities. I'm not necessarily singling out Istanbul as a crime ridden place but I have been traveling there back and forth for nearly 10 years 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 believe I was targeted by a group of thieves perhaps in collaboration with taxi drivers, etc. I don't really know how I got singled out but one day I came home to my friend's apartment and my room was ransacked! All of my valuables incuding my Mac Book, premium designer handbag and all its contents including my passport and my jewelry were all stolen! 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 iron bars without being seen nor heard by neighbors! Please lock your belongings or better yet, don't bring valuables with you on your travels abroad. I have been doing so since 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 wasn't really able to do anything else but file the report.
Now, I'm not a girl who falls easily for a guy's line. I've heard a lot of them before but I have to say that one very sweet and boyish looking Turk had me feeling very guilty about rebuffing him. I mean, the guy was really clean cut and my travelling companion agreed that he did not seem the least bit sleezy.
It was only after returning from Istanbul and hearing stories from a friend of a friend that I see how common it is for Turkish men 'fall in love'. Yes, my would-be Romeo invited me to dinner saying I was a beautiful girl. He was good looking, but I'm just not into holiday romances which was probably what saved me from making a silly mistake. He was our guide while in Istanbul and when we met up again after our tour of Cappadocia, he appeared hurt because I had not replied to his sms invitation to dinner. I felt bad and composed a polite rebuff which only encouraged him. Good thing it was the end of the trip otherwise the pursuit might have gotten more intense.
My advice would be to go in with your eyes open. If you want a fling, they seem to be willing partners and power to you for that but don't give them your personal contact details. If you mean to rebuff them, don't bother being polite. Be totally blunt about your disinterest. Politeness seems to encourage them. Don't ever feel bad if they appear heartbroken. It's all part of the game. Proof? Once I left the country, his pledges of affection dried up immediately.
Unfortunatelly it is not an isolated case. Street harassment is very often in Turkey. I have been to 24 countries including very undeveloped, poor and nontouristy ones and never got any street discomfort, even any aggressive look. But in Istanbul it is almost impossible not to have any hassles neither from sellers or horny ignorant vagrants, especially for females, like you saw.
We have millions of people living in cities but don't know how to behave. Lots of uneducated men think that western tourists are easygoing and they can sleep with them whenever they want.
I am really angry with that case especially in Sultanahmet, Taksim, etc because there must be a kind of tourism police to save the tourists from street hassles, but they prefer not to deal with it.
Your post does not have anything blaming all the country or nation, no worries.
My German friend who lives in Istanbul for 5 years has just back from travelling Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Kongo, Burundi, and never has as much street hassles as in Istanbul.
I hope this does not prevent you from visiting our beautiful country again.
I was just in Istanbul this past summer with my family-my mother, my father, my 11 year-old brother, and I, 15, but only 14 at the time. But I look older, womanly. While my friend lives in Turkey, I forgot to ask her about the men there. You get the stares, you get the noises. Hissing (european men make this noise in 'approval' sometimes), tongue-clicking, etc. Nothing new to me. But these men were by and far more overt then I have ever witnessed in my life. For example, I was walking down the street with my 11-YEAR-OLD BROTHER and some man in a storefront says right to me, my sugar-pop, my sweetie, things along that line. I honestly dont care that much, but I was really shocked and felt bad for my brother having to hear that. Also, I was walking down one of the streets in the Grand Bazaar and some man yelled you are beatutiful, please come into my shop, I will give very good price. I was not shocked at the comment so much as I was at his overtness (if thats a word). I also was walking down the street and some man said to me "Did you escape from heaven my darling" which i found quite sweet and nice actually, but some of the stuff I could have done without. Like the skeezy noises and the overt stares. I guess it helps that after hearing some things I was not happy with I stayed right next to my father. But all in all, as to what I saw myself, men are harmless. It wasnt like anyone tried to ask me for sex or anything, or tried to take me into a dark alley or whatever. Again, I was with my family, but still. Just use good common sense, but also, dont doubt everyone. There was a boy about my age who was talking to me, practicing his English as he said. Not everyone is out to corner you. Also, be sensible about your dress and be respectful.
Haha, and one more thing. When my mom was taking a picture of a storefront I was standing in, you can see the store clerk staring right at my chest. I find it frather funny actually. It helps if you laught it off.
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