As it can be observed in every big city, there are also unsafe areas in istanbul. It is not possible to list them easily, but some general rules can be written. During the day, you are not likely to have any problem in any area. However during night, there is some risk in certain situations. Try to walk always in crowded, well illuminated streets. If you happen to enter a dark alley or an isolated street, be cautious and try to reach a crowded main street rather than walking on side streets.
I really feel so upset whenever I see kids on Istanbul streets doing shoe polishing instead of going to school. Unfortunately, these kids are forced by their parents (!) to do so. It is a pity that there are so many people who abuse their children for some profit. The kids will try to polish your shoes even if you don't need to. Their parents (!) wait money from them at the end of the day and if they don't bring enough, probably they get beaten. If you feel sorry about them, you can give some tips, but finally all the money will go to those heartless people who claim to be the parents of these innocent kids.
There are many homeless people living in the streets of Istanbul. Unfortunately a major part of them are youngsters who are addicted to some drugs and they beg money from passers by. For example, you are likely to see them on Istiklal street. As they may be under the influence of drugs, don't expect them to behave rationally. Try to avoid any direct contact with them. If you are alone, leave the area immediately. Although Istanbul municipality and the government try to provide some of them shelter and rehabilitation possibilities, they are huge in numbers. Best thing to do is to be cautious and alert.
Around 2 million vehicles are in Istanbul traffic everyday. Of course, you expect to be caught in a traffic jam somewhere along the way. Recently, municipality is working on extending underground lines and improving mass transportation. Also there will be a tube connecting asian side to european side under Bosphorus. Perhaps in 5 years, there will be less traffic problems in Istanbul. For a city which never sleeps, prepare yourself to be caught in traffic at an unexpected hour such as 3 am in the morning.
Pickpockets are quite common in Istanbul just like other big metropolises. Especially on crowded public transport vehicles, always keep your wallets and mobile phones secured. Don't keep valuable things in your backpacks. You may not feel if someone comes from behind and takes something from inside. Distribute your money in various places (various pockets in trousers, shirt and coat). If someone pickpockets you, you will still have money in the other places.
When you arrive in istanbul, try to avoid money exchange in the airport and in the hotels as they will apply lower rates. The best place to exchange money is the exchange offices you will see all around the city. Most of them will apply almost same rates so you can exchange money without any doubt. They don't charge any commission.
Istanbul is very crowded and this reflects on taxi numbers too. You will see a lot of taxis everywhere. As you will witness almost everywhere in the world, taxis tend to overcharge their customers either making tricks on taximeter or extending the route. I suggest you have a brief idea on taxi fares and distances before taking any taxi. There is only one taxi fare now which lifted off all the suspicious charging incidents which used to happen when there were day and night fares in previous years. If you cross the Bosphorus bridge or use highway, the toll belongs to passenger. There is no surcharge for luggage or reservation. It will cost you around 70 YTL (35 Euro) from Ataturk Airport to Kadikoy located on Asian side of Istanbul. Tourists favorite hotel center Sultanahmet will cost around 40 YTL (20 Euro) from airport. Be sure that taximeter is on. Ask the taxi driver estimated cost of the journey.
When walking the streets in Istanbul (or anywhere in Turkey for that matter) know that if a car is driving...it expects a pedestrian to get off the road. Unlike Western culture, a road is for driving...not walking at a leisure pace. So if you're crossing the street get out of the way of any moving vehicle. You can easily cause an accident.
Most Taxi drivers are honest and professional at what they do. Meaning: if they dont have a clean and fresh smelling cab, dont help you with your luggage, or dont do as you ask them...you don't have to take that cab.
Embrace the thousands of choices you have in Turkey...and chose the one that makes you happy, then negotiate!! Thats the general philosophy : )
Be careful specially about taxi drivers. they even systems of cheating..:) for example on taxi meter you see that u r in charge for 20 lira, when 1 time taxi driver pushes a button or beep, price at once ll be 30- 40. and when you get on the car make sure that the driver turn the taxi meter on. if its possible find out how u r supposed to get the place that u ll go, through which street n places. otherwise he is gonna extend the way make u pay more..
many restaurants n shops sell stuff more expensive to tourists so its better to travel with a person that can speak turkish or / when u make shopping compare prices firstly n later buy..
The only tip i would give travelers to istanbul is to be careful of the taxi drivers and cars that can knock you down. It seems that they have no respect for pedestrians crossing the roads. The citizens i have met in turkey was at least knocked down once in istanbul because of no care drivers.
The second tip is not to buy any perfumes etc on the street as the bottles might contain water but its packaged in expensive name brand bottles!
It will drive you crazy at first but, don't give up. Men outside their shops see a tourist a mile away. And everyone you pass will still keep talking even when they see you reject the previous hawker. Most tourists are not use to ignoring people so they talk when they are spoken to. Learn how to say no thank you in turkish. It will help tremendously. This is mostly in and around Sultanahmet. Other areas are more calm, but everyone goes to the Grand Bazzar, Spice Bazzar and Blue Mosque. Prepare to find this in all of these areas.
Then go forth and have a good time. Barter your prices.
In the Beyoglu area (or elsewhere) you will be approached by someone who speaks perfect english, and will be very natural towards you. They (1 or 2) will invite you for a coffee or wine and will insist on paying for it, as you are their 'guest'. Then they will suggest dinner, and will likewise pay for you claiming the same reason. Then comes the hook- they will suggest you go to a club where, after a few bottles of wine, champaign, cigarettes, you are given a bill of US$3,000. Everyone is in on the charade- the people with you, the club owners, maybe even the taxi driver. They will take the money from your ATM card or credit card. Best thing to do if in that situation is to get back to your hotel and tell the people at the desk to call the police. Lesson to be learned- be very careful who you talk to and never get in a taxi with them or go off the public roads. Also, if you do go to a club make sure you pay as you go or else see the price list (and keep it on you as they will have 2-one for the locals and one for the tourists).
Remember not to put the shower water in your mouth! The first time I was in Istanbul I forgot to close my mouth in the shower and this caused me stomach/digestion problems. The second trip I put a note to remind me in the shower so when I got up sleepy I would not forget. The second and third trip I did not have any problems. You should definitely drink ONLY bottled water in Turkey!
We were in taxi driven by a young guy. He pulled up in back of the hotel, which in retrospect should have set off some warnings. When he told us the fare, I pulled out a wad of lira and started counting out the amount, but with all the zeros, struggled a bit. The driver whipped the money out of my hand and started loudly counting out the fare, and handed the roll back to me. I knew immediately that he had through slight of hand stolen the equivalent of about sixty dollars. We argued with him but thought the better of it and got out. A hard lesson learned. I have not since flashed money in a cab or anywhere in plain view.
If you go to the basement floor of the ferry to have a good view from the board, take care at the central part (the part that passengers use to embark and disembark), as the protection barriers there are little. It's not a great fall into the water, but the many jelly fishes around could cause you a serious problem if you fall!!!
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