A Local’s Guide To Scams In Turkey To Avoid In 2024

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Post author SJ

Written by our local expert SJ

Sarah-Jane has lived in Croatia for 10+ years. SJ, as she is known, has been traveling the Balkans & beyond since 2000. She now shares her passion for traveling with her husband & kids.

I wrote this guide to help you get well-versed on the most common scams in Turkey. After reading this, you’ll have a fraudulent-free vacation in Turkey. 

Turkiye Travel Blog_A Local's Guide Of Scams To Avoid In TurkeyIf you’re visiting Turkey this year for the first time, or perhaps not even for the first time, it pays to know what to look out for.

For the most part, your visit to this beautiful and cultural country will be extremely uneventful in negative ways and focused entirely on fun. But there are some common scams in Turkey that are helpful to be aware of.

The Alcohol Situation

Croatian Rakija

If there’s one Turkish scam you must be careful of in tourist resorts, it’s anything to do with alcohol.

Prices in Turkey have increased quite steeply over the last few years since the Turkish Lira has fallen in value, affecting businesses in many ways. Alcohol, in particular, is costly for bars to purchase, and in some cases, that means that some bar owners have resorted to scamming Turkish holidaymakers.

Before I go on, I should state that this is a minority. For the most part, you won’t have problems, and bars are very honest indeed. But it doesn’t hurt to be aware of what could happen if you end up in a bar and something seems like a sham.

Firstly, fake alcohol. While there is a big crack down on this, it still happens in some cases. If you order a drink that doesn’t taste right, send it back. Don’t just assume that it’s you. Also, listen to what people tell you about specific bars; if you read a bad review about a bar and they mention fake alcohol, avoid it. This is dangerous, and you don’t want to be involved in it.

However, the most common issue is watering genuine drinks down. Again, not all bars, but some. This means you’re paying for a drink containing far less alcohol than you’re paying for – a total sham. If you feel your drink is too weak, mention it to the server and ask for a new one.

The Great Shoe Cleaning Debacle

You might think you’re doing an older man a favor, but he has something else on his mind. Harsh but true.

Picture this. You’re walking along, and the man in front of you drops one of his cleaning brushes. You shout after him, and he turns, shakes his head as if to say, “Silly me,” and comes back to pick up his brush.

He then thanks you and says that he wants to clean your shoes. You assume he’s doing it as a thank you, but he’s not. He’s about to charge you for it, and once those shoes are clean, there’s nothing you can do about it. An easy ruse to fall victim to (I almost did myself!)

Please don’t feel bad about it, though. This is one of the oldest tourist scams in Turkey. Be aware of this “trick,” and don’t fall for it.

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Asking You To Have A Tab

Uber in Turkey - Paying in Turkish Lira

Please don’t do it. This often happens in hotels and bars you visit on a very regular basis.

When you have a tab, the drinks, and food you consume over a period of time, perhaps a week or two weeks, are added to the list, and you pay at the end. Not all places allow this; if you can avoid it, you’re best to do so.

When you’re presented with a very large bill in the end, you’ll wish you’d been more careful. It’s not easy to know how much you’re spending over a long period of time, and things can add up. Also, there’s no way to know if they’ve added extra drinks onto your bill that you never had in the first place. It happens, although rarely – it is one of the hardest scams in Turkey to prove but could end up being the most costly. 

Where Is My Change?

This particular con in Turkey could happen to you anywhere, but it’s pretty standard in restaurants in Sultanahmet Istanbul. It’s one of the most common Istanbul tourist scams you must watch out for.

You’re enjoying delicious Turkish food overlooking the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia when a group of musicians comes over to serenade you. You might have had a few drinks, and you’re really feeling the love for Istanbul’s warm welcome. Then the bill comes. But you’re still distracted.

If at all possible, try and pay with the exact change or pay by card. The reason is that if your bill was, for instance, 150 Lira and you give 200 Lira, expecting 50 Lira change, you might be sat waiting for quite a while.

You would then inquire about the whereabouts of your change, only to be told that you gave them the correct amount of money.

You know you didn’t. Cue an awkward exchange, and in some cases, no change returned.

Again, this isn’t the case with all restaurants, but it’s something to be wary of. Not giving the correct change, or not giving any change back at all, is one of the biggest tourist scams in Istanbul. Don’t get caught off guard!


Adding Stuff To Your Bill

Turkish Raki - What to buy in Turkey

Let’s talk about this a bit more. This doesn’t only happen when you have a tab; it can happen if you run up a bill one evening, especially if there is a group of you or if you’re a little tipsy.

Again, don’t assume that it happens in all bars, but if you get an unscrupulous one, you might find that a few more drinks are sneakily placed on your bill, and you end up having to pay for them. It’s your word against theirs, and trust me, nobody will believe you.

Also, if you’re a large group of separate families or couples, have different bills for each one. You can ask the server to separate your table into family 1, family 2, etc. This makes the whole thing easier to manage, and you’ll know if your bill is correct at the end of the day.

Be Wary In Your Hotel Room

Again, not all hotels and this scam isn’t one that just happens in Turkey – this happens worldwide! I really don’t want to freak you out here, but this is a common-sense issue to know about.

When leaving your hotel room, ensure you lock your money and anything else of value in your safe. Leaving things out in the room means anyone who goes into your room, e.g., cleaners or maintenance staff, can access those things. For the most part, they won’t even get touched, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.

You’ll struggle to prove that you left those things out if you didn’t put them in your safe.

Haggling Issues

If you want to buy something large or even semi-large, it’s best to get a trusted local to do the haggling for you. Shopkeepers have been known to put the price up if you’re a foreigner or ‘yabanci’ – the saddest scam of all if you ask me. However, if a local asks for you, you may find you get a better price – or at least the real one.

The Taxi Scenic Route

Getting around Istanbul - Taxi in Istanbul

The taxi scam in Turkey is an issue all across the country, but especially in Istanbul. Some taxi drivers may take you on the scenic route to put the price of your journey up. However, you can avoid being conned by asking the taxi driver to put on the meter as soon as you get into the taxi and also ask for a rough price – just so they know you are aware of this common deception.

I Thought This Was Free! It’s Not

One of the most recurrent Istanbul scams is adding things to your bill that you consumed because you thought they were on the house. Sometimes, you’ll find that those things were not free and cost quite a lot of Lira.

If anything comes to your table that you didn’t individually order, either ask about it or don’t eat it. Overall, meze usually is free, but not in every single restaurant. So, again, check. If you’re eating at an ocakbasi (a typical Turkish grill restaurant), water will be put on your table, and you might assume it’s there to drink free of charge. Yet, it’s not.

The same goes for bars. You might have a bowl of nuts put on your table when you order a couple of beers. Assuming they’re free, you’ll munch along while enjoying your night, only to be charged 20 Lira for the pleasure.

Check your bill carefully when it arrives and question anything that doesn’t seem right.

The Walk On The Beach

Scams in Turkey - Walks on the beach

This issue isn’t as prevalent as it used to be – thankfully! And again, this is not all by any means, just some. Basically, it was often the case that if a young Turk took a fancy to you, they would suggest going for a walk on the beach with them after work.

You might think this guy is lovely and wants to talk to you in a beautiful setting. They probably don’t. They’re probably hoping that something else will happen, and if that’s not what you’re after, it might be best to avoid an awkward situation. Then, you’ll feel like you need to avoid them for the rest of your holiday because you turned them down.

Not pleasant.

So, now that you are well-versed on the most common scams in Turkey – we hope that you have a wonderful and fraudulent-free vacation in Turkey. 

Comments (2)

  1. I would like to make a few additions to the article. As a Turk, I must say that there is no bargaining in almost any store in Turkey. The price is fixed, if it suits you, you buy it, if it doesn’t, you don’t buy it. However, I also notice price differences in some tourist places. The reason for this is that tourists, especially from the Middle East and sometimes from Europe, insist on bargaining.
    I find it strange that you request that no money be charged for water or snacks brought to the table. Everything that comes to the table is subject to a fee, and this also applies to local Turks. If you don’t want it, you send it back. Of course, businesses do not have rules about giving gifts.
    Under the influence of such writings; I see adult tourists looking at menus for minutes for amounts we would not care about in Turkey, and looking for city fountains instead of buying bottled water for 50 cents. And also, instead of buying a drink on a beach, I notice people taking the drink they bought from the supermarket out of their bag. I feel like telling these types of tourists, please don’t come to Turkey.
    If you are not going to experience Turkey out of fear or stinginess, taste Turkish food, or buy souvenirs from stores, continue to spend time on your TV couch with your fear.

  2. Reply to Mert – for many foreigners Turkey has become expensive and many places raise prices but quantity of food is reduced – another common scam. There has been a trend lately for many restauranteers to start charging for items like water etc. As regards the comment about tourists looking at minute amounts that locals would not care about – that is rubbish and not true – locals always complain mote then tourists due to lower salaries and high costs.
    If Turkey continues to charge exhorbitant prices for hotels, food and meals (in quite a few cases more then triple the amounts especially for ‘all inclusive’ as some friends have found) then this will get back to the tourist country and the word spread. Already may places are complaining that tourists are not coming – why ? – they also have cost of living issues at home and to find the Turkish charging even a lot more then the rate of inflation is a total put off form coming.
    If Turkey continues this way then why bother coming when you can either sit ion a couch OR find another far cheaper location in Europe.
    Be careful what you wish for Mert !
    PS I have lived in Turkey for 5 years and am leaving end of July due to the greed that the locals have placed on tourists – may have left and more on the way.

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