13 Quick Thoughts on Istanbul along with my first time being scammed

Getting robbed in Turkey … so we’ve been here for two full days in Istanbul and while we’re at a great hotel and all a little out of the way in the suburbs, everything went stunningly well on our first day. Today … meh … not so good … I mean after eighty countries and many, many combined months of travel, my number finally came up. I suppose if this is the worst thing that ever happens to me when I travel, I should count myself lucky. Nonetheless, I am feeling like an idiot.

Some quick thoughts about the last 48 hours …

  • My everyman world status doesn’t seem to apply in Istanbul. I usually fit in everywhere in the world, but in Istanbul I’ve seemed to acquire some sort of “dirty muslim status”. I think that, they think I’m some bad muslim especially since it’s Ramadan here
  • I’ve had a couple of carpet salesmen approach me randomly. In Mosques, streets and subways (?)
  • Gotten the look of death from many Turkish women since I’m walking around with a white girl
  • Been harassed to death by fishermen, taxi drivers and random foot cleaners
  • Actually got “kinda” scammed for the first time – it only cost me 4 euros but still offended my travel ego tremendously – see scam details below

More thoughts …

  1. Istanbul is a ridiculously historical city
  2. The Hagia Sophia is gorgeous
  3. The Blue Mosque is really hard to find, since every goddamn mosque seems to be blue.
  4. Running around the Bosphorus cruise pier looking for beer during Ramadan tends to be difficult.
  5. Leaving your beer on Doner shop counters will get you nasty looks as well as a “Alcohol is FORBIDDEN in the store” from the owner
  6. The City Sightseeing Hop On/Hop Off bus service is possible the worst of its kind in the world. I generally look for the red bus, but avoid this service and use the local version at all costs.
  7. Going to Turkish prison for farejumping is lame – it almost could have happened to us – details in a future blog.
  8. Do read up on Turkish scams before you get to Istanbul … if it could happen to me, it can happen to anyone.
  9. Learning to say “Thank You” in Turkish can definitely be an adventure, but will make you a lot of friends and get a lot of smiles
  10. The Spice Market is goddamn awful to find and isn’t really worth the adventure to find it
  11. Topkapi Palace might make the Hillman Wonders list, but I think it makes my Overrated List.
  12. I’ve not been super impressed by the food we’ve had here, but to be fair I know that Turkish food is awesome – I don’t need convincing, but I do need to find some great Turkish food

I must be getting old, since I fell for a shoe shine scam will wearing FUCKING SANDALS!! Here is the scam and I was so caught unawares that I actually handed over 4 Euros …

Shoe Shine Scam (copied directly from  Witt Istanbul Magazine and here is another link on Scamstantinople … getting robbed in Turkey)

  • Goal — Talk you into getting a shoe shine (for free) and overcharge you afterwards.
  • Target — Singles, couples, small families or groups
  • Set-up — They have mainly two tricks up their sleeve to get them to polish your shoes. Either they walk past you and drop their brush on one of your shoes, or they walk in front of you and drop their brush hoping you would pick it up and hand it to him. The result for both cases is the same: to apologize or as a token of gratitude, they start shining your shoes. While you think it’s for free, he’ll demand you to pay much more than the price of a regular shoe shine. If you start arguing, more of his ‘colleagues’ will show up to back him up.
  • How to Avoid — Don’t pick up the brush and just keep on walking. In case the brush fell on your shoe, tell him that it’s ok and move on. Having said this, there are plenty of legitimate shoe shines in Istanbul doing a great job. They normally don’t move around and ask between 5 and 10 TL. Agree on the price beforehand.

About Rishiray

Rishi Sankar is a Cloud HRMS Project Manager/ Solution Architect. Over the past 15+ years, he has managed to combine his overwhelming wanderlust with a desire to stay employed, resulting in continuing stints with 3 major consulting firms (IBM, Deloitte, Accenture). He documents his adventures around the world on "Ah Trini Travelogue" with pictures and stories from the road/tuk-tuk/camel/rickshaw. You can follow him on Twitter at @rishiray and on Facebook at "Ah Trini Travelogue . He doesn't like Chicken Curry but loves Curry Chicken and is always trying to find the perfect Trinidadian roti on the road. He also doesn't like cheese and kittens ... and definitely not together. E-mail from his blog is appreciated like a 35 yr old Balvenie at rishi@rishiray.com

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