It is hard to tell how common the scams listed on this page are but I am writing them down just so that you know what to look out for. Hopefully this will help and you will avoid anything unpleasant during your trip!
Istanbul’s Shoe Shine Scam
Aim A shoe polisher will drop his brush in front of tourists and of course trying to be friendly and helpful the tourist will give the brush back. Once this is done he will insist on giving a free shoe polish and then demand payment at the end or “a tip”.
My own experience This is not just a scam I have heard of, unfortunately it is one that nearly got me!
I took my father over to Istanbul in February for the Engagement Party and we where almost scammed for Shoeshine.
He dropped his polishing brush just in front of us, my father ran after him and handed it back. The shoe shiner looked exceptionally greatful and wanted to give my father a show polishing for free. We said no but he was very insisting. We agreed and during the 5 minutes it took to polish the shoes he discussed how he was in poverty and needed somewhere to stay etc etc.
Afterwards he insisted on a tip of around 50tl (bear in mind that shoe shining usually costs around 5-10tl). In the end I gave him 5TL and told my family to move on and leave him. Quite upsetting for them both as my fathers Fiance at the time was pregnant and already exceptionally worried about being in a foreign country. It really did put a downer on the trip.
Note: That being said I would like to express that this only happened once to me out of 17 trips to Istanbul. As much as this event upset me, I should also point out that only a couple of hours later my father (whilst watching his fiancée walking carefully) fell over and fractured his wrist. Whilst doing so he damaged a shop owners stall but the owner did not even bat an eye, he orchestrated many other Turkish locals to rush over and ensure my father was okay.
What I am trying to say by this is that even though there are the few that are trying to scam tourist, there many more that are trying to help!
Taxi (Taksi) rides
Aim Overcharge you by taking you on a longer route than necessary
How is it done? Really quite simply! As a tourist you will not know the roads so the taxi driver can take you on any route he fancies even if it costs you more.
How to avoid? If you really wanted to be sure, you could use google maps to give a route and ensure he stays relatively true to the route shown. I have in the past also just given my phone to the driver for him to follow which I have always found they are happy to do. This is also helpful if the Taxi driver does not speak your language, just show the route and he will follow.
Personal Notes: I have never been tricked by a taxi driver, I have found my experience with them very pleasant. Even with the inevitable language barrier! On one occasion whilst trying to explain I wished to go to the ferry to cross the Bosporous, the taxi driver made a boat out of paper to check with me! Remember, not everyone is trying to get you!
Aim overcharge tourists by giving a different rate.
How is this done? This is easily done by giving a menu in the foreign language with different prices attached.
How to avoid? This can be avoided by cross-checking against the Turkish Menu.
Notes Whilst this has been labeled as a “Scam” they are actually quite within their rights to charge a different price to locals. This has happened to me before but I did not contend it. You will find this quite often in Turkey, in Museums for example.