Biggest Tourist Scam In Istanbul To Target Solo Travelers: Must Read

Pic for illustration purposes only

SOLO TRAVELING is the best way to discover the world. During my solo travels, I met different kind of people from different parts of the world. Nice, Rude, Helpful, Aloof, Kind, Bad, Good, Genuine, Opportunistic. One of the challenges of solo traveling is to avoid the unwanted people and the possible tourist scam. One of the most famous scams in Europe are Friendship Band scam, Fake Taxi scam, Fake Money scam etc. I was tourist scammed in Istanbul. This scam specifically targets solo travelers. After the incident, I search the net and found out that Istanbul is infamous for this scam and felt like an idiot. I want to highlight this notorious scam to help future solo travelers. Here’s my account:

Istiklal Street

One night I was strolling on the one of the busiest streets (Istiklal Street) of the city. I had a great day and was in good mood. I stopped at the street vendor to buy those sweet peanuts. A person standing nearby asked me if the peanuts any good and this is how it all begins:

Me: Yes, it is tasty.

He bought it and tasted and gave me thumbs up.

He: Where are you from?

Me: India. you?

He: Cyprus originally but currently working in Saudi Arabia as an oil engineer.

Me: OK

He: What do you do?

Me: *I replied*

Conversation goes on and we went on to discuss about Istanbul, Cyprus and India. He said he’s visiting his family in Cyprus and here to explore the city for few days. The whole meeting and conversation felt really organic but it was all part of the plan. I was enjoying talking with him while walking down this bustling street and munching the tasty peanuts. Finally, he offered me to have a drink with him and I agreed. I told him to go to one of the roadside bars but he directs me to this shady looking dance bar in a basement. When I said I rather go to some normal bar. He replied he really want to go in one of these dance bars because in Saudi Arabia he’s really missing this kind of experience. I reluctantly agreed. I don’t know why I agreed even though I knew something was not right. It was one of those spur of the moment decisions. Rest I guess you can all figure out.

Well, we ordered two drinks and shortly two girls joined us and we ordered two more for them. The girl sitting next to me was originally from Siberia as she told me. She start asking me about my travels and trying to deduce something by asking where I’m staying, where I have been in Istanbul and for how many days I’m visiting Istanbul. I sensed something fishy by then. After one drink I said I have to go. He tried to convince me for one more drink but i set my foot down. I should have done it earlier!  He conversed with bartender in Turkish and asked for the bill. I asked him how does he know Turkish. He smiled wryly. Sense of anxiety took over me while I wait for the bill.

As expected I was handover an astronomical bill. I asked for the menu and the prices printed on it can put even High-End bars to shame. I asked the guy to pay his half. He just made a dumb face and said “Bro, I thought you were going to pay. I have no money.” Manager of the bar intervened and told me he will get the half amount from the guy and I just pay my half. No card only cash accepted. Probably, to avoid tracing back to the bar. Even after splitting the bill, the amount comes to great total. I told the manager this is clear case of cheating. Manager just laughed off. When I told him that this incident will leave a bad impression of Istanbul on my mind. He just said “No problem. We get millions of tourists, so you doesn’t matter.” I asked to call the police and settle everything in front of them. Manager tried to intimidate me by saying “Hey relax, no body’s getting killed.” I thought best course of action would be to get out of here as soon as possible. Luckily, I had pretty less cash on me. I gave him the cash and said “that’s all I have.” Manager took the cash and told his person will accompany me to the nearest ATM for rest of the amount. I happily agreed. We took the stairs out of the basement and I just ran. I ran ran ran ran like Forrest Gump. Don’t know when to stop. After reaching the taksim square I finally stopped and laughed. Just laughed. Some bystanders look at me with an utmost attention. I felt like I won an Olympic medal in 400 metres race. Even though monetary loss was quite small but impact of whole incident were quite big. Funny part is on the next day another guy approached me near taksim square. This time when I tried to call a police, he ran like a bullet.

This is a cautionary tale. So, people should be aware about this scam and avoid falling into the trap. I had a memorable time in Istanbul and would love to visit Turkey again in near future to explore different parts of the country.




If you have any questions, write them in the comments. I will answer them accordingly.
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An Indian Traveler

Hello! My name is Saurabh and I am the voice behind the “An Indian Traveler” blog. I'm a cinephile, travel writer, an avid traveler with a song stuck in my head which I keep humming till ad nauseam :)


  1. Wow, what a crazy scam. It seems easy to fall into and I can see how it probably happens often. It's important to let other travelers know about these unfortunate scams.

  2. As a solo traveler, you should always be careful of the interactions you have with others. It's better to speak to people that YOU initiate the conversation with.

  3. Oh wow…how scary for you! I felt like I was watching a movie while reading this. I'm glad you didn't get hurt or totally robbed!!! Thanks for sharing to help others avoid this trickery!

  4. I remember my days traveling solo and was always weary of scams. Thank you for sharing this as it's important to educate others on what can happen. Glad you are safe and loved the forest gump comparison.

  5. Sad to hear that you went through this experience. It's a shame that a few cheats are spoiling the experience of travellers in Istanbul. I am sure your story will help us when we travel there.

  6. Whoa! What an experience. I must admit I got an image of you running for your life and it made me laugh. I am glad you made it out of there okay. I'm not that brave to be a solo traveler. People can be so evil and take advantage of you.

  7. It is nice of you to share your misadventure. It will definitely ensure that travellers are on the guard when they are in that area. These kind of scams of course leave a bad taste in the mouth, but they happen everywhere, the best way to beat them is by sharing these kind of incidents so that more and more people are aware.

  8. That's really such an awful experience! I must say, being a female, I am very distrustful of people who approach me in the street when I'm alone, especially male. But I suppose that men don't have all this fear of being approached!

  9. So glad you were able to a) not pay the full ridiculous amount and b) get away safely as well. I must admit, I would always caution a solo traveller to trust their instinct — your gut was telling you this was not the kind of bar you wanted to go into, and you ignored it. I think that's a good lesson to learn. So sorry this happened but happy you escaped relatively unscathed.

  10. Oh my God! This s horrible. Glad to hear you did not panic in the situation and figured out a way to move out as soon as you realized something fishy. I pity other travelers who must have fallen prey to this scam. Thanks so much for sharing this.