How to Avoid Istanbul Tourist Traps, Istanbul Gigolos, and Travel Scams

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General Travel Advice

Museum Rip-offs and Tourist Traps

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The one thing tourists have in common is that our time is precious. Let’s save you some time! Here is how to Avoid Istanbul Tourist Traps, Istanbul Gigolos, and Travel Scams. In most situations, tourists don’t have a chance to deal with rip-offs and tourist traps. So people do nothing about being treated horribly or losing their money. Here is a story about Museum Rip-offs and Tourist Traps that I experienced.

If you do have the time and energy, another way to handle losing their money, or having the scammers bother you is to report the problem to the mobile police. Or, you can ignore it. Don’t let it bother you or define your experience. Stuff happens when you travel.

How to Avoid Scams Museum Rip-offs and Tourist Traps

When I went to Istanbul, one of the museums tried to rip me off. This place was a tiny museum. Not all Istanbul museums are like the one in this story. I’ll tell you about it so that it doesn’t happen to you.

How to see the museums in Istanbul

In Istanbul, you can buy a three-to-five-day Istanbul Museum Pass. This includes most places that you would want to see, except for the Basilica Cistern which is close to this corner.

Getting closer to the Basilica Cistern

Museum Rip-offs and Tourist Traps

Museum Rip-offs and Tourist Traps

How to decide if you need Istanbul Museum Pass

  • Before you buy the pass, check that the sights you want to see are open
  • Purchase the pass if you plan to see enough museums to make it worth your while
  • The pass can be bought at the museums and other sightseeing locations

I bought my Istanbul Museum Pass from the Mosaic Museum.

By the way, there are lots of free places to see in Istanbul, such as the German Fountain and any of the sights in the Hippodrome. Make sure you see the Blue Mosque. There are over 3,000 mosques in Istanbul, old churches, and Jewish synagogues.

The Blue Mosque is free, but the mosque members ask visitors to dress appropriately for Islamic custom. Cover your shoulders, head, and knees. Men, please cover your knees, too.

Museum Rip-offs and Tourist Traps – Story about My Istanbul Museum Pass Rip-off.

First of all, unexpected things do sometimes happen to me when I am traveling. The difference between most tourists and me is that I am usually in one place long enough to complain. Normally, I wouldn’t have complained about this, but it does illustrate what to do and what not to do.

I bought the Istanbul Museum Pass from the Mosaic Museum. The Museum Pass gives you unlimited entrance to lots of museums, including the Aya Sophia, or Hagia Sophia.

Another view of Hagia Sophia

Museum Rip-offs and Tourist Traps

I carried my handbag, a Nikon camera, and a covered Starbucks plastic cup with water in it. Here is what happened.

  • The signage said No Smoking. I wasn’t smoking.
  • No other signs posted saying no drinks.
  • The museum had turnstiles, like those used to board a subway
  • No guard was there when I entered
  • I waited, and another man went in using his pass. I did, too. You can’t get in without a ticket.
  • My pass opened the gate automatically
  • I walked down stairs and far away from the entrance

Then, the guard started screaming at me.

I have no idea what he said. He was just loud. I said, “Yes, yes,” and then, “Evet evet,” which means “Yes” in Turkish. The man yelled some more. The next thing I knew, he was running towards me.

Sometimes, when people get frustrated and don’t speak the language, they start speaking loudly at the other person. Speaking loudly won’t make anyone understand you.

The long and short of it — I left. The guard was having a bad day.

Report crimes and tourist incidents if you have time

When I told my friends at the Arasta Bazaar, they said I could ask for my money back. Moses, Alibaba ‘Mayor of Arasta Bazaar, retired,’ wanted to help me, so we went to the place I had purchased the pass, and we asked for a refund. We didn’t get a refund.

Don’t expect a sign stating the policies in foreign country. Assume that they don’t give refunds. Even my local champions couldn’t help me.

At this time, cruise ships were canceling stops in Istanbul. Tourists were reporting problems. I didn’t see any trouble at all, but that’s what I was told. It was suggested that I report this to the American Consulate in Istanbul.

So it may seem pretty extreme, but I took the advice. It was just a phone call, and I had time. Maybe it would help. The amount of money was tiny. I didn’t expect a result.

The Consulate told me they were glad to report it. They collect information from tourists. No one wants tourist hassles. The representative at the Consulate said she would call the Chief of the Museums. She suggested that I ask the Mobile Tourist Police to go with me to ask for a refund.

Remember I am not a victim. This was just a typical rip-off situation and not a very bad one.

A Mobile Policeman

Museum Rip-offs and Tourist Traps

The mobile police went with me. We got a refund. The people in the bazaar were impressed. This isn’t normally what happens. Trust me; it’s a “Little Turkish Drama.”

What I learned from my experience with the Museum Pass in Istanbul

  • Be careful about where you buy your passes
  • Tourist typically don’t have time to get refunds, so don’t expect your money back if something goes wrong

What to report to the Mobile Istanbul Police

  • Always report crimes
  • Suspicious security concerns

When to call the American Consulate for assistance

  • Check the American Consulate website for specifics about how to contact them
  • Call the American Consulate right away if you are hurt or in danger
  • Use the hotline to report a mugging, robbery, or missing passport
  • Don’t use the hotline if it is not an immediate issue. Ask for a non-emergency line to report a non-violent crime or another type of incident.

Register with STEP: Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)

  • STEP provides country alerts that are specific to your trip

Close the situation on a positive note

  • Never let an upsetting situation define your travel
  • There are many roads to Rome and many ways to solve a problem. Try a different solution.

Museum Rip-offs and Tourist Traps

Museum Rip-offs and Tourist Traps – Traveling alone assess your risk

Repeat after me — You aren’t going to save the world. Your goal is to stay safe, have fun ad make it back home. Ask yourself these questions before getting involved:

  1. Am I safe?
  2. Is safety my priority in this situation?
  3. Is this worth a hassle?
  4. Could things possibly get worse for me?
  5. Is it better to lose money or endanger my safety?

My friends supported me in this situation because they knew me. Under other circumstances — lose the money.

  • If someone rips you off, like a taxi, or if you buy fake tickets, it’s a life lesson
  • Follow the golden rule
  • If the deal is too good to be true, it probably is

Museum Rip-offs and Tourist Traps

Sometimes rip-offs are nothing more than an inexpensive lesson

My advice? Let it go. Don’t let it define your trip. Relax.

People in Turkey often relax at a hookah bar

Museum Rip-offs and Tourist Traps

Istanbul Travel Tips – Top 25 Istanbul Sights

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Kate started traveling for work. Now with grown children, who are travelers, she travels for pleasure looking for great travel experiences. Currently, her home is in Bellevue, WA, and lives with her cat Angelina Jolie. She has a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts, Studio Arts and Art History from the University of Colorado, an MBA and Master of Arts, Management. Her favorite things are exploring new cultures, traveling the world, creating a painting and sour or spicy foods.

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