Turkey, a country rich in history and culture, is a must-visit destination for any avid traveler. With its stunning natural landscapes, ancient ruins, delicious cuisine, and friendly locals, it's no wonder that millions of tourists flock to Turkey every year.
While Turkey is generally a safe place to visit, it's important for solo travelers to be aware of a few scams that might target them.
Let's Have a Drink" Scam
One of these is the "Let's Have a Drink" Scam which results in your paying a drinks bill of hundreds or even thousands of dollars or euros.
Here's an example: while you wander around on your own in the evening, you're approached by a well-dressed man who addresses you in Turkish. You respond that you don't speak Turkish, and he says "Oh! I thought you were a Turk." Or perhaps he asks you to take his photo with his phone, then offers to do the same for you.
You discover that he speaks English well. He chats with you, then he suggests you have a drink together. He might lead you to a normal, innocent place first in order to gain your confidence, then afterwards go to the scam location. The innocent place may be a restaurant, where he may pay for your dinner, even if you don't want him to—he wants to make you feel obligated to do what he wants.
At the scam location, as soon as you sit down, women and perhaps other men also sit at your table and order drinks (usually, but not always, "champagne"). Sooner or later the bill will come, you will be expected to pay it, and it will equal or exceed the total amount of money you have with you; or your credit card will be forcibly taken and charged for a huge amount. Typical "bills" presented to victims are an exorbitant amount. In fact, they will usually take all the money you have or have access to.
Carpet Buying Scams
Turkey is famous for its exquisite handmade carpets, and many travelers are tempted to buy one as a souvenir. While there are plenty of reputable carpet dealers in Turkey, some unscrupulous sellers may try to take advantage of inexperienced buyers. They may claim that a carpet is made of silk when it's actually synthetic, or inflate the price far beyond its actual value.
To avoid this scam, do your research before purchasing a carpet. Learn about the different materials, patterns, and weaving techniques, and visit multiple stores to compare prices. If possible, ask for recommendations from locals or other travelers, and consider visiting a government-run store to ensure a fair deal.
In this scam, a shoeshiner "accidentally" drops their brush near a tourist. When the tourist picks it up and returns it, the shoeshiner offers a complimentary shoe polish as a token of gratitude. Once the polishing is complete, the shoeshiner demands an exorbitant fee for their services.
To avoid this scam, be wary of shoeshiners who drop their brushes near you. Politely decline their offer if you suspect it's a scam, and remember that a genuine shoeshiner is unlikely to offer their services for free.
How to Avoid Being Scammed
- Know your destination: Understand the areas you'll be visiting, and identify reputable businesses and establishments.
- Stay vigilant: Remain alert and aware of your surroundings, especially in crowded or tourist-heavy areas.
- Trust your instincts: If something feels off or too good to be true, it probably is. Don't be afraid to walk away.
- Seek recommendations: Consult locals, fellow travelers, or reputable sources like guidebooks for advice on trustworthy businesses and experiences.
- Ask questions: When in doubt, inquire about prices, materials, or any other relevant information to ensure you're making an informed decision.
- Be cautious with strangers: Maintain a healthy level of skepticism when dealing with overly friendly individuals or unsolicited offers.
- Keep your belongings secure: Always keep an eye on your belongings and use secure methods for storing valuables, like hotel safes or money belts.
- Know your rights: Familiarize yourself with local laws and regulations to be aware of your rights as a consumer and a tourist.
- Stay connected: Share your itinerary with friends or family members and maintain regular communication to ensure someone knows your whereabouts
- If you think you're being scammed, excuse yourself and get away. "Sorry, I can't right now. Bye!" "I gotta go!" "Some other time." Most of the time this will work. The scammer usually chats you up on a public street, and won't want to be seen as part of a ruckus or scuffle.
While these scams may be concerning, it's important to remember that they are relatively rare, and the majority of locals you'll encounter in Turkey are genuinely warm and hospitable.
If you have the misfortune to be robbed by such a scam, try to obtain a police report on the incident. This may help with insurance and credit card claims, and may enable you to take the loss as a tax deduction.
For further action, contact your country's consulate, which may be able to help with the names of recommended attorneys.
By being aware of these potential scams and exercising common sense, single male travelers can safely enjoy the incredible experiences Turkey has to offer. Happy travels!
—by Tom Brosnahan