Here's another first-person account
of a male traveler who suffered from
the "Let's Have a Drink..." scam in
Istanbul in June 2008.
"I'm on vacation in Istanbul alone
and on my first night I encountered
the "let's have a drink" scam.
Fortunately, I recognized it from reading your
but perhaps acted too late; luckily, I escaped unscathed.
Here's an account of what happened; perhaps your
readers might be find it to be helpful.
"A man followed me in Taksim
Square as I was leaving it; he volunteered
that he just got off work at the Divan
Hotel, had come from a hotel in Kappadokya,
and had only been here 2 days. Repeatedly
he said we were brothers, insisting
'I am a gentleman and you are a gentleman',
and suggested we go for beer. His English
wasn't that good, or he was feigning
ignorance, because he couldn't answer
why he had moved here. I told him that
I don't drink and he suggested tea or coffee instead. He led me to one
place but then after a word or two
took me out, to the next-door place.
I surmise that the first place had
legitimate customers. The music was
way too loud and the place was empty,
which made me very nervous, but another
tourist came in the door later, which
helped; I ordered tea since I knew
what it should taste like. I carefully
watched to see if this was the spiked-drink-and-steal-everything
scam, but it seemed okay. (Perhaps
I should have left right then, but
I didn't want to act paranoid; maybe
I should have.) I sipped my tea. Nothing
happened. This, I gather, was a setup
to get me to put more trust in him.
"After this, he suggested trying a
Turkish kola at another place. His
phone rang while we were walking, and
he said it was his mama; probably it
was really the place we were about
to visit. We took a few turns off Istiklal and went in as I failed to question
the choice of venue. The dance music
was loud and there was a dance floor;
there were enough people that I wasn't
worried about a spiked drink. He had
us sit next to the wall and ordered
kola and peanuts for us. It tasted
just like Coca-Cola. Then two girls
from the dance floor sat next to us,
and I recognized something was amiss.
The one next to me said she was Ukrainian
and couldn't answer why she had sat
next to me. The scammers tried to get
me to add colas for the girls to our
bill, but I refused, saying it didn't
feel right; the waiter must have asked
3 times. Now the girls had got up and
the scammer seemed disappointed in
my gentlemanhood. (This is the latest
point at which I should have made a
lame excuse and bolted.) He probably
noticed I had caught on, and he asked
for the bill, saying, since I paid
the last one, why don't you pay this
"The waiter was hasty to announce
it was 50 TL,
40 for the two cokes and 10 for peanuts.
(It came in a menu indicating 40YTL beer
prices. I can't imagine what the costs
would have been if further alcohol
were involved.) I stood up angrily,
pointing at the scammer who brought
me in and saying I'd been tricked.
I denounced the ridiculous prices and
threatened to call the police. The
waiter and a burlier guy who suddenly
appeared blocked my way out of the
wall seat, repeatedly demanding 50
liras, and I repeatedly replying, "I
only have 3 liras!" [N.B. In cash,
I actually only had 2 at the time.]
I emptied my wallet to show them.
tried to intimidate me, telling me
I'd drunk their cola and eaten their
peanuts (I replied that the cola wasn't
good). I offered to go to the ATM,
but of course they wouldn't allow it.
They tried to change their demands,
asking for 40 USD, to which I said
I had 10, but they kept asking for
40. The waiter offered a compromise
to which I said, I had only 3. Finally
they noticed my credit
and asked sarcastically if it wasn't
money. I said it wouldn't work. They
asked me if I was crazy. I affirmed.
I'm not sure how -- maybe my insistence
on being crazy, or their small potential
take of 50TL not
being worth it -- but they let me go.
I told the burlier guy on the way out
that I would never be coming back.
I escaped having lost just the 2TL I
had on me (they weren't interested
in it though); luckily I wasn't carrying
"At some point I noticed the table
next to ours was setup the same way:
2 girls next to 2 guys against the
wall. The original well-dressed scammer
didn't do anything during the confrontation,
pretending to be oblivious to the scam,
"The owner of the hostel I'm staying
at, when told this story, sadly advised
me, 'You can't trust anyone.' He
told me about the recent arrest of
100+ people, including 10 police officers,
he said, which corroborates with the
arrests you mentioned on your pages.
Perhaps it's good that I got this over
with already and I'm going to be extra
careful from now on, but I still feel
lucky to be alive."
The traveler who sent me the story
above also wrote: "I had much friendlier
experiences my second day in Istanbul,
by the way."
It's important to remember that scams
are common in most popular tourist
destinations throughout the world,
but that most visitors to Turkey do
not encounter them.
you go for a drink, make it an
open-air cafe...and stay