Yet another message from a traveler victimized by the single-male criminals:
“I am the latest unfortunate victim [March 2012].
“Shortly after getting off the funicular, I was walking towards İstiklal street when someone said something to me in Turkish which I obviously didn’t understand. This led us to having a conversation.
“The gentleman was older, probably about 50-55, claimed to work as a chef in a hotel, invited me to come by to eat at the hotel “on him” tomorrow. He was also missing some teeth. Anyway, we were walking down İstiklal street when he mentioned knowing a bar. I really didn’t think we were going inside, just that he was going to show me where it was.
“We walked down a side street to a place on a street called Buyuk Parmakkapi, which is the 3rd street on the left as you walk down İstiklal street from Taksim square [map]. It’s right next to Pandora books, a place that sells books in English. You have to walk up some steps, past an internet cafe to reach the bar.
“We sat down and some drinks appeared. I thought about declining as I rarely drink but I figured I might as well be social. Next thing I know two women sat down with us. I obviously knew they were prostitutes but unfortunately, I completely blanked on the “overpriced drink” scam.
“So I was obviously surprised when the bill came to $600. My ‘friend’ kept saying he would pay half, leaving my total at $300. Fortunately, I don’t carry that sort of cash with me.
“I weighed the odds of pushing past the guys and making a break for it, but I had no idea what sort of people I was dealing with. So I gave them what I had in my wallet which was about $90.
“The one guy then walked me out to take me to an ATM so I could give him the rest. When he got outside, I saw that there were hundreds and hundreds of people out and about. So I said screw it and just kept right on walking. I heard him calling out to me but I just ignored him and broke out into a sprint down a side street.
“Obviously I’m now safely back in my hotel room writing this. And fortunately, I’m staying in a different part of town than where the scam went down. But it obviously colors my experience of Istanbul and I’ll be looking over my shoulder for the next few days.
“The one good thing is that these guys must have been amateurs. Otherwise they would have frisked me and found my camera and my kindle which they could have kept as collateral.
“I thought about reporting the incident to the tourist police but figured it wouldn’t do any good. After all, when they brought me the bill, they also showed me the menu with the outrageous drink prices.”
“Anyway, just thought that you should remind your readers to always be on the lookout and to ask questions. I’m an experienced traveler with over 2 years travel experience in Latin America and I never would have thought this could happen to me. But now I know it can happen to anyone.”
[TB: A later report (unconfirmed) from a different source said that the bar was closed by police for a short time, then re-opened under a different name. Note that there are also legitimate, law-abiding bars on the same street. Please read these tips about how to avoid—or escape from—this type of robbery.]