Women be aware of the "free shuttle" offer to Ephesus

Tips, comments and warnings for women traveling in Turkey.

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Women be aware of the "free shuttle" offer to Ephesus

Post by AT03 » Sat Nov 24, 2012 6:35 pm

I have visited Turkey many times and I lived in Selcuk, which is the town near the Ephesus ruins on the Aegean Sea. While I lived there as an expat, I of course became familiar with the people working in tourism. I became aware of something that several hotel owners were doing in hopes of making commission from their carpet dealer friends. Hotel owners would offer tourists a free ride to Ephesus, which many would accept since the minibus will only drop tourists at the bottom gate and most want to go to the top gate and walk down. A 'free shuttle' sounds really nice when it is over 35 degrees outside! But some tourists, especially women, ended up paying a high price for taking those free shuttles. The free shuttle is not actually from the hotel owners. It is usually their friend who owns a carpet shop and has a car. The carpet dealer will take them to the top gate of Ephesus, talking the entire time, asking where they are from, etc. and then saying they would appreciate it if they could come by their shop later and just have a cup of tea. Sounds innocent enough, but it doesn't always work this way.

In Selcuk, there are a couple of carpet dealers who are particularly savvy and get the tourists into the shop for a cup of tea BEFORE taking them to Ephesus. Then before the tourist even knows what is happening, they are drinking tea and looking at carpets and are afraid of offending the dealer, so they don't say anything about being in a hurry to get to Ephesus. The next thing you know, they've spent 3 hours in a carpet shop and it is hot outside and Ephesus is more crowded than ever with cruise ship tours. I've spoken with several tourists who were very angry at themselves for allowing themselves to be taken in and put in this situation.

But there is a reason I am writing this warning on the Women Travelers forum. There are a few carpet dealers in Selcuk who use the free shuttle excuse to hit on women and try to get them to sleep with them, spend money on them, buy from them, or all three. They target women who are traveling alone or in pairs mostly. But what these unsuspecting women don't know is that the hotel owner has already told them these women are traveling alone, where they are from, and if they think they have money and an interest in carpets. The hotel owners make about a 20% commission on anything the customer buys, so they are motivated to connect their customers with the carpet dealers. The women will accept the ride to the top gate and on the way, the carpet dealer/driver will find out as much as they can about these women and will do everything in their power to get the women to come to the shop later, including inviting them to dinner with their cousins where they will be cooking on 'the terrace.' Tourists often want to have an authentic Turkish experience, so these men know offering to cook bbq 'on the terrace' will be appealing to some women. They rarely invite men or couples unless they have already spent a lot of money.

Sometimes they also offer to take the women to Sirince, Kusadasi, Seven Sleepers, any place where they can get them alone in the car again. Even as far as Pamukkale. I strongly encourage women not to accept these offers and to never get in a car alone with a man in any part of Turkey. Most women wouldn't get in a car alone with a male stranger in their home country, so they definitely shouldn't do it in a foreign country. Turkey is a very safe country for travel, even for women alone, but these free shuttles are giving Selcuk a bad reputation. A few years ago, I met a young lady who had accepted a ride from Seven Sleepers back to her hotel in Selcuk from a local carpet dealer. He and his brother, owners of a local carpet show and textile shop, had taken a few of the girls from this group to Seven Sleepers and the girl wanted to return to the hotel, got in the car alone with a very enthusiastic carpet dealer, eager to please, and he assaulted her in the car. He took her acceptance to ride alone with her in the car as her wanting to sleep with him, and he became very aggressive in the car. She was unharmed, but was quite scared. As a result of this and several other incidents with these two brothers, this student group no longer visits Selcuk. These two brothers are still in business and still using their hotel friends to send them customers.

I've traveled all over Turkey, alone and with friends, and have never been offered a 'free shuttle' from a hotel. Hotels have offered to arrange a ride for me, in a taxi, and I would pay the driver directly, but I have never heard of the free shuttle ride except in Selcuk. So always be careful and cautious and if you accept a ride, make sure you get all the details first about why it is free and who is going to take you and is a visit to a shop required/expected. Also always ask about other options such as minibuses (in Turkish it is called dolmush) to see local attractions. Turkey is a very, very safe country and I am a female who has traveled all over Turkey by myself, even Eastern Turkey, but ladies, always keep your wits about you and no matter how charming or handsome the young Turkish man is who seems to just want to be helpful, never let your guard down and never get in a car alone with a man unless he's an official taxi driver. I'm not writing this to scare anyone or discourage any woman from traveling alone. It truly is a very safe country, but keep your wits about you and don't do anything you wouldn't do in your own home country.

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Re: Women be aware of the "free shuttle" offer to Ephesus

Post by maryilyons » Tue Nov 27, 2012 7:55 pm

I know exactly who you are talking about. I know very well who you are talking about. Yes, best to avoid these guys, especially if you are women travelers. I have also never been offered a 'free shuttle' outside of Selcuk. I accepted this shuttle ride and regretted it within the first 10 minutes of meeting this guy.

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Re: Women be aware of the "free shuttle" offer to Ephesus

Post by peterlo » Sun May 12, 2013 3:19 pm

It is best to avoid this in your own country, let alone in an oversea country!

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