• Taksim Sq. in Istanbul is a vacationer hotspot, however additionally it is a spot the place many scams happen, such because the notorious bar rip-off.
  • The bar rip-off includes luring unsuspecting vacationers right into a bar, the place they’re then hit with an exorbitant invoice and threatened with violence in the event that they refuse to pay.
  • To keep away from falling sufferer to the bar rip-off, vacationers ought to stay in management, counsel a distinct bar or restaurant if the scammer resists, and point out the presence of mates to discourage scammers.

As a traveler, security issues are at the back of my thoughts always, regardless of the will to easily get pleasure from experiences as they arrive. Apart from worries like direct theft or assault, there may be tough eventualities the place even the best anti-theft travel gear will forestall nothing if one is being coerced at hand over their cash after falling sufferer to a rip-off, whether or not knowingly or not.


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Istanbul, an enormous vacationer vacation spot famous for mosques, bazaars, and more, is unfortunately additionally a spot full of those scams. One significantly egregious one has been a stain on the town’s repute for years, however lots of those that orchestrate it are intelligent sufficient to proceed catching folks off guard. Sadly, I very almost turned a sufferer regardless of having learn all about it beforehand. Right here is the story of how I escaped Istanbul’s notorious bar rip-off together with some private perception on methods to keep away from it completely.

Taksim Is The place Tourism And Scammers Thrive

Taksim Sq. and its surrounding space is a vacationer haven, however vacationers ought to proceed with warning

Picture by Corbin Lee

Views of Istanbul from the Bosphorus

Taksim Sq., together with close by Istiklal Avenue and the Byzantine Galata Tower, brings droves of vacationers by means of the realm, and with nice numbers of vacationers come nice numbers of aspiring scammers. A infamous bar rip-off right here continues to trick unwitting vacationers, and those that lure victims to the bar may be superb at their job.

Galata Bridge, Istanbul
Picture by Corbin Lee

Fisherman on Istanbul’s Galata Bridge

The bar rip-off can have variations in supply and elegance, however the common scenario is identical. The face of the operation picks out a viable sufferer from the road and lures them to the institution behind all of it.

After generally as little as just one drink, the sufferer is slammed with an outrageously giant invoice typically reaching a whole lot of {dollars}. When victims resist, they are usually cornered and coerced by critical threats of violence till they offer up the cash.

How I Was Fooled Into The Bar Rip-off

Only a facet avenue away from the buying hysteria of Istiklal Avenue is Nevizade Avenue

As I walked alone not far off from Nevizade Street, a preferred hangout for each vacationers and locals, a sharp-dressed stranger launched himself as Angelus, a chemical engineer from Cyprus visiting Turkish household (it seems this can be a widespread script used as an icebreaker). He requested if I might assist him discover a cool bar he had heard about, and even requested random folks on the road the identical query in Turkish earlier than they’d gesture, additional promoting his complete act as one thing official.

Angelus was masterful in how he wouldn’t ask me too many direct questions, however simply sufficient to discern if my profile was prone to the rip-off. He even bodily distanced himself greater than as soon as, which inspired me to drop my guard additional. The subsequent factor I knew, I used to be satisfied to take a seat down for a fast beer.

The second we had been seated, pink flags started flying wildly.

  • Unhealthy performing: Angelus’ demeanor dramatically modified after we entered the bar. He turned extraordinarily chilly and would hardly reply after I spoke to him.
  • Being served unsolicited drinks and meals: Waitstaff introduced drinks and meals to the desk completely unrequested (extra justification to drive up the invoice).
  • Quick “mates”: A few charming ladies instantly spawned on the desk and, together with backup from the waitstaff, inspired a merry night time of consuming with my new greatest Turkish mates. This was the precise second I knew I had been tricked.

Nevizade Street, Istanbul
Picture by Corbin Lee

Istanbul’s Nevizade Avenue in its dormant daytime mode.

After refusing to order drinks for myself or the planted help actors, awkward stress on the desk was palpable. I had learn how this could finish horrifically for some who resist, so I assumed it greatest to reverse course and play the a part of an American fool. I informed my new acquaintances it was time to celebration and chatted with them for a second earlier than knocking again a glass of raki that I had by no means ordered, and everybody relaxed.


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My escape plan of asking to go to the restroom and easily bailing was foiled by being assigned an escort there. I adopted her for simply lengthy sufficient to get a long way between myself and the desk, hit a tough pivot within the different path, and broke right into a run out into the streets simply as Angelus started shouting for me to come back again.

Sadly, whereas reporting this to the police just isn’t completely a nasty concept, many anecdotal stories present it might probably generally make issues worse. In conditions with a heavy language barrier, the reality may be manipulated by native scammers, and generally the native police are corrupt to start with. Proceed with vigilance.

How To Dodge Scammers In Istanbul

The bar rip-off may be prevented altogether with just a few straightforward protection mechanisms

Not each pleasant stranger is a scammer. I’ve hung out with some fantastic folks all around the world on my travels, with the preliminary conferences being not so totally different from this one. All it takes is a few further care to run just a few “assessments” earlier than agreeing to take a seat down anyplace with anybody on a whim, as I did on this occasion.

With only a little bit of due diligence, these scammers may be straightforward to deflect.

  • Stay in management: Counsel a distinct bar/cafĂ©; in the event that they strongly resist, that could be a pink flag that they’re luring you to a particular place for a motive.
  • Name upon mates (even when imaginary): Point out that you’ve got mates on the town you’re assembly up with later or that may even be a part of you each. The thought of controlling a number of folks in a rip-off won’t be interesting to them.

Istiklal Avenue, Istanbul
Picture by Corbin Lee

Istanbul’s Istiklal Avenue on a depressing afternoon

The subsequent day, I surprisingly noticed Angelus (if that’s his actual identify) whereas strolling by means of a packed Friday afternoon crowd on Istiklal Avenue. He was observing all of it from atop a small set of stairs when a putting three or so seconds of eye contact linked us by means of the ocean of buyers and gelato eaters.

I pretended to be simply one other vacationer taking a selfie, however I used to be actually trying by means of the crowds behind me to see if he would possibly determine to observe me. He remained at his publish, and I by no means noticed him once more.

My favourite a part of long-term solo touring is its jumbled combination of the great and the unhealthy, and the tales and classes realized from all of it. Istanbul is a captivating metropolis of awesome street food, culture, and sightseeing and I’d nonetheless urge anybody to go to a minimum of as soon as, particularly since US tourists no longer need a visa. I merely depart all with a warning to not belief the primary snazzy, turtlenecked “chemical engineer” who presents himself.


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