Istanbul is a megapolis city you’re bound to fall in love with! With its culture, traditions and a modern touch to it, you’ll be torn apart on which side to love the most! But as you explore this big city of Istanbul, there are some mistakes you’re bound to make especially if you’re a first time visitor! So before you go, make sure you’re aware of these big mistakes in Istanbul plus how to avoid them to make you’re trip easier and more fun. To make sure that you prepare for your trip well, here are the biggest mistakes to avoid while traveling in Istanbul.

Biggest mistakes to avoid while traveling in Istanbul

1. Renting a car in Istanbul

However much renting a car can sometimes be fun and the best way to navigate around – this will be the biggest mistake you can ever make in Istanbul. Istanbul is a big city ( it is actually ranked as the largest city in Europe ) with over 15 million people and the traffic is “crazy insane”.
In fact, it was named the 6th worst city for traffic congestion in the world just after Moscow in Russia.

With Istanbul’s traffic, you’re likely to even spend 2 hours on a journey that would normally take 45 minutes, especially during rush hours.

So instead of renting a car, take advantage of Istanbul’s public transportation that ranges from buses, trains, to ship! You will enjoy the city more by doing this.

2. Taking a taxi without checking whether it’s meter works well

This is by far one of the commonest travel scams in the world and Istanbul is no exception.
Since I earlier said that you shouldn’t rent a car; it doesn’t mean that you should just ride in any taxi – but when you do, be absolutely sure of where you’re going not to be ripped off by the taxi drivers.

One of the tendencies is taking the longest route or drive you around the city so that they can overcharge you later!
What to do to avoid this is by following the route as well using google maps so that you know exactly where you’re going and the shortest route to reach there.

The other one is taxi drivers messing up the car meter so that the amount shown is higher than what it should be!

So before you start your journey in a private taxi, make sure that the meter works well and nothing fishy has been done to it. You gotta have to be bold and ask or even check the meter yourself for this to work.

3. Only visiting the major touristic places in Istanbul

Of course, you should visit the popular places – I mean what is a trip to Istanbul without visiting The Blue mosque, The grand bazaar or even the Bosphorus.

But Istanbul is quite big and it is not just about popular places – it has so many hidden gems that you should explore!

Instead of just concentrating on places where crowds are, choose the off-beaten path by adding places like Balat district, or Cihangir Mosque to your Istanbul itinerary.

Istanbul travel tips

4. Not buying an Istanbul kart

If you’ve read my previous posts about Istanbul ( if you haven’t, you can find all of them here) you know I’ve talked about the Istanbul kart a number of times. (An Istanbul kart which is also known as the Istanbul card is an electronic card that you precharge with credit to be able to use it to pay for public transportation in Istanbul).

The Istanbul kart will give you access to all public transportation at really subsidized prices – from using public buses, to ships.

Pro tip* You actually can’t use public transportation in Istanbul without the Istanbul card as its the only way to pay your transport fares.

5. Packing too many activities in one trip

It undeniable that Istanbul is bustling with tourist places that literally scream your name to go see them the minute you step in the city! But the biggest mistake you’ll make in Istanbul is trying to see everything especially if you have a few days.

Before you go, make a list of the places you want to see- be realistic about what can be visited in the time you have and if your budget can accommodate all of them!

It will be terrible to run from one site to another, just for the sake of saying “I visited that place” without actually experiencing and enjoying them. Take it slow, visit the places that fit in your time well so that you don’t burn out. (Yeah, travel urn out is real!!)

what not to do in Istanbul

6. Missing the Bosphorus cruise

There is nothing as interesting as cruising on the Bosphorus trait! Other than spending time on a ship, having a great time as you enjoy the entertainment from the belly dancers onboard, there is something about crossing from Europe to Asia in just a period of minutes that makes the cruise more exciting!

If you even want it to be more breathtaking, book a night Bosphorus cruise instead of one during the day! On top of enjoying the cool stuff I mentioned earlier, you get great views of the city lights from the popular architectural wonders and also enjoy the views of the reflection of the city lights on the water!

So regardless of how much time you have in Istanbul, make sure you book a Bosphorus cruise – it is well worth it. You can book this one that comes with a full dinner or this one with just a simple meal.

Related post: What to do in Istanbul at night

7. Forgetting your bargaining skills when you go to the Grand bazaar

Grand Bazaar is all about haggling if you want to get a good bargain. Like in all markets, local sellers will charge you highly if you’re a tourist. (this is like a non- official international law since it happens literally everywhere).

If the sellers land on an amateur bargainer, you can be sure they’ll charge even close to double the real price. So before you enter the Grand Bazaar, make sure you’ve polished your bargaining skills and you’re ready to haggle!

And while we’re still at it, be bold enough to say NO when you don’t want something. Turkish sellers can be really persuasive in that if you’re not upfront about it – they will keep pushing you until you give in and finally buy the item and you’ll only realize how you didn’t even need that particular item in the first place when it’s too late.

And however much you might want to buy everything you literally see in the grand bazaar – resist that temptation or you’ll run out of money because there are soo many good things but you just can’t buy everything you see.

things not to do in Istanbul

8. Not minding about the safety of your property

Like in any big city with a lot of people ( Istanbul averages, 15 million people) – petty theft and pickpocketing are very common.

This normally happens in popular tourist attractions which receive a lot of people on a daily basis! To not fall a victim of pickpockets, make sure you have a sight of all your valuables at all times. You can also buy an anti-theft backpack to reduce the chances of being thieved or even a safety money belt.

Another practical tip is to keep your money in different locations so that in an unfortunate incidence that you’re pickpocketed, you don’t lose all your money to a point where you can’t even afford to go back to your hostel/hostel.

Related post: How to enjoy Istanbul on a budget

9. Not learning about the common Istanbul tourist scams

The number one quality that will lead you to be scammed in Istanbul is looking lost or absolutely green about what’s happening!

Don’t get me wrong, Turks are very friendly but also scammers hide among the good. Before you go to Istanbul, know that scams exist and try as much as possible to avoid them!

These are some of the Istanbul scams that you should be aware of!

  • Being offered help at the Grand Bazaar with someone promising to take you to his friend’s shop and help you get items at a “local price”. The truth is that they’re trying to lure you into going into their shops which could be way more expensive than others and sometimes, not of the best quality. Stand your ground and say “No, thanks”
  • Being invited for a drink by a super friendly local. Though the invite might be genuine in some cases, in other cases, they’re trying to scam you by taking you to the most expensive bars (which could be owned by their friend or they actually work there) and later present to you an insanely huge bill compared to the real price of drinks.

10. Not trying out Turkish food

Turkey prides itself in having some of the most delicious and various dishes on the continent and it would be such a shame not to try them out while visiting Istanbul.

With the number of restaurants in Istanbul, finding a quick bite won’t be a challenge.

Some of the delicious dishes you should try out include; the famous mezze, iskender kebab, dolma, Karniyarik, and many other others. Also, do not miss trying the delicious Turkish delight – one of the Turkish sweets perfect for dessert ot any time you want to treat yourself to something sweet.

While still talking about food, Turkish tea is a must-try as you dive into Turkey’s food heaven and appreciate the diversity that comes with it!

And if you’re feeling up to it – try out Turkey’s famous drink called Ayran – it is a yogurt drink mixed with salt – Turkish people swear that it’s the best drink ever!

Turkish delight

11. Wearing short or skimpy dresses/skirts

However much Istanbul is a tourist city with millions of visitors flying in every year, it still holds its conservativeness especially when it comes to dressing code.

Women should not wear short clothes but also cover your legs and hands when going to places of worship.

Even though there is a bit of misconception that women should fully cover up while in Istanbul and Turkey as a whole,  I am here to tell you that yes you should watch what you wear but that doesn’t mean that jeans or a nice summer dress just at the knee level is not ok. You can still wear all that, you just need to make sure that they’re not short.

12. Forgetting to buy travel Insurance

One of the biggest mistakes to avoid while traveling in Istanbul is forgetting to purchase travel insurance. Travel insurance is a great deal when it comes to traveling – there is even a saying that if you can’t afford to buy travel insurance, you shouldn’t be able to afford traveling.

It is always better to be safe than sorry by buying travel insurance so that in any unfortunate event of an accident, loss of your travel items, you have something to fall back on.

The travel insurance I recommend buying before traveling to Istanbul is World Nomads. It is easy to ask for a quote and the claiming process is not a rat race.

If you read this far, you’re bound to have a great time in Istanbul as you’ll not make these tourist mistakes! So now that you know all the biggest mistakes to avoid in Istanbul, it’s time to know what not to leave behind as you travel to one of Europe’s most beautiful cities.

Biggest mistakes to avoid while traveling in Istanbul (1)

What to pack for Istanbul

Anti-theft backpack

As I mentioned earlier, it’s important to pack an anti-theft backpack to avoid or even reduce the chances of being pickpocketed while enjoying this bustling city of Istanbul.

This anti-theft backpack has secure locks and smart pockets that will keep your travel items safe. It is also TSA friendly so you shouldn’t worry about taking it through airport security.

If you even want another layer of safety, I recommend buying this money belt – No one will ever know that you’re keeping your money in the belt! It is basically one of those travel essentials you should never leave home whether just traveling to Istanbul or any other part of the world.

A small power bank

With all the beauty in Istanbul, you’ll definitely want to capture every moment and every architecture wonder! And if you’re just traveling with your phone to take photos, you’ll need to keep your phone battery in check!

This power bank will help you with that since it is lightweight, charges fast and can be used over 3 times without it running out of battery itself!

But even without using the phone for photos, you’ll still need an external power bank to stay connected all the time.

A universal travel adapter

Before you go to Istanbul, you’ll need to pack a universal travel adapter! This one is what I recommend to every traveler to avoid buying a different adaptor every time you go to a new country.

Comfortable walking shoes

Istanbul is a big and walkable city and the best way to experience the city is by foot!

Since some tourist attractions are far from each other but in a walkable distance range, it’s better to carry shoes you can easily walk in for an extended period of time!
Instead of carrying heels or flip flops, consider taking these Nikes, New Balance or these.

Packing cubes

Packing cubes are a lifesaver when you want to keep your travel clothes and other travel items organized! You can either choose this set of 4 packing cubes or this 8 set packing cubes for efficiency!

These packing cubes will not only keep your stuff organized but will also help you pack light.

Thank you for reading this post about the biggest mistakes to avoid while traveling in Istanbul! Sharing them doesn’t mean that Istanbul is hard to travel in but they’re just to prepare you and know exactly what not to do or what to do while enjoying this historical but yet modern city of Istanbul.

Have you been to Istanbul yet? If so, did you make any of the mistakes mentioned above? Let me know your thoughts in the comment section.

Get inspired to visit Turkey y reading these posts

  1. The best places to visit in Turkey
  2. Is it safe to travel to Turkey now
  3. Interesting facts about Turkey
  4. The ultimate travel guide to Turkey

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