On this page you will find our Istanbul safety tips and advisory.
Istanbul is generally considered a safe city in relation to its very large size. Particularly in the central areas it is normally safe and there is little random violence against the person in general. There are however scams/con artists which may make life harder for the uninitiated. Istanbul is a very mixed and rather complex city where the affluent areas neighbour the severely deprived ones, or the dodgy areas are close to the safer parts, so it is a good idea to avoid dark alleys or shanty parts of the city using your “own judgement”, especially after dark.
Travelling as a single woman may be problematic especially if you are clearly identifiable as a tourist. As a rule it is safer to travel as a couple or more, and with at least one man in a group. Depending on the part of the city, this may be completely unnecessary though, as at historical sites and cosmopolitan middle-class neighbourhoods of Istanbul (such as Beşiktaş, Şişli or Kadıköy) you should be able to freely travel at least during day time.
The Wiki travel site page on Istanbul has a nice section offering a collection of various known scams to expect in Istanbul, worth a read-thru for the security conscious. A commonly reported scam typically around Taksim or Sultanahmet areas has to do with a single male tourist; when a well-dressed young man asks for the time and then feigns surprise at the tourist’s being a foreigner. Then after some chatting this new companion offers to take him for a coffee/beer/nice hotel etc. where escort girls appear at the table and they get ordered champagne/drinks. Finally, an inflated bill arrives and the companion declares he can’t pay the pill/pay half the bill, and the tourist ends up having to pay the bill as large bouncers block the way.
To avoid this and other similar scams, be wary of unwarranted/persistent attention from a stranger and be prepared to say a decided ‘No’ and walk away if necessary, and try and keep in control where you are being taken to and where you are.
Another typical concern has to do with taxis. See short taxi how-to below for more information on this.
Commonly reported dodgy/dangerous areas close to tourist spots are; Tarlabaşı anytime of the day (close to Taksim/Beyoglu, north of Tarlabaşı Bulvarı (Avenue)) and Aksaray/Laleli (near the terminus of M1 metro line from the airport) and pockets of areas in and around the old city at night. It is not possible to give a definitive list of ‘bad’ areas and you need to use your best judgement ultimately. Asking the hotel receptionist may be a good starting point.
Off the beaten track, especially outside Istanbul (or touristy areas of Turkey), it may get hard to find anybody who speaks any foreign language. Depending on your luck you may run into very friendly locals as well as risk danger. Especially, it wouldn’t be advisable for women to travel alone and in revealing clothing.
As common with any big city, pick pocketing is common in large crowds typical in Istanbul and you’re naturally recommended to hang on to your belongings carefully.
You would do particularly better to choose your night-life entertainment destinations carefully. It may be a good idea to stick with known and tourist friendly establishments (e.g. where you find English/German speaking staff and menus) or do your research before going out. See for example Night-life if nothing else.
Be careful when deciding to attend large open public events such as new year celebrations or open concerts, as these tend to get very crowded and sometimes rough, and there may be general public safety issues in the heat of things.
Always act respectful of national and religious symbols in Turkey. Turks don’t take it lightly when you’re seen to insult any of these.
Nudity of any kind (with the possible exception of being on a tourist resort beach), or unusually revealing clothing may provoke unexpected amount of interest and reaction especially depending on the part of town you are in. Whereas an outfit can be acceptable or fashionable in a neighbourhood, it may be completely out of place in another, therefore using your own judgement and observations may be the best option sometimes.
A typical concern has to do with taxis (as with many other big cities) As a primary rule, it’s better to take a taxi from a taxi hub/station rather than hail it from the street, as there is a higher chance that a hailed taxi is an unregistered (“pirate”) taxi. See the links at the bottom for more tips on this. Don’t take hub taxis for very short distances from a hub though, as the drivers will get annoyed for losing their queue place.
You are not expected to tip a taxi driver, though some may keep small change (mostly claiming not to have coins).
You are expected to pay for the Bosphorus crossings (and any toll-way usage if it was really needed). Bosphorus crossings are charged only one way, but you are expected to fund the return journey of the taxi if you take it across a bridge over the Bosphorus. The current toll is 4.25 TL, you can find the latest toll on this page.
FOOD AND WATER
Locals typicaly don’t drink tap water in Istanbul, although it may be an option when alternatives aren’t readily available. Bottled drinking water is cheap and widely available.
Tap water is safe for brushing your teeth or for cooking.
You’re not recommended to eat cheap meat products of any kind. High street eateries in central areas should normally be fine. See the page on specialty food to decide what street food to try and where.
Check out wiki travel Istanbul safety section.
TripAdvisor has a nice detailed article on Health and Safety with plenty of good advice.
On taxi travelling see these; an excellent taxi guide on things to keep an eye on, and apage on fares to expect.