Istanbul, formerly known as Constantinople, is the biggest city in Turkey and serves as the country’s historic, cultural and economic center. The city of Istanbul has more than 15 million residents, which is roughly 19% of Turkey’s entire population. It is also one, if not the country’s most popular tourist destination, with an average of 16 million tourists every year. This is because of the city’s rich history and culture as well as its collection of world-renowned attractions; in fact, the Turkish city is home to numerous UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
While Istanbul is a year-round destination, the months from June to August are considered the peak season because of the summer weather and the range of events and festivals held during this period. If you want more manageable crowds, consider Istanbul’s “shoulder season”, which takes place from March to May. During this period, prices are generally reasonable and the weather is starting to get warmer as summer approaches.
The best time to visit Istanbul depends on your personal preference; for instance, summer has the best weather but prices do increase. Winter is colder and gloomier but the rates are at their lowest. Regardless of when you decide to come, use a Bounce luggage facility in Istanbul during your visit to make your trip convenient and hassle-free.
Flying into Istanbul Airport? Read on for details on how to have an enjoyable and safe trip in this incredible city. Traveling to Istanbul is bound to be a terrific adventure.
Is Istanbul safe to visit right now?
As a nation, Turkey is currently ranked Level 2 in the U.S. Government Travel Advisory, which means exercising increased caution when you travel. This does not necessarily mean that you should reconsider visiting Istanbul; the city itself is predominantly safe for tourists and has a lower crime rate compared to other places outside the city limits.
Like many holiday destinations around the world, there is the risk of tourists being victims of petty crimes in Istanbul. For one, pickpocketing is a common occurrence in some of the popular tourist areas that tend to be crowded. Another potential problem is taxi driver scams designed to get more money from you.
All in all, the Turkish city is a safe destination to visit and this guide will provide some Istanbul safety tips that you can apply during your trip. You should keep in mind that it is your responsibility to ensure your own personal safety and to do additional research about the city before your trip. It's best that you check with the government travel advisory of your home country to see if there are any potential threats regarding your destination, no matter your experience as a traveler.
Top petty crimes and scams in Istanbul affecting tourists
“Is Istanbul safe?” is a question that has been asked many times by travelers from all over the world. It is predominantly safe in Istanbul for tourists, whether solo travelers or family travelers.
There are some potential crimes and scams that you need to look out for during your stay. Turkish authorities are aiding in preventing these petty crimes to keep tourism alive in the city.
Pickpocketing and purse snatching
Perhaps the most common petty crime in Istanbul is pickpocketing; many tourists and locals in the city have reported occurrences of purse snatching. Most of these crimes are even carried out by children in tourist hotspots such as the Topkapi Palace and Taksim Square. To avoid falling victim to this wrongdoing, consider a belt or bag that is hidden from sight and leave your important items in your hotel safe.
Or keep your important belongings in a Bounce luggage location in Istanbul to ensure that they are secure. Another thing that you can do is purchase travel insurance before your trip, to help you recover the value of your stolen items if you do fall victim to pickpockets.
Taxi drivers scam
Another popular scam that can affect visitors in Istanbul is one pulled by local drivers of taxis. They either charge you a fixed rate that is double the usual fare that you would normally pay on a metered taxi or they pretend they don’t have change for your money so they can keep the excess. To avoid falling prey to this scam, insist that you stick to the metered rate and prepare small notes before you go on a taxi ride.
Shoe shine scam
One common scam that is unique to Istanbul is the “shoe shine scam.” Shoe shining is a traditional trade in the city and it is not surprising to find shoe cleaners in a busy area in the city. The scam involves the shoe cleaner pretending to drop their brush in the presence of a tourist. Once the tourist picks up the brush and returns it to the shoe cleaner, they then offer their services for free and share a story about making ends meet.
After the cleaning, the shoe cleaner will suddenly charge the tourist an exorbitant amount and guilt them into paying. The simplest way to avoid this is to not engage with the shoe cleaners no matter how hard they try to get your attention.
Beware of the currency scam, which is when shops and vendors charge a tourist’s credit card in Euros instead of Turkish Lira. Since the Euro has a higher value than Lira, you're essentially paying for items at an extra cost and will be charged expensive exchange fees. To avoid this, make sure that the shop’s card machine is charging in the local currency or simply pay using cash.
Is Istanbul safe to travel alone
The simple reply to, "Is Istanbul safe to travel alone" is YES. Safety in Istanbul is not that big of a concern, even for a solo traveler. What's more, the Turkish people are warm and welcoming to visitors. However, as mentioned, there are some instances that one has to be aware of when planning to visit Istanbul. For solo female travelers that are planning a trip, know that Istanbul is generally a very safe city for women. In fact, Turkey ranks 30th on the Bounce Women Travel Safety Index, with little occurrence of crimes on females.
While Istanbul is safe in general, this does not mean that there is no likelihood of trouble, especially if you're a solo female traveler. Needless to say, it is still best to exercise common sense when you're out exploring on your own. Even though Turkish hospitality is a huge part of the city's culture, it is best practice to avoid instances such as accepting drinks from strangers.
Safest neighborhoods in Istanbul
Istanbul is a large city and there is no shortage of accommodations to choose from. You should definitely consider if the area you're staying in is safe and easy to explore. Below are some of the safest neighborhoods in Istanbul.
Located on the European side of Istanbul, Sultanahmet is the city’s historic district and the most popular area to stay in for tourists. The area is home to most of the city’s prominent attractions, such as the Topkapi Palace, the Blue Mosque, the Hagia Sophia and the famous Grand Bazaar (also known as the Spice Bazaar). It is also home to Istanbul’s top-rated hotels and hostels, most of which are walking distance from the best sights.
While it is a popular tourist area, the neighborhood of Taksim is spacious and more conducive for walking. The district is home to the famous Taksim Square and has numerous public gardens as well as a pedestrian-only street filled with street food vendors, restaurants, shops and other bustling establishments.
Nişantaşi is an upscale district known as a luxury residential and shopping destination. The neighborhood is not part of the usual tourist route but it does offer a quieter and more lavish escape for those who want to get away from the crowds.
Is Istanbul public transportation safe?
You might be wondering if Istanbul is safe when it comes to using public transport, which is a valid concern. The city’s public transportation is efficient, affordable and easy to figure out. The downside is that public transport can get extremely crowded, especially during rush hour, hence why most pickpockets and thieves target places such as train stations and buses.
If you're using public transportation in Istanbul, be mindful of your belongings and your surroundings. Don’t leave your wallet or mobile phone in your pocket where it can be easily snatched.
Important emergency numbers in Istanbul
Despite having prepared everything for your trip, there are instances where you might need assistance from local authorities. It is good practice to take note of emergency numbers of the destination that you're planning to visit. For Istanbul, here are some of the vital contacts to take note of:
- Tourism Police: +90 212 527 4503
- Fire: 110
- Medical emergency: 112
- Poison Emergency: 114
- Police: 155
Additionally, it is best to be aware of your country's embassy number.
Visit Istanbul safely
Safety in Istanbul may be a concern for some but all in all, the Turkish city is safe for tourists and definitely worth making the trip for. Remember to exercise caution and use your better judgment when making decisions.
Check out our guide on Where to Stay in Istanbul: The Ultimate Guide for wonderful accommodation information. To learn about transportation, you'll find it helpful to read our guide on How to Get Around Istanbul.