Bar scam

Istanbul-bar-scamThis scam has been around for ages, a lot has been written about it all over the internet, but as unsuspecting tourists still fall for this play, the scammers will continue to rip them off. It is absolutely not limited to Turkey (also read the Budapest bar scam), but Istanbul, together with Bangkok and Pattaya (check also the Bangkok overpriced drinks scam) is well known to be one of the prime spots for this tourist trap.

This scam is especially popular around Taksim square and on Istiklal Avenue, one of the busy shopping and nightlife streets. It all starts with a friendly seeming local approaching a solo male tourist, and making some friendly chatter at first. When a certain level of trust has been established, the local asks the tourist what his plans are for the night and invites him to have a couple of beers together.

Also read: Expensive lesson learned in Istanbul bar scam

Once the tourist has had one or two drinks with his new-found friend in a quiet bar, the local will ask if he is interested in seeing some girls at a strip club. This should be a warning sign for you to say goodbye and walk away, before you find yourself in the middle of a sophisticated drama piece with an unhappy and expensive finale. Once inside the strip club, drinks will be served and a girl will come over to chat with you for a bit and orders a drink on your tab as well. Beware that this is all one big scam, set up to lure you into buying ridiculously overpriced drinks for the girls! Don’t run up a tab, and ask for the drinks prices before you order and pay directly for each round.

If you have been caught in this scam and are facing an extravagant bill, it may help to speak up and make loud gestures to try and draw the attention of other customers, provided there are any. The scammers may want you out the door as quickly as possible and could settle for a lower sum of cash. But evaluate the situation before using this strategy: with a couple of bouncers on each side of you and no other customers within hearing distance, it may be wise to just take your loss, but at least stay safe and healthy.

Find experiences from real victims or post your own story in our Istanbul and Turkey Tourist Scams Forum.


  1. Stupidly I fell for this scam on Wednesday 27 September 2017, when a middle-aged Turkish man pretended to befriend me and took me by taxi to a nightclub (not my normal kind of place). I had less than two glasses of wine but was a bit light-headed after drinking wine with a meal earlier and let a young man, who’d been serving, take me to a shop so as to debit 5,000 Turkish lira (about £1,055) on its card reader. He said it was for the drinks and the company of a woman who’d sat with me and chatted. He claimed I’d asked her to do that, which was a lie. There was no hint of violence but I felt a bit intimidated and later on I couldn’t believe how I’d taken leave of my senses. Only on my return did I learn that this scam, aimed at men on their own, is a classic.

    Fortunately the bank ‘only’ debited £280.66 including charges. There must have been a withdrawal limit. I’m thinking of reporting the scam to the police in the UK, hoping they can notify the police in Istanbul though I can’t expect compensation. That experience has certainly taught me a lesson. Even so, I wouldn’t mind another, more ‘streetwise’, trip to Istanbul.

  2. PS: On 11 October I rang the Metropolitan Police after finding this advice on the website ‘Ask the Police’:
    ‘You need to make a report to the police in your own country, you should not make the report direct to the police in the country where you think the crime has happened as the request must be from a recognised law enforcement authority.’

    I asked if they could tell the police in Istanbul that this common scam affects British tourists among others. The man who answered was very offhand and said it was just a matter for the Istanbul police. So much for the advice from ‘Ask the Police’.

  3. The “let’s have a drink scam in Istanbul”
    Dizzel bar located next to the Sentire hotel, address I think is- Istiklal Caddesi mis sokak, no. 5/A, Istanbul 34050. They’re known for scams and being dangerous. The bar has a yellow awning thing and you can barely see the name, DIZZEL BAR on it.
    They will scam you by overcharging for drinks and get extremely aggressive if you don’t have cash to pay the full amount. They will also follow you and harass you. They may have several people who work on the scam including a young guy who calls himself “Marat” or some shit like that. He’ll tell you he works in Saudi Arabia, Jedda and comes here to visit his family in Ankara. He’s about 178cm, skinny and wears a blue denim jacket. The owner or manager is about the same height, dark complexion and heavyset. The tourist police have been notified to the dizzel bar and they have had numerous complaints. To visitors, ignore or say “no thanks” to strange Turks or whatever who walks up to you and asks where you are from. Do not talk to them. And most importantly, avoid the dizzel bar at all costs. Also if you’re in Paris, avoid those that are promoting some stupid night club and try to get you into them.

    Sentire Hotel
    Vakıf İpekhan İstiklal Caddesi Mis Sokak No:1 Beyoğlu 34435 İstanbul – TÜRKİYE

  4. Hello,

    On December 17th, 2017, I fell for the “let’s have a drink scam”. I was walking in the streets of Sultanahmet around 10pm with a friend. We were out to get ourselves a last dinner.

    Two young dudes, well dressed, came up to us, asking for a lighter. One of them had a well-groomed beard, big white smile, neat looking, a little buff, and very talkative and engaging. The other one played the role of the shy guy that would keep saying “I’m hungry, I’m hungry”, and was ugly as fuck. We started talking for a bit, they said they were from Cyprus, here for the night, and flying to Dubai the next morning for work. They mentioned that their hotel recommended a restaurant and that they were heading there. We didn’t pay too much attention to their “restaurant”, because we already had in mine where we wanted to go.

    We told them we were heading to “Şehzade Cağ Kebap” (which is delicious), they asked if they could join us, we said sure why not. By then, they seemed cool, chill, and fun to hang out with, no red flags. Unlucky for us, once we got there, it was closed.

    We then proposed to hit another restaurant not far from there, with a roof terrace and some good food called Roof Mezze 360. They seemed excited by the roof terrace and followed along. Once we got near it, one of them said “are you sure the terrace will be open?”, and immediately asked a shop employee right next to the entrance. The shop employee said the terrace was closed, we believed them.

    At this moment we were out of options, and this is when they offered to go to “the restaurant their hotel recommended”. We asked in which area it was located, they told us Beyoglu, close to the main street. We said alright let’s do this. They hoped in a taxi that was already there, as if the cab was waiting for them. I hop in the cab, at this point my friend did not want to, but it started pouring rain so he came as well.

    The “restaurant” was located here:
    Right in front of the English consulate and residency, next to other bars and clubs. The google street view is not updated at all, but the entrance was where you find the burnt wooden door. I do not have the name of the business. If someone in Istanbul could go verify, that would be awesome!

    Once we went inside, it looked nothing like a restaurant, dark lights with neons, lound music, couple of tables, people (all actors), the waiters, bartender, bouncers etc… The place itself looked neat, but more as a lounge/club type of place. We sat down, we ordered beers, and the two dudes order a mixed platter of kebab. After 5 minutes, the food arrives, and 3 girls sit down next to us, separating my friend and I. At this point we were unable to talk to each other, and felt very very uncomfortable. They brought drinks that looked like water to the girls. After 5 minutes talking with them, I realized that all of this was a whole set up, the 2 dudes actors, and that they will ask me to pay for their drinks. The girls re-ordered drinks, I refused, got mad, and one of the dudes decided to ask for the bill.

    At this point we were asked to go towards the bar where we would have to pay. No bills, no receipt (obviously), the guy wrote down on a piece of paper 6,700 TL. The 2 dudes said we would split the bill. I just said ok, ok, I was pissed at myself, and just wanted out of this shady place. They asked how I wanted to pay, I said credit card, they said no credit card only cash, asked to see my card, showed them. They told me they were going to “escort” me to an ATM not far, but my friend had to remain inside the place. Once I got outside I thought of simply running away, which would had been pretty easy since I run fast, but didn’t for the sake of my friend and my own conscious. Anyways, I withdrew 3600 TL (3,400 for bill + 200 for tip they said), so around €850, $950, for 3 beers and some meat we did not order nor touch.

    Once we got back up I gave him the cash, he counted, and then had the balls to offer us a last drink “on the house” they said. We walked away at a fast pace, they followed us saying we had to take a cab back home, they were going pay for it, insisted, but we kept walking and they stopped following us. I assume the idea behind this is for us to forget where we were precisely.

    We found refuge in an Irish pub not far from the fake place. “Irish Corner Pub”, really cool place, and they helped us with the following. We ordered a last drink to calm down, and talk through what happened. We talked to the waiter on what happened to us, he looked shocked, he talked to his manager, then the owner. The owner called one of his cop friends to come and help us. The cop told us which police station to go, and wrote down on a piece of paper everything they had to know.

    We went there, luckily for us one of the cops spoke really good English (we are French by the way). The cops decided to raid the place, so we followed them. They wanted me to identify the guy, and only the guy that brought me outside to withdraw the money. We got there, obviously the two fake Cyprus dudes were gone, girls gone, the guy that brought me outside gone. I identified the owner of the place, a waiter, and the guy that counted the money, but that wasn’t good enough. They asked for the papers of the building to see if they were in rule, they were…

    We left, filed a police report, and they brought us back to our hotel. At least I have a police report so that my bank can reimburse me a part of the money.

    No, my biggest mistake was not to follow them into the cab. My biggest mistake was to not prepare my trip, and not looking at the common scams found in Istanbul. Apparently this one is very common. But if you don’t know about it, how could one imagine that a LEGAL f*cking business in a typical street in Istanbul would send “fishermen” in the streets to catch tourist, and bring them back to a place with fake bouncers, fake waiters, fake bartenders, and ugly girls, all here for the purpose to scam and give you a FAKE bill, and never get arrested by the police. Oh well, I’m never going back to Turkey.

  5. I had the same scam yesterday.yet i aggressively stood infront of those 4 men in the club and warned them i will report to police station in any case.they askwd me to pay 1000 TL and then reduced it t0 500. Even then i rejected and warned them i will straight away go to police. Ultimately after 5 mins hard talk they let me go out. Worst people worst place.impotent police

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