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’.

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