In large cities and touristic areas, especially Istanbul, pick-pocketing and purse snatching are quite common. Follow the suggestions below to avoid street crime.
PROTECTING YOUR VALUABLES
There are a few steps you can take to minimize the financial risk associated with traveling. First, bring as little with you as possible. Leave expensive watches, jewelry, cameras, and electronic equipment (like your Discman) at home; chances are you would break them, lose them, or get sick of lugging them around. Second, buy a few combination padlocks to secure your belongings either in your pack which you should never leave unattended or in a hostel or train station locker. Third, carry as little cash as possible; instead carry traveler’s checks and ATM/credit cards, keeping them in a money belt not a “fanny pack” along with your passport and ID cards. Fourth, keep a small cash reserve separate from your primary stash. This should entail about US $50 (US$ or German DM are best) sewn into or stored in the depths of your pack, along with your traveler’s check numbers and important photocopies.
CON ARTISTS & PICKPOCKETS
Among the more colorful aspects of large cities are con artists. They often work in groups, and children are among the most effective. They possess an innumerable range of ruses. Beware of certain classics: sob stories that require money, rolls of bills “found” on the street, spilled mustard (or spit saliva) on your shoulder that distracts you as your bag disappears. Don’t hand over your passport to someone whose authority is questio¬able (ask to accompany them to a police station if they insist), and don’t ever let your passport out of your sight. Similarly, don’t let your bag out of sight; never trust a “station-porter” who insists on carrying your bag or stowing it in the baggage compartment or a “new friend” who offers to guard your bag while you buy a I rain ticket or use the restroom. Beware of pickpockets in city crowds, especially on public transportation. Also, be alert in public telephone booths. If you must say your calling card number, do so very quietly; if you punch it in, make sure no one can look over your shoulder.
Be careful of in-your-face hustlers, Avcılar (“hunters”) in Turkish, who will try in sell you items, souvenirs, transportation, or lodging. They can make up to 50% commission for each deal. When arriving in a town, have a hotel or pension name in mind. Hawkers and taxi drivers, who will more than likely be working on the same system, will tell you that they know of a better place. They may even say the place you want is full, has burned down, or is experiencing a deadly disease out-break. Stand film, carry yourself with confidence, and keep walking. Contact the police if a hustler is particularly insistent.
In large cities such as Istanbul, street children may ask for money. Difficult as it is to walk away from a child who appears needy, most Turks believe that giving money will only encourage their parents to keep them in rags on the streets.
ACCOMMODATIONS & TRANSPORTATION
Never leave your belongings unattended; crime occurs in even the most demure-looking hostel or hotel. Bring your own padlock for hostel lockers, and don’t ever store valuables in any locker.
Be particularly careful on buses and trains; horror stories abound about determined thieves who wait for travelers to fall asleep. Carry your backpack in front of you where you can see it.. When traveling with others, sleep in alternate shifts. When alone, use good judgement in selecting a train compartment: never stay in an empty one, and use a lock to secure your pack to the luggage rack. Try to sleep on top bunks with your luggage stored above you (if not in bed with you), and keep important documents and other valuables on your person.
If traveling by car, do not. leave valuables (such as radios or luggage) in it while away. If your tape deck or radio is removable, hide it in the trunk or take it with you. If it isn’t, try to conceal it. Similarly, hide baggage in the trunk, though savvy thieves can tell if a car is heavily loaded by the way it sits on its tires.