Top Tips For Visiting Istanbul's Bizarre Bazaars

With an array of different markets across the city just waiting to be discovered, it's no wonder that the Istanbul's beautiful bazaars ended up being one of the primary reasons I fell head over heels in love with the city. But how can you make the most of your time exploring them, and make sure that you do not get ripped off?

Ceramics in The Grand Bazaar, Istanbul, Turkey

Forget the stereotypes and stop for a cup of tea
When we first arrived in Istanbul, I was overly cautious about talking to any of the locals, scared of unwanted attention and being pressured into buying things I did not want. Despite the stereotypes, it really isn't like that! While the salesmen are often working on commission and would of course be more than happy for you to buy something, they are usually more than happy to simply have a conversation with you too. When the inevitable offer of çay arrises, there really is no excuse not to try the popular black tea. That is unless you've already taken up ten offers up that morning and are desperately searching for the bathroom!

Oranges in Market Place

Have an excuse to leave, just in case you need it
Okay, so there are some locals who will not give up, and do just want to sell you something. If you find yourself stuck in an awkward conversation with someone who will not take no for an answer, have a go to phrase ready to make your excuses and leave. Reassuring them that you'll think about it and come back tomorrow normally does the trick; they'll take this as an opportunity to give you all their flyers and business cards, and it's a great excuse to take some photographs too!

Spices in The Spice Bazaar, Istanbul, Turkey

Bring your camera, but be careful taking photos
Who doesn't want to fill their camera with photos of all the picturesque markets? The endless stalls filled to the brim with shiny silver and gold, colourful painted bowls and stacks of herbs and spices are very photogenic. Ninety-nine percent of the time that will be no problem at all, especially at the smaller markets and bazaars, but many of the shops at the Grand Bazaar have understandably grown tired of the constant stream of tourists taking photographs. Many now have signs declaring that they're photographs are not allowed at all, while some go as fair as claiming there is a one or two lira fee per photograph! If in doubt, just ask!

Rugs in The Rug Bazaar, Istanbul, Turkey

Have an idea of how much you want to spend
If you're going to the bazaar with hundreds of lira to spend, despite how jealous I am, that's not a problem. If you're going with the plan of not spending a single lira, that's fine too. The issues arise when you plan to not spend a single lira, but get caught up in the moment and end up spending hundreds. The best way to prevent this is to have a good idea of what you want to buy, and how much you want to spend, before your even step foot in a bazaar.

Lanterns in The Grand Bazaar, Istanbul, Turkey

Assume everything is fake
There are far too many horror stories out there of people spending thousands on diamond rings and rare antiques, only to discover that what they've bought is nothing more than a cheap knock off. While I'm sure Istanbul's bazaars also contain many genuine items, it is better to be safe than sorry and just assume everything is a fake. There's no harm in buying the knock off items if you know that's what they are, and are getting an excellent price, but don't go spending hundreds or thousands on an item unless you really know what you're doing!

Grains & RIce In Market Place

Leave your handbag at home
The hustle and bustle is one of the things I adore most about the bazaars, but there's nothing worse than being stuck in a crowd of people, trying to take in all the sights, sounds and smells around you, while constantly having to double check that your handbag is still safe! Pop the money you need in a secure pocket, keep your camera in your hand, and leave everything else at home!

What are your top tips for exploring markets and bazaars?

PS. Like this post? Take a look at Falling In Love With Istanbul too.