The politest way to get ripped off in Turkey?

A lovely time was had this Saturday, actually getting out there (before dark might I add) and managing to see something a little more than worthwhile, the Bascillica Cistern in the characterful Sultanahmet.

Obelisk of Theodosius Sultanhamet

Obelisk of Theodosius Sultanhamet

Hagia Sofia never gets old

Hagia Sofia never gets old

A day spent marvelling at the ancient, underground, architecture, eyeing up an upside down incarnation of medusa, spying rather large koi carp for the first time and to top this off, making our way (on foot) to the Grand Bazar- which boasts no less than 3000 stalls, selling more or less the same sort of things over and over again all the way through, but still worth seeing for a silken scarf perv like myself. Will revisit once paid.

Basillica Cistern

Basillica Cistern



The writings on the Cisterns walls

The writings on the (Cisterns) wall



Grand Bazar Istanbul

Scarves Gallore

Grand Bazar

Grand Bazar

How better to top off this most productive of Saturdays than to enjoy a glass of wine in the lower key (than Taksim), low class area, Sirinevler. There amongst the vulgar bright lights of the local shops, cafes and dingy bars we came across an inconspicuous door in the wall revealing its ulterior motives only through the poster that accompanied it advertising live football. Just what we wanted.

On entering we noticed that there were no menus to be found (mistake number one). Unperturbed, we continued to order beers regardless of this, forgetting to ascertain the price of said items before ordering (mistake number two).  Me being the fussy, difficult one asked for wine (mistake number three), due to what can only be described as my  innate physical repulsion response to drinking beer (I really find it repugnant and cannot drink it even if I wanted to, it has been known to activate my gag reflex at the mere whisper of it reaching my palette).

The host claimed that he did indeed sell wine and proceeded to escort me to the shop across the road. Now of course this struck me as odd, but Turkey being Turkey I brushed it off and chose a cheap bottle of wine (mistake number four). It did cross my mind that he was going to charge me for the whole bottle rather than the glass that I was intending to have, but as it was relatively cheap, in the eventuality that this did happen I had enough to pay for it. So we drank and we ordered food, again without ascertaining the price (mistake number five), or perhaps more importantly, exactly what it was we were ordering (mistake number six). Doh!

We were bestowed with little plates of underwhelming Mezze, including something that looked like a cross between uncooked fish and pickled cabbage, nuts, chesse and the tomatoey aubergine saucy stuff common to this country. Nothing to write home about, but (at the time) novel nonetheless. Once each of the nut and cheese dishes was finished (or just before) the waiters took the bowls and brought out a fresh batch without our asking as we marvelled at the generousity and the efficiency of the service (mistake number seven).

Upon finishing beers the waiters, were again off, filling the glasses with more beer using their lightning fast reflexes before we even had time to process what was going on. The efficiency of service was beginning to get a bit old. Staring to feel uneasy about the whole affair, a rather uncouth, yet healthy looking modern art esque display of sliced carrot and cucumber made it’s way over to us, signalling that it was about time to leave.

Healthy has never looked this good

Healthy has never looked this good

Receiving the bill came as something of a rage induced shock. 165tl (£50) for four (half pint) beers, a glass of wine and what can only be described as fancy bar snacks. Of course the wine was the main culprit at 60tl (£20), for the bottle, going to the off license apparently a commitment by myself to pay over double the recommended retail price for the thing.  The most expensive bottle of wine I intend to buy in Turkey.

Adding up the bill we found that they had slightly over estimated (shock, horror) the cost, bringing the total down to 159 tl. A total rip off for the little we ordered, in the area we ordered it. We could have consumed a slap up meal in a fancy restaurant and easily come out with the change merrily jingling in our pockets. Reading the anger on our lips the host gave us each a glass of tea to make up for his indiscretions.

The politest way to get ripped off in Turkey? Perhaps it would have been if the host didn’t then decide to try his luck at pouring himself a glass out of my bottle of wine. Cheeky bastard.

With fire in our bellies we exited the venue feeling a little older, a little wiser and a little less likely to get ripped off next time.

In the future I intend to stick to the following in order not to have to go through the pain in my arse that is frittering away my hard earned cash to line the pockets of next man (can be adapted for multiple locations);

How not to get ripped off

1. Do not act foreign.

2. Do not look foreign.

3. Learn Turkish.

4. If they cannot provide a menu, leave.

5. Ask how much it will cost BEFORE you order anything. Always.

6. Refilling without asking is not good service. Do not accept.


4 thoughts on “The politest way to get ripped off in Turkey?

  1. Yep. It does require asserting yourself to a point where they act like YOU are being rude. You have to tell them to take away anything you didn’t explicitly order, and be cold, very cold. This isn’t easy for a Midwestern American blonde, but I learned. Good to know I wasn’t alone.
    I’ll be following your journey (from a polite distance).

  2. We all learn this lesson – I went to a restaurant with my husband in Mersin, paid 30TL for lunch. Went a week later with my girlfriend from home and paid 60TL ordering the exact same meal! *Sigh*

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