The Grand bazaar of Istanbul is not your average shopping mall. The shopkeepers are not shy about letting you know that they want your money and will do their best to get it. Sixty streets covered with thousand of shops is not easy going and can be overwhelming especially if you are not used to crowds.
My first visit to the grand bazaar was with my Turkish husband and I spent most of my time refusing to let go of his hand. My second visit was with two friends; female and foreign, we were all ripe targets.
We did survive though so I have put together my helpful photo guide
Tips for Surviving The Grand Bazaar of Istanbul
So what is for sale?
Well, it would be quicker to list what is not for sale. I did not spot any farm animals or day trip tickets to outer space. Apart from that, everything else is on display. Streets are grouped according to the products that they sell, which is a tradition dating back to the Ottoman times. Locals shop in the market as well, so you can find some household goods. Unfortunately, there is also quite a lot of junk.
In the grand bazaar, you can buy….
A gas mask if you know something the rest of us don’t!
A cute little guitar with the Turkish flag on it…
A pair of funky boots…
A statue of some cool dude from the Ottoman empire…
Food and drink from this bloke if he stops daydreaming and washes his hands first!
A belly dancing outfit to spice up life in the bedroom…
As much silver as you want….
If silver is not your thing, buy bucket loads of gold!
How to Avoid the Hassle
- Think about faking temporary insanity. Mutter feverishly to yourself and develop awkward twitches. Salesmen are scared of crazy people.
- Your second option is to roll around in the trash and sleep on the streets the night before, so everyone thinks you are a tramp with no money.
- Your third option is to kit yourself out with a burqa and a pair of soundproof earplugs.
Well, by now, you should realize what I am trying to say. There is no normal way to avoid the hassle. You have to deal with it. You are walking into the lion’s den and you are the prey.
Women – If it is that time when PMT is rearing its ugly head, I suggest staying away until your hormones return to normal. After all, there are only so many times you can hear “do you want to buy a carpet?” before deciding to batter the salesman around the head with his lovely Turkish carpets.
Seriously, you have to be a good mood. Just join in with the banter and you can end up having quite a laugh. Many salesman asked me to take their photograph. One asked for a kiss so I told him my husband was around the corner. As for the “do you want to buy a carpet?”, the conversation went something like this.
Salesmen – Do you want to buy a carpet?
Me – No, I bought six yesterday
Salesman – What about your friend?
Me – She bought nine yesterday
Salesman – So you are rich ladies then?
Me – No we are now poor, but that carpet seller is now rich
The salesman laughed and backed off.
Note : I did not get grabbed on the arm by any salesman, but if this does happen to you, simply tell them firmly but nicely to take their hands off you. It is no use getting angry with any of them
As mentioned before, the grand bazaar of Istanbul has a lot of junk for sale but if you find something you like, get your bargaining head on. If you do not bargain, you will be ripped off as the shop owner is expecting you to ask for a lower price, therefore has already put the price up.
As a rule, whatever price he gives you, go back with 50% knocked off. He will laugh, tell you he is poor and has six children to feed, and then come back with another price. You repeat the process until you both agree on a price.
Finding Your Way Around the Grand Bazaar
If you want to know your location at all times, here is a map. Unfortunately walking around the grand bazaar of Istanbul with a map, is the equivalent of sticking a flashing neon sign on your head, saying, “Look at me everyone”
Instead prepare to get lost; it is part of the fun. You can discover so much more. When you are fed up and decide that, you want out, look for the exits signs, which are everywhere.
Readers Questions – If you have been to the grand bazaar in Istanbul, do you give it the thumbs up or thumbs down?
Readers : What about hassle in general, throughout the whole of Turkey, can you deal with it?