A Quick Guide to the Istanbul Grand Bazaar - A Wandering Scribbler
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A Quick Guide to the Istanbul Grand Bazaar

grand bazaar

A Quick Guide to the Istanbul Grand Bazaar

bazaar.watermarkThe Istanbul Grand Bazaar is famous for its size and age, as it’s one of the biggest and oldest in the world.  Its overwhelming craziness is also known but there are many similar places around the world.  Theses places are markets, or just busy streets, where vendors want you to buy their products and will sometimes do anything to take your money.  And even when these people are have good intentions, or, no worse intentions than selling you something for more than the thing is worth, it can all seem too much.  They’re too pushy, too loud, too in your face.  I also talk about being shy and dealing with forward men, Here.

But for now, I’m just going to talk about, generally, what to expect, and advice for visiting places like this.

What to Expect:

  1. Lots and lots of men. While this might not be true everywhere, most places, including the Grand Bazaar is mostly men.  These men work in their stands selling their different products.  Maybe women are there, in the back or also working, but it seems to be men, and they like to talk.  I especially found that they were really persistent with women.  I went through the Bazaar with two guys and while the sellers were persistent with them too, it felt that if they said no, the seller would back off, but if I did, they took it as a challenge to sell to me, sometimes following me as I walked away.  This may not always be the case, but just be prepared.
  2. Crowds of people. Some places might not be as crowded but usually in the Grand Bazaar it’s packed with people shopping or just looking.  This makes things a little more complicated because, like most places, pickpockets love crowds.  Just watch your stuff.
  3. Mostly cheap trinkets. Most stands sell the same things and try to play it off as something unique.  While some things might be valuable, or special, or just what you’re looking for, make sure you’re not being ripped off.  It’s the worst when you buy something “unique” for what you’re told is a great price and then see the exact same thing for a better price.

What to Do:

  1. Be Firm. If you don’t want something, or are getting uncomfortable, don’t act like it.  These sellers are persistent and can pick up on any weakness you have.  If you wobble in your decision, they’ll play off of it until you’ve somehow bought something you don’t really want.  That goes for buying something you actually do want.  If you try to haggle the price down, make sure it’s actually a price you want to pay, if you’re not firm they won’t take you seriously and will keep the price as high as possible.
  2. Don’t believe everything they say.  I’ve kind of said this already, but it’s important enough to say it again.  The sellers will tell you anything you want to hear, whether that this item is unique, expensive, perfect for this or that, more often than not, they’re lying.  They will do anything, really anything, to sell to you, so make sure you’re hesitant to believe them.
  3. But don’t spend all your time there. I think it’s safe to say that Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar and others like it are no longer for the locals, but for the tourists that flock to them for their history.  So while it’s great to check them out, maybe buy a cool souvenir, don’t confuse this for being being a “real” part of the city.  Get out to other places, maybe other markets that are more local.  I think you’d be more likely to find cool, unique, and well-priced things where locals aren’t trying to cheat tourists.

What did you think about Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar or other markets like it?  Tell me your thoughts and tips in the comments below.


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