Shopping Tips

You can find here the best shopping tips and all essentials for shopping in Istanbul. Whether you are coming to Istanbul as a traveller, for a business trip or just visiting relatives, it will be wise to know a thing or two about shopping, before you arrive.

Istanbul is one of the world's great shopping destinations. Perhaps it is because of the mystical Grand Bazaar or maybe it is because of the modern shopping malls.

Maybe it is because Istanbul is simply cheaper than any other metropol in the world and has lots of choices to choose between.

Istanbul is an important manufacturer in textile industry and it makes the products even cheaper. There might be no particular reason but the combination of all of the facts written above makes this city a shopping heaven.

Here are some basic shopping tips about shopping in Istanbul that might come handy:

Tea and Sypmpathy;

  • A general shopping tip; If you're not comfortable with bargaining or not interested in shopping, just say “No thank you" as you walk by... The emphasis is on “walk by” in the former sentence, you must keep on walking. If you stop to answer them, there is a good chance that you will find yourself seated, usually in a carpet shop, chatting with the salesman while sipping tea before you know what has just happened. Do I have to add that you will eventually buy a carpet?
  • You'll likely be offered a glass of tea when you enter a shop. It has nothing to do with your decision of purchasing or not. Tea is an integral part of the social culture in Turkey. It has nothing to do with the Western custom of asking someone out for coffee or a drink. You will be offered a glass of apple tea because tourists usually tend to label Turkish tea as a strong drink. If you want the real deal, ask for Turkish tea, not apple tea.

If you must, bargain wisely;

  • You will encounter lots of bargaining in Istanbul, consequently. When once you agree on a price and shake hands, it means that the deal is closed. Trying to bargain again or changing your mind totally will only help to make your salesman angry and offended.
  • Bargaining is done mostly in Sultanahmet and Grand Bazaar. It is not very common in other areas of the city but it wouldn’t hurt to take your chance of course.
  • A simple hint about bargaining -- a good way to start bargaining is to offer nearly 25% less than you're actually willing to pay. Keep offering this price as long as you can before your second offer. And the third offer should be your maximum and last one. Make this is the original amount that you were willing to pay…
  • Another hint about bargaining: Have only three different choices.Place a mark in your mind on your first choice without making it obvious. Start negotiating on your second or third choice. Make sure that they are two of the most expensive items. Bargain on these two and act as disappointedly giving them up because of their prices. Then ask about your original item: “Will $ xxx be OK for that?”
  • You will have lot of bargaining experiences in many shops in Grand Bazaar or Sultanahmet. It is much better to do all the negotiation yourself. Don’t ask your tour guide or driver to do the negotiation for you even if they volunteer. Because there is a big chance that a commission will come into play. He might have a 10% discount for you but 15% of the price you pay will go directly to your negotiators pocket. You will have better discounts if you shop yourself.

Beware of the Middleman;

  • Local shop middlemen will be around highly touristic areas, waiting for you. They are often harmless. They approach you friendly. They offer you their assistance for shopping in the shops they recommend, for a percentage of anything you buy without you knowing it of course. Don’t be fooled by those scams, trust your guide books, trust the sites that give recommendations for the shops. Simply say “No” to them.

Tax-free shopping;

  • You have bought your carpet, your leather jacket and other stuff. You’re heading back home. But you don’t know how to get back that tax you’ve paid while purchasing. Foreigners are entitled to a VAT refund (value-added tax, KDV in Turkish). The tax is 18% of the total amount of merchandise. To collect your refund, present the merchandise and its receipt to the Customs inspectors at the airport. The Customs Tax-Free office at the airport in Istanbul, is in the International Departure Terminal and is open 24 hours. You can have your refund as a Global Refund check, redeemable at the “Is Bankasi” branch on the Arrivals level or as a credit to a credit card account. Just remember that you have but 3 months for having a refund after the purchase.
  • Here is another heads-up: Don't sign anything that you can't read while you are purchasing something. Because there is a rumor that some shop owners might ask you to sign an invoice (written in Turkish) which states that you have already received your VAT refund at the store. There are a lot of shops that have a “Tax Free” sign on their doors which can give your refund at the shop of course. Just be careful of the ones that don’t have the sign.

Where to buy what?

  • Here is the best of all shopping tips: No trip to Istanbul is complete without a stroll through the Grand Bazaar even if you don’t buy anything. (I mean if you can refrain yourself!) When you think of shopping in Istanbul, the Grand Bazaar comes to mind first because one of the most authentic and exciting shopping experiences you will have in Istanbul will be at the Grand Bazaar. This Ottoman-era covered market is probably the largest one in the world. It is home to thousands of shops and lots of hans.Within the dozens of alleys covered by decorated vaults you will find gorgeous Turkish carpets, leather apparel, glazed tiles, jewelry, glass artifacts, traditional handicrafts, pottery, historical restaurants, copperware, brassware, souvenirs, hookah pipes, textiles, t-shirts, home textiles, towels, furniture and so much more.
  • There are lots of tacky souvenir stores and annoying carpet sellers around Sultanahmet. It will be a good idea to shop in the Spice Market and on the streets around it. You can find interesting products like myriad spices, caviar and tea with reasonable prices. Just like the Grand Bazaar, Spice Market has a very authentic atmosphere.
  • The most "fashionista" of all shopping tips: Head to Nişantaşı!You can find a totally different side of shopping in Istanbul in the neighbourhood of Nişantaşı. Nişantaşı is about a mile North of Taksim. It is a nice neighborhood for shopping with lots of cafes, bars, restaurants and the most famous brands.
  • The most fun of all shopping tips: If you are looking for a shopping experience like “Shop for less, buy the most”, you can head to Istiklal Street in Beyoğlu and Galata. You will find here anything that you can imagine. The street itself is like a big open-air shopping mall but the real fun is at the backstreets.Clothing, accessories, antiques, old records, posters, furniture, vintage shops etc… You will encounter a lot of valuable "finds" within a good price range.
  • If you are more comfortable in shopping malls, this one of the shopping tips is for you; There are a bunch of shopping malls which are on the axis of Metro. If you get off the metro at the “Şişli” station, you can shop in Cevahir Shopping Mall. If you get off at the Levent station, you can shop in “Metrocity” or “Kanyon Shopping Mall”. And the most "designous" of all shopping tips: Kanyon Shopping Mall is a must-see, the building is really gorgeous, the prices are a little too high though.

Those are my shopping tips that will enhance your shopping experience in Istanbul.

You can see other travel advice pages full of essential tips for travellers if you want to know more.

Here is a useful page about using taxis in Istanbul:

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