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Eurasia By Train

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Revision as of 00:29, 6 April 2013 by 188.74.95.247 (Talk)

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Contents

This article is an itinerary.

Eurasia By Train is in Europe Middle East Asia.

Understand

If you only get to take only one major trip in your lifetime, make sure it is this one! Europe, The Middle East, and India are some of the most beautiful places on the planet, and with this useful (and economical) travel guide, you can see it all! And wouldn't you rather see the world on a gorgeous, well-facilitated train than an ugly bus?

Western Europe

Facilities are plentiful in the prime tourist countries of Britain, France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, and Austria. Trains are luxurious and well-running.

Eastern Europe

Facilities are almost as good in Hungary, Serbia, Romania, Macedonia, and Greece as those of Western Europe. However, there are not nearly as many trains. Note: All international trains to and from Greece have been canceled as of September 2012.

Turkey

Western Turkey is accustomed to tourists and have the usual facilities. However, Eastern Turkey is generally more sparse and there are not as many tourists there.

Caucasus

Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan are mostly tourist-friendly. They are mountainous but the people are very nice. Note: There are no trains running between Armenia and Azerbaijan. You have to go through Georgia to get from one of these countries to the other.

Middle East

Travel Warning WARNING: Travel to Syria is strongly not advised due to the state of severe political crisis, which has now escalated into, essentially, a civil war. Since January 2011, the unrest within the country has continued to intensify and thousands of people have been injured or killed. There also have been reports of some fighting between troops who have cast their lot with anti-government demonstrators and others who remain loyal to the government. If you are already in Syria, stay away from large public gatherings and try to gain independent information about the political and civil situation. If requiring assistance, EU citizens should contact the embassy of another EU state if they cannot make contact with their home country's representatives. Some countries have issued travel warnings, so consult your foreign office before traveling to Syria. If you must travel to Syria, see War zone safety

Anyone with an Israeli stamp in their passport will be denied entry to Syria and Iran. Israel is however an oasis of stability in the region, and is a fascinating tourist destination.

The situation in Egypt is not great right now, but if you really want to travel there, you can. Be 'extremely' careful, though!

Iran

Do not visit Iran (or any Muslim country) during Ramadan, unless you want to fast. Other than that, Iran is not visited a lot, so the people aren't accustomed to tourists, but they are very friendly. Keep your cool when dealing with the police, as well as in Eastern Turkey, Pakistan, and the Middle East.

Pakistan

Pakistan has not always been a tourist destination, but most facilities are in working order, but be careful though, travelling to regions of unrest like the Swat valley, Baluchistan, and Azad Kashmir can be dangerous due to the ongoing Taliban conflict in Swat and Baluchistan, and the Indo-Pakistani dispute over the Kashmir region . Destinations like the Shalimar gardens, and Karachi city are great though.

India

India is a hotspot for tourists. Hotels and restaurants are here, and you can see attractions like the Taj Mahal in Agra, the old city of Delhi,and Rajasthan, with all its Havelis (mansions) and grand palaces, and beautiful hill stations like Musoorie and Dehradun, with Musoorie preserving all its beauty with green hills, cold weather, and Anglo-Indian houses and towns. Cities like Mumbai and Ahmedabad, are the new, modern hubs of India. You can also see the East, where you have a Victorian style Bengal, the famous Jagannath of Puri and the Konark Sun temple of Orissa, the beautiful hills of Darjeeling and Sikkim and also the less frequented North-East. The South is no less lovely, with Bangalore being the IT hub of India, Hyderabad with all its history, the relaxing Ayurvedic sessions and backwaters of Kerala and also the temples of Tamil Nadu.

Prepare

Visas

Visas are required for Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Iran, Pakistan, and India. These can be acquired through the embassies of those countries. The other nations on this route either do not require a visa or issue travelers visas on arrival. Total costs for these visas can come to about $500.

US citizens can apply for a visa at the Iranian Interest Section of the Pakistani Embassy in Washington, [2]. However, US citizens must have an MFA-approved guide to accompany them for the entire trip and must have an exact itinerary. This generally precludes crossing into Iran at any border, as your guide would have to meet you at the border. Tour guides, however, are generally friendly to Americans, understand the process, and can work with you to set up a custom itinerary for you. To get the visa, US citizens must work in advance with an Iranian travel agency to set up a guided itinerary; only then, that travel agency may apply for a visa authorisation number from the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Once approved, the authorisation number is transmitted to the interest section. At that point, the applicant can then apply for the visa. Turnaround times can be as short as a week, but the interest section does not reliably answer emails or phone calls.

Timing

This trip actually can be done if you just hop on buses and trains and never take any of the side trips. In the fastest way possible, the journey's schedule could look like this:

  • London to Istanbul: 3 days
  • Istanbul to Tehran: 3 days
  • Tehran to Lahore: 3 and a half days
  • Lahore to Kolkata: 3 days

Of course, that is if you do not actually spend any time in any of those places and just hop from one train to another. Those times do not include the side trips to the Caucasus, Jordan, Syria, Egypt, or Bangladesh.

Cost

This trip is quite expensive, a lot more than a flight from London to Kolkata. Visa costs alone come to $500 or $600, depending on which countries you plan to visit.

The transportation costs from London to Dhaka via Italy & Greece are $904.

The transportation costs from London to Dhaka via Germany are $774.

Visas also are quite costly. Citizens of the United States do not need a visa, just a passport, to enter the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Hungary, Greece, Bulgaria, or Romania.

  • Turkish visa: $20
  • Iranian visa: $112
  • Pakistani visa: $120
  • Indian visa: $81
  • Bangladeshi visa: $50

Altogether, the visa costs for US citizens are $383.

Climate

You can travel Eurasia by rail in every season, but autumn and spring are the best because in the winter snowfall is heavy in Turkey and Iran. In the summer India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh are quite hot.

Get in

London

London is in the southern United Kingdom and the starting point for this trip, but you could start anywhere on this route, or in Kolkata at the other end. Trains from many European countries run to London, and cheap flights are available from the US and Canada. From many eastern United States ports, the Cunard Line runs passenger ships to Southampton, 128 km from London.

Kolkata

Kolkata is in eastern India and there are trains from Dhaka as well as many other Indian cities.

Route

London to Istanbul

Via Italy and Greece

  • From London St Pancras, the Eurostar leaves between 09:15 and 09:35 every day, arriving in Paris (Gare du Nord) at about 12:47.
  • From Paris, a daily high-speed TGV departs at 14:41 and enters Milan at 21:45. This train has great scenery and cuts right through the Alps. You can stay a night (or longer!) in Milan.
  • To get to Bari, the Frecciabianca train leaves at 07:35 from Milan and travels along the beautiful Adriatic coast, pulling into the city of Bari at 15:12.
Side Trip: Rome

There are daily trains from Milan to Rome, as well as from Rome to Bari. You can look up train times at www.trenitalia.com

  • From Bari to Greece, Superfast Ferries sail from Bari to Patra every day except Sunday, departing at 20:00 and arriving in Patra at 12:30 the next day.
  • There used to be a narrow-gauge railway from Patra to Athens, but it is being rebuilt so you have to take a bus. The buses depart every half hour from Patra station, which is right by the port. The journey takes about 3.5 to 4 hours.
  • To get from Athens to Thessaloniki, there are seven trains daily, and the trip takes about 5 hours.
  • There is a bus from Thessaloniki to Sofia, leaving at 08:00 and arriving at 14:00.
  • Another train journeys to Bucharest, departing Sofia at 20:30, and entering Bucharest at 06:25.
  • There is an express sleeper train from Bucharest to Istanbul called the Bosphor. It departs from Bucharest every day at 13:00 and enters Istanbul's Sirkeci station at 07:50 the next day, but it is usually an hour late. Note: On the Bosphor between the Bulgarian towns of Stara Zagora and Dimitrovgrad, there is a bus replacement because of engineering work on the rails.

Bosphor terminates at Kapikule on the Turkish border while Istanbul's railways are being redone. Yet another bus will take you from Kapikule to Istanbul. London to Istanbul via Italy and Greece costs about $690 in transportation costs for 2nd class.

Via Germany and Hungary

  • From London St Pancras, the Eurostar leaves between 09:15 and 09:35 every day, arriving in Paris (Gare du Nord) at about 12:47.
  • The Cassiopeia sleeper train journeys between Paris and Munich, leaving Gare d l'Est at 20:05 daily and entering Munich at 7:10 the next day.
  • Onwards from Munich, the RailJet travels from Munich to Budapest, departing at 09:27 and arriving at the Keleti station at 16:49.
  • The Ister sleeper train leaves Budapest's Keleti station at 19:10 and pulls into Bucharest at 11:00 the subsequent morning, winding through the Carpathian Mountains.
  • There is an express sleeper train from Bucharest to Istanbul called the Bosphor. It departs from Bucharest every day at 13:00 and enters Istanbul's Sirkeci station at 07:50 the next day, but it is usually an hour late. Note: On the Bosphor between the Bulgarian towns of Stara Zagora and Dimitrovgrad, there is a bus replacement because of engineering work on the rails. Bosphor terminates at Kapikule on the Turkish border while Istanbul's railways are being redone. Yet another bus will take you from Kapikule to Istanbul.

London to Istanbul via Germany and Hungary is about $560 in transportation costs for 2nd class.

Istanbul to Tehran

  • The high-speed rail line between Istanbul and Ankara is now closed. You will need to take a bus, a journey of about 5 or 6 hours. The buses between Istanbul and Ankara depart every 15 minutes and cost $34.
  • The Trans-Asia Express runs every Wednesday from Ankara to Tehran, Iran. It departs at 10:25 and arrives in Tehran on Friday later at 20:20. Note: The Trans-Asia Express not one train, but a train from Ankara to Tatvan, a ferry across Lake Van, and another train from Van to Tehran.
  • The Trans-Asia Express costs $58

The Istanbul to Tehran transportation costs are $92.

Side Trip: Caucasus

  • A good idea for a side trip from Turkey is the Caucasus, that is, the countries of Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan.
  • The Dogu Express runs from Ankara to Kars, departing at 18:53 and arriving in Kars at 22:14 the next day.
  • Minibuses travel from Kars to the Turkish-Georgian border, and then to Batumi.
  • From Batumi to Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, there are sleepers every day, leaving at 22:25 and pulling into Tbilisi at 7:25.
  • To Yerevan, Armenia, another sleeper that runs every other day carries passengers from Tbilisi. It departs Tbilisi at 20:20 and arrives in Yerevan at 7:10. From Yerevan back to Tbilisi, a train that travels every second day leaves at 22:35 and enters Tbilisi at 9:05.
  • From Tbilisi to Baku, Azerbaijan, an engine leaves daily at 16:30 and pulls into Baku at 10:20 the following morning. Back to Tbilisi, another train that runs every day from Baku departs at 20:45 and arrives at 11:40.
  • You would have to take a train from Tbilisi to Batumi, minibuses from Batumi to Kars, and a second train from Kars to Ankara.

Side Trip: Syria, Lebanon, Jordan

  • Another idea for a side trip is to visit the Mediterranean countries of Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan.
  • If you pass through Israel, you will be denied access to Iran.
  • The Çukurova Mavi Train travels between Ankara and Adana daily, leaving at 20:05 and arriving in Adana at 7:25 the next day.
  • From Adana to Aleppo, you will first have to take a bus (one departs every hour) to the town of Antakya.
  • From Antakya to Aleppo, buses depart at 8:00, 11:00, and 13:00, and the journey takes 3 hours.
  • There is a sleeper train every day from Aleppo to Damascus, departing at 00:10 and entering Damascus at 6:25. It is unbelievably cheap; $9 for a 2-bed couchette. There are also four daytime trains running the Aleppo-Damascus route; $5 for a 5-hour first-class journey.
  • There are daily buses from Damascus to Beirut, and Beirut back to Damascus. However, visa processing at the border can take 2+ hours.
  • The JETT bus company has a daily bus from Damascus to Amman, leaving at 7:00 and arriving at 15:00.
  • From Amman, there are JETT buses to Jeddah ($55), Riyadh ($55), Mecca ($55), Medina ($55), Baghdad ($50), Qassim ($55), Dammam ($50), and Irbid ($3).
  • Another option is to take a bus from bus from Irbid to the port of Aqaba. ($16).
  • There is a ferry from Aqaba to the Egyptian city of Nuweiba every day but Saturday. It leaves at 13:00, takes an hour, and costs $70.

Tehran To Lahore

  • There is a daily first-class sleeper train from Tehran to Zahedan, via the city of Kerman . It departs at 16:55 and arrives at 17:45 the following day, a 25-hour trip. The train costs $15-$23.
  • A train runs from Zahedan to Quetta on the 3rd and 17th of every month. It leaves at 08:00 and pulls into Quetta at 15:15 the next day.
  • The best way to get from Zahedan to the Iran-Pakistan border is a taxi. These taxis cost about $15. Then you must go through border processing at the town of Mirijaveh.
  • It is an hour's walk from the border to the Pakistani city of Taftan, or you could take another taxi.
  • There is a bus every day from Taftan to Quetta, leaving Taftan at 16:00 and arriving the next day in Quetta at 02:00 the next day. It costs $10.
  • To get from Quetta to Lahore, take the Jaffar Express, which journeys between Quetta and Rawalpindi, but you can get off in Lahore.
  • The Jaffar Express is a daily express train that costs $27, departing at 09:00 and stops briefly in Lahore at 07:30 the next day, a 23-hour trip.

The transportation costs from Tehran to Lahore are $75.

Lahore To Dhaka

  • On Mondays and Thursdays, the Samjhota Express travels to Atari, an Indian border town. It leaves at 08:00 and arrives at the India-Pakistan border at 09:15. After customs checks, the train departs again at 11:30 and pulls into Atari at noon. The Samjhota Express costs $1.50.
  • There is a daily train from Atari to the city of Amritsar. It leaves at 19:10 and arrives 45 minutes later at 19:55. It costs $0.07.
  • On Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Sundays, the Shaheed Express departs Amritsar at 11:45 and arrives in Delhi at 20:45.
  • On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays, the Saryuyamuna Express journeys between Amritsar and Delhi. It has the exact same timings as the Shaheed Express. Both trains cost $20.
  • The Lal Quila Express is a daily express train from Delhi to Kolkata. It leaves Delhi every day at 20:50 and arrives in Kolkata two days later at 07:30. That's a 33-hour trip! A sleeper on the La Quila Express costs $10.
  • A new train, the Maitree Express, now runs between Kolkata and Dhaka on Tuesdays and Saturdays. It departs Kolkata at 07:10 and arrives in Dhaka at 18:05. It costs $14.

The transportation costs from Lahore to Dhaka are $47.


Itinerary

This is what the trip would look like as an actual itinerary. I am going to use the month of April in 2013 as an example.

Day 1: Sunday, March 31st

Arrive in London. Spend the night in London.

Day 2: Monday, April 1st

Take the Eurostar to Paris. Arrive in Paris. Spend the night in Paris.

Day 3: Tuesday, April 2nd

Take the Cassiopeia sleeper train to Munich.

Day 4: Wednesday, April 3rd

Arrive in Munich. Spend the night in Munich.

Day 5: Thursday, April 4th

Take the Austrian RailJet to Budapest. Arrive in Budapest. Spend the night in Budapest.

Day 6: Friday, April 5th

Take the Ister sleeper train to Bucharest.

Day 7: Saturday, April 6th

Arrive in Bucharest. Spend the night in Bucharest.

Day 8: Sunday, April 7th

Take the Bosphor to Istanbul.

Day 9: Monday, April 8th

Arrive in Istanbul. Spend the night in Istanbul.

Day 10: Tuesday, April 9th

Take a bus to Ankara. Arrive in Ankara. Spend the night in Ankara.

Day 11: Wednesday, April 10th

Take the Trans-Asia Express to Tatvan.

Day 12: Thursday, April 11th

Arrive in Tatvan. Take the ferry to Van. Arrive in Van. Take the Trans-Asia Express to Tehran.

Day 13: Friday, April 12th

Arrive in Tehran. Spend the night in Tehran.

Day 14: Saturday, April 13th

Take the sleeper to Zahedan.

Day 15: Sunday, April 14th

Arrive in Zahedan. Spend the night in Zahedan.

Day 16: Monday, April 15th

Take a taxi to the Iran-Pakistan border. Arrive at the Iran-Pakistan border. Walk to Taftan. Arrive in Taftan. Take the night bus to Quetta.

Day 17: Tuesday, April 16th

Arrive in Quetta. Spend the night in Quetta.

Day 18: Wednesday, April 17th

Take the Jaffar Express to Lahore.

Day 19: Thursday, April 18th

Arrive in Lahore. Spend the night in Lahore.

Day 20: Friday, April 19th

Take a taxi to Atari. Arrive in Atari. Spend the night in Atari.

Day 21: Saturday, April 20th

Take the train to Amritsar. Arrive in Amritsar. Spend the night in Amritsar.

Day 22: Sunday, April 21st

Take the Shaheed Express to Delhi. Arrive in Delhi. Spend the night in Delhi.

Day 23: Monday, April 22nd

Take the Lal Quila Express to Kolkata.

Day 24: Tuesday, April 23rd

Travel on the Lal Quila Express.

Day 25: Wednesday, April 24th

Arrive in Kolkata. Spend the night in Kolkata.

Day 26: Thursday, April 25th

Take the Maitree Express to Dhaka. Arrive in Dhaka. Spend the night in Dhaka.

Stay safe

London

  • Dial 999 in an emergency.
  • Remember that cars drive on the left.
  • Brixton, Peckham, Hackney, Harlesden, and northern Camden are trouble spots.
  • Don't go to drinking areas on Friday/Saturday nights or after soccer matches.
  • Every night, Soho presents a particular danger: the "clip joint". The usual targets of these establishments are lone male tourists. Usually, an attractive woman will casually befriend the victim and recommend a local bar or even a club that has a "show". The establishment will be near-desolate, and, even if the victim has only a drink or two, the bill will run to hundreds of pounds. If payment is not immediately provided, the bouncers will lock the "patrons" inside and take it by force or take them to an ATM and stand over them while they extract the cash.
  • To be safe, if a woman you just met suggests you a place, try to recommend a different bar. If she insists on hers then walk away and do not listen to her suggestions. Sometimes this con trick takes place when someone is lured into a private club with the promise of something perhaps more than a drink (like a 'private show' or sex for a small amount of money). A 'hostess fee' will appear on the bill for several hundred pounds, even though there has been nothing more than polite conversation.
  • Be careful using a cell phone when coming out of the subway.
  • Avoid street gangs.
  • One of the most popular scams in London, is the ticket machine scam, when, while buying a ticket at a train station someone will approach you and act as if they want to help you buy the right ticket. In reality they will wait until your money is in the machine, then lean across, cancel the transaction and pocket your cash.
  • People offering to give you a free "stress test" are trying to get you to join the Church of Scientology.
  • Don't give money to people on the street in a scam!
  • Us-flag.png United States Embassy, 24 Grosvenor Sq W1A 1AE, +44 20 7499 9000, [1].

Paris

  • Dial 17 in an emergency.
  • Pickpockets look for tourists on the Métro line from Charles de Gaulle airport to downtown Paris.
  • Pickpockets are also prevalent at major tourist hotspots.
  • At the Sacré Coeur, there are many illegal African immigrants who try to sell you small trinkets and charge an exorbitant amount.
  • Around Moulin Rouge, bars will convince you to come in and then extort a large amount of money for "service charges" i.e. nothing.
  • Ignore "helpful" locals offering to help purchase your Métro pass. They will charge you more and pocket the difference.
  • Ignore people around the Seine who offer to give you a ring. This is a scam.
  • Don't pay any attention to "deaf" women trying to get you to sign a 10-euro pledge sheet. They also have an accomplice who will pickpocket you.
  • Don't bet money on a 3-card game. You will always lose. This trick is played by con men near the Seine.
  • Avoid the impoverished neighborhood of Seine Saint-Denis (always), and the 18th and 19th arrondissmants (at night), unless of course you enjoy getting beaten up by gangs.
  • Us-flag.png United States Embassy, 2, Avenue Gabriel, +33 1 43 12 22 22 (, fax: +33 1 42 66 97 83), [2].

Munich

  • Munich is Germany's safest city and very tourist-friendly.
  • Don't leave your camera unattended.
  • Munich is 25% expatriate and has a major gay and lesbian population, so don't worry about being gay or a foreigner.
  • Don't drink too much!
  • Us-flag.png United States Consul (Vereinigte Staaten von Amerika), Königinstraße 5, +49 89 28880, [3].

Budapest

  • Hungarian policemen generally don't speak English, but they patrol with translators in the peak tourist seasons.
  • Don't walk in parks at night.
  • Don't use public transport on weekend nights unless you have to.
  • Call 112 for an emergency.
  • Beware of taxi tourist traps.
  • Schemes similar to the ones in Paris and London happen around Hungarian bars.
  • NEVER go to the Városközpont bar.
  • Men on the streets will try to get you to play a rigged game of "hiding the ball".
  • Make sure that people give you actual Hungarian money for change!
  • 200 HUF banknotes no longer are valid.
  • Us-flag.png United States Embassy, Szabadság tér 12, +36 1 475-4400 (After hours emergencies +36 1 475-4703/4924, , fax: +36 1 475-4764), [4].

Bucharest

  • Go with older taxi drivers, and don't take taxis from the airport at night.
  • Buses are generally safe.
  • Beware of passers-by who offer unsolicited help.
  • Be careful when boarding or leaving trains.
  • Bucharest has a LOT of stray dogs. Avoid them.
  • Don't walk around Pantelimon, Ferentari, Giulesti, and the Gara de Nord area after dark.
  • Avoid the Mătăsari neighborhood.
  • Don't try to bribe the police! Some police officers do speak English.
  • Drivers are extremely inconsiderate in Bucharest. Be careful when crossing the street.

Istanbul

  • As with most European cities, but especially in crowded areas of Istanbul, watch your pockets and travel documents as pickpockets have devised all sorts of strategies to obtain them from you. Do not rely too much on the 'safe' feeling you get from the omnipresence of policemen. Taksim Square, Sultanahmet Square, Istiklal Avenue, Kadikoy Square etc. are observed by security cameras monitored by police 24/7 non-stop.
  • Also be wary of men in Taksim who splash water on the backs of your neck. When you turn around, they will try to start a fight with you as another man comes in and robs you. These men tend to carry knives and can be very dangerous.
  • Istanbul is home to three of the biggest clubs in Turkey and arguably European football: Beşiktaş, Fenerbahçe, and Galatasaray. It is advisable not to wear colours associating yourself with any of the clubs--black and white, blue and yellow, and red and yellow, respectively--particularly on the days of matches between the sides due to the fearsome rivalry they share.
  • Below are scams that have been reported. They may be discouraging; however, of all these scams, the most common is the overpriced taxis, which also happens to be the most common scam in the world. In other words, use traveler's common sense and caution and you'll be safe. And do not be afraid of the police; if you think you are being scammed or robbed, the police will take the utmost care of you.
  • When walking through the gates of the Blue Mosque, beware of smiling, friendly chaps who offer immediately to be your de-facto guide through the mosque and its surroundings; while they are informative on just about anything relating to the mosque--etiquette, history, Islamic practices--they eventually demand a price for their "services", a quotation that can be as high as 50TL (about EUR 25 or GBP 20). One would be better off booking a private tour online; or not at all, since the mosque is essentially free to all anyway.
  • Be aware of high-drink price scams in "night-clubs" (located mostly in Aksaray, Beyazit and Taksim areas). These clubs can charge overpriced bills (hundreds or thousands of lira) based on a replica of the original menu or even simply a menu lying upside down on the table.
  • Be especially aware of "friendly" young men/groups of young men/male-female couples inviting you to a "good nightclub they know"---this is frequently a prelude to a scam. Scammers often work to earn your trust, striking up a conversation or even taking you to a legitimate restaurant and covering the bill. In another variation, the scammer will talk to you in Turkish, and when you reply in your own language, they will be "surprised" you're not Turkish and offer to repay you for their accident with a beer. Note that some scammers are very, very patient, working for hours to gain your trust before finally taking you to a bar.
  • In any of these scams, if you refuse to pay the high prices or try to call the police (dial #155), the club managers may resort to physical intimidation. In general, use caution: scams in Taksim are becoming more serious, and organized crime may be involved.

The following tips will not guarantee protection from bar/club scams, but may help you avoid the most common traps:

  • Beware of unsolicited advice or conversation from "locals." The best option is to ignore such conversation and move to a more populated/well-lit area, no matter how "friendly" the "local" seems.
  • Beware of bars and clubs where you seem to be the only tourist. In addition, any bar that looks like it could be a strip club is likely a scam joint.
  • Always ask for the exact price of drinks before ordering. Of course, scammers will not be honest, but any hesitation, evasiveness, or ambiguity is a good sign of foul play.
  • Remember the location of nearby public areas with lots of people (preferably police). The best place to get away from scammers is in a crowd monitored by law enforcement.
  • Carry only minimal cash. If the scammer takes your money, you can cut your losses. Some scammers will even escort you to an ATM to obtain more cash; if the ATM is in a public area, it will be easier to get the attention of law enforcement.
  • Never indicate where you are staying. The last thing you need is for the scammers to follow you to your own bed.

If you are caught by scammers and faced with an impossible bill, keep the following in mind:

  • The safest option is to comply with the scammers while finding a way to get out of the situation.
  • When possible, head to a safe (i.e., public) place and call the police (dial #155).
  • There are many police in the Taksim and other public areas, including undercover operatives. Do not be shy about yelling "Polis! Polis!" (Police! Police!). The police will be very willing to assist, and younger police are generally university graduates capable of some English or German.
  • Suggest that you need to visit an ATM; this will give you a chance to leave the club, head to a more public area, and attract the attention of police.
  • In a few situations, tourists have run away when faced with an exorbitant bill. This is risky, due to the physical fitness required as well as possible physical retaliation should the attempt fail. However, those who succeed follow the basic strategy listed above: comply with the scammers until you find an opportunity to get away, and head towards a public area with police.

Accounts of bar/club scams The following is not meant to be comprehensive; it is meant to increase overall awareness by giving you a sense of the diversity of scams that people have encountered. Once again: caution, common sense, and situational awareness are your best friends.

When a specific establishment is listed here, it is advisable to go elsewhere--not only to avoid scams, but to also help end them. Be sure to know the name of any establishment you're entering; scam clubs sometimes deploy hard-to-see signage.

  • "Rolans Restaurant - Cafe & Bar" (August 2010): A male tourist was greeted warmly and received a beer. Eventually, the doorman brought a woman to the tourist and asked him to buy her a drink. He refused several times and asked for his bill, where he was charged 30 lira for his beer (average price is 8 lira). Furthermore, he would have been charged an additional 150 lira for any drink he bought for the woman.
  • "Box" (December 2012), on Balo Sokak in Taksim: The cover charge was waived for three tourists, who then ordered drinks. These drinks arrived with a massively inflated bill (30 lira per drink). After conceding to pay the bill, the tourists tried to leave and collect their coats, which had been stored in a "cloakroom" at the bouncer's insistence. Despite no mention or signage of a cloakroom charge, they were charged another 10 lira. All staff members involved naturally denied all involvement with the scam. Unfortunately, another group of three tourists were seen getting scammed by the club as the original victims were leaving.
  • "Köşk", located near Taksim Square on Istikal Street: Two tourists were asked for a lighter by a "friendly" Iraqi-Kurdish "gentleman". After walking and talking for half an hour, the tourists asked if they wanted to grab a beer before they left the city. On the way to a bar, the man suggested Köşk, where they were brought to the back and asked to buy drinks for three women who joined them. The tourists declined, so the "gentleman" asked for the bill, which charged 27 lira for each beer. While the tourists got away with paying only 20 lira each, they felt very strangely after just one beer and noticed that their host had not drank any of his; this led them to suspect that a sedative had been added to the drink to increase drunkenness.
  • "SIA," located near the intersection of Acara and Istikal Streets: Three tourists were approached by two men who asked them to go for "drinks together." Later, some ladies working for the club joined the group and ordered drinks, which the club put on the tabs of the tourists. The resulting bill was exorbitant, and the tourists suffered verbal and physical intimidation when they did not have enough money to pay. Finally, the people at the club gave up and let them go for 600 lira--still much too high for what was ordered.
  • In another incident, a local invited a male tourist to a club in Taksim and offered to buy him a beer. At the club, two attractive ladies, also with beers, joined them. A bill was eventually presented for TRY 1500 (EUR 630 or 515 GBP), and the person who had invited the tourist denied having said he would pay for the drinks. When the tourist expressed an inability to pay such a high amount, the manager summoned burly "security" personnel to accompany the tourist to an ATM; the tourist was eventually able to convince the bar to accept a much lower amount. Within the hour, another male tourist fell victim to the same scam; he escaped by yelling for police in a public area.
  • In September 2011, a man was approached by two friendly Turks who, after chatting with him for a while, invited him to have a drink at a nearby cafe. Everyone paid as expected and everything seemed fine; the Turks reassured him that they were friends and totally honest. They went to a second bar where the Turks ordered drinks for the group, including some female friends. After a bottle of wine and some snacks, the Turks told the tourist that they had paid USD 6000 for the bottle while he was in the bathroom, and the tourist needed to pay USD 3000 for "his half". The situation took a dangerous and menacing turn; the Turks took all the tourist's money (USD 400) and took him back to his hotel. The tourist promised to bring more money, but then hid in his room. The two men burst into the hotel screaming threats, and the terrified hotel staff called the tourist and asked for help. The tourist came out and gave the men a few hundred more USD and insisted that was all he had. (This story demonstrates the lengths that scammers will go to obtain your trust, as well as the danger of carrying more cash than necessary and leading scammers back to your hotel.)
  • A frequent scam, often in smaller hotels (but it can also happen in a variety of other contexts), is to quote prices in Lira and then later, when payment is due, claim the price was given in Euros. Hotels which reject payment early in a stay and prefer you to "pay when you leave" should raise suspicions. Hotels which operate this scam often offer excellent service and accommodation at a reasonable price and know most guests will conclude as much and pay without complaint - thus (ironically) this can be a sign of a good hotel.
  • Another scam is coin-related and happens just as you're walking into the streets. A Turkish guy holds you and asks where you are from. If you mention a Euro-country, the guy wants you to change a €50 note from you into two-Euro coins he is showing. He is holding the coins stack-wise in his hands. For the trouble, he says he will offer you '30 two-Euro coins, making €60 in total'. Do not agree with this exchange of money, as the first coin is indeed a two-Euro coin, but (many of) the rest of the coins will probably be 1 Lira coins (looking very similar), but worth only 1/4 of the value of €2.
  • Many bars in the Taksim area give you counterfeit bills. They are usually well-made and hard to identify as fakes in the dark. One way to verify its authenticity is to check its size against another bill. Another is to hold the bill up to a strong light, face side up, and check for an outline of the same face which is on the bill. The value of the bill (20, 50, etc) should appear next to the outline, light and translucent. If either if these two security features are missing, try to have the bill changed or speak to the police.
  • Some people will walk around Taksim (or other tourist-frequented areas) with a shoeshine kit, and the brush will fall off. This is a scam to cause some Western tourist with a conscience to pick it up and return it to the owner, who will then express gratitude and offer to shine your shoes for free. While doing that, he will talk about how he is from another city and how he has a sick child. At the end, the shiner will demand a much higher price for the "free" services provided than is the actual market norm.
  • If you actively decide that you would like your shoes shined, then expect to pay not more than 5 lira for both.
  • Taxis are plentiful in Istanbul and inexpensive by Western European and American standards. They can be picked up at taxi hubs throughout the city or on the streets. Empty cabs on the streets will honk at pedestrians to see if they would like a ride, or cabs can be hailed by pedestrians by making eye contact with the driver and waving. Few taxi drivers speak languages other than Turkish, but do a fair job at deciphering mispronounced location names given by foreign riders. It is advisable to have the name of the destination written down and try to have a map beforehand to show the driver, to avoid any misunderstanding and also potential scams. Though taxis are plentiful, be aware that taxis are harder to find during peak traffic hours and traffic jams and when it is raining and snowing. They are also less frequent during nights, depending on the area and and are hard to find after midnight.
  • Try to avoid using taxis for short distances (5-10 minutes of walk) if possible. Some taxi drivers can be annoyed with this, especially if you called the cab from a taxi hub instead of hailing it from the street. If you want taxis for short distances, just hail them from the street, do not go to the taxi hub.
  • Few taxis have seatbelts, and some drivers may seem to be reckless. If you wish for the driver to slow down, say "yavash lütfen" (slow please). Your request may or may not be honored.
  • Unfortunately, as in any major city, tourists are more vulnerable to taxi scams than locals. Be aware that taxi drivers use cars affiliated with a particular hub, and that the name and phone number of the hub, as well as the license plate number, are written on the side of each car. Noting or photographing this information may be useful if you run into problems. In general, riding in taxis affiliated with major hotels (Hilton, Marriot, Ritz, etc.) is safe, and it is not necessary to stay in these hotels to use a taxis leaving from their hubs.
  • Others may take unnecessarily long routes to increase the amount due (although sometimes alternate routes are also taken to avoid Istanbul traffic, which can be very bad). Some scams involve the payment transaction; for example, if the rider pays 50 TL when only 20 TL are needed, the driver may quickly switch it with a 5 TL note and insist that the rest of the 20 TL is still due or may switch the real bill for a fake one and insist that different money be given.
  • Methods to avoid taxi scams:

1. SIT IN THE FRONT PASSENGER SEAT. Watch the meter. Watch the driver's actions (beeping the horn, pumping the brakes, etc) and note what the taximeter does. While it is rare, some drivers will wire parts of their controls to increase the fare upon activation. If you're with your significant other, do it anyway. Save the cuddling for after the ride. Check if the seal on the taximeter is broken. Use your phone for light. This will make the driver realize that you are cautious. Note that for women it is better to sit in the back seat (where you can see the meter from the middle), as there are occassionally problems with taxi drivers getting overly friendly, and sitting in the front is a sign that a woman welcomes such behavior.

2. Ask "How much to go to...?" (basic English is understood), before getting in the taxi. Price will be quite accurate to the one in the taximeter at the end of the ride. If the price sounds ok for you, get in the cab and tell them to put the Taximeter on. Since 2009, the rate they are applying is same during night and day. Also you can use this useful and up-to-date cab fare estimation tool for Istanbul: [5]

3. Know the route. If you have a chance, find a map and demand that the driver take your chosen route to the destination. Often times they will drive the long way or pretend not to know where you're going in order to get more money out of you. If the driver claims not to know the route to a major landmark or gathering place, refuse his services as he is likely lying.

4. Choose an elderly driver. Elderly taxi drivers are less likely to cheat passengers.

5. Let taxi driver see money on your hands and show values and take commitment on it. This is 50 Lira. OK? Take this 50 Lira and give 30 Lira back OK?. This guarantees your money value. Otherwise, your 50 Lira can be 5 Lira immediately on his hands. Try to have always 10 Lira or 20 Lira bills in your wallet. This makes money scams in general more difficult. If you realize that the driver tried to use the 50 Lira to 5 Lira trick on you, call the police (#155) immediately and write down the license plate.

6. Create a big scene if there is a problem. If you are absolutely positive you have been subject to a scam, threaten to or call the police and, if you feel it will help, start yelling. Taxi drivers will only rip off those they think will fall for it; creating a scene draws attention to them and will make it easier to pay the correct rate.

  • Watch the menu carefully in street cafes for signs that prices are not discriminatory — if prices are clearly over-inflated, simply leave. A good indication of over inflation is the circulation of two different types of menu — the "foreigner" menu is typically printed on a laminated card with menu prices written in laundry marker/texta, i.e., prices not be printed; in these cases, expect that prices for foreigners will be highly inflated (300% or higher).
  • While this is not really a problem in Beyoğlu or Ortaköy, avoiding the open air cafes toward the rear courtyard of the Spice Bazaar (Sultanahmet) is wise. The area immediately north of the Spice Bazaar is also crawling with touts for these 'infamous' cafes.
  • Having nargile (water pipe) is a famous activity in Istanbul,Tophane(top-hane)is a famous location for this activity where a huge number of nargile shops are available and can easily be reached by the tram, avoiding a place called "Ali Baba" in Tophane is wise , usually you will be served there with plates you did not ask for like a nuts plate , and expect to have a bill of around 50$ for your nargile !
  • Men intent on stalking foreign women may be present in tourist locations. Such men may presume that foreigners have a lot of money or liberal values and may approach foreign women in a flirtatious or forward manner looking for sex or for money (either by theft or selling over-priced goods). If you are being harassed, use common sense and go to where other people are; often this is the nearest store. Creating a public scene will deter many stalkers, and these phrases may be useful in such cases:
  • İmdat! - "Help me!"
  • Ayıp! - "Rude!"
  • Bırak beni! - "Leave me alone!"
  • Dur! - "Stop it!"
  • Gider misin?! - "Will you go?!"

Or to really ruin him:

  • Beni takip etme?! - "Can you please stop stalking me?!"
  • Polisi ariyorum - "I am calling the cops!"
  • Siktir Git - "Fuck off!"

Occasionally try not to use Turkish as the stalker will like it more, just scream and run and find a safer place with crowd and police.

  • Istanbul PD has a "Tourism Police" department where travelers may report passport loss and theft or any other criminal activity by which they are victimized. They have an office in Sultanahmet and can reportedly speak English, German, French, and Arabic.
  • Tourism Police (Turizm Polisi), Yerebatan Caddesi 6, Sultanahmet (in the yellow wooden building between Hagia Sophia and the entrance of Basilica Cistern, few meters away from each), +90 212 527 45 03 (fax: +90 212 512 76 76).

Ankara

  • Ankara is a very safe city with little crime.
  • However, pickpockets are active.
  • Drivers have little respect for pedestrians and the sidewalks are in bad condition.
  • Ankara Police Department has a "tourism police" section with staff multilingual in English, German, French, and Arabic.
  • Tourism Police (Turizm Polisi), Emniyet Turizm Şube Müdürlüğü, İskitler, +90 312 384-06-06, 384-08-11/6350-6353 (fax: +90 312 342-22-27).
  • Us-flag.png United States Embassy, 110 Atatürk Bulvarı, Kavaklıdere, +90 312 455-55-55 (), [6]. 8:30AM - 17:30PM.

Tehran

  • Believe it or not, Tehran is one of the safest cities to travel in.
  • Just take normal precautions against pickpockets in bazaars.
  • Don't take a private taxi after 2 AM.
  • There are some men who pretend to be police officers in unmarked cars with fake IDs who ask to search your luggage. Ignore them.
  • Tehran has some of the world's worst traffic. Try to cross the street when the locals do.
  • Gay and lesbian travelers need to be extremely careful. Homosexuals are executed in Iran.
  • Public displays of affection (even for heterosexuals) are frowned upon.
  • Women should probably wear a head scarf on their head.
  • Drugs and alcohol are illegal in Iran.

Zahedan

  • Zahedan is a small border town. Just try not to talk to strangers.

Quetta

  • Quetta is on the direct overland route from Iran to Pakistan, so a lot of travelers pass through.
  • It is also the capital of Balochistan, a hideout for some Taliban and Al Qaeda members.
  • Several terrorists have been captured in Quetta.
  • However, the Al Qaeda and Taliban members here are trying to lay low and not start any trouble, so you have a 99.9% chance of not being bothered.
  • The people of Quetta are very friendly.

Lahore

  • Demonstrations and protests are common in Lahore. If one is occurring, stay in your hotel until it is over.
  • The locals are very friendly and eager to help with problems.
  • Women should where a head scarf when entering a mosque, and everyone should take off their shoes.
  • Don't go to dark places at night.
  • Beware of pickpockets in crowded areas.
  • Call 15 (police) or 1122 (ambulance) in an emergency.

Atari

  • Atari (also known as Wagah) is a very small town on the India-Pakistan border.
  • It is relatively safe.
  • However, there is NO cell phone service.

Amritsar

  • Amritsar is a very safe and welcoming city, just a little polluted.
  • Be respectful of the Sikh religion near the Golden Temple.
  • EVERYONE is required to wear head scarves in the Golden Temple.
  • Smoking, drinking and photography are not allowed inside the Golden Temple.

Delhi

  • Do not admit that you are a first-time visitor to India (if you are). It makes you seem more vulnerable.
  • Do not follow unsolicited advice given by taxi drivers.
  • Delhi, unfortunately, is the rape capital of India and is not very safe for women. Don't travel at night. Wear conservative or Indian clothing. Consider carrying mace or pepper spray. Try not to walk or travel by taxi alone.
  • Only carry the amount of money you will need for the day, and keep it in a money belt. Delhi is full of pickpockets.
  • Book rail and plane tickets yourself; travel services will give you innumerable surcharges.
  • Dial 100 for the police.

Kolkata

  • Kolkata is India's safest city. People are very friendly and the police are great. I would have lots more information here if the "Stay Safe" section of the Kolkata article actually had some information.

Dhaka

  • Dhaka is a pretty safe city, but keep your senses about you.
  • Be careful if you are a woman traveling alone.
  • Remember that most of the population is living on next to nothing.
  • As a tourist, many beggars will surround you in some city districts, especially children.
  • There have been a recent string of incidents involving foreigners getting bags stolen by rickshaw drivers. They were all traveling after 11 PM at night, so don't.
  • Buses and rickshaws speed all the time---try not to get hit!
  • Avoid large gatherings and keep a low profile during protests and unrest.
  • Pollution is low, but dust is a problem.
  • The neighborhood of Mohammadpur is a hotspot for drugs.

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