During my last trip to Istanbul, I have a set of list for the things I have to get while I’m there. It’s actually nothing too out of this world, but just the regular must buys. You know like evil eye jewelry, carpet, magnets, pouches, turkish delights and a bunch of other stuff that hopefully can fit in my not-so-large of a suitcase.
But shopping in Istanbul is a bit tricky. When i first arrived at my hotel, the concierge immediately warned me about the shopping scene and what to be cautious about. I don’t mean like shopping in boutiques but when you are in the bazaar and the more touristy area of the city.
So here’s a few tips from yours truly to get the best out of shopping in Istanbul:
- DON’T BE SUPER EAGER; you know the way our face looks like when we want something so badly. It is always not a good thing. Just be casual, give the oh-i’m-just-looking-around type of an attitude. Once we’re super eager, the vendors tend to keep their prices high and we ended up spending a bunch of time at 1 shop & agree to buy because we’re just über tired.
- BARGAIN..BARGAIN..BARGAIN; when you’re in the bazaar, bargaining is a must. Don’t go all beginners on it, but go straight to the point. When I was in the Grand Bazaar trying to get my hands on some hand made cushion cover, the price goes down to as low as 2/3 than the original offered price. This will take a while, but bargaining is a total must.
- MORE BARGAINING; when buying let’s say ceramics, I saw many people try to get discount from deducting price one item at a time. Although it sounds that you’re getting more discounts, actually you’re NOT. Get all the things that you want (in a group would be better) and asked the vendor to cut down the price & haggle some more. Getting discount for 1 item probably will get you 5 lira less. But when you do it at the end, you can get as much as double the discount.
- BE STRONG; Turkish people are really talkative people. They tend to begin with stories before actually go to the selling part. They will also tell you that they do that without expecting you to buy anything from their store. But, BE STRONG people!! Don’t feel bad if you ended up not buying anything because it’s not the perfect thing for you. They will try to show you some more, but it’s okay to just say “sorry but i don’t think that it’s the right one for me. thank you”. And you can be on your way to your next destination.
- IT’S NOT A MUST TO BUY CARPET; really, like you don’t have to. Turkey has a vast array of handcrafted carpets from many of the countries that I have visited in the pass. Carpets are everywhere, you can find it on the side walk, bazaars, specialty stores, and government-controlled souvenir shop. They would normally also give you a demonstration on how to make the carpet by hand. Normally a really good carpet (hand made, silk threads, and the whole nine yards) took around 1 to 1.5 year to make. But the price is off the charts. For the best quality one, a small carpet that you normally put in front of your couch, can go up to 2,000 USD in a very simple design. This already include the shipping cost. And the more intricate ones can go up to 40,000 USD. If you would like a more friendly on the pocket ones, many stores in the bazaar and also in downtown Istanbul that offers them.
- BRING CASH; many major shops in Istanbul accept credit cards/debit. But when you’re in the bazaar, normally they just take cash. And even if they do accept cards, they would charge you a fee. Also, don’t forget to convert your money to turkish lira.
- CHANGE..CHANGE..CHANGE; when in Istanbul, I surely don’t recommend you to pay in euro or dollar. Because the rates in the shops are not good. Make sure to go to a money changer before going to shop. One of the best (by means of currency rate) can be found near the tram stop in the Old Town. Also, do resist yourself from exchanging money in the hotel because of the commission that they will charge you.
- TURKISH DELIGHTS; this is definitely one of the must buys in Turkey. Many shops are selling turkish delights as far as the eye can see. It’s definitely not your usual turkish delight. They have ones with pomegranate, pistachio, nutella, raisins, and much more. You can try all of them before buying them. One of my faves is the pomegranate ones, where the pomegranate seeds are dried and mixed into the mixture and then rolled to cover the whole thing. The taste is a bot acidic but refreshing in the same time. For me, one of the best place to buy it is in this small shop in Arasta Bazaar called the Last Ottoman. But for the usual turkish delights that often served with our coffee, it’s cheaper to get them at the Spice Market. One more thing, you can buy turkish delights buy the box, but the price is actually by the Kilo. The box will than be vacuum packed and will be easy for you to store in your suitcase.
- LET ME GET MY APPLE TEA; just like turkish delights, tea is also my favorite. I just love the smell & taste of apple tea that I got every morning from my hotel. Many shops sells all kinds of tea though, be it apple tea, lemon tea, until weight-loss tea and the tea for making your night better with your other half. No i’m not joking, it’s true. OK, so i got my tea at the Spice Bazaar and again it can be purchased by the weight. The price is per kilo as well. For a kilo of apple tea, it goes around 40 lira. And for the more specific type of tea, can goes up to 250 lira per KG. Try them first before buying. Because the smell and the taste can be totally different.
- DON’T FORGET YOUR SOUVENIRS; again, I’m all for buying souvenirs. Starting from fridge magnet, small tiles for wall decor, coasters, bracelet, to leather goods. Most of the souvenir shops offers pretty much the same thing with different prices. Be sure to look around first, and pick your pick. Magnet are about 6 lira each, and can go down to 15 lira for 3. For this one, I still believe that the Grand Bazaar is the best place. And always try to keep yourself from buying regular souvenir from museum’s merchandise shop, the price can go quadruple when actually you’re buying the same thing.
Wow, that’s like a bunch of things. Well I hope that your shopping experience is as great as mine 🙂 Happy Shopping people!