The Istanbul Grand Bazaar is the most popular shopping location in the world attracting hundreds of thousands of shoppers daily. It’s also huge with over 5000 artisanal shops and an area that covers several city blocks. Most people come just to wander around without plans of buying anything but end up picking up an item or two to take home. Resisting is futile when every seller is trying to sell you their product so whether you’re just visiting for the experience or looking to spend serious amounts of Turkish lira, consider these smart shopping tips. Odds are, you’ll probably need it.
Top 5 Istanbul Grand Bazaar Shopping Tips
1. Logistics are Important
Have you ever tried to navigate a large shopping mall full of people without any sense of where you’re going? It’s not exactly fun. You’ll probably end up spending more time and money than planned. Casual shoppers with more time to spare can probably afford to be lax on logistics, but I will suggest a map of Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar at the very least. If you’re here to shop, plan for this trip the same way when shopping on Black Friday or Boxing Day. Bring a map, mark the areas you’ll want to hit, and follow the most efficient route.
2. Do Unto Others…
You’re inside Istanbul Grand Bazaar and you’re just about ready to hit the shops. Before you do, remember to be nice and courteous to the sellers too. They are more likely to give you a good deal if you treat them nicely. Smile and be charming. It makes for good business. Keep in mind that even though there are many stores selling the same thing, there are also other people looking to buy the same item. These sellers are smart so they know their price point as well as their competitor’s. Be reasonable when bargaining.
3. Barter to Get the Best Price
Most westerners are uncomfortable with this concept but don’t worry about shopper’s guilt. Bartering is normal in Turkey and every local or experienced traveler will tell you the same. It’s not a secret that the Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar is a mecca for tourist and shopkeepers are well aware of this fact. Listed price is almost always inflated so work your charm and be patient when negotiating for a lower price. Most of them will give you anywhere from 25-40% off the original price if you play your cards right. Remember the Golden Rule…
4. Create a List
The key to shopping smart at Istanbul Grand Bazaar is to create a list. It’s best to know what you need to get and where you can get them. Walking the streets of Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar is like a maze so it’s easy to get distracted and deviate from your plan. Thankfully, most of the shops are grouped together by the type of products they sell. This should help especially if you want to look at a few stores first before settling on a particular one to shop at. Use your map (logistics) and mark off items as you get them. If you’re concerned about looking like a tourist, don’t be. Almost everyone there is.
5. Get In and Get Out
As tempting as it sounds, spending more than a few hours inside the Istanbul Grand Bazaar can be cumbersome. The market literally attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors over the course of a day so there isn’t really a non-peak time. Toilets are limited and there are no stalls selling food. Unless you truly like crowds, this isn’t the type of place where non-shoppers can spend hours leisurely perusing the windows. If you’ve already made your purchases, avoid extending your stay and use what time you have left to explore the remainder of Istanbul.
To help plan for your trip including information on flights, Istanbul hotels, renting cars, and other attractions, visit the Guide to Istanbul. It contains a calendar of events and recommendations on restaurants, arts, and entertainment too.
Do you have additional tips on how to shop smart in Istanbul? We’d love to hear them.