Istanbul Pedestrian Tips to Keep You Safe on the Road

Pedestrian traffic light in Istanbul, Turkey.

by Erlend Geerts

in Visa, Money & Safety

In Istanbul, pedestrians aren’t treated the same way as they are back home. The car rules in Istanbul, except in places like Sultanahmet Square, Istiklal Caddesi, Taksim Square, Ortaköy and of course the Princes’ Islands.

Nevertheless, the ideal way to explore a city is to go about it on foot. But because the car is king, I strongly recommend you to familiarize yourself with these pedestrian safety tips before hitting the small, historical streets of Istanbul.

Use Pavements and Designated Bus Stops

As a pedestrian you are not protected by law if you’re not walking on a pavement. Therefore, avoid walking on the streets and only get off the bus when it has reached a designated stop.

Use Pedestrian Crossings, Overpasses and Underpasses

Don’t imitate the locals. You’ll see them swerve while crossing the street narrowly avoiding upcoming traffic. Don’t try this yourself! Instead use the pedestrian crossings, overpasses and underpasses, even if this means making a small detour.

Also keep in mind that pedestrian crossings without traffic lights are treated as street ornaments. Unlike what you may be used to at home, in Istanbul cars will not stop to let you cross the street. Wait for traffic to pass or cars to stop before you try to cross the street. Be patient, you’re on holiday after all.

Don’t Blindly Trust Traffic Lights

When the pedestrian traffic light turns green, first reassure yourself traffic has indeed come to a standstill before crossing the street.

When the pedestrian traffic light is about to turn red, don’t attempt to quickly make it to the other side of the street. Some drivers jump or anticipate the green light and you may be left standing in the middle of the street — an unfamiliar and very uncomfortable place to be.

Beware of Pickpocketing and Unfamiliar Streets

Finally, there are still the tips to avoid the typical tourist scams in Istanbul, and every other world city for that matter. Beware of pickpocketting, certainly in crowded places and streets. Also try to stay clear from areas off the beaten track after dark. Instead use a taxi to reach your destination.

Does This Make Istanbul Unsafe?

No, of course not! On the contrary, Istanbul is among the safest world cities I know. Just follow the tips I gave here and you’ll have a great time absorbing the typical atmosphere that makes Istanbul’s historical streets and districts so unique.

What's Next

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Staci March 22, 2013 at 5:39 pm

Hello again Erlend,
Thanks for the help with the airport –> hotel trip.
I am wondering what areas of Istanbul, as a woman, I should avoid?
I read somewhere that Beyoglu wouldn’t be the best spot for me to be by myself.
Is this accurate?
Thanks again!


Erlend Geerts March 24, 2013 at 3:33 pm

Hi Staci,

There is certainly no such a thing as “avoid Beyoğlu”. Beyoğlu is a huge district, and within it are places like Taksim Square, Istiklal Caddesi, Cihangir, etc. These are all very accessible. As in every world city, you should avoid walking around in empty (back)streets, and be extra careful at night.

Kind regards,


Staci March 25, 2013 at 4:25 am

I was researching the Istinye Park mall and was having difficulty finding a bus or train route there from the Sultanahmet. Can you be of any assistance with this?
Many thanks,


Erlend Geerts March 25, 2013 at 10:48 am

Hi Stacy,

Did you already consult the page about using public transportation in Istanbul?

Kind regards,


Onsi Y April 3, 2013 at 10:10 am

Hi Erlend,

i will arrive at attaturk airport around 3 am. traveling with my wife.
any safety precautions to consider?

By the way your website is really helpful thanks for that.


Erlend Geerts April 3, 2013 at 11:51 am

Hi Onsi,

No. The airport is obviously safe, just take an official taxi outside to take you to the hotel.



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