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.