Purpose The purpose of this paper is to focus on the perceptions of risk from specific crimes held by tourists at the start of their vacation in the Turkish city of Istanbul. Design/methodology/approach The paper describes findings from Phase 1 of a two-phase research programme, during which 210 arrivals at the Ataturk airport were asked about their perceptions of their safety from crime while in the city and their intentions vis-a-vis the adoption (or otherwise) of basic safety precautions, using a 32-question self-completion questionnaire. Findings The findings confirm those of earlier studies that tourists, unlike citizens in general, tend to have low expectations of their vulnerability to crime. However, variables associated with fear in conventional surveys were not generally related to the perceptions of risk. The clearest association was between prior knowledge of crime in Istanbul and perceptions of risk. The lack of any strong relationship between perceptions of risk and intent to adopt safety precautions is then discussed.