I first traveled to Turkey in 2010 and since have returned in 2020. I have been traveling for 2 months and will share the basics of solo female travel in Turkey. The first thing everyone asks: Is Turkey Safe to Travel for Females? The answer is, YES! Turkey is one of the safest countries I’ve traveled through. And for those wondering how it is in 2020 during Covid, I’ve written a previous article here.
The Turkish government thrives off tourism from travelers around the world. Hence, they take full responsibility for crimes targeted at tourists and punishments are taken very seriously. Besides the economic and media aspect, Turkish people and its Ottoman Legacy is known to be incredibly hospitable. The hospitality in this region of the world, from the Mediterranean all the way east to China is something I boast about regularly in all my posts.
One of the main draws of traveling in Turkey is the people. They are warm, hospitable people but not overbearing. Eager to help if you ever ask. A more detailed post on Turkey Travel Tips will be published in the next week regarding flights, visa requirement and more.
- Is Turkey Safe for Women?
- Getting Around Turkey – Public Transportation, Walking, Renting a Car, Inexpensive Flights
- Should Females Book a Tour in Turkey?
- Top Experiences in Turkey for Women
- What are Men like in Turkey?
- Is it Safe to Walk Alone at Night?
- What to Wear as a Female Traveler in Turkey
- Where to Stay in Turkey
Is Turkey Safe for Female Travelers?
The answer is YES, Turkey is very safe for solo female travelers. Of course anything can happen, but statistically, it is rare compared to the rest of the world. Turkey is often bundled into the “Middle-Eastern Countries” though Turkish people do not consider their country as part of that category. This misconception has a lot of foreigners bundling Turkey as a potentially “dangerous country to travel for women”. I have been to 60 countries, most of which I traveled alone and find Turkey one of the safest and most convenient country. Not only is it safe, it’s incredibly EASY and INEXPENSIVE.
In the past 5 years, the transportation system (across all spectrums) throughout Turkey have vastly improved. In Istanbul, you can easily get around via Metro, Marmaray and Tram. Simply buy an Istanbul Kart Card for 10 liras your first time. Then load it as you go. Each ride will cost one average 3-4 Liras (50 cents). Note: Don’t forget to run your card at the “REFUND MACHINE” after exiting the station as a way to show where you completed your ride.
Public busses are also available but can be slightly more confusing to track. If there are not direct flights to certain destinations or you want to save money, you can take overnight or all day busses. Oftentimes, a bus ride costs the same as a flight. Ie: Istanbul to Cappadocia – $20 for 10 hours OR a flight for $20 which takes 1.5 hours (take into consideration time to airport, 1 hour before, but still less than 4 hour total travel time).
You can ask a local to help you with the schedule or visit the bus station.
Walking around Turkey
My most preferred way to travel is by foot. It’s the best way to get lost and discover new neighborhoods. Istanbul is super walkable. For farther distances, you can easily hop on the Public Transportations as mentioned above. Turkey is overall very safe, but of course avoid dark alleys at night if traveling alone. You can always ask your accommodation host about which areas to avoid.
Renting a Car in Turkey
I highly recommend renting a car in Turkey to optimize seeing everything you want. Car rentals cost on average $25 a day (as low as $20 up to $45). Automatic transmissions will cost you 20-30% more which is the price I had to pay for not knowing how to drive Manual. Though public transportations are safe, having your own car is even safer (2020 pandemic wise and independent travel). Roads are paved incredibly well in the majority of highways. And roads and signage is more straight forward than anywhere else in the world. Even if you’re using a map app and the phone reception cuts off, it is perfectly safe and normal to pull off to a gas station (one every few kilometers), a restaurant or even to random strangers to ask for directions. If you’re visiting a major city, there will be signs on the highway directing you that way.
Search your Car Rental (and Flights) at Skyscanner.com.
If you can find nonstop flights to your next destination, flying is the fastest and sometimes even the cheapest way to get around. During my trip from August to November 2020, one way flights are at an average of $25 USD ($18-$40) within Turkey. Sometimes the Taxi to the airport cost more, but there are shared shuttles, public busses and Metros (in major cities) which can take you to the airport for a few dollars.
Is it Safe for Women to Take Taxis throughout Turkey?
In all the touristic destinations, I would comfortably say that it is safe to take Taxis. The safest way to go about it though, is to have your hotel or a trusted local book it for you. It is always wise to get an idea of how much a ride should cost ahead of time.
Examples of Taxi Prices during October 2020:
- IST Airport to Old City Sultanamet: 1 hour ride for 200 Liras ($26)
- Konya to Cappadocia: 3 hour ride for 600 Liras or $80. The taxi who was suppose to take me to the Bus Station, seemed to really need the business as tourism reopened in August. I was not in the mood for a longer bus that day so just hired him for the ride.
Make sure that the Taxi is metered and starts no higher than 5 liras. Ubers are technically illegal here, but they’ve worked something out with Taxi companies. The PRO to this choice is that the estimated price ahead of time should be guaranteed and you’ll pay it via credit card. Taxis should technically take credit cards, but not all will. (Always carry Turkish Liras on you. Most establishments will take USD and Euros but may use a lower exchange rate.)
Around Istanbul, I take Taxis for my late returns. (Just a tip: I always roll down the window in a Taxi, not only for fresh air during Covid time. But also JUST IN CASE something happens, you can scream or jump out. But this shouldn’t be a concern traveling in Turkey.)
Hitchhiking in Turkey is Generally Safe
Hitchhiking in places like Cappadocia and throughout Turkey is not super common but generally safe. Of course, do it at your discretion.
Should Female Travelers in Turkey Book a Tour?
This is completely up to your preference. Even first time solo female travelers will have an overall easy time in Turkey without a planned tour. Since Turkey is so tourist friendly, you can literally go day by day with your plans. I personally do not like multi-day tours, though in places like Cappadocia or Mount Nemrut where site distances are far and roads are windy, I would recommend a 1-2 day tour. In those cities, you won’t necessarily need to rent a car. The tours will take you to a handful of important sites to see.
Top Experiences for Solo Female Travel in Turkey
- Turkish Hamam: Turkish Baths are one of the favorite pastimes for Turks and Travelers. Experiences range from local baths at $15 to luxurious ones including massages at over $100 at 5-star hotels. The Turkish Bathhouses are all separated between the female and male section. There, you can comfortably walk around in the nude or in a bikini. A light towel and slippers is provided to you at entrance. There, you will be splashed with water, rubbed with foam, then scrubbed down. There is also a relaxation area after where you can enjoy tea (and in some fancier spas, may sell booze). You’ll always leave refreshed and prepared for a good night’s sleep.
- Hot Air Balloon in Cappadocia($100-140)
- Walking Tour of Old City Istanbul (Free walking tours are available or hire a private guide for $30 or so)
- All Day Boat Tour in any of the Beach Towns along the Aegean or Mediterranean Sea (Join a group boat for $40 a person or rent a private boat with captain and meals included for around $250-300)
- Rent a Car from Izmir and drive 3 hours south along the coast to Bodrum. Then get lost in all the special beaches along the Peninsula of Marmaris.
- Take a one day Spiritual Journey to the city of Konya, where the famous Sufi Poet, Rumi, spent much of his life. Visit his Tomb, the Mevlana Museum and watch live performances of the Whirling Dervish.
- Hike and soak in the Thermal Springs of Pamukkale and get your Instagram Photo fix here.
What are Men like in Turkey ?
Turkish men are, in general, chivalrous and well-mannered towards women. In the older generations, you’ll tend to see a separation in public: all men in Tea Houses or at restaurants together. Women are not forbidden from tea houses, but don’t commonly go. I have spent many evenings there with friends and it was fine. With the male generation under the age of 45, you’ll see more of a mix of both genders hanging out. Regardless, I have rarely encountered disrespectful men. And not once, a man who made me feel threatened or scared.
There is a deep respect within Turkish, Muslim, old Ottoman and neighboring Arab countries of family values. Mothers and Grandmothers are the root and glue of the family and they are to be regarded with full respect. Some men (and women) you talk to will prefer this “traditional structure” of family. While some others value the roles of “Independent Women” and modern society. If you do encounter situations and conversations where you experience chauvinism and sexism, remember that this is also the case in the United States (remember 62 million people voted for the misogynistic trump in 2016!?). Plenty of men in the US also do not view women as equal, even if they keep verbally more shut about this in public. Using these examples do not justify either culture, but it’s a reminder not to get caught up while abroad.
I advise you to suspend your judgement while traveling to this region of the world. We are here to learn of another culture, not here to start a revolution in a 1-2 week trip.
How to Deal with Men in Turkey?
It is rare for random men to holler or bother you. In fact, there are far more men that holler at me in Los Angeles and New York than in this region (including my travels to Iran, Lebanon, Jordan and UAE). The main encounters of any touting will be those working at shops (especially the Bazaars) and restaurants trying to get your attention to their stores. I do sometimes get irritated with this, but you should shed some sympathy and understand that they work off commission, so they are competing with neighboring shops for business.
There are many clever, funny and sometimes annoying phrases these employees may use to get your attention:
- “Hello Miss! Come in my Carpet Shop, I take you on a Magic Carpet Ride”
- “Hellloooo Beautiful!” And if you ignore them, they may say “Do people not say Hi in your country?”
- “Come to my store, I need money”
It is common for people to ask where you are from. Sometimes, completely random strangers off the street. As it’s common anyone you meet within minutes to ask. They are genuinely curious and there is no need to take offense. Even in my situation when they say “Where are you REALLY from?” after stating I’m from the United States. I think it’s wiser to be patient in explaining that the Caucasian population is only 60% in the US and the rest are made up of Hispanics, Black and Asian (including Middle-Easterners).
You have a choice to ignore them, or politely say “No Thank You”, and move on. There will be cases, as an Asian female traveler in Turkey, that you will get them saying “Konichiwa”. It is up to you how you want to take it. For some of them, they genuinely are trying to greet you (ignorantly assuming one is Japanese). Some of them are uneducated, many who cannot afford to travel abroad. For a smaller statistic, it may be a mockery. I usually ignore them. And sometimes, I may react and let them know that not all Asians are from Japan. It’s up to you how to react.
Is it Safe for Women to Walk Alone at Night in Turkey?
Turkey is overall a very safe country to live and travel in. Even for solo female travelers walking around at night. But like anywhere else, safety precautions should be taken such:
- Avoiding walking down dark streets and alleys
- Do research on the area before arriving
- If you are around Istanbul in the Hip Areas of Cihangir, Kadikoy, Karakoy, Begoglyu, Sultanamet, you can wear anything and walk around in the middle of night.
Anything can happen but the crime rates are low and there are tourist polices around. Crimes against tourists are taken very seriously so people know better than to mess with you.
What to Wear as a Female Traveler in Turkey
There are no dress codes at all females in Turkey. Even if the current government is trying to move the country into more of an Islamic Republic, women are free to dress as they want. But I would still advise you to be respectful of local customs and culture (dependent on region). In Istanbul, you will see a contrast of modern meets conservative, modest meets hip, creative meets traditional. You may get looks if you dress different but rarely threatening. Always pack: Comfortable walking shoes, hiking/running shoes, sunscreen and sandals.
Istanbul is the perfect blend of East meets West. You will witness a range of the most conservative Muslims to the most liberal young folks. The residents of Istanbul are generally accepting of this diversity and you will see women (and men) dress differently across all spectrum. While visiting religious sites though, it would be advised to wear pants and have shoulders covered. Always carry a scarf/wrap with you in case you do need to cover your hair in Mosques. Otherwise most mosques will have cloaks you can borrow. There are also areas that are more conservative than others and I would advise you to be respectful and dress accordingly by doing research before. Blending in while traveling also makes it easier to experience life as a local and bring less unwanted attention.
Any beach area you go to, it is perfectly normal to wear a bikini and dress as you would in any other beach city around the world. I basically lived in my semi-thong bikini and beach wrap in all my days in Kas, Fethiye, Olympos, Bodrum, Kelebeklar Vadisi, Marmaris and Alanya.
As a top 3 destination for those traveling in Turkey, the area thrives off tourism. Therefore, you can dress any way and be fine. Comfortable walking shoes are most important as you’ll be exploring by foot to all the sites with small hikes here and there. I enjoyed riding horses during sunset so bring jeans for that experience. The evenings can get cold in this mountain village so a light sweater is also recommended.
Need help planning your trip in Cappadocia?
Contact my trusted, honest friend Efe of Hometown Agency in Göreme: https://cappadociatravelagency.com.
Message him on WhatsApp +90 535 6485167.
You can contact him ahead of time, or simply show up at his office in the heart of town to plan your trip. (Say that I referred you!)
East Turkey is generally known to be more religious and conservative. Such as if you are traveling to Konya (famous for the Tomb of Rumi) and Mount Nemrut, I would definitely wear pants and tops with sleeves.
Where to Stay in Turkey for Female Travelers
My biggest preference for accommodations is at Airbnbs or Hostels. If you want to meet people, you can rent a room, sharing the space with a local. Most hosts will be equip with many local travel tips and restaurant recommendations.
If you want to meet more travelers, which is great for company at night or to potentially travel with, hostels are the best place. They typically organize pub crawls, walking tours, some have rooftops, etc. Most hostels will also have the option of renting your own room, so you get the best of both worlds. My personal favorite is Second Home Hostel, just walking distance from all the major touristic sites (Hagia Sofia, Sultanamet) with the most incredible staff. There, I always book my own room at their sister property, Second Home Suites for $25-30 a night for a studio apartment.
Some More General Tips:
- Tampons are hard to come by, so pack some if you use them
- Get a Turkish SIM Card (at Vodaphone or Turkcell) the first day you arrive so you always have data to get directions. A common package is $35 for 30 days. After that, you can reload your phone with 20 GB for another 30 days for 60 liras ($8). Tourist SIM Cards will expire after 3 months (which means you’ll have to get a new number) unless you have a Turkish citizen use their ID to help you get one.
- Install the Google Translate APP (English to Turkish) or a basic Turkish Language Pocket Book so you learn basic phrases.
- Pick-pocketers are not common but watch out for your purse while in touristic or crowded areas (better safe than sorry!)
In conclusion, it is very safe as a solo female traveler in Turkey. The country welcomes tourists and in Islam, guests are considered a God send. Guests (male or female) should always be treated with the utmost respect, dignity and hospitality.