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Solo travel in Istanbul, Turkey

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Solo travel in Istanbul, Turkey

Many people think of traveling to Istanbul, but don't no what to expect. I would like to share my experiences here for you--both positive and negative. As a seasoned traveler myself (42 countries, 45 states in the USA), I do like to have an idea about what to look out for in a new destination. You might too.

The people of Turkey are very sweet and accommodating. Even though I visited the country during a very busy season (July), it seemed like I never had to wait long for any type of service. Over the course of my holiday, I got to know many local people, and they always greeted me in a friendly manner and were ready to help and answer questions.

The food is fabulous! Very healthy and natural. Lots of fresh vegetables, good meat, and a large variety from which to choose. The prices in the restaurants vary widely, so look further for a bargain. You can smoke a hookah just about anywhere and enjoy having drinks at the many outdoor cages and rooftop bars. Very festive atmosphere.

Of course, the museums are wonderful too. I spent a lot of time in them, studying the rich history of this ancient city (once called Constantinople). The mosques that are ubiquitous in Istanbul will take your breath away. So peaceful and exquisite. Dress respectfully if you are planning to go inside. Women must cover their hair and shoulders in honoring this religious and cultural custom.

As far as clothing is concerned, women shouldn't wear skimpy garments. It really looks inappropriate in Istanbul. Avoid anything that is too short: shirts and short-shorts. You will feel self-conscious if you wear this.

I felt safe during both my trips to the city. Since I have traveled solo extensively, I do know what to do and what to avoid, so here's a heads-up for you.

Avoid the carpet shops (unless you are wealthy!). A handsome stranger will strike up a conversation with you first, and then slowly but surely lead you to his friend's carpet shop. They will chatter away and serve you delicious cups of apple tea for hours, if you please. It is not always easy to walk away without a carpet. You can say that you left your credit cards at the hotel and will be back later.

Men will also want to use this same technique in selling you jewelry.

I found this city to be the most saturated with, "How can I help you spend your money today, lady?" than I have ever experienced in the entire world. My best reaction was to walk by quickly and confidently and mutter, "No English.". They do not know where you are from anyway. No one guesses correctly, so you can pretend you are from anywhere. Do Not say you are American! They tend to think that we have tons of money to spend and they will follow you around. I didn't feel threatened, just a little annoyed.

You shouldn't have a problem with the locals, as the Turkish police are known for always taking the tourist's side of any story. They really want our continued visits, money, and support, and are concerned about maintaining a tourist-friendly environment. Just to be sure, enter the phone numbers of the American embassy in Turkey and the police into your phone. I didn't need to use it, but it is good to be proactive.

Ok, as far as the men are concerned: be forewarned! A number of Turkish men are very attractive and friendly and flirtatious. They are not concerned with your age, weight, or any other superficial factors. Their goal is to either have you spend your money on them, or they want sex. The Turkish Muslim women are virgins until marriage, so the situation is ripe for satisfying their 'needs' with foreign women. You will often see a plain-looking tourist walking around gleefully with an attractive, young Turkish man. This will not turn out well for the woman. It is also common for married Turkish men to pursue tourists as well. I found out all of this information in the past year from speaking with dozens of Turkish people and a number of tourists. There are many unfortunate stories about this problem circulating. Beware! A Turkish man will quickly and enthusiastically profess his love to you, call you, text, Skype, etc. But he is doing this exact same thing to several other women at the same time. If asked about details, background information, etc., they will tell you' whatever you want to hear', but it won't be the truth. However, I do need to say that Turkish men are very nice and that there some very good ones out there. Just be careful and do your homework first. Meet their families and friends, workplace, and so on.

Ok. I will be happy to answer any questions too. Hope this info helps.

I do love Turkey and am going back for my third visit in April. Enjoy this wonderful and magical place, where East meets West.:)

Bay Village, Ohio
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1. Re: Solo travel in Istanbul, Turkey

Good post and observation of Istanbul, was there this past June solo and enjoyed it greatly, I encountered a lot of nice, friendly people, but definitely had my guard up. I think worth posting on the Istanbul forum.

Houston, Texas
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2. Re: Solo travel in Istanbul, Turkey

I spent a full day in Istanbul at the tail end of a week in Athens - at the end of January. It was very nice. I checked out the local forum board in advance, which had some great tips for where to stay and restaurants. I mainly walked the Old Town, visited the mosques, museums, Grand Bazaar. People were friendly, but always wanted to chat me up for me to spend money in their shop. On the streets, some bordered harassment, because they wanted to be my tour guide, but I just kept saying "no". I will definitely return.

Piacenza, Italy
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3. Re: Solo travel in Istanbul, Turkey

Donja, I found your review very interesting, since I'm considering to go to Istanbul, too, and I travel most of the time on my own.

If I'm not too curious, can I ask you if you are man or woman? And I think you're from USA, right? Just to have an idea of your point of view. Thx! :)

Chicago
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4. Re: Solo travel in Istanbul, Turkey

Agree about the men in Istanbul hitting up the tourist women. I was always bothered on the street--walking around alone is a magnet for men to come up out of the blue and want to learn english and they will teach you turkish. I don't want to learn Turkish, but thanks anyway. Then they would want to be your tour guide. Or know the best coffee shop and they can show me. It wouldn't end. I started saying "got a call" and pick up my cell, nod at them dismissivley and mouth thank you and then start talking (to nobody).

Bay Village, Ohio
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5. Re: Solo travel in Istanbul, Turkey

HappiTraveler - Love it, Can't wait to use your cell phone idea.

Delphi,Greece
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6. Re: Solo travel in Istanbul, Turkey

Hello!

I had read this report when it was first published and I researched to find it now, because I consider Istanbul as a destination maybe for February (?)

I had a very rough time last year, surgery of my spine that resulted to me spend far too much on medical costs, long time for recovery and been unemployed for a long time. : (

I am fine now and I really feel I could do with a break but I have very limited funds, I think that excluded flight costs, I could save around 1000-1500 euro, so 2300- 3500 Turkish Lira. Is this realistic?

Could somebody gives me an idea of costs? I am concidering a trip for about 7-10 days in Istanbul and I see most single rooms in small B&B might be around 100 TRY/night. Is this correct? I concider centrally located places, in walking distance to the sites, mostly interested on sights than on night-life... Could somebody give me an idea on how much tickets to major sites cost, food in cheap restaurant, food stalls etc?

I am female, 31 years old, very self-confident and used to travel solo... I have pleasantly spend 2 weeks at a time in major cities such as London , Paris etc, taking maybe a day trip or quick weekend away, I do not want to rush. I prefer to take it easy and explore a city in leisure, loving to walk around and take in the ambiance... I love visiting museums, sites, gardens, parks, zoos, aquarium, historical sites, city squares....Maybe taking a walking tour here and there, I am mostly a DIY person though. Any suggestions to make this trip enjoyable? Something I haven't think about?

Sorry, too many questions, but I am at the very start of my research on this trip...

Bay Village, Ohio
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7. Re: Solo travel in Istanbul, Turkey

Hi mariha,

I would post your question on the Istanbul Forum for best answer. Istanbul destination experts would have better answers, enigma2007 is one of the best on Istanbul Forum.

Good luck, have a great trip.

Edited: 23 October 2012, 09:53
Somerset
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8. Re: Solo travel in Istanbul, Turkey

Definitely ask on the Istanbul forum. They gave me good advice. The first hotel I chose was in a business district, red light area at night! They will steer you to the safe areas to look at and best ways to get around.

Delphi,Greece
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9. Re: Solo travel in Istanbul, Turkey

Of course I itend posting to Istanbul forum, I want to do some more research before posting specific questions there.

I aimed to get some general idea here of the costs, from people who had been there, so that I see if trip is doable or not on my budget...

Thank you both.

Houston, Texas
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10. Re: Solo travel in Istanbul, Turkey

I think you can do your trip with the budget you identified, so I'd definitely vist the local board. I just hopped over to the board and noted a "Top Question" about Istanbul on a budget. Pretty good post. You can also do searches on the word "budget" at that board. So, if that's the answer you're looking for, yes, you should proceed with more research.