About getting a Turkish bath in Instanbul

My husband and I will be on the RS Istanbul tour the first full week of October. Neither of us is particularly modest. We figure nobody will see anything they haven't seen before, only in our cases, more of it. And at our ages, perhaps more that is being drawn toward the center of the earth.

In the video with Rick at the hammam (is that the right name for the process and for the place you get it?) he appears to have on a pair of shorts.

My questions about this experience are:

  1. What do men wear?
  2. What do women wear?
  3. How long does it take?
  4. What are the steps in the process?
  5. Does anyone there speak English?
  6. What is done with your valuables while you are being pampered?
  7. What does it cost?

I'd appreciate hearing from anyone who has done this in Istanbul, especially while on the tour there. And please add any info that I didn't think to ask about.

Posted by Laura
Rick Steves' Europe
7089 posts

Hi, Lo. I have not tried this experience in Istanbul, but other staff here have enjoyed it. Your guide is a local and can certainly answer these questions, so don't hesitate to ask. In Rick's Istanbul book, pages 77-80 give a pretty good run-down; locker storage is not mentioned, but I would expect it in the big city. Most people are likely to wear underwear or the provided Turkish towel.

When I used hammams in Morocco, they were local necessities, since many people did not have hot water at home. Women wore underpants and flip-flops and I believe men did the same in their section. Those places did not have lockers, just shelves for your clothes, so I only carried small change. Rather than risk illness by going out with wet hair, locals walked home with towels on their heads.

Posted by Lo
Tucson
1242 posts

Thanks, Laura. I truly am a dolt. I have the book right here on my desk and it does give a pretty thorough description of what to expect.

I would still like to hear the personal experiences from anyone who has done this, though.

Posted by Jerry
Madison, WI, US
79 posts

Hi Lo - My family went to a hammam in Selcuk. The cost was about $30 US.....perhaps a third of what it cost in Istanbul. This hammam was coed most of the time. I wore a towel around my waist. My sister wore her swimming suit. It took about 90 minutes for the 4 of us including a message afterwards. The steps: Strip down to what you wear in the bath in a private dressing area (they supplied a towel)...putting your valuables in a basket that is then given to the desk attendant. They did speak very little English in this small turkish bath....communicating was more by gestures and hand movements. It was our first time going to a hammam and knowing what to do next really wasn't a problem. We went into the main bath area and took a shower in a semi private stall no curtains.....you take a shower wearing whatever you came in with. After that we laid down on a raised warm slab......and relaxed there until it was time for our scrubbing. The attendant motioned each of us over when it was our turn. We got a GOOD scrubbing....suds everywhere. Think of Ensign Pulver (Jack Lemon) in the movie - Mister Roberts. Then went to the shower to rinse off. We then entered a room where we were served tea and waited for the message. The message was a cross between a deep tissue message and a chiropractic work over. Not exactly relaxing but fun and memorable and felt good after he was finished. I would recommend going to a bath outside of Istanbul...this town had one bath used by the locals...it was a great experience. If you do a bath in Istanbul check to see if it is coed.

Posted by Zoe
Toledo, Ohio, US
5253 posts

Some baths have different days or separate hours for men and for women.

Posted by Chani
Tel Aviv
4601 posts

A number of folks went to the bath with our RS guide (not in Istanbul). She stayed with the women. The folks were told to leave valuables (jewelry, phones, passports, money except for what you need) safely at "home." I believe most of the women wore bathing suits or their underwear. Men - shorts or nothing. The scrubbing is to exfoliate. If the massage is too hard or too soft, you can ask for more/less etc. Men and women were completely separated during the entire visit.