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Female solo travel in Turkey

Hi, I am a female solo traveler from the US for a few months and I really want to visit Istanbul. I told my parents about it and they are extremely nervous. Is it safe for a young, white, female, traveler in Turkey?

Posted by
127 posts

NO! Contrary to Rick Steves' naïve attitude that everything in Europe is completely safe, the facts are on the side of your parents concerns. Turkey has had and continues to have terrorist attacks (one just this week), a failed coup where the government responded by curtailing civil rights, and ongoing unrest from the Syrian refugee crisis. And let us not forget the attack on the Istanbul airport last June.

I want to visit Turkey too but not now under these conditions (Egypt is out too).

Posted by
6567 posts

We were in Turkey in April. Much has happened since then.
Istanbul is a city of 14.5 million people. Too much chance of having problems.
I'd suggest putting the trip off for now.

Posted by
6715 posts

Here's a related thread for an alternate view:
https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/turkey/my-current-experience-in-istanbul

Are you a seasoned traveler? And how long would this trip be (2-3 days)? Do you know much about Turkey..history, political developments in the past year, recent incidents mostly around police stations? Whatever you do, go in with your eyes open. Always err on the side of dressing modestly and not calling attention to yourself. I've been there multiple times, including two days last year. As a single female traveler, you will feel uncomfortable sometimes but mostly because you'll realize that there aren't too many women on their own and you'll feel like you stick out a bit. You'll definitely get hassled to buy all kinds of things, so you need to have thicker skin for that. You'll have to judge the risk vs. reward of going on your own...it really doesn't matter what a stranger on a travel forum says.

If all you're doing is trying to run out your Schengen/non-Schengen clock, then also consider going to Sofia, Bulgaria. May be a lot less worrisome for your parents.

Posted by
1173 posts

Please don't go on your own. I second everyone's vote for you not to go. I went to Istanbul in 2013 before lots was happening, on the RS week long tour and glad I did not go solo. All men in the shops, restaurants and you will stick out being on your own. And as others have said, it really is not a safe time to go. I understand your desire to go to Istanbul but now is not the time. Things are too unsettling right now. Please pick another city and country to visit if you want to go solo.

Posted by
1954 posts

I was in Turkey in 2014 on a group tour but we spent 3 days on our own beforehand - me and my mom. While I might still go to Turkey now, I wouldn't go as a single female. We did transit around a lot on our own but I'm older than you (48) and my mom is in her 70s. We did not attract as much attention as a single young female would - I would NOT want my 21 year old daughter to go there alone right now and she is a pretty seasoned traveler.

It was just the first country I've encountered where I felt a little nervous simply being alone and female - I can't quite put my finger on why. I mean, we were fine at the big sites...we did palaces on our own, markets, mosques etc. But when we needed to go to a cell phone/electronic store to fix a phone issue, none of the men working there would talk with us or help us. It was like we weren't there and it was really quite nerve-wracking. This happened in more than one store and finally (we were on our group tour by then) we went back to our hotel and got a male tour member to come back with us to the last store we'd been in and the store staff worked with him just fine.

Could you go safely? Probably - but why not go somewhere that will be a little easier and more comfortable on your own? I'm always amazed at how much attention my daughter gets when she travels around with me...it's nothing she does with clothing or behavior - I think it's just the blessing/hassle of being a young female. Could you make your parents happy and travel to some other awesome destination?

Posted by
11613 posts

I love Turkey, traveled there solo for a number of weeks, many years ago. For your purposes (addressing the question in your other post), I would say go somewhere more convenient for a few days (Britain).

Posted by
60 posts

Good grief!Are Americans naturally born worry warts or is this something they teach in school there these days?I have never been to America and won't go due to the inherent dangers of basic everyday activities so perhaps you all need to look at what is happening at home and come to terms with that first.

The dangers from terrorism are present in every country in the world and all major cities yet the chances of becoming involved in a terror incident are negligible compared to a traffic crash on the way to the airport-or a plane crash come to that.Please keep things in perspective.

Emilie you don't say how old you are but I am assuming you are not a naive 16-17 year old.But you are young so let's say maybe very early 20's.If you are sensible and use your street smarts just as you would even in your OWN hometown you will be okay I am sure.For big city people Istanbullers are very friendly and helpful.There are unpleasant people just as in any large city but they do not make up the majority and are easy to avoid.

Make a plan of what you want to do and see each day and check out locations on a map which you can download to carry with you.Don't go taking shortcuts down dark back alleys,don't flash too much flesh or cash,don't drink excessive alcohol,not get in a car with anyone at all,NO ONE!I am betting these are common sense rules you do at home already.This is just the same in Istanbul too.

Choose to stay in a hostel where you will have a safe environment to meet other solo travellers.Hostels these days are clean,modern,and comfortable with full facilities.They also almost all have private rooms in addition to the traditional 4-6 bed dorms.
A young,female and white tourist is in no more danger in Istanbul than in any other city or country.Be sensible,be respectful and respectable and people will treat you the same way and look out for you.Odds on your parents would worry about you wherever you travelled to,even within the USA ,that's a parents job :)

Posted by
672 posts

While I've seen nothing about this on the RS site, our manager/guide on our recent My Way tour told us that RS has cancelled his Turkey tours for now. I have no direct knowledge of this, but, perhaps, someone from the office will chime in.

Posted by
6715 posts

Yes, there are no RS tours until 2017 (you can see it just by looking at the website). That's a business decision, I'm guessing based on all the people who pulled out and did not leave a minimum number to make the tour economically feasible. But that doesn't prevent any traveler from booking day tours (or longer) with local companies, even SRM (the local tour group used by RS). I'm fairly sure it would not be difficult for someone to "not be alone" if they wanted some on-the-ground support. I'm sure the Turks would be happy to oblige as tourism is way down.

Regardless....I think the OP has disappeared so this may be a moot point.

Posted by
15 posts

I just started a separate thread with the latest State Department travel warning for Turkey. The Travel Warning was updated to reflect the fact that families of employees at the U.S. Consulate General in Istanbul have been ordered out of the country due to the security situation. You might want to review it and factor it in to your decision making.

Posted by
16856 posts

My experience is like Zoe's. I've gone solo to Turkey (and Morocco) and would do it again, but if you just need to spend a couple of days somewhere, London would be easier. There are also several nonstop flights from Madrid to Marrakesh or Fez.

Posted by
12382 posts

I sort of reject anecdotal experience because, well because, its just that; anecdotal. The; I felt safe, therefore i was safe; argument doesn't carry much water either. Neither does the; I went and lived, argument.

It is a somewhat troubled country in a very troubled region. A significant portion of the inhabitants don't share Western Ideals relative to a woman's place in society and some discernible portion of the society believes in forcible enforcement of a set of values totally at odds with Western beliefs; heightening the risk for female visitors not familiar with and, or, adhering to those beliefs.

Now, if i had never been to Istanbul; would i go right now? If you are paying, heck yes. But I think I am being honest with myself as what to expect. But I have been there and I discovered just how uncomfortable I was with the social norms of the country; so I am not going back. Could I be somewhat comfortable with my daughter going to Turkey? Yes, I could be at relative peace with the idea under the right circumstances which would include a very trusted guide. I think the experience would a valuable life experience. To be honest, i think it should be on a required visiting list.

Posted by
60 posts

@JamesE
"A significant portion of the inhabitants don't share Western Ideals relative to a woman's place in society and some discernible portion of the society believes in forcible enforcement of a set of values totally at odds with my beliefs; heightening the risk for female visitors."

Why would you expect Turkey to share western ideals?It is not a western country,although parts of it are quite westernised in many ways.Just because you found values at odds with YOUR personal beliefs does not mean a heightened risk for female visitors.Every year thousands of solo females from all over the world and of all ages visit Turkey and have trouble free enjoyable visits.Those who have a problem account for only a tiny fraction of a percentage of the total solo female visitors.
You can level the same type of arguement at pretty much any country in the world over some issue or other simply because that is a personal point of view not a rational fact.

Posted by
191 posts

I went solo in 2013 to Istanbul for a 4 days. For some context, when I went, my colleague gave me advice on what to do if there is a bombing in the city (since that had happened on one of her many business trips), and she gave me a number of another local co-worker so I would have someone to help me out if needed. It is a great experience if you are experienced and confident (a solo woman was a bit of a curiosity, especially given my skin/eye color, and there was some harassment and unwanted attention so being confident is key).

However, based on recent events, I would not travel to Istanbul. I am going to Europe in December and I avoided some flights because they connected in Turkey and for me, it isn't worth the risk at this time (no matter how fun 24 hrs in Istanbul would be).

Posted by
12382 posts

The question elicits an opinion. My opinion is yes, with care. I did clean up my language a bit in my post as it gave the wrong impression to some degree.