Istanbul is thousands of years old and a city in Turkey that is rich with culture, architecture, and trade routing. The vibrant colors of the city are exhilarating and make it a traveler’s dream. Istanbul is on the Bosphorus River banks and had two names before it settled on Istanbul at the beginning of the 20th century.
The majority of solo travelers have no issues when visiting the remarkable city; however, it’s essential that you prepare yourself, be cautious, and smart while exploring unknown towns. This guide is geared towards the solo female traveler, and has tips and tricks to ensure you have the best time possible.
One of the great things about Istanbul is the city has plenty of accommodation options for visitors, and you should choose your lodging based on what you’re looking for. If you’ve planned a trip that revolves around exploring and sight-seeing, your best bet is to take accommodations in the area of Sultanahmet; the oldest part of the city.
It’s possible that as a younger traveler, you might be interested in exploring Istanbul’s bars and nightlife. If that’s the case, staying at a hotel or a hostel in the Galata or Golden Horn area of the city is ideal. Keep in mind that hostel beds are typically available for approximately eight dollars, but you should choose a strictly female dorm when possible.
Istanbul Sight Seeing Suggestions
- Architecture: Visit the over 1400-year-old Byzantine Hagia Sofia and the Roman Galata Tower to experience some of the incredible architectural influence in Istanbul.
- Nature and Art: As the original home of the Tulip, you can expect to see a lot of the beautiful flower in the city. When you visit Sultanahmet and Emirgan Park, there are a breathtaking amount of tulips that bloom over the gardens from March to May. The Church of the Holy Savior in the Chora area is a historical art dream. The structure got decorated with frescoes as well as mosaics that are hard to look away from.
- Guided Tours: Hiring a tour guide through a reputable company such as Walks of Turkey is ideal for the solo traveler. You get to see Istanbul in a day if you’re limited on time, and it leaves you with the sense of comfort to explore the area with a guide.
There are plenty of different cultures in Istanbul, and it’s reflected in the diverse cuisine that you can find throughout the city. Here are some options that are popular amongst locals and tourists:
- Çiğ köfte: A traditional meat tartare. You can also find vegetarian versions of the dish throughout the city.
- Lahmacun: A version of Turkish pizza that can get ordered with a wide range of toppings.
- Kokoreç: Locals rave over this meat sandwich that gets made from lamb intestines. It probably tastes better than it sounds.
- Adana Derum: Traditional meat kebabs.
- Balik Ekmek: The traditional fish sandwich.
Traveling Around Istanbul
If you’re not a local, the public transportation in Istanbul can get confusing. The city is vast and has many routes on a variety of public travel options such as buses, trams, subways, ferries, and trains. When using public transportation, you should invest in the Istanbulkart card. It’s refillable and gets used on all primary sources of public transportation. One of the key features is that you can tap for different people on one card, so it makes it easy to travel in groups of people.
There are taxi services available in the city, and they typically are inexpensive. As a helpful tip, ensure that you’re cautious of taxi drivers who attempt to negotiate a fixed fare, or who attempt to stiff you on change. You should also carry small currency bills to pay for your taxi.
Female Safety Tips
The main highlighted tip for safety, regardless of if you’re a man or a woman, is to know where Istanbul’s dedicated Tourism Police station is located. If something goes wrong, it’s between Hagia Sofia and Basilica Cistern.
- Petty crime is low in Istanbul, but pickpocketing and bag grabbing can happen in Old Town.
- As a solo female traveler, it’s best to stay out of Taksim after 10 pm, or on the weekends. There haven’t been reports of men grabbing females, but there have been reports of women receiving intimidating looks.
- While in the city, there are women dressed in plenty of different outfits. However, to avoid any unwanted attention, you should stray from wearing miniskirts, high heels, or any revealing clothing.
- Scams that target tourists are a known issue in Istanbul, and it happens mostly with taxis. Ensure that you watch the fare, and don’t pay a fixed rate. If possible, try choosing an older driver as they’re known to be less likely to fraud tourists.
- Learning common courtesies go a long way with taxi drivers and bar and restaurant staff. You don’t need to speak Turkish fluently, but learning hello, thank you, and goodbye is beneficial.
Men in Istanbul
The majority of men that you encounter in Istanbul are gentlemen, and very polite. It’s crucial that you remember that the Turkish culture is exceedingly different from that of western countries, and local men might approach female tourists in known tourist areas of the city. If this happens to you, just tell them to leave you alone in a firm tone and if they continue to make you feel uncomfortable, move to a more populated area. You can also find members of the tourism police to help with the situation.
Like anywhere, you need to be careful when traveling on your own and that’s not a tip that’s only meant for female travelers. When you’re unfamiliar with a foreign culture, it could leave you open to unwanted attention. Before traveling on your own, do your research to ensure you understand the local customs and traditions. Be smart, carry what you need, and use the assistance of a guide when you can. Once you make sure that you know what to expect and prepare yourself for any situation, the thought of being in an unknown city on your own shouldn’t affect your ability to have a great time. Safe travels!