5 important things I learned as a solo female traveler in Turkey

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I’ve been in love with Turkey since I arrived bleary-eyed on the overnight train from Bulgaria. A few hours later I finished my first Turkish breakfast and quickly realized I was in love.

After 5 years and 40 countries of full-time international travel, Turkey has made my top 10 destinations for solo female travelers.

That’s why.

smiling female Cappadocia turkey

1. It’s safer than you think.

A traveler in Turkey is 8 times safer from violent crime than in the US, even in major cities like Istanbul and Izmir.

Based on my personal experience traveling around Turkey, I’d say you’re more at risk of a kofte kebab food coma or cat cuteness than any street crime here.

Before coming to Turkey, I was constantly warned, inciting vague fear. “You know what they say about Turkish men?” Let me tell you. nothing could be further from the truth.

These general “warnings” are discriminatory, inaccurate and may prevent you from enjoying the world’s best hospitality.

woman in Istanbul

I have felt safer walking alone in Turkey, day or night, than in Italy, Spain or Greece. During my five months in Turkey last year, there were exactly two incidents of street harassment. both by foreigners, Turkish men who don’t even know me came to my aid.

Of course, travelers should take reasonable safety precautions wherever they go. A few things I would not recommend while traveling to Turkey at this time are:

  • Visiting Istanbul’s Taksim district alone after 10pm on weekends
  • Leaving your valuables vulnerable to easy pickpocketing
  • Accepting drinks from strangers in bars or clubs
  • Public displays of affection in LGBTQIA+ relationships outside of major chain hotels
  • Visiting parts of southeastern Turkey near the border region of Syria (due to the presence of terrorist groups and earthquake devastation)
a woman in front of a mosque in Turkey

2. Women are welcomed and protected in Turkish mosques.

If you find yourself walking alone at night and for whatever reason feel insecure or unsafe, Turkey’s plethora of mosques offer you a wonderful safe haven.

Many large mosques stay open all night. As long as you are modestly dressed, remove your shoes, and have a scarf handy, you can respectfully enter one of these well-lit houses of worship to ensure your safety at almost any hour.

To be clear. I am not advocating treating the holy mosque as an alternative to the police station. Travelers in obvious danger should call for emergency help. But for those all-too-familiar gray-zone situations that just make solo female travelers feel bad, it’s nice to know you have safe places you can turn to without alarm.

a woman in the Hagia Sophia mosque in Istanbul, Turkey

3. You don’t have to choose between tea and coffee.

It is not surprising that Turkey is a country of tea lovers. The average Turk drinks 1300 cups of tea every year. Turkey is even home to a 7-story tea cup-shaped tea museum in the “tea capital” of Rize. Then it should come as no surprise that travelers will be offered tea to welcome them everywhere.

The most beautiful thing about Turkey is that this country accepts both tea and coffee. There is no need to take sides. Just enjoy both.

From iconic Turkish coffee at an antique shop in Izmir to artisanal roasted whites at Moda’s bountiful third-wave cafes, there’s some java for every type of traveler.

a woman drinks Turkish tea in a cafe

4. Turkish multicultural cities offer a safe way to explore Syrian culture.

While Syria is not currently a recommended destination for solo female travelers, Turkey’s multicultural cities certainly are. They provide a safe and exciting opportunity to try Syrian food, have conversations with Syrian refugees and immigrants, and learn more about the Syrian diaspora.

Recommended actions include:

Syrian food fattet hummus

About 4 million Syrians live in Turkey, creating an amazing multicultural experience for travelers. However, it is important to note that many Turks will still make negative comments to visitors about Syrians in their country.

“Turkish society’s acceptance of Syrians has largely translated into ‘tolerance’ rather than an understanding of the practice of living together,” the UNHCR study explained.

When traveling in Istanbul, you may hear locals tell you that Fatih, a predominantly Arab and Syrian neighborhood, “isn’t really Turkey” or “isn’t what it used to be.” Some Turks will fear that Syrians are putting pressure on social services or the labor market, or bringing what they perceive as an incompatible conservative culture to their city.

Try not to let this tension stop you from enjoying two amazing cultures in one trip.

Aerial view of Antalya Turkey

5. Turkey is much more than Istanbul.

Many travelers don’t realize how big Turkey is. With nearly 800 square kilometers of ancient cities, surreal moonscapes and more beaches than can be counted, this country has much more to offer than its famous capital, Istanbul.

Great destinations for solo female travelers include:

  • Bursa
  • Fethiye
  • Izmir
  • Bodrum
  • Kars
  • Antalya
  • Cappadocia
  • Pamukkale
  • Amasra
  • Gaziantep
  • Ankara
  • Man

Let the safety and hospitality of Turkey inspire your next great solo adventure.

Traveler alert: Don’t Forget Travel Insurance for Your Next Trip!

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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com

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