Discovering Istanbul: A Female Travelers Guide

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Istanbul is a fascinating and vibrant city that has been the center of various empires throughout history. Its rich cultural heritage, stunning architecture, and vibrant food scene make it an ideal destination for female travelers seeking adventure, culture, and exploration. However, like any foreign destination, Istanbul can pose certain challenges for female travelers. 

Here are eight tips for women looking to travel to the intercontinental Istanbul to help you make the best of your trip and get you adventuring with confidence from day one!


1: Pack a Long Sleeve Shirt and Pants, Even in Summer

This tip applies to both men and women travelling in Turkey. While you don't have to wear a headscarf or full-length trousers at all times, it's important to be cognizant of your clothing choices.

This is especially true if you plan to visit any church in Istanbul or any religious site, such as the Blue Mosque or Hagia Sophia. These attractions welcome tourists, but as many are still functional places of worship, they request you follow a few basic clothing rules on entering.

Opt for a pair of loose linen pants and a shirt that covers your shoulders, and carry a light scarf that you can use to cover your hair. Not only will this allow you to enter these top attractions, but it will give you protection from the scorching sun during the daytime and keep you warm when the temperature drops at night.


2: Respect Local Customs

Respecting local customs is an important part of travelling. Turkish culture strongly emphasises hospitality and politeness, and there are a few rules you can follow to show your understanding of this etiquette when interacting with locals. 

For example,

(a) while visiting someone's house, it is customary to remove your shoes before entering;

(b) it is also polite to bring a small gift, such as sweets or flowers, to show your appreciation for the hospitality. 

(c) Additionally, it is considered impolite to point with your index finger, and it is more appropriate to use your whole hand or nod in the direction you want to indicate. 

By respecting these few small customs, you will be able to have meaningful connections with locals.


3: Connect with Other Travellers

One of the best ways to get a taste of Istanbul province is by connecting with other travellers.

There are several Facebook groups and forums devoted to female travellers, so reach out and connect with others who are planning a trip or who have already been there. Hostels are great places to meet people, and if you want to walk to the Blue Mosque or shop at the Spice Bizarre, there will surely be a group of other travellers excited to go with you. Moreover, you can also connect to a local female tour guide, Istanbul, which also gives you the experience of travelling like a local. 


4. Shop Smart

Shopping in Istanbul is a loud and persuasive sport, and it's common for shopkeepers to try to entice tourists into their store by quoting discount prices and asking what you're looking to buy. Most of these vendors are simply trying to sell their wares, but don't be intimidated into stopping at every store you pass.

Politely nod and keep walking, and if you are interested in browsing, don't feel you need to purchase anything just because you've been offered a discount. Know the Istanbul currency and remember the local conversion rate in your head, and make sure you are not spending more than you anticipated after you finish haggling. Your local tour guide should also be able to help you get the best deal if you were to decide to go shopping. 


5: Learn Some Basic Phrases in Turkish

While many people in Istanbul speak English, it's helpful to learn some basic phrases in the local language. Pick up a phrase book or simply peruse google translate to learn a few easy phrases.  

Greetings such as "Merhaba" (hello) and "Teşekkür ederim" (thank you) will go a long way in helping you connect with locals during your trip and might also help you drive down prices when haggling in the bazaar!


6: Check the Time

No one wants to run their holiday like a military operation, and going with the flow is one of the best ways to experience local culture. However, a little pre-planning is needed for a few of Istanbul's most famous attractions to ensure you don't miss out on these one-of-a-kind experiences. 

Many mosques in Istanbul are still used for daily prayers, which means there will be specific prayer times in Istanbul. For example, the Blue Mosque is open from 9 am to one hour before dusk every day and is closed for 90 minutes during prayer times and two hours during noon or Friday prayers, making the best time to visit early in the morning.

Similarly, you can find these opening times posted clearly at the entrance to these sites themselves or easily accessible online. 


7. Be Cautious When Taking Taxis

Taxis are everywhere in Istanbul and are a great way to save your feet after a long day of sightseeing. But not every taxi is made equal.

Only take taxis from reputable companies, and if possible, get the concierge of your hotel to order it for you. You can do this at any hotel whilst out and about, and it doesn't have to be your own. 

Get an estimate of the fare before getting in, and make sure the meter is on. If there is no meter or it's broken, it is advisable to wait for another taxi.


8. Protect Your Pockets

Pickpockets are a common concern in any city, including Istanbul. Usual common-sense measures will suffice to ensure your valuables stay with you and your pockets remain unpicked throughout your journey.

Whenever possible, leave valuables in a safe at your hotel. Items like phones and wallets should be kept in a cross-body bag with a sturdy strap and zippable pockets. Don't keep anything in your back pockets, and keep hold of your bag when sitting down. Be discrete when handing over money and keep most of your cash at your hotel, only bringing with you enough for the day.

These recommendations will help you have a hassle-free and enriching vacation in the beautiful city of Istanbul. 

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