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Istanbul - safe for single woman traveler?

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May 26th, 2008, 11:19 PM
  #1
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Istanbul - safe for single woman traveler?

Hello...I will be going to Greece in August and could spend 3-4 days somewhere near there. I really want to go to Istanbul since it's only 1 hr+ flight from Athens. Is it safe for women traveling alone? I'm thinking to take city tour from Viator and maybe one of the night dinner show. Should I hire a tour guide instead? I traveled to Cairo before but that was with a girlfriend and I did ended up hiring a private guide (based on fellow Fodorite recommendations!) which somewhat helped a lot considering that was my first time there. I'm pretty independent, but wanted to get some opinion. Any comments are much appreciated!!
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May 27th, 2008, 04:01 AM
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A female friend of mine who worked in Istanbul for a few years said that she felt safer there at night than in the mid-sized German town she lived before since there were always people on the street and she thought that they would help. I also had a safe feeling.
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May 27th, 2008, 04:57 AM
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I felt safe in Istanbul. I was with another woman but had no concerns about walking back to our hotel behind the Blue Mosque around 10:00 at night.
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May 27th, 2008, 05:08 AM
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I recently returned from a long weekend in Istanbul, and as someone who has become a bit paranoid about safety since experiencing a robbery in my Paris apartment, I couldn't agree more with the previous two posts. I stayed in Sultanhamet and felt perfectly safe walking alone both during the day and night to and from my hotel. Plus, cabs in Istanbul are pretty cheap, so if you are returning to the hotel late at night, it is always a good option. Just be sure to have a business card from your hotel, as most cab drivers I encountered did not speak much English.

Istanbul is a fascinating city and the Turks generally go out of their way to be helpful and friendly, so relax and have a great time!
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May 27th, 2008, 06:05 AM
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I've traveled in Istanbul as a solo female traveler and felt quite safe. However, you do need to be prepared to say no to persistent carpet sellers!
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May 27th, 2008, 06:16 AM
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And negotiate the cab fare before getting into the cab. We were surprised that there are no meters in the cabs we had, we negotiated the price.
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May 27th, 2008, 06:47 AM
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Right, I'd forgotten about the cab problem! If they do have meters, they'll try and go the long way round! Better to use the trams. But definitely go to Istanbul, it's a wonderful place with lots to see. Do visit the Spice Bazaar as well as the Grand Bazaar. Last trip I took the boat ride out to the Princes' Islands, which was a nice change from the city.
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May 27th, 2008, 07:00 AM
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Istanbul as totally safe for women as any European city IME - however cross the Bosporus you may want to take a head scarf
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May 27th, 2008, 07:03 AM
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"cross the Bosporus you may want to take a head scarf " - you're joking, right? Although she should take one for visiting mosques.
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May 27th, 2008, 07:29 AM
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Head skarves aren't required for visiting mosques in Istanbul.

Try to see some of the smaller mosques which are wonderful and do not have the crowds that the larger ones do.

I prefered the spice market to the grand bazaar because the vendors weren't as persistent in trying to get you to buy their wares. They were happy to show you things and give you time to make up your mind.

The only time we had a problem with cabs was at Dolmabahce Palace. We met two other women who were cheated with a cab from here too.
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May 27th, 2008, 10:48 AM
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I did it alone in the spring of 1999...was there 5 or 6 days... and of course there will be the guys coming on to you, but nothing that I felt life threatening. It was no different from other places I've traveled to alone as far as handling the guys. Just wear sunglasses and don't have direct eye contact. That's the rule of thumb I've followed for 30+ years as I've been traveling alone around the world since I was 17. Happy Travels!
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May 27th, 2008, 01:07 PM
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I spent a good portion of my time in Istanbul alone and felt very safe and comfortable.

Istanbul is night and day different than Cairo. You'll find it more to be link Rome or Paris. It is a completely European city. Even as far as the "agressive" carpet sellers, compared to the Egyptians they aren't anything.

As far as guides go, they have audio guides at a the Topaki Palace so you won't need one there. I did find a guide added to the experience at the Blue Mosque and Haiga Sophia. It gave me a greater appreciation of what I saw.

The public transportation is good, but if you are staying in Sultanhamet it is 100% walkable.
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May 27th, 2008, 03:24 PM
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I just returned from Istanbul and western Turkey and since I was with my husband, I won't comment on solo female question, BUT I do want to comment on the poster who said that head scarves aren't required for visiting mosques. This may be technically true, but wearing a scarf is a sign of respect and I recommend that you do so.
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May 29th, 2008, 08:37 AM
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It is safe in general and just be as normal as you would be at home. As said taxis are cheap and as CD say opposite all taxis have to have a meter. Maybe it was a pirate taxi. Only thing to be sure of ( you can not bargain unless you travel out of the town or want to hire the guy for all day or something) the meter has two lights. 1 red led light is normal fare and two lights are night tariff after midnight to 7 am. Unfortunately taxi drivers as most places might be after some quick money so be aware. taking a taxi from a station is the best and safer thing to do.

Yes I do aggree with respecting the culture, nature and historical sites, traditions on top of the other poster Ruff suggested for mosque issue.

Happy travelling,

Murat
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May 29th, 2008, 11:44 AM
  #15
 
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Seems we're all unanimous then- I felt safe as a single woman when I lived in Istanbul. I would add, however, that I did experience some minor harassment, especially on the tram. Also, be alert at night when walking down the street that runs parallel to the Arasta Bazaar and merges into Kucuk Aya Sofia. I've heard of a few incidents there. I don't say any of this to alarm you, or to make you feel on your guard during your visit to this spectacular city, only to inform. Act as you would in any major European city. To be quite honest, I felt much safer in Istanbul than in Athens. As for me, I will be in Istanbul for a week this summer by myself, and plan to take in the sights, sounds, and smells without a care.
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May 31st, 2008, 01:17 AM
  #16
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Thanks SO MUCH everyone for the responses!! I've made up my mind - I will go to Istanbul!! Can't wait!! I will stay by Sultanhamet as that seems to be where everyone recommended. I roamed around Athens and Rome by myself but I just didn't know what to expect...so you all has been very helpful. THANK YOU again!!
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May 31st, 2008, 05:48 AM
  #17
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Now, that you have decided, let me share with you the best, absolutely the best meal we had while in Istanbul. Testi Kabob. It is meat and veggies cooked in a clay pot, brought to your table, cracked open and served with rice. So very good!
http://tinyurl.com/663cjm
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May 31st, 2008, 06:12 AM
  #18
 
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Great youre going. I also felt safe in Istanbul. but dont rule out possibility of staying or exploring the main Beyoglu area to get a 'real' sense of Istanbul I particularly like the area around the Galata Tower.And some of the kebab 'diners' on Istikal Caddesi are cheap and delicious. Dont feel put off if youre the only woman in there - its mainly because its near office areas.
But if you did (feel uncomfortable) then there is also a Starbucks on the same street! eating in hotels tends to be a bit on the procey side. Some museums have nice well-priced cafes though too.

Take a boat ride up and down the Bosphorous too! If youre walking around youll need to rest your feet!
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Jun 30th, 2014, 12:20 PM
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Just returned from a 5 day trip to Istanbul. The harassment from males was unmatched - and I've been to Spain (6 weeks), Italy (4 weeks), as well as Central Europe (10 days - Vienna, Budapest, Prague, but this area is known to be safe and I have to agree with that). Of course there are creepers and people attempting to talk to you anywhere, Spain or Italy or wherever, but compared to the sheer number of stalkers in Istanbul they were far and few in between.

When I was harassed on Sultahnamet (could not walk 10 steps without being harassed by a vendor), I thought it was only because that area was the most touristy part of town. Wrong. Crossed the Bosphorus to the other side, went to the Ayakapi area. Very untouristy, yet a man tried to follow me for a block after me consistently ignoring his questions (Where are you from, etc). A man tried to hug me in Taksim. Those are just isolated incidents apart from other numerous attempts to talk to me on the streets. At the end of the day, I spoke to 3 other solo female travelers at the hostel, and they had an equally frustrating experience. When I was walking together with another girl, the attempts to approach us were far less, and all of them were vendors.

Is Istanbul safe for solo female travelers? Yes. Was it enjoyable for me? Absolutely not. It ruined my entire experience in an otherwise fascinating city with unequal history and architecture. Next time, I would bring a friend.

PS: Just to put it into perspective, I'm from a fairly conservative country with a relatively conservative dress codes for women (think Southeast Asia), so my clothing was always long sleeves, long pants. Did that make a difference in terms of the harassment I got compared to my American friends who wore shorts and tank tops? Nope, apparently it didn't.
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Jun 30th, 2014, 12:29 PM
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^ would like to add that the harassment was only in Istanbul. I was in Nevsehir (Cappadocia region) for 3 days and everything was fine. The usual vendor calls, no stalkers or creepers. I wonder if it's just an Istanbul thing, where men seemed so aggressive in getting attention.
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