|Megan Durnford is
a Montreal-based free lance writer. She has travelled solo without
trouble in Asia, Central America and Europe. She believes her Balinese
guardian angel is looking out for her.
I recently returned
from a month's solo vacation in Turkey and I don't have a single horrible
experience to relate. Journey women planning to travel to this part
of the world may want to keep the following information in mind in
order to avoid problems and to increase their enjoyment.
Long-distance buses are
the most common way to travel across Turkey. Dozens of companies compete
for each route so bus travellers are generally offered little treats,
such as free juice or water and small cakes. Even the most basic companies
provide complimentary lemon cologne.
seats are assigned at the time of ticket purchase. This system may
be frustrating however it offers a distinct advantage--single women
travellers are always seated next to other female passengers. Turkish
men don't all have designs on their female seatmates, but this placement
system does reduce temptation especially on overnight runs.
In Istanbul, anything goes
from mini-skirts to platform shoes. however, in rural Turkey, women
tend to dress much more modestly. They wear long skirts, salvar(baggy
trousers) and cotton headscarves. In the more religious towns, many
women wear long overcoats (regardless of the weather) in order to
hide every aspect of the female figure. It makes sense, then, that
women travellers who try to adapt their own wardrobe to suit the customs,
will be less conspicuous. There are plenty of opportunities to buy
modest, cool cotton clothing in the Turkish markets.
Turkish cuisine is among
the world's best. It features loads of fresh fruit and vegetables,
succulent lamb and a number of yogurt-based dishes. Travellers should
take every opportunity to sample the marvellous dishes, with a few
important precautions. Remember to peel all fruit, insist on well-cooked
meat and avoid cooked dishes, such as stews that have been sitting
at room temperature. If you do get sick, then stick to a diet of plain
rice, ayran (Turkish yogurt drink) and Coca-cola.
Turkish people are accustomed
to constant social interaction and don't always understand a westerner's
desire for privacy or time alone. In tourist areas, many men have
(to my way of thinking) the disagreeable habit of approaching women
travellers with a constant barrage of questions - "Where are you from?",
"What's your name?", etc. In order to nip the conversation in the
bud, I tended to respond in French or Spanish. It worked every time
and no one was offended! Even if you can't speak French or Spanish,
learn a few phrases. They're bound to come in handy!
Of course, nowhere on earth
is completely safe for solo women travellers. One of the most important
safety tips I can pass along is to be aware of the hour of sunset.
Many rural towns which are bustling during the day can turn into ghost
towns once darkness sets in. You don't want to be the only person
walking down the street, even if it is only 9 pm!
Black Sea coast is currently inundated with Russian prostitutes that
are referred to as Natashas. To avoid being mistaken for one of these
'ladies of the night', try not to travel to this area alone.
And finally, Istanbul can feel
safe because there are so many people milling about at all hours of
the day. Don't be fooled. The crime rate is higher here than anywhere
else in the country. You might want to take taxis at night. And, it
is wise to negotiate the fare prior to getting into the cab. Have
the driver write the amount on a piece of paper, this might eliminate
any misunderstandings at the end of your journey.
Let's Talk Shopping Istanbul
Great gift idea!
Koska Helvacisi on Beyazit Caddesi is the shop that sells
the absolute best turkish delight and halvah in the city.
At approximately $2 per box, these make excellent "culturally
correct" presents for friends back home. P.S. Don't wait to
buy them at the airport, it's much more expensive there!
On Sunday, when all
the bazaars are closed, make your way to Istiklal Caddessi
in the new city. This is a long winding street with the best
department stores, boutiques and street vendors.
Submitted by: Lynda Gould, Montreal, Canada
Istanbul - A Woman's
A lovely shopping
break. Printemps, part of the French department store chain
has a very pleasant tearoom overlooking the Sea of Marmara.
Tel: 559 98 50.
a mosque? Remember that women are expected to cover their
heads while all visitors must remove their shoes before entering.
Library and art gallery is housed in a historic building on
Fener Mahallesi Halic (Golden Horn). Tel: 534 95 50.
Try a Turkish bath.
At Marmara Hotel, Tuesdays are reserved for women-only. Tel:
251 96 46
From JW Files