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Safe And Solo In Turkey

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.

Bus travel

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.
Bus 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.

Over-friendly men

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!

Avoid trouble

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!
The 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 World

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.

Visiting a mosque? Remember that women are expected to cover their heads while all visitors must remove their shoes before entering.

The Women's 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





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