I had a crush on Turkey from the moment I arrived bleary-eyed on the overnight train from Bulgaria. A few hours later, I’d finished my first Turkish breakfast, and quickly realized I was in love.
After 5 years and 40 countries of full-time international travel, Turkey ranks in my top 10 destinations for solo female travelers.
1. It’s Safer Than You Think.
A traveler is 8 times safer from violent crime in Turkey than in the U.S., even in big cities like Istanbul and Izmir.
Based on my personal experience traveling across Turkey, I’d say you’re more in danger from kofte kebab food coma or kitten cuteness exposure than any street crime here.
Before coming to Turkey, I’d been cautioned time and time again with vague fear-mongering: “You know what they say about Turkish men.” Let me tell you: nothing could have been further from the truth.
These common ‘warnings’ are discriminatory, inaccurate, and might prevent you from experiencing some of the best hospitality in the world.
I’ve felt safer walking down the street alone in Turkey day or night than in Italy, Spain, or Greece. There have been exactly two mild street harassment incidents in my five months traveling in Turkey over the past year – both by foreigners, with Turkish men who didn’t even know me stepping in to help.
Of course, travelers should take reasonable safety precautions everywhere they go. The few things I wouldn’t advise while traveling in Turkey right now are:
- Visiting Istanbul’s Taksim area alone after 10 pm on weekends
- Leaving your valuables vulnerable to easy pickpocketing
- Taking drinks from strangers in bars or clubs
- Public displays of affection in LGBTQIA+ relationships outside of major chain hotels
- Visiting certain parts of southeastern Turkey near the Syrian border region (due to the presence of terrorist groups and earthquake devastation)
2. Women Are Welcome And Protected In Turkish Mosques.
If you do find yourself walking alone at night and feeling unsure or unsafe for whatever reason, the abundance of mosques in Turkey offer you an amazing safe haven.
Many large mosques remain open through the night. As long as you’re dressed modestly, remove your shoes, and have a scarf handy, you can respectfully duck into one of these well-lit houses of worship to be sure of your safety at almost any hour.
To be clear: I don’t advocate treating a holy masjid as an alternative to a police station. Travelers in obvious danger should call emergency services. But for those all-too-familiar gray zone situations that simply give solo female travelers a bad gut feeling, it’s nice to know that you have safe places to turn to without ringing any alarm bells.
3. You Don’t Need To Choose Between Tea And Coffee.
It’s no surprise that Turkey is a country of tea lovers. The average Turk drinks 1,300 cups of tea each year. Turkey is even home to a tea museum in the shape of a 7-story tea glass in the ‘tea capital’ of Rize. It should then come as no surprise that travelers will find themselves offered a warm welcome tea everywhere they go.
The beautiful thing about Turkey is that this country embraces both tea and coffee. No need to take sides. Simply enjoy both!
4. Multicultural Turkish Cities Offer A Safe Way To Explore Syrian Culture.
While Syria isn’t a recommended destination for solo female travelers at the moment, multicultural cities in Turkey certainly are. They offer a safe and fascinating opportunity to try Syrian food, have conversations with Syrian refugees and immigrants, and learn more about the Syrian diaspora.
Recommended activities include:
There are about 4 million Syrians living in Turkey, creating an amazing multicultural opportunity for travelers. However, it’s 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 been transformed into ‘toleration’ rather than an understanding of establishing a practice of living together,” explained a study from UNHCR.
When traveling in Istanbul, you may hear locals tell you that Fatih, a predominantly Arab and Syrian neighborhood, is ‘not really Turkey’ or isn’t ‘what it used to be.’ Some Turks will voice concerns about Syrians putting pressure on social services or job markets or bringing what they perceive as an incompatibly conservative culture to their city.
Try not to let this tension prevent you from enjoying two amazing cultures in one trip.
5. Turkey Is So Much More Than Istanbul.
Many travelers don’t realize just how big Turkey is. With nearly 800 square kilometers of ancient cities, surreal moonscapes, and more beaches than you could count, this country has so much more to offer than its popular capital Istanbul.
Great destinations for solo female travelers include:
Let the safety and hospitality of Turkey encourage your next great solo adventure!
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com