Turkey offers a warm and welcoming culture. It’s an exciting country to visit. The country is rich in history, beautiful landscapes and offers plenty of adventure for travelers. Turkey can be travelled safely if you apply the same precautions as home. It is essential to understand the culture of Turkey so that you can enjoy your trip and connect better with its people.
These are 10 tips for women who travel to Turkey.
1. Formal dress is more appropriate
Turkish people tend to prefer Western-styled clothing, especially in Istanbul and the Mediterranean coast. The dress is more formal and reserved in the east than it is in the west. When traveling to the east, I recommend wearing more formal clothes, such as a covered shoulders and knees, a high neckline, no cleavage, and no form-hugging or transparent clothing. Respect will be shown and you’ll get more respect back. Except when visiting a mosque, female travellers don’t need to cover up their hair. Loose-fitting jeans, long skirts, capris that reach the knees, and loose yoga pans are all good options. This is a great time to shop locally. Look around at local boutiques and buy a few pieces. This will allow you to blend in and give you unique souvenirs from your trip to Turkey.
2. Mosque Etiquette: It’s time to rock your head scarf
You will need to cover your head, shoulders and knees when visiting a mosque. Also, take off your shoes. You can either wear a long skirt or loose, knee-length pants. The floors are covered with carpeting so don’t be afraid to go barefoot. A great excuse to buy a large scarf from Grand Bazaar while visiting Turkey’s magnificent mosques. You can also bring your favorite one with you.
3. Treat yourself as if you were a local
You may be the friend with the most gregarious personality at home. It is best to be more reserved when you travel to Turkey. Avoid hugging strangers and don’t smile at them on the streets. Only shake hands with men when they ask. An apparent harmless hug or touch of the arm could be misinterpreted as a sign of flirtation and romantic interest in Turkey. I don’t recommend being less yourself. But, it is better to be more reserved. This will allow you to avoid unwanted attention and show respect for locals.
4. Locals meeting: The ultimate icebreaker
Reaching out to expats and locals before you leave your home is a great way to make friends. You can search for a local club or group if you are interested in photography. Look for local clubs or classes if you are passionate about cooking. These groups often have monthly activities that can add value to your schedule. These groups can provide tips and information on the ground, as well as invitations to dinner with people you have already established trust with. Talking about your family back home, and asking about their families can help to break down cultural barriers when you meet locals. All cultures share a common theme: our love for our family and friends. You can take a few photos of your family members or keep them handy. Soon you will be sharing stories about your families with shopkeepers or students at local cafes.
5. Etiquette at home
Turkey is a wonderful country to visit a friend, family member or colleague. Turks love to entertain guests and invite them over for a meal. A small gift is always appreciated; sweets from the local bakery are always appreciated. Also, bring your appetite. Your hosts will offer many options and will want you to be satisfied. To express gratitude to the chef at the end, say elinize. This means “health to your hands” and conveys appreciation for the meal. Remember to remove your shoes before you enter the house. As shoes are prohibited in the home, you will likely be given slippers to use. Join the women in the kitchen before you arrive to help prepare the meal. This is a wonderful opportunity to get to know one another and to learn about Turkish cuisine.
6. Toilet paper is the gold of travelers
Black gold is often used to describe oil. While oil might not look like gold when you travel through Turkey, toilet paper will. Although toilet paper is becoming more popular, it is not common to find it everywhere. It is also difficult to use the tiny hoses in stalls. Although TP is readily available in most places, it is not always easy to find. Always bring a small roll of TP with you.
7. Get your hotel business card
It can sometimes be difficult to communicate addresses and places when you travel in a new town or city. You can ask your hotel staff to give you a business card or write down the address, phone number and name. It’s handy for when a taxi driver is lost and cannot find your hotel, or if you need directions to get to your accommodation. These can also be useful if you’re staying near famous landmarks.
8. Learn a few words about Turkish
A smile and a few words of Turkish can often be met with a warm welcome. Turks are proud of their language and country. Simple phrases such as hello, goodbye, and thank you can be used to build relationships with locals and reduce the cost of bargaining at Grand Bazaar. Tesekkur (thanks), selam (“hello”), and Iyi Gunler (“goodbye or have an enjoyable day”) are good starting points to build a relationship with locals through conversation.
9. Timing at the Hammam
A visit to Turkey’s famous hammams is a must. It is a rich cultural experience to spend a few hours in these bathhouses that date back hundreds of centuries. While hammams are becoming more inclusive, it is important to check the hours before you go. Some hours of the day are reserved for men, while others are reserved for women.
10. Bring your sense of adventure, humor and a big smile
As with any adventure, traveling to Turkey is an adventure. You will have a lot of fun if you bring a sense of humor, are flexible and have a smile that is thoughtfully used. People you meet will want you to have fun in their country, and they will often be supportive. You should travel with the belief that you will meet great people and enjoy wonderful experiences.