Istanbul – Turkey
Istanbul Ambassador – Sophie Hicks
Istanbul is a city of many identities. Street vendors sell roasted chestnuts next to stores flogging the latest iphone; the evening call to prayer mingles with the sounds of European chart hits wafting from bars; mosque minarets reaching high into the sky are dwarfed by tower blocks that indicate the commercial prowess of one of the world’s largest emerging economies. This unique mix of east and west makes Istanbul one of the most vibrant city destinations in the world. It is also the only city that spans two continents; the wide expanse of the Bosphorus separates the European side and the Asian side, each of which have their own distinct identity.
Architecture, art, nightlife, cuisine, shopping, business; Istanbul has it all. It also has an incredibly rich history. In 324, the Roman Emperor Constantin moved the capital of the Roman Empire from Rome to Istanbul, then called Byzantium. The city was re-named ‘Constantinople’, and by the year 361, it was the world’s most populous city. It remained Europe’s largest and wealthiest city throughout much of the middle ages. In 1453, the Turks conquered Constantinople and it became the epicentre of the Ottoman Empire, assuming its modern name ‘Istanbul’. During this period, some of the cities most famous attractions were built; the Topkapi Palace, the Blue Mosque and the Domabahce Palace are some of the most spectacular examples. The city also transitioned from Christianity to Islam. Today Istanbul is primarily Islamic, however beautiful churches from its Christian period still stand, and the Hagia Sofia (now a museum) is an interesting fusion of both religions, having been both a church and a mosque.
The food in Istanbul also deserves a mention. Make sure you try Baklava (sugar soaked pastry and pistacios/walnuts that will make your teeth melt), Bal-kaymak (honey-topped clotted cream) and Turkish delight (the real stuff). I also recommend making time to enjoy a traditional breakfast plate, with a cup of well-made Turkish coffee!
Istanbul enjoys four distinct weather seasons. Winter brings very cool temperatures and snowfall, while summers in the city are very hot and humid, sometimes topping 40 °C. The best times to visit the city are in the Autumn and the Spring; the temperature is enjoyable in these periods, ranging from 15°C to 25°C.
Female Friendly Hotels in Istanbul
Great Eating Places
Women’s Networks and Events
PWN Global is a dynamic fast-growing offline and online networking and leadership development platform for professional women of all sectors and industries. With over 3,500 members and more than 90 nationalities, our volunteer-led organisation delivers over 600 events a year in our community of 25 city networks. We welcome you to our events; as a mentor or mentee; to explore our rich knowledge and resources; to learn, grow and leave your legacy, whilst volunteering across the Federation and our City Networks. Find out more about our city networks, here ; join our mission, here ; or, sign up for our monthly event mailer and quarterly newsletter, here. If you want to find out more from a ‘live’ person, don’t hesitate to contact Rebecca Fountain, PWN Global’s Head of Global Marketing and Communication.
Beauty and Fitness
Customs and Safety
In Turkey, social encounters between men and women who are not relatives or close friends are conducted on a more formal level than in Europe. Be pleasant, but don’t smile readily at men you don’t know, in both business and social contexts (at restaurants/bars, or when ordering a taxi, registering at a hotel). In Turkey, it is customary for women to act more reserved until they know a man well.
Also bear in mind that Turkish men can be very forward with foreign women, in part motivated by the media image of the ‘loose‘ western woman. Think carefully before accepting any invitations and avoid being alone with a man or group of men you do not know well. That said, as a single woman living alone in Istanbul, I have found Turks – both men and women – to be extremely welcoming and helpful. As long as you take normal, common-sense precautions, it is very unlikely that you will be hassled in any way.
What to wear: In Istanbul, woman’s clothing standards are relaxed, modern and European. However, to prevent unwanted attention, you should cover your cleavage and legs. You are not required to wear the hijab in Istanbul; indeed, many Turkish women do not wear it. But I would recommend that you carry a scarf that can double as headscarf in case you want to enter a mosque, where all women are required to cover their hair.
Travel and Transport
Istanbul’s transport system is comprehensive and varied. The tram, metro and metro bus network covers much of the city and allows residents to bypass the infamous Istanbul traffic. The bus system is regular and reliable, and the ferries that link the European and Asian sides leave approximately every 20 minutes. It is safe for women to use the public transport network alone at all hours.
Upon arrival in Istanbul, the most commonly used and convenient transport option is to take a taxi to your hotel. Outside the arrivals terminal is the official taxi rank. A ride to Sultanahmet should cost around 40TL, while the ride to Taksim will cost around 50TL. If you plan to take a taxi, make sure you write down the exact address of your hotel on a piece of paper, along with its phone number. If you have time, I would also recommend pinpointing its location on a city map. Istanbul is a large city with many hotels and not even taxi drivers know it by heart; it helps to give them as much information as possible.
When choosing a taxi, make sure that it has a meter to record the exact cost of the journey; this will avoid the driver charging over the odds for a journey. Also make sure you have small bills to pay for the journey; a selection of 10TL, 20TL and 50TL notes is perfect (you can withdraw Turkish Liras from the cash points in the airport upon arrival). Official taxis are bright yellow in colour; do not accept rides from any other cars claiming to be taxis.
The Havataş is the municipality owned and reliable airport shuttle service. It leaves from outside the Attaturk airport arrivals terminal, in the second lane every half hour. The bus destination is Taksim. It stops in front of the Point Hotel, just past Taksim square. The ride costs 10TL and takes around 40 minutes depending on traffic. If your destination is in the Sultanahmet area, you can still take the Havataş, get off at the Aksaray stop and take a taxi from there.
I am originally from the Isles of Scilly, a small group of islands situated 28 miles from the coast of England. I have always had a passion for travelling and exploring different cultures, in part motivated by the isolation of my childhood home. So after graduating from University with a degree in Philosophy I set off, first volunteering in a Tanzanian orphanage for 2 months before settling in Istanbul. I work here as an English Teacher for the British Council in a school on the outskirts of Istanbul. Alongside my teaching role, I also write for my personal blog, www.anislanderexplores.com.
I am delighted to be an ambassador for Maiden Voyage in Istanbul. Having embarked on my travels as a single woman, I understand the concerns that many female travellers may have about visiting a foreign city alone. I am happy to answer any questions you may have about Istanbul, or meet for coffee or dinner while you’re here. Contact me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow me on twitter
Networking: See who is networking in Istanbul now
Read the doing business in Turkey guide.