Is Istanbul Safe for Solo Travellers?!

Istanbul is quickly becoming a more and more popular tourist destination. Many people wonder is Istanbul safe? And is Istanbul safe for solo female travellers?

I’ve spent quite a bit of time in Istanbul and travelling around Turkey as a solo female traveller.

I can honestly say that I never felt unsafe in Istanbul. In fact, I felt more safe in Istanbul that I have in many other cities. And definitely more safe at night than in Paris.

But is Istanbul safe just because I found it safe? I’m an experienced white solo female traveller, so travelling alone is objectively easier and safer for me than for some other groups of people.

I’m going to take your through my experience travelling alone in Istanbul and give you some safety tips, so you can decide if Istanbul is safe for you or not.


Is Istanbul Safe?

Just in case you skimmed the intro to this post (I really can’t blame you), I was to reiterate that Istanbul, in my opinion, is very safe. It’s a huge metropolis and most people are just trying to get on with their day and make a living.

Most of the time when I told people I was going to Turkey alone for an extended period of time, people were horrified. The first question they always asked was related to safety in some way or another.

I think there is some prejudice from people about the part of the world Turkey is in. Most people will never see Turkey or a country with a majority Muslim population. People are scared of what they don’t know, and, let’s be honest, as a Canadian, there is a lot of propaganda being fed to us about Muslim majority countries.

Turkey is a secular country by the way.

In some ways I understand why people ask is Istanbul safe. Especially when you’re travelling there alone.

That’s probably why you’re Googling whether Istanbul is safe or dangerous and reading this article.

You can sleep easy knowing that Istanbul is safe for tourists. It has a great tourism infrastructure, is very walkable, and there are always tons of other tourists around in case you need to blend in and not look alone for a minute or two for any reason.

That doesn’t mean that nothing could go wrong on your solo trip to Istanbul. Of course things could go wrong, but you really only have to worry about the normal tourist traps and scams like everywhere else in the world.

Later on in this article I’m going to give you a few safety tips and tricks to make sure you’re safe while travelling Istanbul solo. First I’m going to answer a few other top safety questions that most people ask me when I talk about travelling alone in Turkey.


Is Istanbul Airport Safe?

I’m always surprised by the number of people who question whether the Istanbul airport is safe. It’s such an odd question to me. It’s a huge hub airport. Of course it’s safe!

In fact, it’s one of my favourite airports in the world.

They did an incredible job designing it and making it feel like a high-end experience rather than a typical airport experience. It’s bright, open, and has tons of shopping.

If you can get into the business class lounge, I highly recommend it. Even if you can only get into the “normal” lounge, it’s still a great experience.

If your credit card doesn’t give you lounge access, consider whether or not getting a Priority Pass is worth it for you based on how often you travel.

If you’re worried about getting from the airport to your accommodation, consider hiring a private transfer. It’s not much more expensive than getting a taxi, but this way you know exactly how much you’re paying and don’t run the risk of being scammed.

The One Odd Thing About Istanbul Airport

There is one really odd thing about Istanbul airport you should be aware of though. At least it’s odd to me and not something I’ve seen anywhere else in the world.

Most international flights (especially going to Canada, the US, or Europe) require you to go through lots of additional security screening in addition to the normal airport screening.

Your passport will be scanned before you check in, but that’s only the start.

Once you get to the gate, you have to have your passport scanned normally two more times, empty your carry on bags and have them searched and tested for bomb residue, and be patted down by a security agent.

It’s definitely overkill, and people tend to get annoyed really quick because it takes a long time to get through the line.

I recommend you go to your gate as soon as it says “go to gate”. That is when the security line will be the shortest.

The downside to being at the gate right when it opens is I’ve never been in a gate area that has a bathroom in it. You can’t leave the secure area either unless you want to go through the entire additional security screening process again.

It’s a hassle and an annoyance for sure. But now that you’re aware of it, you can make sure you get to your gate early, go to the washroom before arriving at the gate, and know what to expect when you get to the gate.

I’m not a fan of the process either, but you have to go through it, so just be nice and patient with the people who are doing the additional screening.

top tip

Install an esim on your phone, so you don’t have expensive roaming charges on your phone while accessing the internet while in Instanbul.

Is it Safe to Walk in Istanbul at Night?

Yes. It is safe to walk around Istanbul at night. Even as a solo traveller.

You just need to take reasonable safety precautions. Don’t go down any dark and mysterious roads, try to stick to a main route you know, and be aware of your surroundings.

For example, if you’re walking home from your Bosphorus Dinner Cruise, know what route you’re going to take in advance and stick to the main streets. Don’t try taking any shortcuts. The good thing is the Google Maps normally takes you on main streets anyways, so it should be a problem.

You should have no problem walking around Istanbul at night and should feel safe the entire time. I never felt the need to watch my back or like I needed to walk quicker to get home.

Is Istanbul Safe from Terrorism?

No city is ever guaranteed to be safe from terrorism. But it isn’t something you need to be actively worried about terrorism, and it shouldn’t be something that stops you from visiting Istanbul.

I’m writing this in mid-2023, and there has only been one terrorism event in the past five years. Statistically, there is more than one mass shooting every day in the USA, so if you’re comfortable and confident being in the US, then Istanbul won’t be an issue for you.

You don’t normally consider terrorism attacks when planning a trip to, say, Italy or the UK, and it doesn’t need to be a consideration when planning a trip to Istanbul either.


Is Istanbul Safe for Solo Female Travellers?

Yes. Absolutely. 100%.

Istanbul is a very safe city, and being a woman doesn’t make it any less safe. Everybody in Istanbul is incredibly kind and helpful. It’s an extremely safe city, and a very easy city to travel around.

I actually think it’s a great city to visit if you’re new to travelling alone. Most attractions are within walking distance to one another, the city is super safe, the food is delicious, and it’s a great place to build up your solo travel confidence.

top tip

Be sure to have travel health insurance before arriving in Istanbul!

Istanbul Safety Tips

Now that I’ve hopefully answered most of the questions you have about safety in Istanbul for tourists, let’s move on to some of the safety tips you should know when visiting Istanbul.

Since Istanbul is such a safe city, most of these tips are generic safety tips you should use whenever you travel.

Watch Out for Pick Pockets

Pick pockets are probably the biggest thing you need to worry about while in Istanbul.

The city is busy, the streets are crowded, and there are tourists everywhere. This makes for the perfect combination for pick pockets to thrive.

Luckily, it’s super easy to not be a victim of a pick pocket.

Keep an eye on your belongings, wear your bag on the side close to the front of you not so it is slipping backwards, keep items out of your pocket, and don’t carry valuable in your hand unless you have a firm grasp on them.

It’s shocking how many times I see people carelessly whipping out their phone to take a picture or video and don’t have a tight grip on it. Definitely not the best safety practice out there.

The other thing you need to do is be aware when people bump into you. Because they will. There are a lot of bottle necks in Istanbul because there are too many people walking on narrow sidewalks or through underground passages.

Most people who bump into you are just normal people trying to make it to their destination. The odd one may be a pick pocket. Follow basic safety rules, keep your head on a swivel, and look aware.

Those simple steps will make you a far less likely target for a pick pocket. They want someone who is mindless and not aware of their surroundings. Look confident, and you shouldn’t have an issue.

Beware of the Trams

This probably sounds like a really weird thing to bring up in an article asking the question is Istanbul safe but hear me out.

As I mentioned, the sidewalks in Istanbul are very narrow, and there are a lot of people using them. This means you’ll often spill out onto the street. At a minimum just when you want to pass someone.

On some of the main streets that people walk, there aren’t cars. Only trams allowed. These streets often see the most people walking on the streets and not the sidewalk. Makes sense since there are no cars.

That’s all fine and good until a tram comes along.

The trams will ring their bell to let you know they’re coming, and then it’s up to you to get out of their way. The hard part sometimes is finding a place on the sidewalk to go.

Sometimes it’s difficult to hear the tram’s bell because it’s so loud.

The moral of the story is that you need to be really aware of your surroundings and be prepared to get off the street at any given moment.

Even after reading this, you probably think this is a weird tip, but you’ll understand better when you’re in Istanbul.

Be Internet Safe

One of the most important safety precautions you can take as a traveller is being internet safe. Unfortunately, not enough people know the risks of being online while abroad (or even out and about in their own city), so it’s not something most people think about.

You rely on public wifi when you travel. Even if you have an esim and are using data while out exploring Istanbul, you’ll still be relying on public wifi at your hotel and the airport.

Public wifi networks aren’t secure. Pretty much anybody can get into them. Even if they have a password associated with them. This means that your personal online information and data is at risk of being stolen.

Trust me when I say you do not want to have to deal with canceling bank cards while you’re abroad because prying eyes stolen your bank information while you were using a public wifi network.

The only way to keep your private online information safe and secure while you travel is by install a VPN on your devices.

A VPN essentially puts an invisible forcefield around your devices that makes it impossible for prying eyes to access your information. It makes using public wifi networks just as safe as using your home wifi network where you’re the only person who knows the password.

Installing a VPN is truly one of the easiest things you can do to protect yourself while you’re abroad.

I always say that if you can afford to travel, you can afford to protect your online information.

Nord VPN

My Favourite VPN

VPNs are notorious for slowing down your internet speed. I’ve used tons of different VPN providers over my many years of travel, and I’m embarrassed to admit that I often turned my VPN off and put my information at risk just because the VPN I was using slowed my internet down so much.

That all changed when I started using NordVPN.

It’s the fastest VPN on the market, and you can really tell the difference between it and other VPNs. I’ve never noticed a difference in my internet speed when using NordVPN.

Another great feature of VPNs is the ability to cloak your location. You can set your location to any country in the world, and the internet thinks you’re actually in that country.

This gives you access to that country’s Netflix, sporting events, and can sometimes save you lots of money when searching for flights.

The very best part is that VPNs are affordable and won’t break the bank. The cost per month for a two-year NordVPN subscription is less than a single latte at Starbuck’s.

It’s an extremely small price to pay for the peace of mind you get knowing that all your personal online information and data is safe from prying eyes.

Seriously. We have so much of our personal information online nowadays that it’s too much of a risk to use public wifi without a VPN.

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Know Local Scams

Just like any city, there are a few scams you should know about in Istanbul. Most of them are pretty standard scams, but there is one you may not know about.

The Taxi Scam

The most common scam is the taxi scam. This happens in a couple of ways.

Often the taxi driver insists on not starting the meter and agreeing on a price before you leave. You never get a good price when this happens. If a driver starts doing this, just say no and walk away. There are plenty of drivers in Istanbul that won’t do this.

The next two scams are harder to get away from because you’re already in the car when they happen.

The first is the scenic drive. This happens in nearly every city in the world. The taxi driver gets a tourist in their car, and they start taking the longest way possible to increase their fare. You don’t really know the proper way to go as a tourist, and you may not ever realize you’ve been scammed if this happens to you.

The second is the most common taxi scam in Istanbul. Especially when going to or from the airport. That’s the toll fee scam.

Taxi drivers will say they went through tolls, and you have to pay for them. That’s fair enough, but they always tell you the toll costs way more than it actually did. The first time this happened to me, the taxi driver said the toll fee was 50 Lira (about $2 USD). I Googled it, and the toll was actually only 8 Lira (about $0.30 USD).

It isn’t a huge amount of money you’re being scammed out of, and it’s often better just to pay it rather than argue about it.

The way to avoid these scams is by using Uber. You’ll still get a taxi when using Uber, but using the app gives you the rider the safety of knowing what the price should be and not getting scammed. And if you think you have been scammed, you can deal with Uber not the taxi driver.

The Carpet Scam

This is the scam you’re probably not aware of. It’s very common in most countries that are famous for selling carpets, and it’s something you should be aware of.

This happens where a nice older man starts chatting with you and then offers to show you around the city or to his favourite tourist spot. Then as you’re walking to wherever he’s going to show you, he stops at a relative’s carpet shop and wants to show you around.

You’re greeted kindly, given a cup of Turkish tea, and shown around the store.

Then you’re trapped.

They go on trying to sell you the carpets including shipping them back home for you. You’re probably not in the market for a carpet, but they keep pushing, and you can’t leave.

When you do eventually leave, they get really angry with you. But don’t give in, you don’t have to purchase anything from them. If they ask you to pay for the tea, don’t. Just leave.

It may sound like a silly scam. Why would anybody take a stranger up on their offer to tour them around? The person doing the offering is always very nice and chatty, and you always don’t want to be rude and just walk away.

But that’s exactly what you should do. Walk away. Never go with the stranger. That’s just unsafe no matter where in the world you are.

Now I don’t want you to get the idea that all carpet sellers are scammers.

Most aren’t.

If you want to purchase a carpet while you’re in Istanbul, do some research online ahead of time and find a reputable store with good reviews.


The Shoe Shining Scam

Ah. This is a classic. It happens in many countries around the world.

Someone comes up to you and just starts shining your shoes without asking or saying anything.

If this happens to you, pull your shoe away while they’re bending down. Don’t let me make contact with your shoe. Say no and walk away.

If they make contact with your shoe, you’re going to have to pay them way more money than you should.

It’s an unfortunate scam, but it’s an oldie and a goodie and happens all over the world.

The Child Begger

The final scam I’m going to tell you about makes me seem a bit mean. And that is the child beggar scam.

This is where a small child begs on the street for money. In most cases, the child and their family is indeed poor, but you shouldn’t give any money to a child begger.

It just encourages the parents to continue to keep their kid out of school or other child activities, so they can make money for the family. It’s not fair to the child.

Just like the shoe shine scam, this scam happens all over the world. It’s hard to say no to a begging child, but it’s in their best interest. If they stop making money, hopefully their parent will stop making them go out and beg.

Be Aware of Tour Groups

This is another one where it’s going to sounds weird to you before arriving in Istanbul. Tour groups in Istanbul are wild. I’ve never seen so many tour groups anywhere else I’ve travelled.

They’re everywhere, they’re huge, and they’ll run you over. They have mob mentality, and they just keep walking without being aware of their surroundings.

The group leaders stop wherever they want with no regard for other people. I had a tour leader stop right at the exit of a ticket booth where there was only a single door to get out. Blocked the entire door and wouldn’t leave. I had to push my way out.

The tour leader will stop right where you’re standing if that’s where they want to stop, and they don’t make their tour group stand off to the side to make room for other people to get through.

It’s very chaotic at big tourist attractions like Topkapi Palace.

I know this information isn’t really an Istanbul safety tip, but it’s important information to know. It helps you know what to expect and stay calm when you’re being overrun by the tour groups.

And in places like Basilica Cistern it actually is a very important safety tip to know. It’s extremely crowded in the Basilica because of all the tour groups. There is pushing and lots of crowds.

There are even a few places where there aren’t guard rails. I saw a small child almost fall into the water because their adult wasn’t watching them closely enough.

So, please be prepared to navigate your way through tour groups and be extra careful when touring the Basilica Cistern, which is 100% a tourist attraction that is worth doing while in Istanbul!


Tap Water is Safe to Drink

A lot of people just assume that tap water in Istanbul isn’t safe to drink, but it is. Tap water isn’t safe to drink in every city in Turkey, but major cities like Istanbul have safe tap water.

That doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll want to drink it though. I tend to stick to bottled water while in Istanbul. It’s very affordable, and you normally get a couple bottles per day from your hotel for free.

So, if you’re in a pinch, feel free to drink the tap water, but bottled water will taste better.

You also don’t have to worry about brushing your teeth. I know a lot of people like to use bottled water to brush their teeth when the tap water isn’t safe to drink, but you don’t have to worry about that when you’re in Istanbul. Brush away!

My Favourite Things to do in Istanbul

Top pick

Istanbul Food Tour (seriously, the food is amazing!)

unique experience
once in a lifetime


I really hope this article helped answer the question is Istanbul safe?

For me and everybody else I know who has gone to Istanbul, the answer is YES! Istanbul is a very safe city even for solo female travellers.

Turkey as a whole is a very safe country, and it’s one of my favourite countries in the world. It’s such a special place, and if you get the chance to visit, I highly recommend you do.

You won’t regret it!