My 20-year-old daughter is studying abroad this semester and wants to travel alone to Istanbul for five days at the beginning of November. She has no interest in being a part of a tour group -- she wants to travel completely alone.
I'm having a heart attack about it, not only because of recent unrest in Turkey, but just because she plans to travel alone She's on her own for 10 days and also plans to visit Malta and Rome.
We're at odds over this. Can anyone give me either advice to help her stay safe or ammunition to back up my argument that a young American woman traveling alone in Istanbul is not a good idea?
take deep breaths. My children aren't at this stage yet, but it's coming! Keep breathing.
Let's start with Malta. It's one of the friendliest and most relaxed places on earth.
Rome is always teeming with tourists, and the greatest threat is pickpocketing.
Istanbul: if she stays away from Gezi Park and walks away from any protest or public gathering, and again sticks to the more touristy areas, she'll be just fine.
She's travelling unaccompanied, but she'll never be alone. Travellers always find other travellers to share their experiences. There'll be some new lifelong friend" she'll meet.
It sounds to me that it's likely you've brought her up NOT to be reckless or careless with her safety.
And to help ease your mind further, here are our warts-n-all unbiased (we don't sell tours or hotels or have a vested interest in getting customers to any particular destination) assessment of the safety issues in those destinations.
make sure she gets travel insurance - for the unexpected.
Phil from the safety hub almost 6 years ago
Thank you, Phil. The deep breaths haven't been helping so far, but I'll try to continue them. :-)
She's already been to Ireland, Budapest, Italy, Vienna, Prague, and Salzburg (where she's based). I haven't had concerns with any of them, but Turkey worries me. When the State Department issues a travel advisory, I get more than a little jittery.
I'm most concerned about what she'd do if she did get into trouble, such as losing her passport or wallet. We know no one there, and I'm just not sure what we'd do from this end to help her.
It was much easier back when I went abroad (only for a month) -- there was no internet, and my mother had no idea what we were up to. For example, she had no idea for that entire month that the one professor who accompanied our group missed the plane and 16 students who'd never been out of the U.S. landed in the U.K. without the slightest idea where we were going or what happened to our professor. :-)
Thanks again -- almost 6 years ago
I can see why your nervous, most people have a skewed view of Turkey because they've never been there and are very surprised once they get here how wrong they were about Turkey (I am one of those!). I live by myself in Turkey, I travel by myself in Turkey. Infact in the last two months I have been travelling solo though back streets and main streets researching a guidebook for Turkey and have not had any problems or concerns. I'm from Australia with a similar culture to America and I feel far more unsafe in Australian when compared toTurkey. In Australia I would never walk at night by myself - here it's the norm - there is always so many people out on the streets. It's natural surviellance against crime. Plus Turkish people are THE MOST hospitalble people in the world there would always be someone to assist her if something were to go wrong. The unrest was mainly in Taksim Square, so if you avoid the square then there are no problems. She is likely to be in Sultanahmet which during the unrest was like any other day. Istanbul is regarded as one of the safest cities (if not the safest city) in Europe.
BUT there are a few words of advice.
1. She should keep her guard up around the bazaars - anywhere with large gatherings...this is mainly for theft.
2. Avoid Taksim square particularly on weekends at night - if political situation heats up again. Stay in Sultanahmet.
3. Join international women of istanbul group on facebook so if something does go wrong or she needs advice then she can simply reach out and ask it.
4. Don't enagage in talk with solo men around Sultanahmet, or along Istiklal, even if they want to practice their English - they just want to take you to carpet shop!
5. Its ok to ignore people when they say hello in Sultanahmet for the above reason.
6. There was the incident of the American women being murdered last year, but she wandered off on a location that was quite isolated and unfortunatelty met the wrong person. Stick to common paths.
2. Never give your phone number - even the cute waiter (she'll only get sms of love, which at 20 she may fall for, then you might end up with a daughter living in Turkey - u won't want that :-) almost 6 years ago
Ditto everything Leeann says. Turkey is probably the one country I wouldn't worry about either of my daughters travelling alone to. My youngest travelled to Izmir last year alone, stayed in a hostel and had a ball. As long as she know the dangers as Leeann has pointed out and follows the rules for women alone ANYWHERE, then she should be ok.
I know you're going to worry; you wouldn't be a normal mum if you didn't, but you can keep in touch with her using the wifi hotspots. Perhaps make an arrangement to either skype of FaceTime to keep in touch. Sleep well during her holiday. You'll need one when she returns! almost 6 years ago
As a 21 year old who has travelled to Istanbul twice, I can vouch for your daughter. It is quite safe as long as she is cautious of her surroundings. She should also dress on the conservative side. Harassment by males is common and can be annoying/intimidating (as it is in every city). But, I experienced more harassment in Istanbul, which is not a surprising predicament as an Asian American. Had a drunken Turkish man yell at my friend on a bus for being stupid Americans even though we were quietly sitting on the bus. Another interesting experience: my friend and I were caught in the middle of a protest on Istiklal Caddesi after a quick tea break. There was a brigade of riot police around the corner and because my journalist friend has that curious bone, she asked what was going on. The police were polite and just ushered us over to another street, and another journalist told us it was a protest against the government's takeover of a theatre of some sort. This was a precursor event to the Gezi Park protests. Even though the protest was quite large, we never felt unsafe. It's probably best for her to stay at a hostel and perhaps travel with acquaintances there. For the most part, I found Turkish people to be very hospitable and most speak conversational English. Without a doubt, your daughter will have a grand time. almost 6 years ago