I had been travelling solo throughout Europe, comfortably for many years. However there came a time where I was longing for something a little different. I wanted to explore the bustling bazaars, hear the magnificent call to prayer, taste the delicious food and connect with people of Islamic lands. But as a single woman, I felt nervous going to these countries on my own. Turkey, straddling Europe and Asia, seemed like the perfect place for me to embark on something new. It had enough that was familiar, but a lot which would challenge my perspective and inject some very new experiences into my life.
Group Tour in Turkey
For my first trip to Turkey, I chose to travel with a group tour. This ended up being the best introduction to this captivating country. Our knowledgeable local guide took our group to all of the hotspots of Istanbul, Ankara, Cappadocia, Konya, Antalya, Ephesus and Kuşadası. He taught us about his homeland and took care of all of the logistics for two marvellous weeks. I worried about nothing and my only focus was learning about this fascinating country and enjoying every moment. With each day, I fell deeper in love with this enchanting and diverse place, and the tour was perfect for a first-time visit. For female travellers, there are many wonderful reasons to take a group tour to Turkey.
As much as it is a modern and safe country to visit, the reality is that there are special considerations women need to take into account, especially when it comes to religious customs. A tour helps to navigate an unfamiliar cultural landscape and provides reassurance when it comes to safety. Thanks to my tour, I learned the lay of the land and feel completely comfortable in Turkey on my own.
Another aspect of group tours which I love is that you just have to show up! While planning a trip is definitely part of the fun, sometimes it’s nice to have everything done for you. Not knowing what to expect or how easy it would be to get around Turkey, having that taken care of relieved a lot of my worry. I could just sit back and relax with my glass of rakı.
I have had many incredible experiences with a group tour that I wouldn’t have on my own. Tours let travellers into the lives of the local people and give access to experiences which may be difficult to have as an independent traveller. I have visited with imams, had meals with local families in their homes and explored the inner workings of artisan workshops. It is a beautiful way to connect with the Turkish people and gain an understanding of their culture.
One of the best parts of a group tour is meeting like-minded travellers. Some of my most treasured friendships are with people I have met on these tours! While I love solo travel, sometimes it’s really nice to recap your amazing day with others over a shared meal or nargile (a Turkish water pipe) at a local café.
Solo Travel in Turkey
In the years following the tour, I added Turkey onto some of my other trips, this time returning as a solo traveller. Whenever I tell people at home in Canada that I’ll be visiting Turkey alone, they never seem to want to hear about the spectacular mosques, cool neighbourhoods or the latest exhibition at the Istanbul Modern. All they want to know is if it’s safe for me to be doing that. To which I give an emphatic YES! Turkey unfortunately gets a bit of a bad rap on the evening news. But for female travellers, it is a safe country and there is nothing that can’t be overcome with preparation, common sense and a fake wedding ring!
Although it takes a little bit more effort to plan than a group tour, women travelling in Turkey will experience the many ways in which a solo trip is enriching and rewarding.
Despite being a great overview of a city or country, group tours are on a tight timeline and it’s not possible to spend as much time as you’d like in a place or see everything you want to. Sometimes, you just want to check out that funky restaurant in Karaköy or take half a day to wander around Hagia Sophia. Solo travel allows the flexibility to create your own itinerary on your own timeline. There is nothing better than freedom!
Turkey has fantastic infrastructure and a great transportation network. It’s easy to get around and local people, especially in tourist centres, speak multiple languages. I am an English speaker and had no problem finding my way. While it is always a courtesy to learn some Turkish, travellers are able to navigate their way around quite easily.
Much like in the rest of the world, people in Turkey would rather help you than hurt you. Kind and proud locals want nothing more than to share their beautiful country with visitors. Many are curious and happy to chat over a glass of tea with a solo traveller. Exercise the same common sense you would at home and you will find that meaningful connections can be made everywhere.
Most people who have visited Turkey will agree that there is something about this country that seeps into your soul and captures your heart, and there is nothing that should stop female travellers from visiting. So, what’s better, a solo adventure or a group tour? Neither. While they are very different experiences, both are equally enjoyable, affordable and very rewarding. It just depends on what you are looking for. What is guaranteed to be exactly the same about both, however, is that it will be an experience that will have you returning to Turkey time and time again!