How to Dress in Turkey: A Packing Guide for Women

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My first 7-day visit to Turkey (Türkiye) was filled with unexpected encounters and sweet surprises. While I experienced some unwanted male attention that left me annoyed and confused, I left knowing I’d be back. There is so much to see and do in Turkey, you can only scratch the surface on a seven day trip.

I’ve traveled to Turkey twice, both times in the spring when the weather was unpredictable. On one visit, there was a cold front, and it even snowed while I enjoyed the magnificent cave hotels in Cappadocia. I packed for temps in the 50s but got weather in the 20s (Fahrenheit). Luckily I had my Merino wool base layers that can be worn under practically anything to add warmth. 

At first, I was a bit concerned with how to dress in Turkey as I immediately lumped it in with other Muslim countries with strict dress codes for women, such as Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Iran. In these countries, women are always expected to be covered whether they are a tourist or not.

Coming to find out-Turkey (Türkiye) is not a Muslim country, but a Muslim-majority country. The difference is, the country does not follow Islamic law. Although Islamic influence is widely seen in its population and with some elected officials, Turkey is a secular country.

You will find local Turkish women wearing all different garments in Turkey (Türkiye), as modest dressing is optional in most areas. However, I felt best in conservative clothing covering shoulders and knees. 

While you can wear anything you want as a tourist, you will want to wear appropriate clothing based on where you are visiting in the country, the time of year you are visiting, and what landmarks you will be visiting– and yes, there is a Blue Mosque Dress Code (more on that in a later section).

How to Dress Depending on the Areas you Visit

One major thing to consider when dressing in Turkey is following the unwritten rules of where you will travel to. In the major tourist towns and metropolitan cities, tourists and locals often wear shorts and tank tops, especially in the warm summer months; if you venture out to more remote areas, you might see locals in more modest attire even in hot weather. However, it is all personal choice since Turkey does not have any strict rules pertaining to women’s clothing.

I was told by a local Istanbul guide, that in some villages in eastern Turkey, it is standard practice for tourists to wear a head covering, a long skirt, and a loose long-sleeve top, as skirts and dresses are preferred over baggy pants.

However, I was also told by a few locals, that no Turk wears a head covering even in the smaller villages in eastern Turkey. I’ve come to realize that this may be because of the increased number of immigrants and refuges that call Turkey home. Natural born Turks may not have the same expectations as other immigrants and refuges from more conservative countries. I just feel it is always best to blend in as much as possible and recommend more conservative clothing when visiting a smaller community if that community is more conservative.

How to Dress in Public in Metropolitan Cities

You will see Turkish women dressing in various levels of modesty in public. Tank tops and shorts are widely accepted but some women will wear long skirts and tops that cover their shoulders. Some women wear head coverings like a Hijab, while you may see others fully covered in a Burqa, but are most likely tourists. Head coverings are not standard or expected but are most likely seen on women who are immigrants or refugees. I’ve been told by a few locals that hardly any Turkish women wear head coverings but during my time in Istanbul, I rarely saw women without them. Ultimately, what you wear is up to you and however you feel most comfortable.

Metropolitan cities such as Istanbul, Ankara, and İzmir are used to seeing tourists and locals in shorts and tank tops. However, with the amount of male attention I was getting, I feel better wearing loose-fitting clothing that covers shoulders and knees. I was told the locals will appreciate it and give you more respect, which means you will have a better experience when engaging with the local community.

Shoes | Skirt (similar) | Hat | Headband

How to Dress When Visiting Mosques

A mosque-appropriate dress code includes a head covering, a long skirt, and a long-sleeved top. At the Blue Mosque, the greeter at the door will decide if your attire is conservative enough. Sometimes the greeter will not approve an outfit if your ankles, wrists, or chest areas show too much skin. You will be asked to wear a head scarf as well. The Blue mosque does offer robes and head coverings to borrow, but it is always better to use your own garments, so come prepared with a scarf that can be used to cover your head, shoulders, and chest if needed. The Hagia Sophia in Istanbul did not have as strict of a dress code as other mosques, but as I’ve said, covering arms, legs, and head is expected at many religious sites, even in a modern cosmopolitan city like Istanbul.

You will also be asked to remove your shoes when visiting a mosque. Bring a pair of socks in your day bag if you wear sandals and do not want to walk around barefoot. Socks are not required but might make you feel more comfortable. 

How to Dress in Rural Areas

Turkey is a conservative Muslim country, with some parts of Turkey being more religious than others. Eastern Turkey tends to be a bit more conservative, but tourists tend to stick to the major cities such as Istanbul, Cappadocia, Ankara, and Izmir, where dressing is more liberal. If you want to visit the more rural areas of Turkey, stick to a “mosque etiquette” style of dressing, with long sleeves paired with a full-length skirt and a headscarf (even in hot weather). Your modest dressing will be appreciated by the residents in the smaller eastern villages who tend to be more religious.

How to Dress for the Weather in Turkey

It is also essential to consider the time of year when deciding how to dress in Turkey. Turkey is a true 4 season country known for its unpredictable weather. Most areas of the country experience extreme temperatures in summer and winter, making spring (April and May) and fall (September and October) ideal times to visit.  

If you are visiting during cold weather, pants, long sleeve sweaters, and long coats won’t be a difficult task, but if you are visiting in the hot summer months, you will want to choose loose, lightweight clothing to stay comfortable while sightseeing in hot weather. 

The perfect outfit to wear during the summer season allows for air flow and sun protection. Long skirts and tops in light colors that cover your shoulders with comfortable shoes are a good idea. Although they are entirely acceptable, you won’t see many Turks wearing open-toed shoes. You will easily walk a mile a day or more, even if you plan on using public transportation, so comfortable clothes and shoes are a must.  

Consider a long skirt, baggy trousers, or a long dress to cover your legs. A long-sleeved cotton shirt or linen blend is the most breathable and will help to keep you cool while protecting your skin from the sun.  If you are in more secular areas of Turkey rest assured tank tops and shorts are common but if you are sight seeing make sure to wear the appropriate attire so you wont be turned away in some religious landmarks.

Avoid wearing sleeveless tops, short skirts, tight shorts, and short shorts. Even during warm weather, you should still cover your shoulders and knees. Turkey has so many religious places; it is much easier to dress in modest clothing and not worry about being denied entry to a religious site. You never know what you will stumble upon while exploring Turkey’s famous landmarks, so it is best to be prepared.

How to Dress at a Beach Resort

The coastal resorts bring a lot more freedom when it comes to dressing in Turkey. Foreign women wear various beach styles, as beach resorts have no strict dress code. Bathing suits in every cut are acceptable, and you may even see some tourists sunbathing topless. However, a coverup while indoors or walking through a lobby is a great idea. It is acceptable for women to wear bathing suits at public hot springs, but a one-piece is the better choice in more rural areas. 

Additional Items to Pack for a Trip to Turkey

In addition to your long skirt, baggy pants, long-sleeved shirts, and headscarf, don’t forget these things that will make your visit to Turkey much more comfortable.

  • Toilet paper or bio-degradable wipes– many public toilets require a small fee, you would think that includes toilet paper, but it doesn’t always; it’s better to be prepared! Remember not to flush them even if they say flushable on their packaging.
  • Secure bagIt gets crowded in large cities, especially on public transportation and in the famous bazaars. You will want to do your best to protect your belongings with a bag that has anti-theft properties such as a secure zipper, slash-proof material, and RFID-blocking technology. 
  • Local currency– Many credit card machines don’t work, especially in Taxis. If you pay with US dollars, they will almost always cheat you out of proper change and give it to you in local currency.

***

Some Islamic countries have strict dress codes, but Turkey is not one of them. It is common to see Muslim women in smart casuals and Turkish people being more accepting of Western dressing styles in tourist areas. However, tourists should always respect the local culture and dress modestly in public spaces. Aside from a few long dresses and long-sleeved shirts, modest clothing should not be intimidating.  

As a solo female traveler, dressing conservatively in a Muslim country is not only respectful and appreciated by locals, but it is a helpful way to avoid unwanted attention, especially from aggressive men!

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13 Comments

  1. All of the things you said are extremely misleading! You’re talking as if only foreign women are wearing shorts, short skirts, sleeveless tops and revealing clothes, while many Turkish women also wear them. You’re obviously not expected to cover or wear long sleeves with long skirts in summer or in any season, you can wear short skirts in winter and nobody would bat an eye since Turkish women ALSO wear these.
    No Turkish women in Turkey wears a “burqa”, it is socially not acceptable and people would think you’re from the Gulf countries or a foreigner visiting Turkey if you wore one. Yes, it is normal to see women with headscarves but not women with their faces or hands covered. Let’s not forget that majority of Turkish women absolutely do not cover their hair and that they wear whatever they want. People who wear the headscarf do it because they want to, not because they’re forced to. I think you’re forgetting that Turkey had a law banning all religious clothes including headscarves up until 2013!

    Turkey is not a “conservative” Muslim country, or a Muslim country since it’s secular. You can walk around in bikinis and no one would care. I’m a local and wear short skirts with tank tops all the time, literally no one cares.

    1. Samantha Stamps says:

      Thank so so much for your comment! I am loving the input and would love to ask for more insight. Happy to update my article with a local perspective, I don’t want it to be misleading. I wrote from my point of view as a tourist and what local tourism/visitor guides projected at the time. I wonder if the areas I was in leaned towards tourists and have more immigrant communities that stray from local customs. I did see a lot of burqas but as you mentioned maybe they were visiting too. I also noticed that most people were wearing dark colors (men and women) is this something you would say is standard? I definitely got a lot of unwanted male attention when I was walking around solo. The two locals I know (both males) said I screamed tourist- but now I wonder what exactly that meant. I have a lot of color in my wardrobe and thought maybe that was it. Also, what do you consider Turkey if its not a muslim country as I’ve always known Turkey to be considered a muslim country since the majority practice Islam. I think it is almost 99% of total population but I can see from your comment, a conservative muslim country is not the correct language. Glad to read Turkey is much more relaxed than what most people may think. Would love to continue the conversation and will update my article accordingly!

      1. No, the thing about 99% muslim is tottaly wrong. Half of the people here are deists or atheists. Most of the people don’t care about how you look like or what you wear. Because Turkey is a country where so many foreigners lives happily here. Some gorillas can say things about what you wear but most of them are from arabic countries or old minded. I lived 20 years in Turkey and i can easly say no one wears burqas, because i didn’t see one. Your friends who said you look like a foreigner is probably because how your face and body (weight, height) looks like.

        1. Very interesting. I think the data is from those registered as Muslim according to the state. It says most practice Sunni Islam. It seems there is a big difference between the local experience and a tourist experience with all the things we tourists are told. I’d love to learn more about the local experience!

      2. Berke Tahirgil says:

        The only reason they say 98% Muslim is because they consider everyone Muslim unless they specifically get documents proving another religion. Athesidys and agnostic now supposedly can leave that space blank on IDs however there is not a widely known protocol yet to implement this in the social services office. Most of us are agnostic and actually would prefer people not wear religious garb. The touristic parts annoy me a bit because you see a lot of this. If it is so important to dress Luke the locals, we really wish they’d dress more like us and show us their hair

  2. Elif Karaaytu says:

    Wrong about clothing of women in my country Türkiye.Not even a Turkish woman wear burka or something similar.All tourists from “Islamist” countries. Most of the ladies much more modern concidering many EU countries.Been to 45 countries up to now and as far as I see half of women go round half naked in Türkiye 🙂 Not only in bigger Western/South Aegean or Medditerranean coasts but even in Mardin or Kars the furtest East of Türkiye.I had to warn my colleague to be just a bit more respectful to the religious places like Churches, Mosques or Synagogs in Mardin, Urfa, etc eastern parts of our country.
    And about “disturbing” men they are also immigrants or refugies that we gave a life in our country.Believe or not they are more than 10.000.000 according to official records. They are given education at our schools for free,enter our Universities without any examination,taken care in our hospitals for free and get paid for doing nothing but disturbing women especially tourists that much more naive.As Türkish women we don’t advice them to mass with us :))

    1. Berke Tahirgil says:

      Never had an issue with Turkish men. Not the best in bed, but no issue like in Paris where I got my ass grabbed constantly. Lol

      1. the taxis I took were the worst experiences for me in Turkey- first one pulled over on the highway trying to coax me into the front seat, telling me it is ok to have a conversation after telling me he wanted to make love to me. WTF it was a 50 min ride of this- so uncomfortable.

        I had three men follow me while walking to the blue mosque area. I could feel them following me, I walked faster, they still followed. I stopped when I got to a crowded square, then they circled me saying “little girl, are you lost” I can help you little girl”. I also got a lot of “don’t be scared, I won’t eat you, I am a vegetarian” while walking in the touristy areas. So odd. But also went to Cappadocia and had fantastic interactions with all the men there. I felt very comfortable. Of course touristy areas will see more of these ratchet men but as a tourist, I want to see the beautiful touristy areas (in addition to others) so its good to know what to expect!

        BTW I’ve soo had my ass grabbed in NYC subway- so awkward, others saw and came to my aid, reprimanding the guy who clearly was not a first offender. insert eye roll!

  3. When we went to Turkey, most all of the women had their heads covered. Problem was, we barely saw any women. Mostly all men. Don’t know where the women were but we barely saw any.

    1. I had a similar experience. I did meet some local women that did not have their head covered but I made it an appoint to look for women a few times outside of the touristy spots and thought the same “where are all the women?” I am now realizing a lot of the conservatively dressed women may be immigrants and refugees rather than local born turks. The tourist experience seems very different from a local experience.

  4. Gladys Aviles says:

    Dear Samantha your information about what to wear and be safe as a single female traveling to instanbul was very helful i plan a trip in a few weeks for 5 days only and traveling to visit a sick friend I believe live s in the firest bear instanbul in a cabin dont know exactly what forest or region should I find out more info before I go and do I register with the American embassy when I get there just to be sure I can get out safely back to usa

    1. Hi Gladys, I am glad the information was helpful! I hope you enjoy your trip! Definitely find out more information about where you are going, how to get there and around once there and how to stay connected while you are there. Consider an international phone plan, and download offline maps to make sure you do not get lost. I’ve never registered myself but you can register your trip with STEP a government program for international travelers. I’m sure it will provide peace of mind while you are away.

  5. Berke Tahirgil says:

    As a Turkish woman, raised in NYC, I can say, i wear whatever I want in turkey and always have. Unless I’m going to visit a mosque. I would not go into any religious place with too much open. You can wear whatever you want in Turkey. I appreciate the concern to be respectful, but it also perpetuates the false western narrative that conflated Turks with Arabs, which is more insulting to Turks than a woman showing her midriff. In istanbul older women are getting sleeves done–I find a lot of things more puritan here in America, to be honest.

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