'I went to Istanbul for the first time. Here are 5 things to know before you go.'

When I told my friends I was going to Istanbul, I was met by one of two responses. 

There were people who have never been, so didn't have any strong opinions on Türkiye's most populated city, telling me a vague "Cool!" in reply.

And there were the people who were IN LOVE with Istanbul, listing the city as their most beloved destination in the world before offering up advice for countless tourist sites and restaurants to visit. It seems once you go to Istanbul, you can't shut up about going to Istanbul.

And after spending five days exploring the stunning city, I am now one of these people. But is Istanbul suited for solo travellers, especially a woman touring on her own? Here are my major takeaways and travel tips from my trip.

1. Preparation, preparation, preparation!

I'm the type of person who tends to get overwhelmed when travelling solo. Without the ability to bounce ideas off someone else, I find myself paralysed by choice. This is where preparation comes in. Before heading to Istanbul, I researched absolutely everything (aka I watched about 50 TikToks) that I needed to know about the sweeping city that holds more than half the population of Australia.

This meant that when I arrived, I already had a list of the authentic food I needed to try (street food culture is huge and I had to try a wet burger), the amazing historical sites and markets I needed to visit, and an understanding of how the city is separated by the Bosphorus Strait into the European and Asian sides... something I shamefully had no clue about before.

Armed with knowledge, it wasn't quite as daunting when I stepped off the plane. Which brings me to the next point...


2. Pick the right flight.

I'd recommend being a bit picky with this as it's a LONG flight, so it's best to avoid adding too much extra time with long layovers if you can help it (unless you plan on breaking up the trip and booking a night in a city in between).

I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to board Turkish Airlines' inaugural flight from Istanbul to Melbourne (via Singapore) as the carrier has just announced it will expand operations to six continents. Turkish Airlines now operates three weekly flights to Melbourne, with plans to fly thousands of passengers on the İstanbul-Melbourne route annually. 

At the tail end of the inaugural flight, Turkish Airlines also announced that the airline would be adding Sydney to its network by the end of the year. 

It also happened to be my first time ever flying business class, and it was goddamn delightful. This is the person that I should be!

This tall girl was in heaven with all this leg room. Image: Supplied. 


This was such a joy, and if you can afford it or want to treat yo'self, I highly recommend flying business, as I was treated to incredible service, delicious food, and (most crucially) a flat bed to sleep on for both legs of the trip. As someone who has never managed to sleep upright in Economy in my life, this was the ultimate game-changer. Instead of arriving like a corpse, I was fresh as a daisy and hit the ground running — ideal for any traveller who wants to make the most of their time.

I even visited Istanbul's historic Hagia Sophia, the Sultan Ahmed Mosque (AKA the Blue Mosque) and Topkapi Palace on my first day. 

Turkish Airlines Economy fares from Melbourne start from an extremely reasonable $1,499 return, while Business fares from Melbourne start from $7,599 return.

3. Join a tour.

This might seem contradictory to the whole 'travelling solo' plan but hear me out: joining a short tour will enrich your entire experience. Whether it's a street food tour through the city's bustling lanes (I did that, five stars!), or a historical tour of Istanbul's Dolmabahçe Palace or the city's historic mosques (did that too!), joining a tour will break up the monotony of roaming the city on your own.


A tour is also handy for recruiting someone to take pictures of you in front of Istanbul's most spectacular sites. It can't be only me who has felt regrets after returning from a solo vacation to find only a roll of selfies on my camera.

It also helps if your new friends knows their angles and make you look like 6-foot glamazon. Image: Supplied.


And on a tour, you might even make a few friends who you can meet up with throughout your trip for a meal or two. The country's food culture is all about sharing and let me tell you, it's a tad daunting (and impossible) to eat an entire Turkish breakfast all on your own.

4. Eat all the food! 

This brings me to the food. Oh my god, the food. I've never eaten more or better in my whole goddamn life. 

Whether you're travelling alone or with people, just prepare to never stop eating. Whether it's the aforementioned Turkish breakfast, or a spread for lunch or dinner, the Turks love to bring out course after course of food. It's the best way to embrace Istanbul, so I recommend trying everything and thankfully, Türkiye has... everything. From delicious dips, breads, cheese and olives, to incredible meat feasts and decadent desserts.

This incredible mezze spread at Galeyan was a trip highlight. Image: Supplied. 


Special shout-out to the kebab I had from Dönerci Şahin Usta aka the best thing I've ever eaten in my life. 

5. Be safe and also respectful. 

While Istanbul is arguably a less conservative city than many other parts of Türkiye, it's still important to be respectful of the country's traditions and religious customs. This includes women covering up most of their bodies before entering a mosque and wearing a scarf to cover their hair. Scarves are provided at most mosques but I'd advise keeping one handy just in case. 

Istanbul is a perfectly safe travel destination, but —as in any foreign country — it's also good to be cautious in big crowds and make sure your belongings stay safe. 

With all this information in your back pocket, you're ready to take on Istanbul. Just arrive with an empty stomach because there's one thing that the Turks do better than most, and that's feed you nonstop delicious food.

Take me back!

Mamamia travelled as a guest of Turkish Airlines. All opinions expressed in this article are the author's own.

Feature Image: Supplied. 

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