Solo Travel to Istanbul – Mental As Anything, Magical Beyond Compare

My trip to Istanbul

Istanbul is a wonderful destination and it’s easy to see why it attracts so many travellers each year.

I found it to be a perfect destination for solo female travel. Istanbul is absolutely beautiful and it won’t be long before it casts its magic spell on you.

Istanbul solo travels

Heres the story of my trip to Istanbul.

My plane descended into Ataturk International Airport in the last moments of the night. A sprawling city lit up in all the colors of the rainbow spread out before me and the butterflies of excitement overtook any sense of fatigue from my long journey. At this point, I had the overwhelming feeling that I was about to arrive in a magical place.

Is it safe to travel to Istanbul 2018
Istanbul Turkey

You know you’ve arrived in a city of over 16.5 million people from the moment you step off the plane in Istanbul.

People from all over the world line up to enter the country. A little daunted by the sheer numbers of people in arrivals, I was soon through immigration and about to embark on my adventure.

Friendly and helpful people assisted me through the airport and I found my way to the bus that would take me to the part of the city where I was staying, with ease. The public Havabus is a great way to get into the city, cheap and cheerful.

The first thing you notice about Istanbul is the amazing architecture. A blend of old and older, a mix of east and west, the juxtaposition of places of worship and a modern city provide the backdrop to the magic of this place. As soon as you step foot into Istanbul, the city both welcomes you and lays its spell on you.

After arriving at my hotel and purveying the amazing view over the Bosphorus, it was a shower and change of clothes in preparation for an expedition, for me. Spring had just arrived in Turkey and although it was a little bit cold, the sun was shining as I made my way along the streets down the hill to the Bosphorus.

Architecture Istanbul
Architecture Istanbul

The cats and dogs of Istanbul seem to know I’m not from here and I felt sorry for them until I found the little houses the locals build for them and the bowls of food laid out in the neighbourhoods.

Little did I know that what was to await me at the bottom of the hill, was one of the most beautiful spots in the world.   The Bosphorus weaves its magic over you from the moment you lay eyes on it.

It didn’t take me long to find a great place to find a cheap feed at a little spot where the Bosphorus boat tours come and go. I decided then and there to jump on a boat tour along this amazing waterway. Only 15 Turkish Lira (about $6 Australian Dollars) for a two hour cruise that provided a great overview of the city and what it had in store for me.

From the deck of the tour boat, you can see many of Istanbul’s popular attractions and it was a great way to get my bearings on where I was staying in relation to the things I wanted to see for my solo travel to Istanbul.

Istanbul’s public transport, although a little crowded is a great way to get around.

Istanbul is easy to navigate and I soon found myself on a tram into the older part of the city. Istanbul you are mental! The sound of car horns blast out and you take your life in your hands just crossing the road. Mental and magical all at once I thought.

Istanbul solo travels

As you walk through this city your senses are heightened, the smell of coffee, beautifully colorful arrays of food, the call to prayer, architecture unlike anything you have seen before rolls out in front of you. A photographers delight! Of course I just had to have a piece of that freshly made Turkish Baklava. It’s in the old part of the city that you’ll find all of the popular tourist haunts, like the Grand Bazaar and the Blue Mosque. I would suggest you take a hop on hop off bus tour if you want to see them all or if you don’t want to get lost, as I am apt to do.  Just beware of the usual tourist traps around these places. Overall, solo travel to Istanbul is an amazing adventure.

Yes Istanbul is mental, let’s face it, any city with that many people would be. But at the same time it is magical, a type of magic that takes hold of your heart and never lets go. I long to return.

Why not plan a trip to Istanbul for yourself?

Happy Travels


Solo travel to Istanbul

Istanbul Solo Travel
Istanbul Solo Travel


Find out how to get a Visa for Travel to Turkey at Turkey Visa Guide by A Mary on the Road 


  1. Kelly

    Very cool!! I am dying to go myself. I was in the airport on my way to Greece and would really like to visit Istanbul and explore some of the middle eastern cultural fusion there. Thanks for makiikg it sound so exciting!!

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  2. Robert from Uncensoredtravel

    Oh yes, Instanbul is also high on my list. I am having a stopover there end of the year so I hope to experience it a bit!

  3. Jane / Lomaunelmia ja unelmalomia

    Ahh, amazing Istanbul! It’s so rich with history! I’ve been there once, for a whole week, in the end of 90’s.

  4. Megan

    Excellent description of the two sides of a city full of contradictions and blending of the two sides of the world. My husband and I were supposed to visit, but our trip altered the itinerary at the last minute last year. I would still love to go!

  5. Vanina

    I have just been to this wonderful city. Had a nice time to see Hagia Sofia and Basilica Cistern where they shot the climax scenes of Inferno by Dan Brown. Amazing place, love the minarets, baklava and pistacchio ice cream, pide, smell of coffee and turkish tea. Definitely will go back and to istanbul and head to cappadocia, fingers crossed.

  6. Sandy

    Just beautiful reminder of my trip to Istanbul .Its been 5 years sins I saw Istanbul last but its so fresh in my mind .It is time to go back , my heart is still there …….thank you Julie.

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  7. Barbara

    Leaving on Thursday after 1.5 years planning and I can’t wait. Thank you for sharing your experience … I know it’s gonna be a moment that I would never ever forget!!!

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  8. Dieter

    Istanbul is a true valuable place to visit, i have been many times there but most of the times for business and i had not the chance to visit many places

  9. Sheeva L.

    Loved reading this post! Absolutely love your blog and all of your adventures. As a woman who likes to travel, and that wants to start going on adventures on her own – it’s super encouraging.

    I’m planning a week-long trip this December to Istanbul on my own- I was wondering if there was any advice that you could offer me?

    Thank you again for sharing!

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      Thanks Sheeva, I guess the best advice I can offer is to stay close to the old part of the city, grab some comfortable shoes and jump on public transport. There is so much to see in Istanbul so check out the places you want to see before you go. The boat trip was the highlight for me. Julie

  10. Julz

    I have only ever transited in Istanbul and never made it out of the airport. It’s a city that seems so inspiring by it’s history and culture. I would love to go!

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  11. Simon

    You paint a good picture of Istanbul. Mental, but magical. It’s one of the places I want to visit and I think it’s a good idea to cruise the Bosphorus and get an idea of what the city has to offer. I have always admired the architecture of Istanbul as well, so that would be a treat for me.

  12. Penny Sadler

    Istanbul is definitely in my bucket list. I know it’s beautiful, I’ve seen the photos, but you make it sound so romantic! It seems to be cheap, too. Cruising for 2 hours for just 15 lira is definitely my idea of seeing the city. Looking forward to visiting there someday.

  13. Linda

    A visit to Istanbul has always sounded as if it would awaken all the senses and this just confirms it. I would love to eat some Baklava right there in a Turkish market. It must taste wonderful.

  14. anto

    I’ve never gone to Istanbul myself yet but would love to go. I’ve just been to their airport but my layover was too short to head into the city. I’ve heard nothing but amazing stories so can’t wait to visit one day!

  15. Drew

    Istanbul is such a special city. I love the chaos and crowds, with the backdrop of its beautiful architecture. The history, the culture, and people. It has so much to offer. Plus, the food is spectacular. On my last visit, I bought sumac for the first time at a spice market, and it has quickly become my go-to spice for cooking now!

  16. Jennifer

    Istanbul tried my patience. The hawkers were relentless, which is what I was anticipating in the Middle East but not in Istanbul. And in fact, it turned out to be reversed that in places like Morocco and Jordan a no made the hawkers move on. But in Istanbul, they would follow and harass to the point where I just had to get loud and mean to get them away from me. Not my favorite place.

  17. Elisa

    Istanbul is one of my favorite cities, agree what you say that everywhere in the city your senses are heightened. So in the end I try to “forget” the mental part of a big city and I keep only the magical part

  18. Caroline

    I went here a few years ago but have been put off recently as I heard it was unsafe. Good to know it’s still
    an accessible travel destination. Your blog is beautiful!

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  19. sue davies

    Loved your post. really want to go to Istanbul and the Bosphoros boat tour. And, we always try to use
    public transportation when we travel. Magic and Mental–I will remember that when I finally get there.

  20. Louise

    Hi Julie,

    I am planning a solo trip to Istanbul too- and wondered what you did in the evenings? Was it OK to eat by yourself in restaurants? How did you find that?

    Thank you

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      Hi Louise, depends where you are staying. If you’re going to be close to the action, you should be fine. Just take the same precautions you would at home. One thing, if you’re taking a taxi anywhere make sure you ask the price before you get in. My hotel wasn’t close to restaurants but had its own. When I travel I usually make lunch my main meal or tend to have dinner early. Julie

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