Nobody's business but the Turks.
August 5, 2010 11:05 AM   Subscribe

Suggestions for a young (American) woman going to live in Turkey.

Soon I will be leaving to Antalya, Turkey where I will be living for two months while taking language classes. I will be staying with a host family. I have visited Turkey (mainly Istanbul) for a short time (about three weeks) once before.

I am looking for suggestions about how to make the most of this experience. I will be alone for most of the trip, with the exception of a short visit from my mother. How should I dress and behave (aside from observe people and blend in, which I will do)? What are the best means of transportation and internet? How do I deal with unwanted advances (These were really distressing to be the last time I was there. Whenever I was out without a male friend, I was treated very lewdly. The fake wedding ring didn't work.)

I am mostly looking for suggestions related to cultural integration and understanding. Any ideas regarding places to go, things to see or do are also appreciated. Thanks, Me-fites!
posted by BusyBusyBusy to Travel & Transportation around Turkey (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Take my word with a grain of salt because I am a Turk, but the advice should still be helpful.

What are the best means of transportation and internet?

You might want to ask your host family if they have internet. Most "modern" families do. If they don't, you try the internet cafes (and they are very cheap, 1-2 TL/hr). You could also get a USB internet connection gizmo if all fails, which should be helpful (not fast enough for Skype but good enough for email etc). You might want to get a cheap phone while you are in Turkey, they sell SIM cards pretty much everywhere, you can add minutes and pay as you go.

Transportation. Maybe this is just me, but I would advise agains driving in Turkey. If you are going to be staying here for only two months, you might not get enough "feel" for the roads to be safe. (You will routinely see people backing up on the highway, for instance). If you could use public transportation or ride on the minibuses that would be best. They are cheap and quick. Taxis are also very quick and relatively cheap (compared to the US).

How do I deal with unwanted advances?

If you look like a foreigner, people will look/stare at you (especially in small towns). This is more out of curiousity, but you'll probably encounter your fair share of nasty people. Just don't engage them, don't look at them, don't talk to them. If they get physical (very much doubt it) just call the police or yell for help. Try not to wear butt shorts. :) Knee length shorts are just fine, so are tank tops. I would say try not to wear anything too suggestive (boobies should be contained within the top), but otherwise you should be just fine, especially in Antalya. You don't need head scarves unless you are going into a mosque (even then you can get away with it). The wedding ring will not deter anybody.

Turkey is usually very safe (especially relatively small cities like Antalya). People are very friendly, and I think the members of the host family is going to be your best friends. Oh, don't forget to enjoy the food.

If you have any other questions, feel free to memail me!
posted by kuju at 11:41 AM on August 5, 2010

Lucky you! Antalya is wonderful. When I have been in Turkey, I have found that speaking even a very small amount of Turkish goes a long way toward making people comfortable and welcoming with you. Even when I only said, "Türkçe bilmiyorum" (I don't understand Turkish) people were very excited that I had bothered to learn even that much.

Antalya, specifically, is a tourist town. People there will be very used to seeing tourists (particularly Germans) in shorts and t-shirts with cameras around their necks. I don't think you need to be prepared to change your attire very much—just be sure to bring a variety of clothes for layering, etc., so you can adapt once you arrive, and be dressed for living not for travel.

The best means of transportation for getting around the country are the buses (or at least they were the last time I was there). They are inexpensive, and much nicer than North American bus companies like Greyhound. In addition to the driver, there is an attendant who serves tea—it feels much more like being on a plane with a flight attendant. There are several major bus lines; I have taken Ulusoy.

As far as places to go, head west along the coast. You'll hit Demre, home of St. Nicholas, Efes (which most of us know as Ephesus) and more Greco-Roman ruins than you can shake a stick at. Also head north to Cappadocia and its incredible underground cities. (Stay in Göreme at the Kelebek Hotel).

And I wouldn't worry too much about sketchy leering outside Istanbul. Granted, I was rarely alone on my travels in Turkey, but it was rarely more than just my aunt and myself, and we did not have such problems.
posted by ocherdraco at 11:54 AM on August 5, 2010

Antalya, as you may know, is a massively popular tourist destination, especially with people from Russia and eastern Europe, and so while I haven't been there myself, I'd imagine that things like internet cafés will be all over.
posted by mdonley at 12:05 PM on August 5, 2010

Well, be careful of tax drivers. They can play with the meters and rip you off. At least in Istanbul.
posted by simpleton at 4:34 PM on August 5, 2010

Antalya is a pretty town in a stunning location - those Taurus Mountains to the west, looking from the old town (Kale Ici) across the boat harbour...mmmm.

For travel, I would second heading west along the coast. If you feel like some (more) western company for a bit, you might like to stay a while at Olympos, which is quite close. It's a bit of a backpacker mecca, with treehouses (and other regular accommodation), a beach, forests & orchards. Really quite pleasant & serene for a break. There's another place just on the Antalya side of Olympos which is also nice and less backpackery, but I forget what it's called.

I also really enjoyed the scenery on the bus ride between Konya & Antalya, maybe about 5 hours or so (?) away, inland. Konya has some interesting historical monuments & sites, and to me it felt like it was mostly ignored by the tourist scene along the coast or further inland at Cappadocia - a chance to maybe just hang out in a regular Turkish town without all the constant attention from carpet sellers & touts. Maybe an overnight stay on a weekend; not sure if there's enough to keep you there for much longer.
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:53 PM on August 5, 2010

Regarding the advances: learn how to tell them off in the local language. I'm not female, but I am an American that lives overseas / travels a lot, and I see this phenomenon many, many places. When a girl doesn't have the benefit of a male companion (I've nearly gone fisticuffs a couple times when the morons didn't think I noticed their behavior), I think the next best thing is being able to shout / scream "DON'T TOUCH ME!" or "HELP! POLICE!"* in the local dialect.

*or "GET YOUR HANDS OFF OF ME YOU SON OF A MOTHERLESS GOAT" or whatever the most attention-drawing local phraseology might allow.
posted by allkindsoftime at 10:43 PM on August 5, 2010


I don't know how easily you could find it, but somebody asked a similar kind of question to yours once (western woman doing a temporary expat thing in Turkey etc) & somebody Turkish or of Turkish origin commented along the lines that (me paraphrasing from memory):

"Don't be afraid to tell men where to go, in no uncertain terms. However macho the society might seem, Turkish women absolutely rule the household, and don't pull their punches in telling men off. No Turkish woman would put up with being harassed; the men just target you because you're seen to be softer. Act like the local women & shout them down in public; they'll take off like puppies with their tails between their legs"
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:58 PM on August 5, 2010

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