What to wear in Turkey as a woman

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As a woman, on a recent trip to Turkey I wondered what to wear and what to pack. Based on my experience of travelling around Turkey in 2023, I’ve put together a post setting out what I learnt about what women can wear in Turkey in the different regions and taking into account seasonal variance. Read on to find out more.

What to wear in Turkey as a woman

Firstly, a bit about Turkey. Turkey is located in between Southeast Europe and West Asia. It is thought of as country where East blends with West. It is a large country, geographically and culturally diverse. 99% of Turkish citizens identify as Muslim.

When it comes to deciding what to wear in Turkey as a woman, you will need to consider a few things:

  • The season you are travelling in and the climate – the summer is hot and winter cool (see more detail below).
  • The geographical area you are visiting – in general, Istanbul and the Aegean Coast are fairly liberal when it comes to female dress codes. With Istanbul erring towards more conservative dress than the coastal area. The East and South East of Turkey are far more conservative however.
  • How you feel in a new country and how comfortable you will be with any unwanted attention – you don’t have to dress conservatively, but not doing so can lead to a bit of hassle for women in Turkey
  • Which clothes pack well, are comfortable and flattering to wear – I opt for a capsule wardrobe when I travel, pieces I can wear multiple times and don’t need to be ironed

I’ve provided more detailed advice for women travelling to Turkey below, with some ideas for outfits for different seasons and when visiting different regions. This is based on what I packed to travel to Turkey.

What to wear in Turkey on the South West coast

The coastal towns and cities in Turkey tend to be a bit more liberal. We recently traveled to Antalya and saw many women heading out on a Saturday in the old town wearing LBDs. But, it can be a bit different during the day. Personally, I felt more comfortable wearing knee length dresses and avoiding anything too strappy or low cut up top.

Here are some outfits similar to what I opted to wear on the coast in Turkey.

By Day:

By Night:

👗Quick tip – if you plan to visit East or South East Turkey, note that it is far more conservative than the South West coast. Opt for long dresses, sleeves and loose fitting trousers.

What to wear in Turkey on the beach

The beach is a stark contrast to other areas of Turkey, on the beach you’ll find that pretty much anything goes when it comes to swimwear. We saw many a bikini, including some thongs.

Personally, I opted for a one-piece swimsuit (the green one shown below). This felt more appropriate and comfortable to me in Turkey, especially as I visited some remote beaches. If you’re in a “resort town” like Bodrum, then a two piece may feel appropriate for you.

Here are some ideas for swimwear you can wear in Turkey on the beach:

👙Quick tip – whilst the beaches in Turkey are liberal, sunbathing topless is not acceptable here.

Just remember, what happens on the beach stays on the beach. Be sure to cover up a bit once you leave. Chilling in a bikini in a beach bar is fine, but I’d suggest throwing on a cover up elsewhere.

Here are a few ideas for cover ups you can wear to and from the beach:

What to wear in Istanbul

Istanbul is a cosmopolitan city. You can find all the main high street stores like Zara and H&M that you would find anywhere in Europe. Some women do cover up, and others choose not to as much. It really depends on your choice.

I found that I got more unwanted attention in Istanbul than when I traveled on the coast in Turkey and subsequently I do think it’s wise for women to dress a bit modestly. Personally, on a recent visit to Istanbul I chose to keep my wardrobe reasonably modest.

Istanbul, as a large and buzzing city, also has a fairly smart dress code. Especially in the evening most people opt for fairly chic outfits in roof top bars and restaurants. I chose pieces that felt smart but comfortable and were easy to stash in my backpack.

Here are few ideas for what to wear in Istanbul.

By day:

🕌If you’re planning to visit Mosques in Istanbul, do take note of the advice about Mosques below. You will need to observe a stricter dress code than in the rest of the city.

By night:

🩰 When it comes to footwear in Istanbul, flats are best. There are a few steep roads and slippery surfaces. Unless you’re heading “out out” in a cab, I would avoid heels.

What to wear in Turkey to visit a Mosque

If you are planning to visit a Mosque in Turkey, whether in Istanbul or on the coast in a city like Antalya, you must observe the dress code.

To visit a Mosque in Turkey a woman must have her hair, shoulders, upper arms and thighs covered up.

If you know you’re planning to visit a Mosque, it’s a good idea to opt for a long flowy dress with sleeves, a loose fitting jumpsuit or trousers.

Here are some ideas:

I also love packing a white shirt when travelling, it can go over any outfit easily to create an instantly modest look. Linen is a great fabric choice, or chiffon also works well for a smarter look.

Here are two options:

Remember to pack a shawl to use as a head scarf too. In some Mosques, a scarf will be provided. But, in Hagia Sophia in Istanbul they are not. Although there is a kiosk selling scarves and shawls, it is quite expensive and the quality is not good. Personally, I’d prefer to take my own.

Something like this works well:

What to wear in Turkey in June, July and August

Most of Turkey gets hot during the summer. Sometimes it can be up to 40 degrees centigrade on the South Coast.

Most beach resorts along the coast, such as the Antalya and Bodrum regions are very liberal. Short dresses around town are acceptable day and night. As are swimsuits on the beach. But we suggest leaving very short shorts and strappy/ low cut tops at home.

What to wear in Turkey in September, October and November

September to November is autumn in Turkey, but it is not yet cool in most parts. Along the South Coast and even in Istanbul to the North September and October are mid to high twenties (centigrade). November starts to cool and you will want layers for the evening – a shirt in September, perhaps a warmer layer in October and a light jacket in the evening.

What to wear in Turkey in December, January and February

December, January and February are winter in Turkey. A jacket will be needed, even on the south coast. We suggest jeans, light jumpers and jackets as your “go to” outfit. A raincoat and waterproof can be useful too as it rains a lot in winter.

What to wear in Turkey in March, April and May

March, April and May are spring in Turkey. Days are getting warmer but evenings remain cool. There can be a little rain too. Think colourful dresses and lightweight jackets, perhaps paired with trainers. It’s wise to pack a rain coat too. Remember, Istanbul tends to be cooler than the South Coast, so you may need a few warm layers in early spring in Istanbul.

Written by Emma

Wine Lover. Yogi. Hiker. Writer.

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