What to wear in Turkey

Every traveller’s primary concern is “how to blend in and not stand out” to avoid unwanted attention in a foreign land. Turkey being one of my first foreign trips, I was equally worried. Many eastern countries which are geographically European, and culturally Islamic confuse me. Hijab-No HIjab, Skirts -no skirts, swimsuits -no swimsuits – I can’t explain how confused I was before going to Turkey. Of course, I read many blogs before deciding what to wear in Turkey for some tips. Some were useful, while the rest seemed different from the reality I observed.

With lots of walking/hiking adventures and religious places to visit, it may be overwhelming to pack for your Turkey voyage.. Here is everything you should know about what to pack and what to wear where in Turkey

Index

How do Turkish people dress up?

Turkish men in smart casuals in front of Hagia Sophia

I found Turkey to be more liberal than the other Middle Eastern countries like Egypt, Jordan, and Iran. Turks, especially in Istanbul, are used to international visitors. So western clothing is not new to them. But the countryside is more conservative and requires you to dress modestly.

Is there a dress code in Turkey?

Turkish men and women dressed stylish

You do see Turkish women with Hijab and Burqa at places near mosques and older cities. But many young women don’t wear Hijab (until 2021 at least). We saw girls in skinny torn jeans and slim-fit tops during spring. Knee-length skirts and short sleeves tops are usual. Women love to use makeup, but not as much as Iranians. We hardly saw any local Turk man wearing shorts on the streets.

Do tourists have to wear hijab in Turkey?

As a woman traveller, your main question will be – Do I need to carry a Burqa or put it on Hijab? NOPE – YOU DON’T NEED ANY OF THOSE as a tourist. But you are required to wear a scarf on your head while entering any Islamic holy places.

Can you wear crop tops in Turkey?

I was there in May. Though supposedly it is summer, the weather was cold. So nobody on street wore anything less than light jacket. But observing the locals, it is ok to wear crop tops in Turkey, provided you cover in religious places.

Is a short dress allowed in Turkey?

I am sure, beachtowns of Turkey are perfect for our short dresses. Istanbul and Ankara will also be open free-spiritted style of clothing. The nightlife in Istanbul is high. There are hundreds of hiking trails in Cappadocia. You need to get into the pools at Pamukkale. So wear whatever is comfortable for you based on the seasons.

Tourists in Pamukkale traventine pools wearing shorts and bathing suits

How do I not look like a tourist in Turkey?

Istanbul was colder, but Pamukkale was warmer. Still, a Polo-collared T-shirt and denim with shoes seemed to be Turkish men’s everyday attire. I would vote for Turkish men to be the most handsome of all the other nations with a great sense of dressingI have ever visited. Torn jeans or short skirts, Turkish women dressed super smart and chic. So the summary is – dress up well, and don’t be shabby to blend in well.

What to wear as per the Weather

How do people dress in Turkey in May?

Indian travellers wearing smart casuals in Sultan Ahmet square at Istanbul

I thought and read that Turkey would be warm enough in May with 15*C to 23*C. Even two days before arriving in Turkey, the forecast said the same. Surprisingly, it began to rain on the first day, and the weather turned cold so that we had to stick to denim and full-arm woollen shirts on the second day. Fortunately, we had packed conservative clothing, considering it as a middle-eastern nation. The weather got colder than Istanbul in Cappadocia, reaching almost 5*C by evening. So we ended up buying thick jackets in a tiny village somewhere near Cappadocia for 400TL( 3000 INR each). Unlike us, if you want to save money, carry a heavy jacket in spring.

Indian traveller wearing thick black jacket and denim during spring at Cappadocia

Expecting similar weather in western Turkey, we wore the same jackets to Pamukkale too. We ended up sweating like pigs with the jacket in the morning and shifted to the cotton shorts and T-Shirts sooner. Based on what we experienced in Turkey’s Spring, I recommend you pack warm and light clothes along with thermal wear if you explore multiple regions.

Travellers wearing shorts and T-Shirts at Pamukkale traventine

The sweating pigs at Pamukkale

What to wear in Turkey’s summer?

Pack thin cotton and linen pants and tops. Shorts for men and women are ok too. It is just that Turks mostly wear smart casuals with sleeved shirts and pants, and you in shorts and sleeveless tops/shirts make you look too touristy. Short dresses for women and smart casuals are best for Turkey’s summer. Always carry a wrap-around or a Sarong while wearing shorts so that entering any religious place won’t become a headache.

What to wear at Mosques?

Women Visitors wearing hijab inside blue mosque

Ladies have to wear a headscarf inside the mosque premises. Both men and women aren’t allowed to wear anything above the knees and sleeveless tops when inside the mosque. You will be given a wrap-around at the ticket counter if you are wearing one. The worst part is, that they are not washed after each use. You will be wrapping a fabric worn by someone immediately after removing it. Fortunately, I had a scarf and was wearing full pants. Footwear is not allowed inside the mosque. 

What to wear at Turkey’s natural pools?

Dozens of visitors swimming in Cleopatra pool wearing swimwears

Bikini and bathing suits are absolutely fine for Turkey’s waterfalls and pools. I was uncertain that my shorts would be inappropriate to Pamukkale. But I realized I was wrong once I saw tourists and local Turks in swimwear in the pools.

Fancy a pre-wedding photoshoot?

Beautiful photo of wedding photoshoot in progress seen from above at Cappadocia

I knew Indian’s obsession with pre/post wedding photoshoots. As per research, The Indian wedding industry currently accounts for over Rs. 1,00,000 crores are growing at a rapid rate of 25-30% each year. An average Indian wedding could cost between 20 lakhs to 5 crores. A person in India is estimated to spend one-fifth of the total wealth accumulated in his lifetime on his wedding.

Until I went to Turkey, I thought we were the only ones to spend fortunes on the pre/post-wedding photoshoots. Hardly we saw any couples for a photoshoot in the heart of Istanbul. But the day we entered Cappadocia and Pamukkale, we saw couples doing their photoshoots at sunrise and sunset, respectively. Are they Turks or foreigners? I can’t really say that. But these two places are famous for a couple of photoshoots. I realised after I saw at least 10 couples in 4 days getting clicked in the fantastic location.

It can’t get any dreamier than having your romantic photoshoot with the backdrops of mountains at Cappadocia or the whitewashed terraces of Pamukkale. 

Couple photoshoot in progress during sunset time by the white traventine side at Pamukkale

At Cappadocia, it is preferred to have a photo shoot right after the sun rises so that you can capture the moments better with the balloons and the rock formations in the background. In Pamukkale, it is either right before the sunset or after the evening to avoid the crowd and get the turquoise pool’s glowing colours. If you fancy one, you will find many studios and cameraman shops in the town centre. I saw many rental places exclusive for wedding photoshoots from those flowing white gowns to vintage cars. You may have to book them in during the peak tourist season prior.

What kind of clothes did the Ottomans wear?

Indian tourists wearing Ottoman attire

We were on our way back to Hagia Sophia from a carper shop. The street was still waking up while I explained how Turkish-born man Yusuf Adil Shah was sent to Persia and how he came to Bijapur as a slave and established a kingdom in our home state. With butterflies in my stomach and lots of excitement about exploring Constantinople, we were wandering the street to get into the vibe. Then We saw a nameplate on one of the shops that read” Ottoman photobooth” Curiously, we entered that shop to check it out.

Is Turkey good for Indian tourists?

They had a set up of a throne, bright red carpets and other things to make it look royal. There was a good collection of wardrobes with glittering gowns. Definitely, we were the shop owner’s first customer but weren’t much wanted. The way shopkeepers greeted and helped us was different from how they did with their next customers, of fairer skin. “Take your time; many outfits suit you. Try out many things. I am ready to help you choose”. That is what the other tourists received.. While I wasn’t given any help other than a nod and said, “If you like it, wear it. Remove clothes from the hanger if only you like it” But who cares how they treat us? We became Ottoman king and Queen for a few minutes and got clicked.

Do you mind wearing an Ottoman costume for photos? Let us know in the comment section below.

Published by Sahana Kulur

Traveller | Blogger | Architecture and history

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