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25 Top Istanbul Packing List Items for 2024 + What to Wear & NOT to Bring

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Where East meets West— Istanbul is a city unlike anywhere in the world. Spread across the border of Europe and Asia, it is a place that has to be experienced at least once in a lifetime. A vibrant city that is a delight for the senses with its plethora of sounds, smells, tastes, and sights.

This multifaceted place is equally rich in history and contemporary culture. You can go from touring the iconic Hagia Sophia Mosque to dancing on a rooftop bar surrounded by a hip crowd of tattooed 20-somethings in a matter of hours. It’s a destination that’s nothing short of thrilling. To be sure that you’re fully prepared for your trip, I’ve put together a complete packing list along with what to wear in Istanbul, what not to wear, and what to expect of Istanbul.

See our product selection criteria and guidelines here.

What to Pack for Istanbul - 25 Essentials

  • 1. Neck Wallet

    It can get pretty crowded in a city of 20 million people. Keeping your valuables like credit cards, passports, and cash in a neck wallet will give you peace of mind while wandering the halls of the Grand Bazaar or waiting in line to enter the Hagia Sophia. This one is big enough to hold your essentials and can discreetly be worn under your shirt, which is better than pulling out a wallet from your back pocket or leaving it exposed to pickpocketers.

    neck wallet

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  • 2. Jet Lag Relief

    The journey to Turkey is not a short one. A direct flight from NYC is 9+ hours, and most starting points will require a layover or two. As the jet lag catches up to you, use these herbal supplements to fight exhaustion. You’re also up against drastic time changes and being immobile on a plane for many hours, these chamomile-based pills (that are really yummy by the way!) will help you to feel much more rested when you arrive.

    Jet Lag Relief

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  • 3. Virtual Private Network (VPN)

    Cybercrime is prevalent in Turkey and the country does not have any dedicated laws to supporting cybersecurity. And while this is one thing on the list you might not have thought of – it is absolutely vital for international travel. If you’re connected to any sort of public wifi (i.e. hotels, cafes, airports, libraries, etc.) – your personal information can be easily hacked, including your credit card numbers, passwords, and social security number.

    To ensure that your data is safe and you don’t get any surprise messages from your bank that your card has been compromised, use a Virtual Private Network. This will give you a secure connection to the internet and also prevent any major censorship that can happen when you’re overseas. It’s super affordable and we even use a VPN at home.

    Virtual Private Network (VPN)

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  • 4. Quick-Dry Travel Towel

    There are no shortages of Turkish bathhouses in Istanbul. The luxury baths will provide towels, but if you want a more authentic experience, you should head to a local hammam. There you’ll need to bring your towel. I would suggest bringing a quick-dry towel so you’re not stuck carrying a fluffy, wet towel around for the rest of the day. This one dries 10x faster than cotton and you will find a million uses for it.

    Quick-Dry Travel Towel

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  • 5. Modest Shawl

    You will need a shawl or scarf in your day-to-day wardrobe in Istanbul. Of course, you’ll want to dress modestly as a sign of respect for the local culture. But you’ll also be required to cover your shoulders and not have bare arms or legs when entering churches or holy sites. Keep it on hand and you will use it for anything from accessing attractions to keeping warm in the evening!

    Modest Shawl

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  • 6. Travel Insurance for Istanbul

    If you have a visa, travel insurance is 100% mandatory when traveling to Turkey. Even if it’s not mandatory, it is one of the most important items on your packing list and is highly recommended by the European government. This is mostly because international medical bills would cost a fortune if you had to pay out-of-pocket! And your domestic provider does NOT follow you overseas (including Medicare and Medicaid).

    We use Faye because they are a top-notch provider. They will cover you against common travel issues like baggage loss, theft, flight delays, and a rare one – entire trip cancelation! They will support you if any medical emergencies happen or medivac transfers (which range from $10-30K in most places). It’s an essential that you should not go without. A small expense in the grand scheme of your trip investment, and you won’t regret having it.

    Travel Insurance for Istanbul

    Get a quote in less than 60 seconds with Faye ➜

  • 7. Universal Travel Adapter

    Quality travel adapters are a non-negotiable for Istanbul. Don’t make the same mistake I did by buying a cheap adapter from a street vendor and blowing up my phone charger on my first night in Istanbul. Be sure to order a few European outlet adapters in advance, this one is our favorite because it’s the most reliable adapter I’ve used thus far, and works in 100+ countries. It even comes with a lifetime replacement guarantee! Which means the company really stands by its quality.

    Universal power adapter

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  • 8. High-Quality Filtered Water Bottle

    Drinking the tap water in Istanbul is not advisable. I’m not exactly sure why, but the locals say it has “long-term” health effects, which is why I wasn’t going to take any chances and I advise you not to either. Instead, be sure to bring a water bottle that has a built-in filter so you’re not reliant on plastic bottles.

    This one is top quality and a small price to pay for your health. It purifies water from a tap (or even a river in a dire situation!) to remove harmful bacteria (including E. coli), viruses (including Hepatitis A), pathogens, microplastics, chlorine, pesticides, sediment, and more.

    High-Quality Filtered Water Bottle

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  • 9. Packing Cubes

    You could live in Istanbul for a lifetime and still not see everything this city has to offer. You’ll want to maximize your time in this bustling city, so spending time digging through your luggage is not on the agenda. Using packing cubes will keep you organized and streamline getting ready in the morning. They come with bonus laundry bags to separate your dirty items, and you can even purchase a 3-pack if you’re looking to try them before buying the larger set.

    packing cubes

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  • 10. Lipstick-Sized Portable Charger

    After having my phone die, then getting on the wrong bus, and ending up quite literally in Asia, I never went out without a portable charger again. I love this portable charger because it’s compact— leaving room in my day for all the purchases I make at the Grand Bazaar. Plus it charges super quickly and has multiple USB ports for multiple devices.

    Lipstick-Sized Portable Charger

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  • 11. Cooling Towel

    Summer in Istanbul is HOT HOT HOT. There’s some relief in the shade cast by the buildings, but you’ll be very happy to have a cooling towel with you. It’s a lifesaver especially when you’re standing in the hot sun waiting to climb the Galata Tower, or taking a walk along the Bosporus. Simply add water and it will drop to 20-30 degrees cooler than the outside temp. When you want more frosty relief from a sweaty day, just add more water. Thank us later 🙂

     Cooling Towel

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  • 12. Lightweight Daypack

    Istanbul is huge, so running back to the hotel to grab sunglasses or a light jacket could set you back about an hour or more, depending on the traffic. To avoid these unnecessary trips, pack everything you need for the day in your daypack to bring along with you. This one is lightweight and made for travel.

    Lightweight Daypack

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  • 13. TSA-Approved Luggage Locks

    We had a small item stolen out of your checked luggage during a “random search.” Now, we take the extra step to add luggage locks to all of our bags, especially when checking them for international flights or passing them off to a cruise line when our belongings will be out of sight for long durations. These are TSA-approved so they won’t cause you any issues with security, and we use them for bags, backpacks, lockers, and more.

    TSA-Approved Luggage Locks

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  • 14. Activated Charcoal

    If you planning on diving right into the Turkish street food – bring a bottle of activated charcoal with you – just in case. While you shouldn’t have a problem, traveler sickness is not uncommon, and it can throw off your entire trip. You don’t want to have to plan your days around where the nearest bathroom is, and this will get you back on your feet much faster.

    Activated Charcoal

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  • 15. Discounted Tickets to Istanbul Attractions

    Take an evening cruise down the Bosphorus, tour the iconic Blue Mosque, and end the night with an inspiring Mevlevi Sema Ceremony and dance show. There are so many epic things to do in Istanbul, and you won’t struggle to create an amazing itinerary.

    We book through Get Your Guide because they are the perfect intermediary between you and local tour guides. They find you the most authentic experiences and are often cheaper than booking through the main websites. I also like knowing that we’re covered with flexible cancelation in case our plans change.

    Discounted Tickets to Istanbul Attractions

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  • 16. Windproof Travel Umbrella

    Rain falls throughout the entire year in Istanbul. The summer rains can be a nice refresher from the heat, but you’ll still want to have an umbrella with you to keep you dry. The winds can be pretty strong coming off the sea, so make sure it’s a quality windproof umbrella.

    Windproof Travel Umbrella

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  • 17. Mosquito-Repellent Wristbands

    Mosquito activity is high in Turkey and you don’t want to catch West Nile Virus or other mosquito-borne illnesses. We use these deet-free wristbands that repel mosquitos. They’re safe for kids and way easier than respraying nasty-smelling fumes all day. You can double up or put them around the ankles during sunrise and sunset when they are most ferocious.

    Mosquito-Repellent Wristbands

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  • 18. Deodorant Wipes

    From the heat to the hills, you’re going to get sweaty while you’re galavanting around one of the world’s most historical cities. You won’t want to waste time stopping back at the hotel for a midday shower, so throw a pack of deodorant wipes into your purse or daypack to stay fresh.

    Deodorant Wipes

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  • 19. Walking Shoes

    Since you’ll be walking a lot, bring some new shoes that are super comfy! These are like walking on a cloud and keep you going for long distances without any blisters. They’re breathable and have nice support on the arch, and very stylish with straps around the foot and ankle. My wife loves them and bought them in multiple colors!

    Walking Shoes

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  • 20. Hanging Toiletry Bag

    Most of the buildings in Istanbul are pretty old – bathrooms were only added once plumbing allowed for home bathing. That’s why a lot of the bathrooms are on the smaller side. Having a hanging toiletry bag will make getting ready for the day easy in even the tiniest bathroom. It has 4 giant pockets and creates a built-in shelving system that is easy to sort through and fold up when it’s time to go.

    Hanging Toiletry Bag

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  • 21. Motion Sickness Patches

    Chances are, you’ll find yourself on a boat while you’re in Istanbul. From the ferries shuttling you from Europe to Asia to the Bosporus sightseeing cruises, being on the water is part of the everyday lifestyle in Istanbul. If you tend to get seasick, you should keep a bottle of non-drowsy motion relief with you. My wife field-tested a bunch of brands and this one is her favorite! It was the most effective but also gentle and can be doubled up if the waves really have you turning green!

    Motion Sickness Patches

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  • 22. Blister Bandages

    Blister bandages are a wise precaution. The sprawling city requires a lot of leg work to get from A to B. Even if your shoes are super comfortable, it’s nice to have these bandaids as a backup. If you feel a blister starting, you can put on the bandaid as a layer between you and the shoe. It will stop any friction and prevent a blaster before it starts.

     Blister Bandages

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  • 23. Packable “Just in Case” Bag

    You’ll likely join the quarter of a million shoppers that peruse the Grand Bazaar each day. This “just in case” bag is a brilliant solution to that common issue of not bringing enough luggage with you. It counts as your personal item for the flight home and will help you prevent any carry-on fees (yahoo!) You can fill it with goodies for you and your loved ones – like regional spices, Turkish coffee, teas, textiles, handmade goods, jewelry, and more.

    Packable “Just in Case” Bag

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  • 24. Biodegradable Toilet Paper

    In Turkey, it is not common to flush toilet paper. Since it’s put in a bin beside the toilet to maintain the fragile (often old) plumbing, it’s smart to bring your own toilet paper. You never know when a bathroom won’t be stocked and this brand is easy to transport. It’s small and biodegradable, which will be more delicate on the system if it does end up getting flushed.

    Biodegradable Toilet Paper

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  • 25. Melatonin Sleep Aid

    Coffee isn’t just a morning ritual for the Turks, it’s an all-day beverage. It’s not uncommon to see people at the cafes until 1 or 2am sipping Turkish Coffee. If caffeine has a strong effect on you, you’ll want to have some low-dose melatonin on hand so can get some much-needed shut-eye before starting another long day of touring.

    Melatonin Sleep Aid

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What to Wear in Istanbul

In Istanbul’s most popular neighborhoods you’ll see everything from crop tops to burkas and sneakers to stilettos. While the older generation sticks with a more casual take on fashion, the younger generation dresses to impress.

If you want to fit in with the locals, show your personality through your clothing. Just remember that Istanbul is called the city of seven hills for a reason— so make sure you’re footwear is comfortable.

What Should Women Wear in Istanbul?- (Click to expand)

Below is a sample women’s clothing list.(All items link to for your convenience).

Besides when visiting a mosque, women are free to dress however they want in Istanbul. You’ll want to wear something that’s a good balance between stylish and comfortable, like a wrap dress or wide-leg linen pants with a cropped tank. Since you’ll need to slip your shoes on and off to enter the mosques, footwear that’s both easy to take off, yet still supportive is ideal.

What Should Men Wear in Istanbul?- (Click to expand)

Below is a sample men’s clothing list.(All items link to for your convenience).

Men keep it pretty casual in Istanbul— you won’t see many suits in the city. You’ll fit right in with the locals wearing a t-shirt and shorts. On the days you’re planning on going to a mosque opt for a pair of loose trousers. You can wear a pair of sneakers or comfortable sandals for the ease of slipping them on and off at the entrance.

Also, pack a nicer top for your nights out at a Meyhane or a rooftop bar. If you plan on going to one of the fancier rooftop bars you’ll want to wear a pair of closed-toed shoes, because sometimes the doormen will turn down men for wearing sandals.

Dressing for the Seasons in Istanbul

SUMMER – June, July, August

The summers in Istanbul are humid and hot. During the summer months, breathable materials are ideal. You can wear linen pants or something flowy like a wrap dress and sandals. If I am being honest, no matter what you wear, you’ll be sweating so don’t forget the deodorant wipes.

Temperatures in the summer range on average between 80°F to 86°F (27°C-30°C)

FALL – September, October, November

The weather in fall ranges quite a bit. In September it is still pretty warm. October can go either way and by the end of November, it’s getting chilly. You’ll want to dress in layers if you’re visiting in the fall and bring a light jacket or pullover out with you for the evenings.

Temperatures in the fall range on average between 59°F to 77°F (15°C-25°C)

WINTER – December, January, February

Now, this might surprise you, but it snows in Istanbul— so if you’re visiting in winter you’ll need to pack your warm shoes and socks for walking along with a winter jacket, and a hat, scarf, and gloves would be a good move too. Under the outer layers, jeans and a sweater will keep you cozy while you’re exploring.

Temperatures in the winter range on average between 37°F to 51°F (3°C-11°C)

SPRING – March, April, May

Spring showers are a common occurrence during March, April, and May in Istanbul. So you’ll want to have your umbrella with you. The weather can be pretty temperamental, so packing layers is key. Even if it’s sunny and warm during the day, don’t be fooled, you’ll need a jacket or a scarf to keep you warm in the evening.

Temperatures in the spring range on average between 53°F to 71°F (12°C-22°C)

Dressing appropriately for the activity– (Click to expand)
Hagia Sophia: Both women and men are required to cover their shoulders and legs while in a mosque, so you’ll want to wear pants when visiting. In addition, women need to cover their heads. The Hagia Sophia has scarves that you can purchase but they aren’t very cute. To avoid having to buy theirs, keep a scarf in your daypack.

Turkish Hammam: Depending on if you’re going to a co-ed or separated hammam you will need your swimsuit. Even in a separate Turkish bath women are required to wear their swimsuit bottoms, while men can go in their birthday suits if they please. If you go to a local hammam you will also need your quick-dry towel.

Touring the Palaces: There are countless palaces to tour in Istanbul and each of them is incredibly breathtaking. You will want to wear something gorgeous and colorful to capture incredible photos. You will want to wear comfortable though, your steps add up quickly in the sprawling estates.

Grand Bazaar: You’ll want to be in something breathable and comfy while exploring the Grand Bazaar. It can get extremely crowded and it’s not air-conditioned, so linen trousers are your best friend. Also, don’t forget to wear your neck wallet, with so much to take in, the last thing you want to worry about is being pickpocketed.

Meyhane Dinner: For your night out at a traditional Meyhane dinner you’ll want to take it up a notch— just make sure that whatever you wear isn’t too tight because there will be no shortage of food served at a Meyhane. You’ll be comfortable in a breathable little black dress and some strappy sandals that you can dance in.

What NOT to Bring to Istanbul

  • 1.Don't Overpack

    There’s no shortage of shopping in Istanbul. You’ll want to make sure that you leave some extra space in your luggage for what you buy while you’re there. If you go overboard, you can buy luggage almost everywhere in the city— they’re used to people needing it by the end of their stay.

  • 2.DON’T Bring Euros

    Even though Istanbul is half European, they don’t use the Euro, they use the Turkish Lira. You can order Lira in advance from your bank or withdraw it from an ATM once you’re there.

  • 3.DON’T Pack Uncomfortable Shoes

    The hills in Istanbul are no joke. The last thing you’re going to want is to wear uncomfortable shoes while you climb a hill at the end of the night to get back to your hotel.

  • 4.DON’T Bring Valuables

    It’s always better to leave any valuables behind while traveling. Even though Istanbul is pretty safe, you don’t want to take any chances with your precious items.

  • 5.DON’T Pack Books

    Lugging your suitcases up the hills of Istanbul is torture enough without having a couple of extra pounds added because of books. Instead, bring an Amazon Kindle, it’s light as a feather and you’ll never run out of things to read.

  • 6.DON’T Assume that it's an Arabic Country

    Many people confuse Turkish culture with Arabic culture, but they are not the same. Turks are very proud to be Turkish and can get offended by this mistake.

What NOT to Wear in Istanbul – (Click to expand)

When you’re visiting Istanbul you shouldn’t wear anything too revealing. While you will see some people dressed immodestly, there’s a large population of religious people living in Istanbul and as a guest, it’s always better to air on the respectful side. You also shouldn’t wear uncomfortable shoes during the day, you’re going to be doing A LOT of walking so do your feet a favor and wear comfortable shoes.

FAQs about Traveling to Istanbul

  • 1. Is It Easy to Get Around Istanbul?

    Is It Easy to Get Around Istanbul?

    The public transport system can get you just about everywhere. However, from 5 pm to 8 pm it’s peak traffic hours so try to take the metro rather than a bus or taxi. As well, all public transport ends at midnight, so after that, you will need to take a taxi. If you’re staying in the central tourist area then walking around Istanbul is very convenient. You’ll get to see a lot more than if you were to take a taxi or bus. Walking in Istanbul is safe and I definitely would recommend it.

  • 2. What Language Do People Speak in Istanbul?

    In Istanbul, people speak Turkish. Depending on what neighborhood you’re in some people will know English, but it’s best to bring your Turkish phrasebook along with you.

  • 3. Is Istanbul a Safe City?

    Is Istanbul a Safe City?

    For the most part yes, Istanbul is a safe city. However, like in any big city, it’s not uncommon for people to get pickpocketed, so make sure to wear your neck wallet to protect your valuables from thieves. Also, if you’re out and about at night be sure to be aware of your surroundings. Don’t walk alone at night on deserted streets and don’t be distracted by your phone. Istanbul is safe, but like most big cities, you should just make smart decisions.

  • 4. How Can I Travel From the European Side to The Asian Side of Istanbul?

    To get from the European to the Asian side you can catch a ferry or the metro bus. The ferries are part of the public transport system so you can use your Istanbul card to get on the boat.

  • 5. What are the Best Neighbourhoods to Explore in Istanbul?

    What are the Best Neighbourhoods to Explore in Istanbul?
    • Sultanahmet (Tourist Attractions: Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Grand & Spice Bazaar, and Topkapi Palace)
    • Galata (Galata Tour, Artisan Shops)
    • Karaköy (One of the oldest neighborhoods, with cute cafes, shops, and famous umbrella-covered streets)
    • Balat (A more traditional neighborhood with colorful houses and a lot of character)
    • Taksim (Taksim Square, Istiklal Street, clubs/rooftop bars)
    • Ortaköy (Ortaköy Mosque)
    • Kadiköy (Asian side hipster neighborhood)
    • Cihangir (Artsy neighborhood with tons of antique shops and cocktail bars)
    • Besiktas (Young nightlife neighborhood)
    • Nisantasi (Shopping district where the high-end designers are)
    • Bebek (Fancy Neighbourhood with a long paved walking area along the Bosporus)
  • 6. Do I need a Visa to Visit Istanbul?

    It depends on your passport. If you’re a USA passport holder, you will need to get a 90-day eVisa before going to Turkey. It’s super quick and easy. You can see if you need a visa here.

  • 7. Is Alcohol Available in Istanbul?

    Is Alcohol Available in Istanbul?

    Yes, while a lot of people think that because Islam is the predominant religion in Turkey, that alcohol is banned. However, Turkey is technically a secular country, so alcohol is available. Istanbul has plenty of bars and clubs to enjoy. Restaurants also serve alcohol so don’t worry, you’ll be able to enjoy a glass of wine with your meal.

  • 8. Should I stay on the Asian Side or the European Side?

    The European side has most of the touristic neighborhoods and attractions so I would recommend staying on the European side to keep things simple and reduce your commute time for sightseeing.