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17 Top Istanbul Packing List Items for 2023 + 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 city 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 not to wear and bring to Istanbul.

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What to Pack for Istanbul - 17 Essentials

  • 1. 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.

    Packing Cubes

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  • 2. 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 the Anker PowerCore 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.

    Portable Charger

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  • 3. Virtual Private Network (VPN)

    This is one thing on the list you might not have thought of as a must-have for travel— but it most certainly is. If you’re connected to any sort of public wifi (i.e. hotels, cafes, etc.) your personal information can be easily hacked, including your credit card information. To ensure that your data is safe and you don’t get any surprise messages from your bank that you’re card has been compromised, use a Virtual Private Network.

    Virtual Private Network (VPN)

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  • 4. 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.

     Cooling Towel

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  • 5. Life Straw Water Bottle

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

    LifeStraw Water Bottle

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  • 6. 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 you’re wandering the halls of the grand bazaar or waiting in line to enter the Hagia Sophia.

    Neck Wallet

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  • 7. Daypack

    Istanbul is huge, so running back to the hotel to grab the Dramamine 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.


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  • 8. 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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  • 9. 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.

    Hanging Toiletry Bag

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  • 10. Universal Travel Adapter

    Quality travel adapters are a must in 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, my favorite is the Hero Travel Adapter, it’s the most reliable adapter I’ve used thus far.

    Universal power adapter

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  • 11. Travel Insurance for Istanbul

    Before leaving on any trip you should make sure you’re fully covered with Travel Insurance. While it would be great if every trip could be smooth sailing, that’s not always how it goes. It’s better to be safe than sorry, you’ll be happy you got insurance if your luggage gets lost, or a medical emergency happens. We use to compare policies from top companies to find the plan that best fits our family and travel plans.

    Travel Insurance for Istanbul

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  • 12. Quick-Dry Travel Towel

    There are no shortages of Turkish bathhouses in Istanbul. The luxury baths will provide you with 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 wet towel around for the rest of the day.

    Quick-Dry Travel Towel

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  • 13. Dramamine

    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 Dramamine with you.


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  • 14. Blister Bandages

    Blister bandages are an absolute essential. The sprawling city requires a lot of leg work to get from A to B— when your feet are feeling good, it’s not a big deal because there’s so much to soak in. However, if your feet are full of blisters you will quickly start to dread getting around.

     Blister Bandages

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  • 15. 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 for the most part, you shouldn’t have a problem, traveler sickness can throw off your entire trip. You don’t want to have to plan your days around where the nearest bathroom is.

    Activated Charcoal

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  • 16. Melatonin

    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 2 am 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.


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  • 17. 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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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 withdrawal 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 Instanbul 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.