What to wear in Turkey can be somewhat confusing for many travelers, especially for women and remote areas. Turkey’s location spanning from Europe to Asia, encircled by seas, and uneven terrain running along the Black Sea, makes the climate here highly variable.
Among other Muslim countries, Turkey has a relatively relaxed clothing etiquette. However, it does depend on where you go. The major cities don’t have any strict dress code. It’s essential to know the rules of what to wear in Turkey and what to pack for Istanbul, Ankara, Cappadocia, and other cities.
This Turkey packing list gives all the necessary and basic items for both women and men to bring to Turkey.
- Istanbul travel guide– what to see and eat in Istanbul in a short time
- Istanbul to Cappadocia – practical transportation guide
- Cappadocia travel guide – everything you need to know
- Things to do in Ankara – exploring Turkey’s capital
- Turkish street food– best meals to try
Turkey packing list essentials
Generally, when traveling to a country, I always advise packing as light as possible. This makes moving around easy and flexible if you plan to visit several cities. If you are flying into Istanbul with a budget airline such as Pegasus, the chances are that you’ll only have carry-on luggage. Even though airport buses all over Turkey have a designated luggage compartment, you still want something small enough to squeeze it somewhere when using small intercity minivans.
Backpack or suitcase? – both Oto and I travel with backpacks anywhere we go as it is much more comfortable for us, especially in the hilly or unpaved areas. Moreover, I find dragging a rolling suitcase makes me walk slower and is very noisy in the cobbled streets. For example, many roads in Istanbul are old with no proper sidewalks, and rolling a suitcase might be challenging. I have a 55 Liter Osprey Farpoint, and Oto has Cobra 60 from The North Face. Both of them are spacious but small enough to carry it on-board of WizzAir, Vueling, or Pegasus, for instance.
Day pack or purse/bag – besides your main bag or suitcase, I would recommend bringing a small bag to use when exploring cities. My Osprey backpack comes with a daypack that Oto uses most of the time. It has several compartments, so we carry essential and valuable items with us. I bring a small red backpack or a canvas tote just in case.
Scarf – I rarely travel without a scarf, no matter the season. However, depending on the season, I change it accordingly. I use it on breezy evenings, for sun-protection, pillow, you name it. It’s especially vital for women when traveling to Turkey and visiting its mosques to cover up head and shoulders.
Hat – if you’ve been following my travels here or over Instagram, you know that one thing I rarely travel without is my red fedora hat. Whether you come here in summer, spring, or autumn, bring any kind of hat. It’s valuable both in sunny and rainy weather.
Luggage tag – even if you are not checking in your luggage, it’s always a good idea to have a luggage tag on them. Intercity buses in Turkey tag your bags, but it’s advised to have your own for extra security.
Packing cubes – this is a live saver when traveling light and minimalist. They come in different sizes and shapes, and some even have a laundry bag too. We use packing cubes for various clothes, especially for those clothes that wrinkle easily. We use small ones for socks and underwear.
Toiletries bag – we travel with one toiletry bag as we don’t use that many liquids and hygiene products that would require two separate bags. We now use solid shampoo bars and soaps that are zero waste, lighter, and avoids a headache from pouring the liquids into small plastic bottles. Moreover, the transition to solid hygiene products ensures that we go through airport security a lot easier.
Power adapter – sockets in Turkey are standard, just like in Europe, some parts of Asia, and Australia. They are 220 volts and 50 Hz frequency. Some five and four-star hotels provide North American style sockets with 120 volts and 60 Hz frequency, but having the universal adapter comes in handy.
Water bottle – generally, tap water in Turkey is safe to drink; however, most locals widely use bottled ones for consumption. Bringing your own water bottle and refilling it will not only save you some money, but you’ll also act as a responsible traveler and won’t also add to the country’s massive plastic usage habit.
Battery charger – Turkey is a very photogenic country, and you’ll be exhausting your smartphone battery very soon, taking pictures literally in every corner. Moreover, using maps also drains the phone battery, so bring an external charger to keep you on the go at all times.
USB drive– if you need to print your documents, like passport, visa, boarding pass, and driver’s license, to name a few.
What to wear in Turkey for women and men
We all have our core packing list; therefore, this packing guide won’t include how many pairs of underwear, socks, or t-shirts you should bring. This packing list for Turkey consists of the essentials of the country’s culture and climate.
Dress code for Turkey
As I mentioned above, what to wear in Turkey depends on the destination, activities you plan on doing, and the time of the year. For instance, Istanbul, Ankara, and Izmir are pretty modern in terms of the dress code, while many other cities and regions, such as eastern Turkey, are still very conservative.
When visiting Istanbul or Ankara, consider bringing modern and youthful clothes. The same goes for Cappadocia and other very touristy places where people are used to seeing women and men in all sorts of clothes.
If you plan on spending your vacation on islands and beaches, the dress code for Turkey and its seaside resorts are mostly very similar to the European countries. You’ll be fine in a swimsuit but pack a modest cover-up.
As a rule of thumb, avoid strapless or backless shirts and dresses, anything that’s too relieving, including leggings. Also, men should avoid bringing mini shorts or tank tops when exploring some cities.
There’s a dress code when entering mosques. And the famous Blue Mosque has a rigorous rule. Generally, women need to cover their heads with a scarf. Avoid wearing shorts, sleeveless shirts, vest tops, short skirts, or leggings when visiting Turkey’s mosques. You might be asked to wrap a shawl if someone at the door thinks your outfit is inappropriate. Therefore, come prepared or bring something of your own rather than use those that others have used.
Men have a more relaxed rule. However, you should still not wear shorts or sleeveless tops. Dress modestly as well and come in pants and a usual t-shirt.
Entering mosques with shoes is forbidden. Most of the mosques do have shelves to store your shoes. And as you’ll be exploring many mosques in Turkey, it’s better to bring easy-to-remove shoes with you.
Consider bringing a separate shoe bag to store your shoes in your backpack or carrying them with you. In busy and famous mosques, which get crowded very fast, you might end up waiting in line to get to the shoe shelf. Moreover, it might not be safe to leave your shoes unattentive with such a big crowd. I would also advise packing a separate pair of socks when exploring mosques.
People in Istanbul, Ankara, and Izmir dress similarly to European cities. Fitted-dresses, mini skirts, and sleeveless tops are standard here. So are jeans for both men and women. You’ll also find women of all ages wearing burqas or just a headscarf paired with long sleeves and knee-long clothes. However, my personal advice is to be respectful of the culture and traditions wherever you go in Turkey, even in bigger cities – dress modestly, think of smart casual.
One thing to consider for what to wear in Turkey while exploring various cities is to pack very comfortable shoes. Most of those popular cities are like open-museums of gorgeous architecture and city-life, so you’ll find yourself walking a lot here. Such shoes also come very handy when exploring inside the valleys in Cappadocia with uneven terrain and offroad pathways.
What to wear in Turkey in spring and autumn
Spring and autumn in Turkey are usually mild. However, sudden cold and hot weathers are characteristic for both seasons, with occasional rainfall. Despite that, both seasons are good when visiting the country as the temperature is warm enough to enjoy days out exploring the cities with smaller crowds.
- Lightweight coat or jacket – you’ll be fine with a spring/autumn light coat or jacket in most of the cities. However, if you plan on visiting eastern Turkey, you might reconsider bringing wintery clothes.
- Boots or sneakers – sneakers are absolutely fine when walking through the valleys of Cappadocia in spring or autumn.
- Scarf – pack a warm scarf in case weather changes during the day.
- Cardigan or sweatshirt – layering clothes come in handy as the temperatures vary depending on where you go. Weather can be a bit unpredictable.
- Jeans – pack one pair of jeans
What to wear in Turkey in summer
Summers in Turkey are generally dry and hot. The temperature can quickly go above 30 C during the day. While May usually is the wettest month, July and August are the driest ones.
- Light clothes – think of loose and light long dresses and pants for women. I always travel with one pair of jeans just in case the weather goes crazy. Men should also bring long and light pants or convertible shorts.
- A light cardigan or a shawl – even though summers in most of those popular destinations are hot, it doesn’t mean that evenings are hot too. Indoor places might also have their A/C on high, so having a light cardigan or a shawl that doesn’t take much space can come very handy.
- Comfortable sandals or sneakers – you’ll be walking a lot, remember? So do your legs a favor and opt-in for those shoes that won’t hurt your feet after an hour of walking.
- Fancy clothes – through in “just in case” elegant clothes for a nice dinner out at a rooftop bar in Istanbul or a nice restaurant.
What to wear in Turkey in winter
The winter here starts from mid-December and ends in mid-March. The weather conditions differ according to the region, and temperatures can vary from -7 to -24 C, depending on the area.
The snow-covered cities of Turkey are absolutely stunning. However, this beauty also means a heavy breeze in the cities perched by the water. Therefore, make sure your Turkey packing list includes the following:
- Warm waterproof jacket – is an obvious one, but still pointing out that it often rains and snows during the winter almost everywhere in Turkey, although depending on the region.
- Layers of clothes – as you’ll be walking pretty much the whole day, pack a thermal top and leggings to wear under a shirt/sweater and jeans. Cold days in Istanbul are fierce, with freezing wind blown on all the sides of the streets.
- Waterproof shoes or ankle-high boots – similar to the jacket, this might be obvious.
- Scarf – the warmer and fluffier the scarf is, the better it suits its purpose.
- Other accessories – hats, gloves, hats, anything you’d wear in a winter destination
Turkey packing list for long bus travel
From all the countries I have been to, bus travel, be it short or long, is the most comfortable I have experienced thus far. If you are traveling a long distance by bus, for instance from Istanbul to Cappadocia or vice versa, here are some tips of what you will need when traveling in Turkey by bus.
Travel pillow – if you can bring your inflatable travel pillow or any kind of travel pillow with you, that’s perfect. Alternatively, a man is selling small-size pillows for 10-15 TL at most bus stations. But don’t rely on them, it’s better to be prepared.
Some sort of entertainment – most intercity buses offer free wifi, but in most cases, they are not reliable or have a weak connection. Also, most of those buses do have TVs showing movies, but they are all in Turkish! Therefore, to be able to kill some time during your long bus travel, bring some sort of entertainment, be it a kindle, an audiobook, or a podcast episode.
Snacks – buses do have their designated stops during the journey. They stop at local roadside restaurants, or Lokantası in Turkish, for around 20-30 minutes. Those places are clean and offer all sorts of local food. However, if you don’t feel like eating there, bring your own snacks to nibble on. However, avoid anything that has a very distinctive smell that can disrupt other travelers.
Coins – on those roadside stops, you’ll need coins to use the bathroom. In some cases, there’s a person at the entrance who takes money and can give you a change, but in some areas, it’s a coin-operated entrance with no one at the door. So have at least 5-10 TL worth of coins to be safe.
Turkey packing list for hammam
Hammam is a Turkish steam bath, but it’s a widespread public bathing phenomenon in the Islamic world. Going to a hammam is one of the experiences you have to do in Turkey. Do note, though, that men and women bath in different rooms, and there are no private rooms in public hammams. So here’s what you’ll need for a comfortable visit:
Bring swimwear – it’s advised for both men and women to bring swimwear or extra underwear. Generally speaking, being naked in a hammam is a common rule, but you should still cover your genital area. For men, it’s common to wrap themselves in a lightweight peştamal (quick-dry Turkish cotton towel), while women wear only their underwear. However, if you are not comfortable, you can keep your bikini top on. Although the less skin you cover, the more it can absorb the steam and get all the benefits.
Pro tip: Peştamal, pronounced as Peshtemal, makes a perfect souvenir to bring back home from Turkey. It is made from natural fibers in various colors, sizes, and patterns. It’s also versatile and can be used as a picnic blanket, bed cover, scarf; you name it. If you decide to buy it, don’t do it in the Grand Bazaar of Istanbul as the prices are very high there. Instead, head over the backstreets of Blue Mosque and find Ata Textile.
Own hygiene products – some small local hammams might charge you a bit extra to buy a shampoo or soap, so bring your own. Hammam also includes a good scrub massage, so either bring your own luffa (kese in Turkish) or buy one at one of the shops sold pretty much everywhere. Just tell them you need it for the hammam, as there’s a special one for the experience.
Slippers or flip flops – bring your own slippers, even though some may provide them in the dressing room.
Towel – to dry yourself after all the procedure hammam has to offer.
Bag – to carry your wet swimsuits, towel, and slippers.
Prepare for the trip
To ease your travel planning, check out all the posts about Turkey travel. Additionally, here are some of the websites and services I use when preparing for my next adventure anywhere in the world.
- Book affordable flights on Skyscanner, a platform that shows the best routes and flight deals to your destination. There’s a money-back guarantee if you miss the flight!
- Check iVisa to see if you need a tourist visa to visit Turkey, how to apply online if applicable, or where’s the nearest embassy or consulate
- Find budget-friendly deals on all sorts of accommodation types on Booking and Agoda
- Buy the most flexible and budget-friendly travel insurance, SafetyWing, to cover all sorts of health problems on the road
- Pack your copy of Lonely Planet’s Turkey travel guide. Alternatively, buy Rough Guide to Turkey
- Book in advance some of the best city walks, cultural experiences, and day tours to maximize your stay and experience here