Istanbul: LGBTQ+ City Guide

[This City Guide is under full development].

Istanbul: an ancient city, straddling two continents, the vibrant heartbeat of modern Turkey. A country where being gay is not illegal (contrary to what many think), but the lived experience of many LGBTQ+ people has spiralled in parallel with a rise in religious fundamentalism. Türkiye is a place of contradictions and Istanbul is no different. It’s a fascinating place for tourism, particularly if you enjoy history and there IS a queer scene centred around Taksim Square. So should you go, or stay home? Let’s find out.

Country Facts

  • Population: 84,680,273
  • Religion: 99.8% Muslim (0.2% Other inc. Christian & Jewish)
  • Life expectancy: 78.3 years
  • Timezone: Turkey Time (TRT) – UTC+03:00
  • Average income: 10,000 Turkish Lira per month ($675USD)

LGBTQ+ Legal Human Rights

According to ILGA Europe, Türkiye ranks SECOND LOWEST in Europe for the legal and human rights of LGBTQ+ people.

Your Appearance

  • When you visit any mosque (and 3 of the big sites to visit in Istanbul are mosques), you will be asked to cover up, irrespective of your gender.
    • Men – covered shoulders, no short shorts.
    • Women – full length dress, no tops that show too much skin.
  • Transmen and Transwomen – there is a question of ‘passing’ in public, because not every Official judging your appearance will be kind. This can have particular resonance for people who are transitioning. In general, be prepared, take a head covering with you (a loose scarf is light and packs easily in your day bag).
  • PDA – no personal displays of affection are considered acceptable in most parts of Türkiye (particularly not outside the main cities). This is NOT the place to test out the theory. It is NOT illegal to be gay but neither cis/hetero nor gay nor trans people kissing is acceptable in public.