is edited by local people living in Istanbul and updated
frequently with the latest information about the gay venues
in Istanbul which you can not find anywhere else. We are
not only listing the existing venues, but also the
places which have already been closed down for
various reasons, still being listed on other websites and
printed gay-guides as well.
If you have
not been to Istanbul before, it is recommended to start
with understanding the special gay culture of this city.
Being the most crowded city of Turkey, Istanbul is the
heart of Turkish gay life. Although Turkey is undergoing a
rapid change, certain things are still very traditional and
peculiar in this country. The gay culture is a good sample
of this. Taking immigration from all over the country,
Istanbul is a summary of the whole Turkey.
Turkish Gay Culture
got a traditional bisexual or
hetero-flexible culture taking its root
from the history. The classic gay relationship is
between real gay men and
bi-curios men. In this culture the bisexual men would never consider themselves as gay - or even
bisexual, and the gay-partners are mostly expected to be
more feminine/queer. Hetero-flexible/bisexual guys are supposedly top (aktif
= active is the common
word in local culture) and do not have sex with each other.
This culture can better be defined as buggery or sodomy in the
western meaning. As a reflection of this bisexual culture, there is a
big transvestite & transgender society in Istanbul and in
other big cities of Turkey. In the last 20 years gay culture has been
westernized rapidly, and the interactions between gays
themselves have become more common. In fact there is still
not a sharp distinction among the sexual orientations. The
border-line is very transitional between straight, bisexual, gay, queer,
transvestite and transgender people.
Safety and Warnings
According to the statistics Istanbul is listed among the safest
metropolises in the world. But naturally, there are some
risks in gay life as in other big cities of the world.
Because of the under-developed economy and the wide-gap
between the rich and the poor you can encounter some
malicious people. You do not need to worry too much, as long as you know what is happening
and behave accordingly. The most common criminal incident is robbery,
as everywhere. This does not
usually happen in central locations or in gay bars and clubs, but
it is rather likely if you go somewhere with someone whom you
nothing about. If you don't carry a lot of valuable things
and money on you when you are out for cruising especially in
places like parks, nothing significant should happen. Do
not go with local people (especially with bisexual men) to
their places, and prefer public venues such as hamams or
saunas instead, if your hotel is not suitable.
Avoid some tourist-hustlers who
usually hang around Taksim and sometimes around Sultanahmet
districts. They will try to take you to some scam clubs to
rip you off. Your bill can be up to several thousand
Euros depending how far you follow your basic instincts
instead of your logic. There are few clubs/bars like that
but their hustlers are always around who are said to be taking
commissions from them. Simply stay away from people in
these neighborhoods who are too friendly all of a sudden, no
matter what their stories are.
If it is your first time in Istanbul, it is recommended
to make a discovery tour to find the locations of gay bars
and clubs in day time. It is not wise to ask people
directions at night, because you can bump into a crook
or get lost in risky back-streets.
If you can afford, we highly recommend you
to hire a private guide from
Another less significant risk is; some taxi drivers may
over-ride tourists to charge them more. Although rarely it
is also heard that some drivers may also switch the
big banknotes with smaller ones, and blames you for giving
the smaller note. It is better if you really pay them with
small banknotes, indeed. If you have a problem with taxi
drivers, write down the plate number of the taxi explicitly
(make sure he understands), and try to tell him that you
will go to the police ('police' sounds the same in Turkish).
If you do not want to experience such head-aches on your
holiday it may be wise to ask taxi
driver how much you will pay for the place you go before you
get in. You may ask your hotel receptions to call you a taxi
driver which they know.
In general feel at home
and even be a little snob when necessary. Make sure that
there is law in this country, and fight for your rights if
needed. In fact ordinary Turkish people are very hospitable
and nice people, but do not expect everyone you meet will be
like that in such nightlife or tourist districts of the city.
Istanbul is a big metropolis ultimately, where you can meet
any kind of people.
The gay activities have become
more and more visible during the last 20 years. The number
of the gay venues has increased rapidly especially during
the last 15 years. Taksim district of Beyoglu town on the
European side of Istanbul is the center of almost all major
gay venues. In fact, this district is the center of local
night life. There are many modern or traditional gay clubs,
bars, saunas and hamams near the Taksim/Beyoglu area. This
neighborhood is also frequented by many (mostly bisexual)
rent-boys. Some of these boys can really be as handsome as
film-stars indeed. There are also many clubs for
transvestites and transsexuals in Taksim district. Indeed,
the gay life of Istanbul is very colorful and vibrant. The
first gay and lesbian organization of Turkey called
Lambda Istanbul is
also located in Istanbul.
Click here for current gay events calendar and other
cultural activities in Istanbul.
Majority of Turks
are a mixture
between Caucasian (white) and Mediterranean ethnicity in
appearance, and if not so many you can also see blond
Turkish men with color eyes. Contrary to popular wisdom Turkish people have no
direct language or ethnic
connection with the Arabs except the religion and its
cultural influence. In fact, Turkish people are
hybridized because it has been a land of immigration
throughout the history as a result of its geographical
position like a bridge between Asia and Europe.
Turkish citizens have slightly darker complexion than average
Turks. They are the
second largest ethnic group in Turkey (predictably a 15 % of total
Kurdish-oriented men are popular attraction group
among some local gay men in big cities, similar to the
interest for Latin guys in Western countries.
The third less visible ethnicity would be Arabic oriented
people, living mostly in the cities along the border of
Syria. There are also people named Laz especially
concentrated in the 3 cities along the far Eastern Black
Sea coastal area of Turkey (near the border of Georgia,
former Republic of Soviet Union). The word 'Laz' is used as
a regional & cultural definition within Turkey, rather than
ethnicity. Istanbul is a city of
domestic emigration and houses a total mixture of all these
ethnicities from all around Turkey, also including fewer
non-Muslim ethnicities such as Greeks, Armenians, Jews who
had settled in the city long time ago.
Law and regulations
There is not any law against
homosexuality in Turkey since the beginning of the republic
period (1923). In fact, there is not any law at all
concerning homosexuality. In theory, some general laws can
be applied if you make sex in places open to public,
but it is never heard of such an incident in real life. The
age of consent is 18, which also applies as the age limit to
be able to enter bars and clubs selling alcohol. Regardless
of the sexual orientation, any sexual intercourse with
someone below the age of consent is regarded as pedophilia
and it is illegal even if it is done with the approval of
the minor partner, which is punished with imprisonment from
6 months to 2 years (Turkish penal code, article 104).
there are still some defects with her democracy,
Turkey is the most secular and democratic "Muslim country"
in the world, closer to the western culture if a
comparison needs to be made. New democratic legislations
enacted by the parliament in 2001 and 2002 have improved
this situation further more. Unfortunately, when a new
was being discussed to punish various discriminations in late
2004, sexual orientation was omitted by the
Government members of the national assembly at the last minute. When critics grow, the
Minister of Justice of that time stated that the phrase
"discrimination against sexuality" already taking
place in related law would automatically cover "sexual
orientation" as well. Even this can be considered as
sign of positive change in mentality of the society
regarding gay people, when considering the government was
formed by the most conservative party that ever came to
power in Turkey.
The official numbers of HIV +
people in Turkey is still stated by just a few thousands,
Istanbul being the leading city, naturally. A total of 3671
people are diagnosed to have Aids/HIV virus by 2009 in whole
of Turkey, according to the statistics of the Ministry of
Health; and homosexuals hold a very small percentage of
these official numbers. But the real number should be
much bigger than this. Majority of Turkish society is still
conservative about certain things and HIV is still regarded
as a sexual disease. Less-educated part of the population
are not very knowledgeable/careful about safe sex.
Consequently the people either do not take any HIV tests or
tend to hide themselves, and it is not very possible to
obtain accurate numbers.
No matter, Istanbulgay.Com supports safe sex all over
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