Turkish Bath in Istanbul: What to expect (as a man)

Question: What’s worse than having a language barrier when you don’t understand what’s going on?

Answer: Having a language barrier when you don’t know what’s going on – and you’re naked and there’s another guy wrestling and throwing you about!

Unless you like that sort of thing. You little rascal, you.

I do love a good pampering when I travel. I can live it rough with the best of them. Just ask the tribe in Papua New Guinea who I stayed with in the jungles of PNG. However, if I’m in a country which is famous for its practices of indulgence; I make sure I get my diva experience in at the end of my trip. A perfect swansong to learning about the culture of a new country.

I’ve chilled in the Onsens of Japan. Kicked back in the natural mineral waters of the Dead Sea, doggy paddled in the turquoise paradises of Samoa and enjoyed an abundance of spa treatments in Thailand.

So it only made sense for me to try out the world-famous Turkish bath on my last day in Turkey’s capital, Istanbul.

turkish bath
Naive smile.

After parting with my money and requesting ‘the full works’ in a gimme-what-you-got adventurous kind of fashion I was told in broken English to go and change into a towel (no shorts underneath – birthday suit only).

After being directed to what resembles a massive sauna (a big, hot and steamy room) I was instructed to lie down on a towel on the marble surface. I lied down and I thought; ‘this is great!’ Then a guy came in with a bucket of soapy suds and plonked it down next to me.

He then began to massage me. I do like a firm massage, but this was border-line sadism. The employee then flipped me over ten minutes after, onto my back and it was more of the same, with him throwing me about and aggressively poking away at me. My towel came off and I was naked a lot of the time. I have no problems with being naked (in fact, I prefer it to being clothed on the best of days) but there’s something that feels inherently awkward getting man-handled in such a fashion whilst in the nuddy.

After feeling like I’ve just gotten to third base with a man who I knew nothing about (he would usually have to at least buy me a cup of Earl Grey to get so far) I was then dragged over to the sink where I received the most rigorous of sponge baths.

It’s important to mention at this point that I’m pretty sure that this is ‘normal’ in Turkish tradition and that the man’s heart was in the right place, but it certainly didn’t help that he had a very creepy laugh which add to my growing levels of discomfort.

The laugh, which he did pretty much every 30 seconds, while repeatedly affirming; “gooood, gooood,” was so hard to explain that I have went to the trouble of recording an accurate impersonation on my currently vapid-of-content Youtube channel:

The experience was far from pleasant and I’m pretty sure I will never have a Turkish bath ever again. Getting thrown about and really hard massages like that aren’t really my cup of tea and I find it hard to understand how anybody would find that relaxing.

When the Turkish bath finally ended I was instructed to shower but I told creepy laugh guy that I want to stay and just relax for about 30 minutes or so. He left with one last eerie chuckle which will haunt me for eternity. As I sat there, a sea of tranquility soaked over every cell of my body. I felt incredibly relieved that it was all over.

Retrospectively, I’m sure there are a lot worse things to do than get your body exfoliated and some knots loosened up in your tight areas. But this was not my idea of relaxation. If anything – it made me more tense. I really didn’t enjoy it and next time I got to Turkey – I’ll just stick to stuffing my face with Turkish Delight and Baklava instead.

Have you ever had a Turkish Bath experience before? Like or dislike? You can check out the Turkey album on my Facebook fan page for more photos of Istanbul. 

Join the Conversation


  1. Patricia Taylor | Monthly Adventure Reply

    Bahahahahahaha!!!! BEST STORY EVER!!!!! I just read your email about this and I couldn’t help myself, I had to leave a comment, this is so bloody funny. Especially the creepy laugh…hahaha!!!! Thank you for the shit-eating grin and uncontrollable laughter! xo Patricia

    1. Anthony Middleton Reply

      hahahha I’m very happy you got some pleasure from my physical and emotional pain, Patricia 😛 xx

  2. James Clark Reply

    Haha, this is pretty much exactly my experience of my one-and-only Turkish Bath experience I had in Antalya. I wasn’t sure if the banter from the massager I had was part of the experience or if it was just him. I will take a beating from a Thai massage over a Turkish massage any day of the week. I’ll join you for a baklava 🙂

    1. Anthony Middleton Reply

      Sounds like we are both suffering Turkish Bath post scrub stress disorder!

  3. Heather Murray Reply

    Only had one once never again even though I had a bikini on still felt very uncomfortable certainly not relaxing x

  4. Florence Murphy Reply

    I LOL’D at this – “After feeling like I’ve just gotten to third base with a man who I knew nothing about (he would usually have to at least buy me a cup of Earl Grey to get so far)”

    Sounds so uncomfortable – maybe you should go back for another one just to see if that was a one off experience?! 🙂

    1. Anthony Middleton Reply

      hahahhaa I think I’ll just leave it as the suffering memory that it is, Flo 😛

  5. George Reply

    Too funny. I’ve just returned from marrakesh and as I (thought I) missed out having not been to a hammam in Istanbul, I headed to one there. I opted for ‘the works’ with a hard massage and after the initial awkwardness it was ace – totally different to your experience! I’d recommend if you’re ever in marrakesh

    1. Anthony Middleton Reply

      Ooof I probably will try it once I get to Marrakesh, George but I do hope it’s a different experience to my Turkish bath!

  6. Ian Ord - Where Sidewalks End Reply

    Sounds like that massage you gave me once… err… are we still not allowed to talk about that?

    1. Anthony Middleton Reply

      What happens in Borneo…

  7. Anthony Middleton Reply

    Lucky you, Heather! And by that I don't mean I wish I had a bikini on (although I do have the pins for it). x