So I'm trying to figure out my travel plans for this semester and I'd like some advice from people who have been... really anywhere in Europe, actually, but especially Istanbul.
I have a break (Toussaint) between October 25 and November 4, which I'd like to do something interesting with. This is not my only travel opportunity; I'll have two weeks off in December, a week off in March, and a week off in May, and at least this semester I have four-day weekends. But it is the one I need to book soonest.
Pros: Going to Istanbul. I've never been, and I've heard that it's amazing. I'll get off-peak prices, but the weather shouldn't be too miserable. I can get pretty cheap airfare and it looks like there are decent hostels I can book for about 15-20 euros a night. Everything I have seen online says that Istanbul is just as safe as or safer than any other big city, and there are plenty of female-only dorms in hostels that I can stay in. Turkish food.
Cons: When I'm there, it'll be getting dark around 5 or 6 (daylight savings ends that week, so it'll be 6 at the start and 5 at the end) and I don't know how wise it is to walk around a strange city after dark on my own. (However, March sunset is also around 6pm, so.) There's a State Department travel warning for Turkey, but it's focused on the area closest to Syria (which is the far side of the country). It's also not the cheapest place I can go.
When I told my mom on gchat that I was considering going, she didn't explicitly say she didn't want me to go, she just told me to make smart choices. When I told my host parents I was considering it, my host mom said "Alone? No no no" and then made a disapproving/concerned face.
So I'd like some advice from people who care about me but also aren't my mother. Istanbul: good idea? Bad idea? Good idea with caveats?
Since I have a lot of other time off, I'd like to travel elsewhere as well. I have some money saved up, so I'm not super worried about cost yet. (Ask me again in April.) I'd like to keep things as cheap as possible, but I also want to see a lot because I don't know that I'll have a chance to just travel around Europe again anytime soon.
I've already been to a lot of central Europe (Prague, Hungary, Croatia, Poland, and more) plus some of Italy (Venice and the Alps) but that was about eight years ago with my family—I may go back to some of those places (Budapest, especially), but it's not necessary. It looks like I'll probably be in England with my sister for Christmas if we go anywhere outside of France. I'll probably go to Barcelona for my birthday in November, because it's actually one of the cheapest places you can fly to from Lyon. I'll also spend several weekends doing trips to places within France.
I want to go to Amsterdam, but I have no idea how much time I should spend there or if it's going to be miserable in the fall/winter. Other than that, I don't really know where I want to go, so suggestions of places to go (either in the spring or for long weekends) would be awesome.
Also, if anyone has suggestions for a sturdy but cheap bag for traveling, I'd love to hear them.
Many thanks, Groupthink!