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Turkey (Turkish: Türkiye) is on the Mediterranean, with 97% of its territory in West Asia and the Middle East, and with a small section in Southeastern Europe separated by the Turkish Straits (Bosphorus, Sea of Marmara, and Dardanelles). With the Black Sea to the north and the Aegean Sea in the west and Mediterranean Sea to the southwest, Turkey is surrounded by Bulgaria and Greece to the west, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia to the northeast, Syria, Iraq and Iran to the southeast.
Mount Ararat (Ağrı Dağı), at 5,165 m is the country’s highest point and legendary landing place of Noah’s Ark, lies in the mountains on the far eastern edge of the country.
Turkey was founded in 1923 from the remnants of the Ottoman Empire. Soon thereafter the country instituted secular laws to replace traditional religious fiats. In 1945 Turkey joined the UN, and in 1952 it became a member of NATO.
Turkey offers a wealth of destination varieties to travellers: from dome-and-minaret filled skyline of Istanbul to Roman ruins along the western and southern coasts, from heavily indented coastline against a mountainous backdrop of Lycia and wide and sunny beaches of Pamphylia to cold and snowy mountains of the East, from crazy “foam parties” of Bodrum to Middle Eastern-flavoured cities of Southeastern Anatolia, from verdant misty mountains of Eastern Black Sea to wide steppe landscapes of Central Anatolia, there is something for everyone’s taste—whether they be travelling on an extreme budget by hitchhiking or by a multi-million yacht.
Turkey occupies a landmass slightly larger than Texas, at just over 750,000 square kilometres, and is more than three times the size of the United Kingdom. In terms of the variety of terrain and particularly the diversity of its plant life, however, Turkey exhibits the characteristics of a small continent. There are, for example, some 10,000 plant species in the country (compared with some 13,000 in all of Europe) — one in three of which is endemic to Turkey. Indeed, there are more species in Istanbul Province (2,000) than in the whole of the United Kingdom. While many people know of Turkey’s rich archaeological heritage, it possesses an equally valuable array of ecosystems — peat bogs, heathlands, steppes, and coastal plains. Turkey possesses much forest (about a quarter of the land) but, as importantly, some half of the country is semi-natural landscape that has not been entirely remodelled by man.
While it may sound like a tourism brochure cliché, Turkey really is a curious mix of the west and the east—you may swear you were in a Balkan country or in Greece when in northwestern and western parts of the country (except that Byzantine-influenced churches are substituted with Byzantine-influenced mosques), which are indeed partly inhabited by people from Balkan countries, who immigrated during the turmoil before, during, and after WW1, while southeastern reaches of the country exhibit little if any cultural differences from Turkey’s southern and eastern neighbours. Influences from the Caucasus add to the mix in the northeast part of the country. It can be simply put that Turkey is the most oriental of western nations, or, depending on the point of view, the most occidental of eastern nations.
Perhaps one thing common to all of the country is Islam, the faith of the bulk of the population. However, interpretation of it varies vastly across the country: many people in northwestern and western coasts are fairly liberal about the religion (being nominal Muslims sometimes to the point of being irreligious), while folk of the central steppes are far more conservative (don’t expect to find a Saudi Arabia or an Afghanistan even there, though). The rest of the country falls somewhere in between, with the coastal regions being relatively liberal while inland regions are relatively conservative as a general rule. The largest religious minority in the country are the Alevites, who constitute up to 20% of the population and who subscribe to a form of Islam closer to that of the Shiite version of Islam and practice Shamanistic rituals of ancient Turks. Other religious minorities—the Greek Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic, Jews, Syriac Oriental Orthodox, and Roman Catholics, the latter of whom mainly settled in Turkey within the last 500 years from Western European countries—once numerous across the country, are now mostly confined to the large cities of Istanbul and Izmir, or parts of Southeastern Anatolia in the case of the Syriac Oriental Orthodox. Despite its large Muslim majority population, Turkey officially remains a secular country, with no declared state religion.
The savvy traveller should remember that when travelling into, in or around Turkey there are several holidays to keep in mind as they can cause delays in travel, traffic congestion, booked up accommodations and crowded venues. Banks, offices and businesses are closed during official holidays and traffic intensifies during all of the following holidays so do your research before you visit. Do not be put off by these holidays, it is not that difficult and often quite interesting to travel during Turkish holidays, simply plan ahead as much as possible.
1 Jan: New Year’s Day (Yılbaşı)
23 Apr: National Sovereignty and Children’s Day (Ulusal Egemenlik ve Çocuk Bayramı) — anniversary of the establishment of the Turkish Grand National Assembly
1 May: Labour and Solidarity Day (Emek ve Dayanışma Günü, also unofficially known as İşçi Bayramı, i.e. Worker’s Day) was long banned as a holiday for almost 40 years and only restarted as a national holiday in 2009 because in years past it usually degenerated into violence. The wary traveller would be advised to not get caught in the middle of a May Day parade or gathering.
19 May: Atatürk Commemoration and Youth & Sports Holiday (Atatürk’ü Anma Gençlik ve Spor Bayramı) — the arrival of Atatürk in Samsun, and the beginning of the War of Independence
30 Aug: Victory Day (Zafer Bayramı) — Celebration of the end of the war for Turkish Independence over invasion forces. A big Armed Forces day and display of military might by huge military parades.
29 Oct: Republic Day (Cumhuriyet Bayramı or Ekim Yirmidokuz) is anniversary of the declaration of Turkish Republic. If it falls on a Thursday for example, Friday and the weekend should be considered in your travel plans. October 29 is the official end of the tourist season in many resorts in Mediterranean Turkey and usually there is a huge celebration at the town squares.
10 Nov, 09:05 — Traffic usually stops and sirens blare for two minutes starting at 09:05, the time when Atatürk, founder of the Turkish Republic, died in Dolmabahçe Palace in Istanbul in 1938. That moment in time is officially observed throughout the country but businesses and official places are not closed for the day. However, do not be surprised if you are on the street, you hear a loud boom and all of a sudden people and traffic stop on the sidewalks and streets for a moment of silence in observance of this event.
28 Jun–27 Jul 2014 (1435 AH)
18 Jun–16 Jul 2015 (1436 AH)
6 Jun–5 July 2016 (1437 AH)
Exact dates depend on local astronomical observations and vary from one country to another.
Ramadan ends with the Eid ul-Fitr festival extendign over several days.
Ramadan (Ramazan in Turkish) is a month long time of fasting, prayer and celebration during which pious Muslims neither drink nor eat anything, even water, from sun up to sun down. Businesses, banks and official places are not closed during this time. In some parts of Turkey, such as most of inland and eastern locations as locals are more conservative than people in the rest of the country, it is considered to be bad taste to eat snacks or drink sodas in front of locals in public places or transport—to be completely on the safe side, watch how local folk act—but restaurants are usually open and it is no problem to eat in them as usual, though some restaurant owners use it as an opportunity for a much-needed vacation (or renovation) and shut their business completely for 30 days. However, you will unlikely see any closed establishment in big cities, central parts of the cities, and touristy towns of western and southern Turkey. At sunset, call for prayer and a cannon boom, fasting observers immediately sit down for iftar, their first meal of the day. Banks, businesses and official places are NOT closed during this time.
During Ramadan, many city councils set up tent-like structures in the major squares of the cities that are especially aimed and served for the needy, for those in poverty or who are elderly or handicapped, and are also served for passers by, with warm meals during the sunset (iftar), free of charge (much like soup kitchens, instead serving full meals). Iftar is a form of charity that is very rewarding especially when feeding someone who is needy. It was first practised by the Prophet Muhammad during the advent of Islam, for that purpose. Travellers are welcome to join, but do not take advantage of it during the entire fasting period, just because it is free of charge.
Immediately following Ramazan is the Eid-ul Fitr, or the three-day national holiday of Ramazan Bayramı, also called Şeker Bayramı (i.e. “Sugar” or more precisely “Candy Festival”) during which banks, offices and businesses are closed and travel will be heavy. However, many restaurants, cafes and bars will be open.
Kurban Bayrami (pronounced koor-BAHN bahy-rah-muh) in Turkish, (Eid el-Adha in Arabic) or sacrifice holiday is the most important Islamic religious festival of the year. It lasts for several days and is a public holiday in Turkey. Almost everything will be closed during that time (many restaurants, cafes, bars and some small shops will be open however). Kurban Bayrami is also the time of the annual pilgrimage (Hajj) to Mecca, so both domestic and international travel is intense in Turkey at this time. If you are in smaller towns or villages you may even observe an animal, usually a goat but sometimes a cow, being slaughtered in a public place. In recent years the Turkish government has cracked down on these unofficial slaughterings so it is not as common as it once was.
The dates of these religious festivals change according to the Muslim lunar calendar and thus occur 10-11 days (the exact difference between Gregorian and Lunar calendars is 10 days and 21 hrs) earlier each year:
Kurban Bayramı Turkey’s Republic Day, a major patriotic holiday, with travel effects through 30 Oct.
During both religious holidays, many cities (but not all) provide free public transport (these do not include privately owned minibuses, dolmuşes, taxis, or inter-city buses). This depends on the place and time. For example, Istanbul’s public transport authority provided free transport in Eid-ul Fitr 2008, but not in Eid-ul Adha 2008 when passengers had to pay a discounted rate. For some years, it was all free in both holidays, while in some others there was no discount at all. To be sure, check whether other passengers use a ticket/token or not.
The climate in Turkey has a vast diversity depending on the diverse topography and latitude.
Aegean and Mediterranean coastal areas enjoy the typical Mediterranean climate. There is hardly a drop of rain during the sunny and hot summer (May to October). Winters are mild and rainy in these regions, and it very rarely snows at coastal areas, with the exception of mountainous areas higher than 2000 metres of these regions, which are very snowy and are frequently not passable. The water temperature in the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas is warm during the long summer season (May to October) which constitutes the swimming season and fluctuates between 23° and 28°C from north to south.
The region around the Sea of Marmara, including Istanbul, has a transitional climate between an oceanic climate and a semi-Mediterranean climate, but it does rain, albeit not a lot, during the very warm summer (as showers which tend to last for 15-30 minutes). Its winters are colder than those of the western and southern coasts. Snow is common at coastal areas, although it doesn’t stay on the ground for long and is limited to only a few days every winter. The water temperature in the Sea of Marmara is also colder than the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas, with the water temperature reaching only between 20° and 24°C during the summer (June, July and August) and the swimming season is restricted to those summer months.
The Black Sea region has an oceanic climate (thanks to the protective shield effect of Caucasus mountains) with the greatest amount of precipitation and is the only region of Turkey that receives high precipitation throughout the year. The eastern part of that coast averages 2,500 millimetres annually which is the highest precipitation in the country. Summers are warm and humid while the winters are cool and damp. Snow is common at coastal areas, although it doesn’t stay on the ground for long and is limited to only a few days every winter, though mountains are very snowy as it is expected to be and are frequently not passable, there are glaciers around the year in the highest zones. The water temperature in the whole Turkish Black Sea coast is always cool and fluctuates between 10° and 20°C throughout the year, and is even less suitable for swimming during the summer than in the Sea of Marmara.
Most of the coastal areas have a high level of relative humidity during most of the year which makes hot weather feel hotter and cold weather feel colder than it actually is.
Interior areas like Ankara, generally have hot summers (though the nights are cool enough to make someone who is wearing only a thin t-shirt uncomfortable outdoors) and cold and snowy winters. The more easterly the location is, the colder the winters are and the heavier the snow is. The northeastern part (around Erzurum and Kars) is the only inland area which has cool and rainy summers.
The southeastern region near the Syrian border has a desert-like climate, temperature is frequently above 40°C during summers with no rain. Snowfall is occasional in winter.
Turkey regions map.png
Greek and Roman ruins between azure sea on one side and silvery olive groves on the other
Black Sea Turkey
Heavily forested mountains offering great outdoor sports such as trekking and rafting
Tree-poor central steppes with the national capital, Hittite and Phrygian ruins, and moon-like Cappadocia
High and mountainous eastern part with harsh winters
The most urbanized region with Byzantine and Ottoman monuments in some of the country’s greatest cities
Mountains clad with pine woods ascending right from the heavily-indented coastline of the crystal clear sea
Semi-desert Middle-Eastern most part of the country mostly populated by Kurds
Amasya — an inland central Black Sea city along with Yeşilırmak (Iris) river and amazing well-preserved Ottoman whitewashed architecture along with riverside, extraordinary King Rock Tombs from Pontic Greeks, just feel like in an open-air museum
Ankara — the capital of Turkey and its second largest city
Antalya — the fastest growing city, hub to an array of beach resorts
Bodrum — a trendy coastal town in the Southern Aegean which turns into a crowded city in season when it serves as a playground for Turkish and international holidaymakers alike, featuring a citadel, Roman ruins, trendy clubs and a number of villages surrounding the peninsula each with a different character from classy to rustic
Bursa — the first capital of the Ottoman Empire
Edirne — the second capital of the Ottoman Empire
Eskisehir — The Venice of Turkey, described as one of the most beautiful cities in Anatolia.
Istanbul (Constantinople) — Turkey’s largest city, the former capital of both the Ottoman and Byzantine Empires, and the only major city in the world to straddle two continents
Izmir — Turkey’s third largest city
Konya — a quite large city that is the heartland of mystic Sufi order, the site of Rumi’s tomb, and with some elegant Seljuq architecture, all surrounded by vast steppes
Trabzon — the wonderful Sümela Monastery is just outside the city and it is a great gateway to exploring the Turkish Northeast
Urfa — magical city with beautiful architecture and extremely friendly locals at the gates of Eastern World; where Turkish, Kurdish, Arabic, and Persian cultures mingle
Flying over the turquoise waters in Ölüdeniz
Ani — impressive ruins of medieval Armenian capital in the far east of the country
Amasya — impressive rock tombs from ancient pontus greeks and amazing Ottoman wooden houses along with riverside
Cappadocia — an area in central highlands best known for its unique moon-like landscape (the “fairy chimneys”), underground cities, cave churches and houses carved in the rocks
Ephesus — well-preserved ruins of the Roman city on the west coast
Gallipoli — site of 1915 Anzac landing and many WWI memorials
Mount Nemrut — a UNESCO World Heritage site with head statues dedicated to ancient Gods on its summit
Ölüdeniz — imcomparable postcard beauty of “Blue Lagoon”, perhaps the most famous beach of Turkey which you will see on any tourism brochure
Pamukkale — “the Cotton Castle”, white world of travertines surrounding cascading shallow pools filled with thermal waters
Sümela — stunning monastery on the cliffs of a mountain, a must-see on any trip to the northeast coast
Uludağ — a national park featuring school textbook belts of different types of forests varying with altitude, and the major wintersports resort of the country
Citizens of the following countries can get a multiple-entry, sticker-type visa at any point of entry into Turkey for a fee
PLEASE NOTE that as of 10 April 2014, nationals of the countries below will not be able to obtain sticker-type visas at the port of entry any more. Those nationals should apply online for the Turkish e-Visa. All prices are in US Dollars only, and only Visa and Mastercard credit/debit cards are accepted as payment methods. If arriving at Ataturk airport in Istanbul, it is possible to purchase a visa from an automatic machine before clearing the immigration for the fixed rate of 20 USD (payment by card).
Valid for three months:
Antigua and Barbuda (US$20 / €15)
Australia (US$60 / €45)
Austria (US$20 / €15 / £10)
Bahamas (US$20 / €15)
Barbados (US$20 / €15)
Belgium (US$20 / €15 / £10)
Canada (US$60 / €45)
Dominica (US$20 / €15)
Dominican Republic (US$20 / €15)
Grenada (US$20 / €15)
Haiti (US$20 / €15)
Hong Kong (BNO Passport) (US$20 / €15)
Republic of Ireland (US$20 / €15 / £10)
Jamaica (US$20 / €15)
Kuwait (US$20 / €15) (until October 31, 2013)
Maldives (US$20 / €15)
Mexico (US$20 / €15, with valid Schengen, UK, Canada, US, or Japan visa)
Netherlands (US$20 / €15 / £10)
Norway (US$20 / €15 / £10)
Oman (US$20 / €15)
Poland (US$20 / €15 / £10)
Portugal (US$20 / €15 / £10)
Qatar (US$20 / €15) (until October 31, 2013)
Saudi Arabia (US$20 / €15) (until October 31, 2013)
Spain (US$20 / €15)
Saint Kitts and Nevis (US$20 / €15)
Saint Lucia (US$20 / €15)
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (US$20 / €15)
United Arab Emirates (US$20 / €15) (until October 31, 2013)
Ukraine (US$30 / €20) (until August 01, 2012)
United Kingdom (US$20 / €15 / £10)
United States of America (US$20 / €15)
Valid for two months:
Belarus (US$20 / €15)
Valid for one month:
Armenia (US$15 / €10)
Bahrain (US$15 / €10)
Bangladesh (US$20 / €15, with valid Schengen, UK, or US visa)
Republic of Cyprus (US$20 / €15 / £10)
India (US$20 / €15, with valid Schengen, UK, or US visa)
Mauritius (US$15 / €10)
Moldova (US$30 / €20)
Pakistan (US$20 / €15, with valid Schengen, UK, or US visa)
South Africa (US$15 / €10)
(NOTE: Payments in Pounds Sterling must be in Bank of England £10 notes ONLY. No Scottish or Northern Irish notes and no other values of notes (£5/20/50)
The citizens of the countries/territories listed below can enter Turkey visa-free for 90 days unless otherwise stated
Albania, Andorra, Argentina, Azerbaijan (30 days), Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina (60 days), Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Chile, Costa Rica (30 days), Croatia, Czech Republic, Northern Cyprus (Turkish republic of), Denmark, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Hong Kong (SAR Passport), Iran, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan (30 days), Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan (30 days), Latvia (30 days), Lebanon, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macau (30 days), Macedonia (60 days), Malaysia, Moldova (30 days), Monaco, Mongolia (30 days), Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Romania, Russia (60 days), San Marino, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Tajikistan (30 days), Thailand (30 days), Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkmenistan (30 days), Uruguay, Uzbekistan (30 days), Vatican City and Venezuela.
German citizens may enter with a passport, national ID card (Personalausweis) or an expired passport/ID unless arriving at the non-Council of Europe land border crossings (i.e. from Iran, Iraq and Syria).
More information can be found at theTurkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.
Turkey’s primary international gateway by air is Istanbul’s Atatürk International Airport. Ankara’s Esenboğa Airport handles a comparatively limited selection of international flights, and there are also direct charters to Mediterranean resort hot spots like Antalya in the peak summer and winter seasons. In 2005 customs at Istanbul international airport was rearranged to the effect that one is now required to go through customs and “enter the country” there, rather than first travel to a regional destination and pass customs there. Luggage will generally travel to the final destination without further ado, but on occasion you may have to point it out to be sure it will be transported on. The information given by flight attendants in the incoming flight may not be adequate so until the procedure is changed (it is supposed to be only temporary) it is wise to inquire on Istanbul airport. Since one must pass security again for any inland flight, it is advisable to hurry and not spend too much time in transit. There are also some other regional airports which receive a limited number of flights from abroad, especially from Europe and especially during the high season (Jun-Sep).
Sabiha Gökçen Airport (SAW)
Of special interest to those travelling on low-cost carriers, this airport is situated some 50 km east of Istanbul’s Taksim Square on the Asian side of Istanbul. Airlines servicing this airport include EasyJet, Germanwings, Condor, THY (Turkish Airlines) and many more. It may be interesting to point out that there is the possibility of catching a plane from Emirates’ budget carrier Air Arabia to Sharjah in the [United Arab Emirates]] and from there to India for a very competitive price. All those low-cost options though, entail departure and arrival times in the middle of the night.
You can still travel from Europe to Turkey by train, although these days this is more of historical or perhaps even romantic interest than fast or practical. The famed Orient Express from London now travels no further than Vienna, but you can take the daily TransBalkan from Budapest (Hungary) via Bucharest (Romania), a two-night journey with a scheduled 3-hour stop in Bucharest. 1st/2nd class sleepers and couchettes are available, but the train lacks a restaurant car so stock up on supplies. From/to Greek stations there are two daily services, from Istanbul to the border station of Pythion every morning and from Istanbul to Thessaloniki every night. (Due to budget cuts by the Greek government, the services to/from Greece has been suspended indefinitely since 13th February 2011.) There are also daily trains to Istanbul from Sofia (Bulgaria).
From Middle East, there are also once-weekly services from Tabriz and Tehran in Iran to Van and Istanbul, via Ankara. (Due to railtrack renovations, for at least two years from February 2012 on, Istanbul’s Asian station will receive no services. As such, the western terminus of Trans-Asia Express, which provides service between Iran and Turkey, has now been shifted to Ankara.) While direct Istanbul-Damascus service has been discontinued for some time now, there are still once or twice weekly trains between southern cities of Mersin, Adana, and Gaziantep and the Syrian city of Aleppo. There had also been a train connecting Gaziantep with Mosul in Iraq, but it was suspended shortly after it was inaugurated and does not seem to come back into service, at least not in the foreseeable future.
A cheap way of traveling to or from Turkey might be the Balkan Flexipass.
From Central Europe, getting to Turkey is not too difficult. In any case you’ll need your International Insurance Card (Green Card). Pay attention to “TR” not being canceled and be sure your insurance is valid for the Asian part of Turkey, too. Otherwise you will have to buy Turkish car insurance separately. In any case, Turkish customs will make an entry into your passport stating when the car (and thus you) have to leave Turkey again.
A carnet de passage is not necessary unless you intend to move on to Iran, which requires you to have a carnet de passage.
National driving licences from some of the European countries are accepted. If you are not sure about your situation, obtain an international driving licence beforehand.
Major roads from Europe are:
E80 enters Turkey at Kapıkule border gate (NW of Edirne, SE of Svilengrad) from Bulgaria
E87 enters Turkey at Dereköy border gate (north of Kırklareli, south of Tirnovo) from Bulgaria
E90 enters Turkey at İpsala border gate (west of Keşan, east of Alexandroupolis) from Greece
A convenient connection from Western Europe, especially if you want to avoid narrow and perhaps poorly maintained highways of the Balkans, is to take the weekly motorail trains run by EuroTurk Express , which depart from Bonn-Beuel station (Germany) every Saturday at noon, arriving two nights later during the afternoon in Çerkezköy, about 100 km northwest of Istanbul or an hour’s drive through a high-standard motorway. Fares start at €139 for passengers, cars at €279.
Major roads from Middle East enter Turkey at numerous border gates around Antakya (Antioch), from Syrian cities such as Aleppo and Latakia, Habur border gate (south of Silopi, north of Zakho) from Iraq, and Dogubeyazit border gate (near Ararat) from Iran.
Major roads from Caucasia enter Turkey at Sarp/Sarpi border gate from Georgia (south of Batumi) and Türkgözü border gate south of Akhaltsikhe (this is the nearest border gate from Tbilisi but the last few kilometres on the Georgian side were really bad as of summer 2009). The border with Armenia is currently closed, thus impassable by car.
There are also other border gates (unlisted here), from all the countries Turkey has a common land border with (except Armenia), leading to secondary roads passable with a car.
Driving in Turkey varies a lot – be aware, that in highly congested areas such as in and around Istanbul and other dense areas, driving is chaotic and that general rules are rarely observed; expect such behaviours as passing in any lane on a motorway, not respecting right of way, speeding etc. In less dense areas, this is not as often the case, such as the road from the Ankara motorway towards Samsun, or the Northeastern road between Samsun and the Georgian border. It is advisable to always observe any car near you, since local driving is far less predictable as in, say, Western Europe.
From Bucharest there is a daily bus to Istanbul at 4PM for 125 Lei. There are also several daily buses from Constanta, Romania and from Sofia, Bulgaria and from there you can get connections to the major cities of Europe. Another possibility is the bus from Athens in Greece via Thessaloniki. You may also find smaller bus companies offering connections to other countries in the Balkans.
There is a direct bus to Istanbul from Teheran in Iran which takes approx 48hrs and costs US$ 35.00 for a one-way ticket between Istanbul or Ankara and Tehran.
Dogubeyazit/Bazerghan This Turkey/Iran border crossing is easily (and fast) done by public transport. Take a bus to Bazerghan and a shared taxi to the border (ca. 2-3$). Cross the border stretch per pedes and catch a a frequent minibus (ca. 5 TL, 15 minutes) to Dogubeyazit. Check the security situation in the region, due to the unsolved PKK conflict.
There are also buses from Van to Urmia crossing the Turkey/Iran border at Esendere/Sero. The buses cost app. €13 and it takes more than 6 hr to finish the 300 km path. That’s because of the poor roads, harsh snowy conditions during the winter and also many military checkpoints because of security reasons concerning the P.K.K..
This southern route is less frequent than the northern Dogubeyazit/Bazerghan, as it is much slower but therefor a scenic mountainous route. Make sure you get a clear idea about exchange rates if you want to change TL or Rial as the official bank at the border does not exchange these currencies and you have to deal with the plentiful black market.
From Aleppo in Syria a 3hr bus to Antakya costs S£250 departing at 5AM. There is also a minibus service at 3PM for S£350. From Antakya you can get connecting buses to almost anywhere in Turkey, however initial prices may be overinflated and often inconvenient times. If travelling through to Istanbul, there are bus services from Damascus with bus changes along the way at Antakya. Purchasing a bus ticket in Damascus will be significantly cheaper than in Aleppo or Antakya. If travelling from Syria it is worthwhile to purchase additional supplies of snacks and drinks before leaving the country – these are significantly more expensive at bus stations in Turkey.
Many people arrive in Bodrum on one of the hydro-foils or ferries that run from most of the close Greek islands into the port. A fairly pretty way to arrive. While many of the lines that originate and terminate in Istanbul have recently been discontinued (due to bankruptcy), there are still summer departures direct to Eastern Italy.
Other main towns on the Aegean coast have ferry connections with the nearest Greek islands as well. Trabzon, a major city on the eastern Black Sea coast has a regular line from/to Sochi on the Russian Black Sea coast. Mersin, Taşucu, and Alanya on the Mediterranean coast has ferry links with either Famagusta (with Mersin) or Kyrenia (with others) in Northern Cyprus.
See Ferries in the Mediterranean.
Major cities are served by airlines as well, with reasonable prices, beating the bus travel experience especially over longer distances. Tickets can be conveniently bought at the Istanbul domestic terminal and local ticket offices of Turkish Airlines  , Onur Air , Pegasus Airlines  and Atlasjet  among others . Many of the large cities have daily connections to the traffic hubs Ankara and Istanbul, others will have flights on specific days only. Upon arrival at regional airports there will often be a connecting Havaş bus  to the city centre, which is much, much cheaper than taking a taxi. They may wait for half an hour, but will be available after the arrival of major flights. In some spots a whole fleet of minibusses will be waiting for an important flight, and then they will head out for cities in the region. For instance, flying to Agri in the East a connecting minibus will head for Dogubeyazit within twenty,thirty minutes or so, so you don’t have to travel into Agri first, then wait for a Dogubeyazit bus. Do ask for such easy connections upon arrival!
Turkey has a very good long-distance bus network with air-conditioned buses, reserved seats and generally good-quality service, at least with the major operators. There are now a few firms providing luxury buses with 1st class seats and service. Standard buses, however, have seats narrower than those of economy class on airplanes. Buses are often crowded, but smoking is strictly prohibited.
Three buses with websites (though with poor English support) are:
Bus travel is convenient in Turkey. Go to the Otogar (bus station) in any of the major cities and you can find a bus to almost any destination departing within half an hour, or a couple of hours at the most. Buses are staffed by drivers and a number of assistants. During the ride you will be offered free drinks, a bite or two, and stops will be made every two and a half hours or so at well-stocked road restaurants. The further east you travel, the less frequent buses will be, but even places as far as Dogubeyazit or Van will have regular services to many places hundreds of kilometers away. Only the smallest towns do not have a bus straight to Istanbul or Izmir at least once every two days.
Finding the right bus quickly does require some help and thus some trust, but be careful. Scammers will be waiting for you, and some may assist you in buying a ticket to a bus that won’t depart in the next two hours. Sometimes there simply is no other bus, but on other occasions you will be sitting there while other buses with the same destination start well ahead. If you have some time to spare: check the departure (and arrival) times of other companies, that may save you time overall. Still, if you indicate you really want to leave NOW (use phrases like “hemen” or “shimdy”, or “adjelem var” – I am in a hurry ), people will realize you are in hurry, and off you go on the next bus departing for your destination.
If you have several operators to choose from, ask for the number of seats in the buses you compare. Roughly, a larger capacity implies a greater comfort (all bus-seats have approximately the same leg-room, but larger 48-seat buses are certainly more comfortable than a 15-seat Dolmus, which may be considered a ‘bus’ by the company selling the seat). Also, the bus company with the largest sign is usually the one with the most buses and routes. If possible, ask other travellers you meet about their experiences with different operators: even big operators have different standards of service, and even with the same operator the standards may vary from region to region.
Don’t be surprised if halfway to some strange and far-off destination you are asked out of the bus (your luggage will often be already standing next to it) and transferred to another. The other bus will “buy” you, and will bring you to the destination. This may even happen for ‘direct’ or ‘non-stop’ tickets.
Sometimes long-haul bus lines will leave you stranded on some ring-road around a city, rather than bringing you to the center. That can be annoying. Inquire ahead (and hope they don’t lie). On the other hand, many companies will have “servis aracı” or shuttle services to the center, when the Otogar is on the periphery of a city, as they nowadays often are. In some cities these service vehicles are used by many companies combined, and a fleet of them, to different parts of the metropolis, will be waiting. The company may also choose to combine the passengers of multiple buses; meaning that you may have to wait until another bus or two arrives before departing. Keep your ticket ready as proof you were on a bus (though most of these services are run on good faith). In some cities (including Ankara, excluding Istanbul), the municipality have prohibited the use of service buses due to their effect on traffic. In that case, you might have to take a public bus or metro to get to your destination. One should probably avoid using taxis (at least departing from the Otogar) since they usually tend to abuse their monopolistic position by refusing to go to closer destinations, behaving rudely towards the passenger, charging on the night tariff, etc. If you have to take a taxi, it is usually suggested that you do it from outside the bus terminal.
Seating within buses is partly directed by the “koltuk numarası” or seat number on your ticket, partly by the ritualistic seating of women next to women, couples together and so forth. So don’t be too annoyed if you are required to give up your seat. In general, as a foreigner, you will have the better seat much of the time.
One hint: it often is easiest to take a seat in the back, whatever the number of your koltuk, and not be bothered for much of the ride. This is particularly true if you travel alone, and want to keep it that way, even though the last row may be reserved for the driver-off-duty, who wants to sleep. And remember: many buses pick up short-track fare along the ride, and park them in the last two or three rows. Also keep in mind that the back of the bus may be more noisy compared to the front, since that is where the engine is located.
If you have a bicycle it will be transported free of extra charge. In most buses it fits in the luggage area of the bus- Make sure you have the tools to fold your bike as small as possible (height matters most)
Fez Bus. This is another alternative, a Hop on hop off travel network that links Istanbul to the most popular tourist destinations in western Turkey, and a few other destinations. The buses runs hostel to hostel and have an English speaking tour leader on board. The pass can be purchased for a few days or all summer. Departures are every other day. More expensive than local buses, but could be far less hassle, and offers a different experience. The main office in Istanbul is in Sultanahmet next to the Orient Youth Hostel on Yeni Akbiyik Cd. 
Offering considerably cheap, but slower travel compared with the bus, TCDD (Turkish Republic State Railways) operate passenger trains all over the country. However, as Turkey has fewer than 11,000 km of rail network in the total, many cities and tourist spots are out of rail coverage.
Istanbul–Ankara and Istanbul–Edirne lines are the only lines that are electrified, so the rest of the lines are serviced by diesel trains. The services from Istanbul to the east change their locomotives at Ankara station, and services to the south change their locomotives at Enveriye station, the remote one of two stations in Eskişehir (located about two-thirds distance to Ankara from Istanbul). No steam locomotives run on Turkish railways regularly, except occasional ceremonies.
Istanbul–Ankara rail line is the busiest and the most ridden one. There are several daily trains on this line, and a ride takes between 6 and a half to more than 10 hours, depending on the train one takes and the delays, which are quite frequent.
High speed train (yüksek hızlı tren, usually shortened to YHT) between Ankara and Eskişehir, (a city lying about 240 km west of Ankara and is off the usual tourist trail in the country, with seven departures back and forth every day.) and between Ankara and Konya is available. An extension to Istanbul for Ankara and Eskişehir line is completed in August 2014. Since August 8th 2014, the fast train service is available between Ankara and Istanbul(Pendik)
It is possible to take the fast train from Ankara, and then transfer to the bus provided by TCDD in the Eskişehir station, heading for Bursa.
Recent rail track renovations all over the country and the subsequent phase outs of many passenger trains mean that there is a less number of destinations you can get to by rail from Istanbul directly compared with a couple of years ago. The major cities with a direct train service from Istanbul are Edirne (from Sirkeci station on the European side, not Haydarpaşa), Eskişehir, Konya, Adana, Kayseri (where Cappadocia is a few hours bus ride away), Diyarbakır, Erzurum (a few minutes away from Palandöken ski centre), Kars, and Tatvan on the shore of Lake Van. Ankara has services from/to a somewhat wider number of destinations, while Izmir, other than trains from/to Ankara (via Eskişehir) and Bandırma (on the coast of Marmara), is only served by a number of regional trains operating across Aegean Turkey.
Rather than a spider web-like system, usually linear and quite disconnected nature of Turkish railway network means that, if you have a motivation (such as being on budget, or holding a pass such as Inter Rail) for tripping around the country solely by rail, you should prepare yourself for long de-tours and waits on the stations between trains. Getting from Istanbul to Izmir, two of Turkey’s largest cities, only by trains, for example, involves either a long de-tour to Eskişehir and then switching to another train bound for Izmir there, or taking a fast ferry across the Sea of Marmara to Bandırma and then take the train heading for Izmir there (the latter of which is actually faster than taking a bus to Izmir, although would not certainly be cheaper. TCDD offers combined tickets for this boat+train trip, which are a few liras cheaper than what you would normally pay if you would have bought the tickets seperately).
1st and 2nd class tickets are available across the country, while some trains are consisted of only 1st class cars. 1st class usually means a pullman car (which has large leg-rooms between the seats, and most of which has air-conditioners nowadays), and 2nd class usually means compartment having 6 or far worse 8 seats. 8-seated compartments are not widespread, still ask before in order to avoid having a ticket for one. Also, 2nd class tickets do not have seat numbers written on them, so you should rush into the train to find a suitable empty seat.
Many trains have couchettes (Turkish: kuşetli) and sleeping cars (yataklı vagon), however even some of the night trains lack one, so ask before choosing your departure.
Although none of the regional trains—which operate between nearby cities—have a dining car, most long-distance trains have one. However, dining cars of the trains heading for eastern Turkey may have a limited menu and beverage list or there might be no dining car at all due to the low interest of the passengers of these lines. Have some supplies, especially if you are going to take one of the services to the east, but don’t worry if you don’t have any time to get anything. In the stations where the train stops for 15 minutes or more—which typically are located in big cities lying about three to four hours away from each other—you will find a kiosk or a buffet to buy some snacks and drinks. You can also buy some snacks—or even fresh fruits during spring and summertime—from vendors “jumping” into the cars in smaller stations as well. Dining cars are closed between 12:30AM and 6:30AM in all trains except Fatih Express, the daily night train between Istanbul and Ankara, the dining car of which is open until 1:30AM-2AM.
All cars have lavatories, although they may not be always so clean or have toilet paper.
Smoking in any part of any public transport, including trains, has been banned since July 2009 in Turkey, but neither the conductors/security guards nor other passengers do not seem to be concerned about this ban on the longest haul trains heading to/from Eastern Turkey, at least on the 2nd class cars.
Inter Rail and Balkan Flexipass passes are valid in all trains in Turkey (except international trains operating between Turkish and Iranian/Syrian/Iraqi stations), but holders of these tickets may have to get a seat number before ride, free of charge, especially in the trains that are consisted of only 1st class cars. TCDD also offers Tren Tur pass cards which lets its holder a month of free rail travel on any Turkish train (again, Tren Tur is not accepted in international trains operating between Turkish and Iranian/Syrian/Iraqi stations and the international train operating between Istanbul and Thessaloniki). Tren Tur card is considerably cheaper than one-zone Interrail tickets, but be sure to get a seat number in the stations before you get into a train that is consisted of only 1st class cars.
TCDD offers 20% discounted tickets for youths under 26, whether they are students or not. Until recently anyone entitled to a discounted ticket were required to show a valid student ID on board, but this is no longer the case.
Train tickets can be bought online, at the station of departure (however, you can also buy your ticket for an Anatolian destination at the Sirkeci station, the main station of Istanbul on the European side), some of the central postoffices, authorized tourism agencies or from the automatic ticket machines which are rarely located at the main stations of the big cities. Credit cards are accepted only in major stations, be sure to have enough cash if you’ll buy a ticket in a small town station a few minutes before the train departs. If you are buying your ticket from a station, remember that only booths of a limited number of very central stations accept foreign currency alongside Turkish lira, you can pay only in Turkish lira in the rest. Getting on a train without a valid ticket could land you with a fine, but purchasing a ticket on the train is often possible at a higher price.
A reservation is recommended during summer, on Fridays and Sundays, and before domestic religious feasts, when a one-week break is common and trains get really crowded.
For reservation and timetables, see Turkish Republic State Railways’ website .
Bosphorus Bridge, a part of the Turkish highway system, connecting Europe and Asia
Like all of its neighbours (except Cyprus off the southern coast of Turkey), driving is on the right side of the road in Turkey. Though it is legal to drive a vehicle with driver positioned on the right (which were designed for countries driving on the left) it is not very comfortable and is risky indeed (the driver cannot see the coming traffic and so on…).
It is illegal to use a mobile phone while driving. Maximum permitted amount of alcohol in blood for drivers is 0.05 grams per litre (g/1000 ml), that is roughly equal to two cups (a cup=500 ml) of beer or two glasses (a wine glass=330 ml) of wine. The use of seat belts both at the front and back line is obligatory, but, although failing to use one carries a penalty, this is not always adhered to by locals, including the drivers themselves.
Turkish signboards are almost identical to the ones used in Europe, and differences are often insignificant. The place names written on green background lead to motorways (which you should pay a toll, unless it is a ring road around or within a city); on blue background means other highways; on white background means rural roads (or a road inside a city under the responsibility of city councils); and on brown background indicates the road leads to a historical place, an antique city, a place of tourist interest or a city out of Turkey (these signboards used to be on yellow background till a few years ago, so still there is a chance of unreplaced yellow signboards existing here and there). Also keep in mind that these signboards are not always standardized; for instance, some of the blue ones may be leading into the rural roads.
Nowadays most intercity highways avoid city centres by circling around them. If you’d like to drive into the centre for shopping, dining, and the like, follow the signposts saying Şehir Merkezi, which are usually on white background, and nowadays accompanied by no further translations though you can still spot some old signs saying “Centrum” besides Şehir Merkezi. City centres typically have two or more entrances/exits from the ringroads that surround them.
As Turkey uses the metric system, all distances on the signboards are in kilometers, unless otherwise stated (such as meters, but never in miles).
There are no fees to use the highways except intercity motorways (otoyol). While Turkish highways vary widely in quality and size, the toll motorways have three lanes and are very smooth and fast. Motorways are explicitly signed with distinct green signs and given road numbers prefixed with the letter O. The motorway network currently consists of two lines stretching out to east and west from Istanbul (towards Ankara and Edirne respectively), a network in Central Aegean fanning out of Izmir, and another one connecting the major eastern Mediterranean city of Adana to neighbouring cities in all directions.
Motorways no longer have toll booths and instead have lanes for automatic (OGS) and pre-paid card (KGS) lanes. Unless you are going to live in Turkey, the refillable KGS card will be what you want.
The KGS cards can be purchased in a building at the entrance to the motorway. The building may be on the other side of the motorway in which case you will have to park and cross the motorway on foot. This building will have a window for purchasing a KGS card and putting money on it.
Once you have purchased a KGS card and put money on it, drive through the KGS entry lane to the motorway. Place the card in the scanner machine which will display your card’s current balance. Upon exiting the motorway, scan the card in the same way and the machine will deduct an amount based on the distance driven.
It is also possible to purchase KGS cards at several Turkish banks.
In addition to the distance driven, motorway fees also depend on the type of your vehicle. Edirne–Istanbul motorway—about 225 km and the main entry point to Istanbul from Europe—typically costs 3 TL for a car, for example.
Despite bordering countries which have the richest oil resources, fuel in Turkey is ridiculously expensive, in fact one of the most expensive in the world because of the very heavy taxes. For example, a litre of unleaded gasoline costs more than 4.00 TL (~€ 1.80/~US$ 2.40, that makes ~US$ 9.60 per gallon!). Diesel and LPG is less damaging to your wallet (and to the environment in case of LPG), but not that drastically.
Petrol stations (benzin istasyonu) are frequently lined along the highways, most (if not all) serving round the clock and accepting credit cards (you have to get out of the car and enter the station building to enter your PIN code if you are using credit card). In all of them you can find unleaded gasoline (kurşunsuz), diesel (dizel or motorin), and LPG (liquid petroleum gas, LPG). In many (if not most) of them you can also find CNG (compressed natural gas, CNG). Though, petrol stations in the villages off the beaten track are exception, all they offer is often limited to only diesel, which is used for running the agricultural machinery. It is advised to keep the gas tank full if you are going to stray away from main roads. Also petrol stations along the motorways (toll-ways) are rarer than other highways, usually once every 40-50 kms. Make sure to fill your tank in the first station you’ll pass by (there are signs indicating you are soon going to pass by one) if your “tank is getting empty” alert signal is on.
Biofuels are not common. What most resembles a biofuel available to a casual driver is sold in some of the stations affiliated with national chain Petrol Ofisi under the name biyobenzin. But still it is not mostly biofuel at all – it consists of a little bioethanol (2% of the total volume) stirred into pure gasoline which makes up the rest (98%). Biodiesel is in an experimental stage yet, not available in the market.
In all cities and towns, there are repair shops, usually located together in complexes devoted to auto-repairing (usually rather incorrectly called sanayi sitesi or oto sanayi sitesi in Turkish, which means “industrial estate” and “auto-industrial estate” respectively), which are situated in the outskirts of the cities. And all cities and towns,there are big 3 s plants.(sales,service,spare parts).these are more corporate than sanayi sitesi these called oto plaza..
Renting a car
You may rent a car to get around Turkey from an international or local car rental agent. If you are traveling by plane you may find car rental desks in arrival terminals of all airports such as IST Ataturk Airport, Istanbul.
The minibus (or Minibüs as called in Istanbul) is a small bus (sometimes car) that will ride near-fixed routes. The ride may be from the periphery of a major city to the centre or within a city, but may also take three to four hours from one city to the next, when the route is not commercial for large busses. They sometimes make a detour to bring some old folks home or collect some extra heavy luggage. You will find them in cities as well as in inter-city traffic. All during their journey people will get in and out (shout “Inecek var” – “someone to get off” – to have it stop if you’re in). The driver tends to be named “kaptan” (captain), and some behave accordingly. The fare is collected all through the ride. In some by a specially appointed passenger who will get a reduction, in others by a steward, who may get off halfway down the journey, to pick up a dolmuş of the same company heading back, and mostly by the driver himself. If the driver collects himself, people hand money on from the back rows to the front, getting change back by the same route. On some stretches tickets are sold in advance, and things can get complicated if some of the passengers bought a ticket and others just sat inside waiting – for maybe half an hour – but without a ticket.
The concept of dolmuş in Istanbul is somehow different than the rest of Turkey. The vehicles are different, they take max. 7 sitting passengersand non standing. they do not tend to take passengers along the way, they depart immediately when they are full, and many of them operate 24 hours a day. The name derives from “dolmak”, the verb for “to fill”, as they used not to start the journey without a decent number of passengers. They usually leave when they are full, but sometimes start at fixed hours, whatever the number.
Fast ferry, also called “sea-bus”
Fast ferries (hızlı feribot) are fast (50-60km/hour) catamaran-type ferryboats that connect for instance Istanbul to the other side of the Marmara Sea. They can cut travel time dramatically. Again for instance leaving from the Yenikapı jetty in Istanbul (just a bit southwest of the Blue Mosque) you can be at the Bursa otogar in two hours, with less than an hour for the actual boat ride to Yalova. Similar services are operated to connect several parts of Istanbul with the Asian side, or places farther up the Bosporus. And this type of fast ferry is increasingly seen all over the country wherever there is enough water.
There are also ferry connections between Istanbul and Izmir and between Istanbul and Trabzon in the eastern Black Sea region, ships operating on the latter line also stop at all of the significant cities along the Turkish Black Sea coast. However both of these lines are unfortunately operating only in summer months.
All inhabited Turkish islands have at least one daily cruise to the nearest mainland city or town during summer. But as winter conditions at the seas can go harsh, the frequency of voyages drop significantly due to the bad weather.
Perhaps one of the best cruising grounds in the world, Turkey offers thousands of years of history, culture and civilization set against a stunning mountainous backdrop. The coastline is a mixture of wide gulfs, peaceful coves, shady beaches, uninhabited islands, small villages and bustling towns. Many of these locations are still only accessible by boat. Rare in the Mediterranean, one can still find some seclusion on a private charter in Turkey. In fact, Turkey offers more coastline than any other Mediterranean country. The best way to see Turkey is from your own private yacht on your own schedule. Turkey offers some of the most exquisite yachts in the world known as gulets.
Special lanes devoted to bicycles are virtually non-existent, except a few quite short routes –which are built mainly for sport, not transportation- along coastal avenues or parks in the big cities like Istanbul or Izmir. Terrain of the country is mostly hilly, another factor which makes long-distance cycling in Turkey more difficult. If it is the case that you have already made up your mind and give cycling a try in your Turkey trip, always stay as much on the right side of the roads as possible; avoid riding a bicycle out of cities or lightened roads at night, do not be surprised by the drivers horning at you, and do not enter the motorways, it is forbidden. Unless motorway is marked with appropriate signs it is considered as general road allowed for bicycles. You could better prefer rural roads with much less traffic density, but then there is the problem of freely roaming sheepdogs, which can sometimes be quite dangerous (although no more than usual). Rural roads also have much much less signboards than the highways, which turns them into a labyrinth, in which it is easy to get lost even for non-local Turkish people, without a detailed map.
Great Explorations offers a 10 day/ 9 night cycling tour along the coast, beginning in Bodrum and finishing in Antalya staying in 3&4-star hotels. By incorporating a ‘blue-cruise’ between Gocek and Olympos, the busier and hilliest sections are avoided and you get to enjoy a few days exploring the Aegean Sea by yacht.
Air can be pumped into tyres at any petrol station without a charge. Bicycle repair-shops are rare in cities and cannot be easily found, motorcycle repair shops can be tried alternatively (however, they are very reluctant to repair a bicycle if they are busy with their customers who have motorcycles).
In Istanbul’s Princess’ Islands, renting a bike is an amusing, cheaper, and obviously more animal-friendly alternative to hiring a horse-drawn carriage. On these islands well-paved roads are shared only by horse-drawn carriages, bicycles and public service vehicles (like ambulances, police vans, school buses, garbage trucks etc).
Almost every driver has an idea about what universal hitchhiking sign (“thumb”) means. Don’t use any other sign which may be equivalent of a signal meaning a danger. In addition to the thumb, having a signboard with the destination name certainly helps. Waiting for someone to take you generally doesn’t exceed half an hour, though this dramatically varies depending on the density of traffic (as is elsewhere) and the region, for example, it usually takes much longer to attract a ride in Mediterranean Turkey than in Marmara Region. Best hitchhiking spots are the crossroads with traffic lights, where ring-roads around a city and the road coming from the city center intersect. Don’t be so away from the traffic lights so drivers would be slow enough to see you and stop to take you; but be away enough from the traffic lights for a safe standing beside the road. Don’t try to hitchhike on motorways, no one will be slow enough to stop, it is also illegal to enter the motorways as a pedestrian. Don’t start to hitchhike until you are out of a city as cars may head for different parts of the city, not your destination, and if not in hurry, try to avoid hitchhiking after night falls, especially if you are a lone female traveler.
Although the drivers are taking you just to have a word or two during their long, alone journey, always watch out and avoid sleeping.
On some occasions, you may not be able to find someone going directly to where your destination is, so don’t refuse anyone stopped to take you –refusing someone stopped to take you is impolite-, unless he/she is going to a few kilometres away, and if he/she would go to a road that doesn’t arrive at your destination in a coming fork. You may have to change several cars even on a 100-km course, changing in each town after town. However, because of the enormous numbers of trucks carrying goods for foreign markets, you can find unexpectedly long-haul trips from, say a town in western Turkey to as far as, for instance, Ukraine or southern Germany.
Not many, but some drivers –especially van drivers- may ask for money (“fee”) from you. Refuse and tell them that if you had money to waste, you would be on a bus, and not standing on the side of the road.
Drivers staying in the area may point downwards (to the road surface) or towards the direction they’re driving or flash their headlights while passing, indicating that they wouldn’t make a good long-haul ride. Smile and/or wave your hand to show courtesy.
Turkey has two long-distance waymarked hiking trails, one of them is the famous Lycian Way, between Fethiye and Antalya, the other one is the Saint Paul Trail, between Antalya and Yalvaç up to the north, in the Turkish Lakes District. Both are about 500 km, and signed with painted stones and signboards. Since Lycian Way is much older, it has more facilities for shopping and accommodation in the villages situated along or near its route.
Eastern Black Sea region covers very beautiful quite long trekking routes between the greenest of green plateaus well above the clouds as well, and some tourism agencies in the main cities of Turkey are offering guided trekking tours –including the transportation- in this region.
Inside the cities, there are white-, or rarely yellow-painted pedestrian crossings (zebra crossing) on the main streets and avenues, which are normally pedestrian-priority spots. However, for many drivers, they are nothing more than ornamental drawings on the road pavements, so it is better to cross the streets at where traffic lights are. Still, be sure all the cars stopped, because it is not unusual to see the drivers still not stopping in the first few seconds after the light turns to red for vehicles. As a better option, on wide streets, there are also pedestrian overpasses and underground pedestrian passages available. In narrow main streets during rush hour, you can cross the street anywhere and anytime, since cars will be in a stop-go-stop-go manner because of heavy traffic. Also in narrow streets inside the residential hoods, you need not to worry about keeping on the sidewalk, you can walk well in the middle of the road, only to step aside when a car is coming.
The sole official language of Turkey is Turkish. Turkish is an Altaic language and its closest living relatives are other Turkic languages, which are spoken in southwestern, central and northern Asia; and to a lesser degree by significant communities in the Balkans. Because Turkish is an agglutinative language, native speakers of Indo-European languages generally find it difficult to learn. Since 1928, Turkish is written in a variant of the Latin alphabet (after so many centuries of using the Arabic one, evident in many historical texts and documents) with the additions of ç/Ç, ğ/Ğ, ı, İ, ö/Ö, ş/Ş and ü/Ü, and with the exclusions of Q, W and X.
Kurdish is also spoken by an estimated 7-10% of the population. Several other languages exist, like Laz in the North-East (also spoken in adjacent Georgia), and in general people living near borders will often be speaking the language at the other side too, like Arabic in the South-East.
English is increasingly popular as a foreign language among the younger generation, though proficiency tends to be poor due to a lack of practice and exposure. To improve your chances of being understood, stick to simple words and avoid long sentences. Senior citizens rarely speak English, but they’ll try to help you anyway with gestures or similar words. Outside the major cities (Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir) and tourist areas (like Bodrum, Antalya), English is generally nonexistent, so take a phrase book and be prepared for slow communication with a lot of interpretive gestures..
Thanks to migration, even in rural areas most villages will have at least somebody who has worked in Germany and can thus speak German. The same goes for other West-European languages like Dutch (often mistakenly called “Flemish” there) or French. Recent immigration from Balkans means there is also a possibility to come across native Serbo-Croatian, Bulgarian, and Albanian speakers mainly in big cities of western Turkey, but don’t count on this.
As a general rule, most museums and sites of ancient cities in Turkey are closed on Mondays, although there are numerous exceptions to this.
Ancient ruins and architectural heritage
Streets of Alaçatı, Aegean Region
At the crossroads of civilizations, all parts of Turkey are full of a mindblowing number of ancient ruins.
Hittites, the first indigenous people that rose to found a state in Anatolia—although there is one certain Çatalhöyük preceding them, the earliest settlement ever found to the date in Turkey—left the proof of their existence at the ruins of Hattuşaş, their capital.
Ancient Greeks and closely following Romans left their mark mostly in Aegean and Mediterranean Regions, leaving behind the marble ruins of hundreds of cities, temples, and monuments. Some are largely restored to their former glory, such as Ephesus as well as numerous others along the Aegean coast which are on the checklist of most travellers to Turkey, along with some more obscure ones off the beaten path such as Aphrodisias near Denizli, and Aizonai.
In the meantime, some other indigenous peoples, such as Lycians, were carving beautiful tombs—many of which are fairly well preserved and can be seen all around Lycia—for their dearly departed ones onto the rocky hillsides.
Legendary Troy stands out as an example of different civilizations literally living on the top of each other. While what is visible today is clearly Hellenistic, the place has its roots as Hittite Wilusa, and later re-built many times over by Ancient Greeks.
Perhaps the most unique “architectural” heritage in the country, some of the Cappadocian cave houses and churches carved into “fairy chimneys” and underground cities (in a literal sense!) date back to early Christians hiding from persecution.
Successors of Romans, the Byzantines, broke new ground with more ambitious projects, culminating in grand Hagia Sophia of Istanbul, built in 537, and which had the distinction of being the largest cathedral in the world for almost a thousand years. Most of Byzantine heritage intact today is found in Marmara Region, especially in Istanbul, although a stray monastery or two dating back to the era can be found in almost any part of the country.
Seljuks, the first ever Turkic state to be founded in Asia Minor, built most of their monuments—which incorporates large majestic portals and heavily delicate stonework, reminiscent of some landmarks in parts of Asia—in major centres of the time in Eastern and Central Anatolia, especially in Konya, their capital.
Ottomans, who had considered themselves as a Balkan state until their demise, built most of their landmarks in Balkans and the natural extension of Balkans within today’s Turkey—Marmara Region—just like the Byzantines, whom the Ottomans inspired to in so many ways. Most of the earlier Ottoman monuments were built in Bursa, which have little Byzantine and comperatively large Seljuk influences, and later, when the dynasty moved to Europe, in Edirne, some of the major landmarks of which exhibit some kind of “transitional” and fairly experimental style. It wasn’t until the Fall of Constantinople that the Ottomans adopted Byzantine architecture almost full scale with some adjustments. However, the Ottoman imperial architecture possibly reached its zenith not in Istanbul, but in Edirne—in the form of Selimiye Mosque, a work of Sinan, the great Ottoman architecture of 16th century.
19th century brought back the Greek and Roman taste of architectural styles, so there was a huge explosion of neo-classical architecture, as much fashionable in Turkey as in the much of the rest of the world at that time. Galata side of Istanbul, Izmir (though unfortunately most of which was lost to the big fire of 1922), and numerous towns along the coasts, one most prominent and well preserved example being Ayvalık, quickly filled with elegant neo-classical buildings. At the same time, people in more inland locations were favouring pleasant, more traditional, and less pretentious half-timbered whitewashed houses, which form picturesque towns such as Safranbolu, Beypazarı, and Şirince in northern, central, and western part of the country respectively. It was also this time beautiful and impressive wooden mansions of Istanbul’s seaside neighbourhoods and islands were built. Other contemporary trends of the era, such as Baroque and Rococo, didn’t make much inroads in Turkey, although there were some experiments of combining them into Islamic architecture, as can be seen at Ortaköy Mosque on the banks of Bosphorus along with some others.
As the landscapes change the more east you go, so does the architectural heritage. The remote valleys and hilltops of Eastern Karadeniz and Eastern Anatolia are dotted with numerous medieval Georgian and Armenian churches and castles—some of which are nicely well preserved but not all were that lucky. Armenian cathedral on Akdamar Island of Lake Van and medieval Ani are two that lay somewhere on the midway between perfectly preserved and undergone total destruction, but both are absolutely must-sees if you’ve made your way that east. For a change, Southeastern Anatolia features more Middle East-influenced architecture, with arched courtyards and heavy usage of yellow stones with highly exquisite masonry. It’s best seen in Urfa, and especially in Mardin and nearby Midyat.
Being on the crossroads of civilizations more often than not also means being the battleground of civilizations. So it’s no wonder why so many castles and citadels dot the landscape, both in towns and countryside, and both on the coasts and inland. Most of the castles built during different stages of history are today main attractions of the towns they are standing on.
20th century wasn’t kind on Turkish cities. Due to the pressure caused by high rates of immigration from rural to urban areas, many historical neighbourhoods in cities were knocked down in favour of soulless (and usually, drab ugly) apartment blocks, and outskirts of major cities transformed to shantytowns. There is not really much of a gem in the name of modern architecture in Turkey. Steel-and-glass skyscrapers, on the other hand, are now slowly and sparsely being erected in major cities, one example where they concentrate much as to form a skyline view being the business district of Istanbul, although hardly impressive compared with major metropolises around the world known for their skyscraper filled skylines.
A week in Southeastern Anatolia — a week in perhaps the most exotic part of the country, touching all major sights there
Along the Troad Coast — ancient legends intertwine with beautiful landscapes and the deep blue Aegean Sea
Lycian Way — walk along the remotest section of the country’s Mediterranean coast, past ancient cities, forgotten hamlets, and balmy pine forests
While Turkey is rightly renowned for its warm Mediterranean beaches, wintersports, especially skiing, is very much a possibility—and indeed a popular activity—in the mountainous interior of the country between October and April, with a guaranteed stable snowcover and constant below freezing temperatures between December and March. Some more eastern resorts have longer periods of snowcover.
Most popular wintersports resorts include Uludağ near Bursa, Kartepe near Izmit, Kartalkaya near Bolu, and Ilgaz near Kastamonu in the northwest of the country, Palandöken near Erzurum, and Sarıkamış near Kars in the northeast of the country, and Erciyes near Kayseri in the central part. Saklıkent near Antalya is touted to be one of the places where you can ski in the morning and swim in the warm waters of Mediterranean down the coast in Antalya in the afternoon, though snowcover period in Saklıkent is desperately short as not to let this happen every year.
In 2005, Turkey dropped six zeroes from its currency, thus making each post-2005 lira worth one million of the pre-2005 lira (or so called “old lira”). During the transition period between 2005 and 2009, the currency was briefly called new lira (yeni lira) officially.
Since Jan 1, 2009, a new series of banknotes and coins have been introduced and the currency is again simply called lira (officially Turkish Lira (Türk Lirası), divided into 100’kuruş (abbreviated kr).
This currency is sometimes abbreviated locally as TL or YTL (standing for yeni turk lira). Throughout our guides, we use the ISO 4217 code of TRY placed before the amount with no intervening space.
Since 1 Jan 2010, neither pre-2005 nor pre-2009 banknotes and coins (those bearing yeni lira and yeni kuruş) are legal tender, but banknotes can be exchanged at certain banks until 31 Dec 2019.
Banknote nominations are in 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 and 200 lira, whereas coin nominations are in 1 (very rare in circulation), 5, 10, 25, 50 kuruşes and TRY1.
Money exchange — There are legal exchange offices in all cities and almost any town. Banks also exchange money, but they are not worth the hassle as they are usually crowded and do not give better rates than exchange offices. You can see the rates office offers on the (usually electronic) boards located somewhere near its gate. Euro and US dollars are the most useful currencies, but Pound sterling (Bank of England notes only, not Scottish or Northern Irish notes), Swiss francs, Japanese yen, Saudi riyals, and a number of other currencies are also not very hard to exchange. It is important to remember that most exchanges accept only banknotes, it can be very hard to exchange foreign coins. In some places, where there is a meaningful explanation for it, more uncommon currencies can also be exchanged, too, for example Australian Dollars may be exchanged in Çanakkale where grandchildren of ANZACs gather to commemorate their grandfathers every year, or in Kaş, which is located just across the Greek island of Kastelorizo, which in turn has a large diaspora in Australia. As a general rule, if a place attracts many visitors from a country, then it is usually possible to exchange that country’s currency there.
Tourism-oriented industries in tourism-oriented towns, as well as shops where big amounts of money change hands, like supermarkets, in most parts of the country, generally accept foreign currency (usually limited to euro and US dollars only), but the rates they accept the currency are usually a little lower than those of exchange offices. Ask first if they accept foreign currency.
€1 = TRY2.89
USD1 = TRY2.18
GBP1 = TRY3.61
(all as of 21 August 2014)
Credit cards and ATMs — Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted, American Express much less so. Starting from 1 June 2007 all credit card users (of those with a chip on them) have to enter their PIN codes when using the credit card. Older, magnetic card holders are exception to this, but remember that unlike some other places in Europe, salesclerk has the legal right to ask you a valid ID with a photo on to recognize that you are the owner of the card. ATMs are scattered throughout the cities, concentrated in central parts. It is possible to draw Turkish lira (and rarely foreign currency) from these ATMs with your foreign card. Any major town has at least one ATM.
ATMs ask whether to provide instructions in English or in Turkish (and sometimes some other languages, too) as soon as you insert a foreign card (or a Turkish card which is not the operating bank’s own). When withdrawing money from ATMs, if the ATM in question does not belong to the bank that you already have an account in, they charge some percentage (generally 1%-one per cent) of what you withdraw from your account each time. This percentage is higher for advance withdrawing with your credit card.
No establishments require a commission surcharge when using a credit card.
Tipping — A 10% of the total bill or simply rounding up to the next lira for smaller purchases is welcome, though this is not a custom to be strictly followed. Tipping ceremony is performed like this, especially in the restaurants and cafes: first you ask for the bill, the waiter/ress brings the bill inside a folder, and puts it on the table and goes away. You put the money into the folder (with the bill), and after a few minutes later waiter comes back to collect the folder. A few minutes more later, waiter comes again with the same folder in his/her hands and leaves it once more on the table. This time there is change in it. You leave the amount of change you think waiter deserves and close the folder. The waiter comes again last time a few minutes later to take it. If you think they don’t deserve any tip, walking out into the street without leaving anything is totally okay, and there is no need to feel ashamed. Some establishments charge an additional 10% on your bill that you have to pay, that is the “service charge”, and sometimes it is not declared to the customer until the bill shows up. There is obviously not a reason to leave any more tip in that kind of places. It’s also a bit odd to tip in self-service restaurants and cheap&dirty bars.
Taxi drivers usually tend to round up what the meter says to the next lira and give your change accordingly. So tipping is not necessary. If you insist on taking your exact change back, ask for para üstü? (pronounced something like “pah-rah oos-too”, which means “change”). Driver will be reluctant to give it at first, but you will succeed eventually.
Supermarket cashiers usually round up the total sum to the next 5 kuruş if you pay in cash (the exact sum is extracted when paid by a credit card though). This is not a kind of involuntary tip, as the 2-3-4 kuruşes don’t go into their pockets. It is simply because they are not adequately supplied with enough 1 kuruş coins as it is very rare in circulation. So don’t be surprised if the change given to you is short of a few kuruşes from what should be given to you according to what the electronic board of the till says. It is totally okay to pay the exact sum if you have enough number of 1 kuruş coins.
Bargaining — In Turkey, bargaining is a must. One can bargain everywhere that doesn’t look too luxurious: shops, hotels, bus company offices, and so on. During your bargaining, don’t look so impressed and interested, and be patient. Since foreigners (especially Western people) aren’t expected to be good at bargaining, sellers are quick to reject any bargaining attempt (or are at least quick to look like so), but be patient and wait, the price will fall! (Don’t forget, even if you are successful at your bargaining attempt, when you get your credit card out of your wallet, rather than cash, the agreed price may rise again, though probably to a lower level than the original one)
VAT refund — You can get a VAT refund (currently 18% or 23% on most items) if you are not a citizen or permanent resident of Turkey. Look for the blue “Tax-Free” sticker on the windowpane or entrance of the shops, these kind of shops are the only places you can get a VAT refund. Don’t forget to take the necessary papers from the shop that will enable you for a VAT reclaim when leaving Turkey.
Although Turkey is in a customs union with the European Union for some goods, unlike the situation in the EU, there is currently not an initiative to abolish duty-free shops in the airports.
What to buy?
Apart from classical tourist souvenirs like postcards and trinkets, here are a few of what you can bring back home from Turkey.
Leather clothing — Turkey is the biggest leather producer in the world, so the leather clothing is cheaper than elsewhere. Many shops in Laleli, Beyazıt, Mahmutpaşa districts of Istanbul (all around the tram line which goes through Sultanahmet Square) are specialized on leather.
Carpets and kilims — Many regions in Turkey produce handmade kilims and carpets. Though the symbols and figures differentiate depending on the region in which the carpet is produced, they are generally symbollic expressions based on ancient Anatolian religions and/or nomadic Turkic life which takes shape around shamanic beliefs more than 1000 years ago. You can find shops specialized on handmade carpets and kilims in any major city, tourist spot and Sultanahmet Area.
You seriously cannot go anywhere in Turkey without someone trying to sell you a carpet. People will approach you on the street, engage in a little friendly conversation about where you’re from, how do you like Turkey, and “would you like to come with me to my uncle’s shop? It’s just around the corner, and has the best authentic kilims.” It can be irritating if you let it get to you, but remember that a large part of these people’s economy comes from tourist’s wallets so you can’t blame them for trying.
Silk — Dresses and scarves. Although can be found in many parts of the country, silk fans should head for Bursa and before that, pick up basics of bargaining.
Earthenware — Handmade Cappadocian pottery (amphoras, old-style plates, flowerpots etc) are made of local salty clay. Salt content of clay, thanks to salt spray produced by the Salt Lake –which is the second largest lake in Turkey- in the heartland of Central Anatolia, is what makes local earthenware top quality. In some Cappadocian towns, it is possible to see how these artifacts are produced, or even to experience producing one, at the dedicated workshops. Tiles with classical Ottoman motives that are produced in Kütahya are also famous.
Turkish delight and Turkish coffee — If you like these during your Turkey trip, don’t forget to take a few packages back home. Available everywhere.
Honey — The pine honey (çam balı) of Marmaris is famous and has a much stronger taste and consistency than regular flower honeys. Although not easily attained, if you can find, don’t miss the honey of Macahel valley, made out of flowers of a temperate semi-rainforest, which is almost completely out of human impact, in the far northeastern Black Sea Region.
Chestnut dessert — Made out of syrup and chestnuts grown on the foothills of Mt. Uludağ, chestnut dessert (kestane şekeri) is a famous and tasty product of Bursa. There are many variations, such as chocolate coated ones. Chestnut dessert can be found in elsewhere, too, but relatively more expensive and in smaller packages.
Meerschaum souvenirs — Despite its name meaning “sea foam” which it resembles, meerschaum (lületaşı) is extracted only in one place in the world: landlocked Eskişehir province in the extreme northwest part of Central Anatolia Region. This rock, similar to gypsum at sight, is carved into smoking pipes and cigarette holders. It has a soft and creamy texture and makes for a great decorative item. Available at some shops in Eskişehir.
Castile (olive oil) soap — Natural, a silky touch on your skin, and a warm Mediterranean atmosphere in your bathroom. Absolutely cheaper than those to be found in Northern and Western Europe. Street markets in the Aegean Region and southern Marmara Region is full of olive oil soap, almost all of which are handmade. Even some old folk in the Aegean Region is producing their castile soaps in the traditional way: during or just after the olive harvest, neighbours gather in yards around large boilers heated by wood fire, then lye derived from the wood ash is added to hot water and olive oil mix. Remember – supermarkets out of the Aegean Region are generally offering no more than industrial tallow based soaps full of chemicals. In cities out of the Aegean Region, natural olive oil soap can be found in shops specialized in olive and olive oil. Some of these shops are even offering ecological soaps: made of organic olive oil and sometimes with additions of organic essential oils.
Other soaps unique to Turkey are: laurel soaps (defne sabunu) which is produced mainly in Antioch, soaps of Isparta enriched with rose oil which is produced abundantly in the area around Isparta, and bıttım sabunu, a soap made out of the oil of seeds of a local variety of pistachio tree native to the mountains of Southeastern Region. In Edirne, soaps shaped as various fruits are produced. Not used for their lather, rather they make a good assortment when different “fruits” are placed in a basket on a table, they fill the air with their sweet scent as well.
Olive-based products apart from soap — Other olive-based products to give a try are olive oil shampoos, olive oil based eau de colognes and zeyşe, abbreviation from the first syllables of zeytin şekeri, a dessert similar to chestnut desserts, but made from olives.
WARNING! To export or to take out the antiques which are more than 100 years old from Turkey is subject to heavy restrictions or in many cases outright forbidden. If it is the case that someone offers you to sell antiques, either he/she is a liar, just trying to sell cheap imitations or he/she is committing a crime, which you are about to be a part of, if you accept to be the purchaser.
Great display of Turkish food
Adana kebap, a skewer of minced meat spiced with chili and topped with pide bread, a speciality of Adana
Turkish cuisine combines Mediterranean, Central Asian, Caucasian, and Arabic influences, and is extremely rich. Beef is the most important meat (lamb is also common but pork is very hard to find although not illegal), and eggplant (aubergine), onion, lentil, bean, tomato, garlic, and cucumber are the primary vegetables. An abundance of spices is also used. The main staples are rice (pilav), bulgur wheat and bread, and dishes are typically cooked in vegetable oil or sometimes butter.
There are many kinds of specialized restaurants to choose from, since most do not prepare or serve other kinds of food. Traditional Turkish restaurants serve meals daily prepared and stored in a bain-marie. The meals are at the entrance so you can easily see and choose. Kebapçis are restaurants specialized in many kinds of kebab. Some Kebab restaurants serve alcohol while others don’t. There are subtypes like ciğerci, Adana kebapçısı or İskender kebapçısı. Fish restaurants typically serve meze (cold olive oil dishes) and Rakı or wine. Dönerci’s are prevalent through country and serve döner kebap as a fast food. Köfteci’s are restaurants with meatballs (Köfte) served as main dish. Kokoreçci, midyeci, tantunici, mantıcı, gözlemeci, lahmacuncu, pideci, çiğ köfteci, etsiz çiğ köfteci are other kinds of local restaurants found in Turkey which specialization in one food.
A full Turkish meal at Kebab restaurant starts with a soup, often lentil soup (mercimek çorbasi), and a set of meze appetizers featuring olives, cheese, pickles and a wide variety of small dishes. Meze can easily be made into a full meal, especially if they are consumed along with rakı. The main course is usually meat: a common dish type and Turkey’s best known culinary export is kebab (kebap), grilled meat in various forms including the famous döner kebap (thin slices of meat shaved from a giant rotating spit) and şişkebab (skewered meat), and a lot more others. Köfte (meatball) is a variation of the kebab. There are hundreds of kinds of köfte throughout Anatolia, but only about 10 to 12 of them are known to the residents of the larger cities, kike İnegöl köfte, Dalyan köfte, sulu köfte etc.
Eating on the cheap is mostly done at Kebab stands, which can be found everywhere in Istanbul and other major cities. For the equivalent of a couple dollars, you get a full loaf of bread sliced down the middle, filled with broiled meat, lettuce, onions, and tomatoes. For North Americans familiar with donairs wrapped in pita bread or wraps, you should look for the word “Dürüm” or “Dürümcü” on the windows of the kebab stands and ask for your donair kebab to be wrapped in a dürüm or lavaş bread depending on the region.
If you want to really taste the real Turkish food and have time, try to go where the locals go. Usually, restaurants where crowded touristic places and serving to the tourists are lower in quality and taste compared to the places when locals go. So if you have the opportunity ask locals where to go for a good meal. You may not be able to find alcoholic beverages in most of them if not in all but it is also most likely to taste much better quality and tasty food.
Vegetarian restaurants are not common, and can be found only in very central parts of big cities and some of the tourist spots. However, every good restaurant offers vegetable dishes, and some of the restaurants offering traditional “ev yemeği” (“home food”) have olive-oil specialities which are vegetarian in content. A vegetarian would be very happy in the Aegean region, where all kinds of wild herbs are eaten as main meals, either cooked or raw, dressed with olive oil. But a vegetarian would have real difficulty in searching for food especially in Southeastern region, where a dish without meat is not considered a dish. At such a place, supermarkets may help with their shelves full of canned vegetables, or even canned cooked olive-oil courses and fresh fruits. If you are a vegetarian and going to visit rural areas of Southeastern region, better take your canned food with you, as there will be no supermarkets to rescue you.
Turkish delight for sale in Istanbul store window
Some Turkish desserts are modeled on the sweet and nutty Arabic kind: famous dishes include baklava, a layered pastry of finely ground nuts and phyllo dough soaked in honey and spices, and Turkish Delight (lokum), a gummy confection of rosewater and sugar. There are also many more kinds of desserts prepared using milk predominantly, such as kazandibi, keşkül, muhallebi, sütlaç, tavuk göğsü, güllaç etc.
Turkish Breakfast, tend to comprise of çay (tea), bread, olives, feta cheese, tomato, cucumber and occasionally spreads such as honey and jam. This can become very monotonous after a while. A nice alternative to try (should you have the option) is Menemen a Turkish variation on scrambled eggs/omelet. Capsicum (Red Bell Pepper), onion, garlic and tomato are all combined with eggs. The meal is traditional cooked (and served) in a clay bowl. Try adding a little chili to spice it up and make sure to use lots of bread as well for a filling hot breakfast. Bread is omnipresent in Turkey, at any given meal you’ll be presented with a large basket of crusty bread.
Ubiquitous simit (also known as gevrek in some Aegean cities such as Izmir), much like bagel but somewhat thinner, crustier, and with roasted sesame seeds all over, is available from trolleys of street vendors in virtually any central part of any town and city at any time except late at night. Perhaps with the addition of Turkish feta cheese (beyaz peynir) or cream cheese (krem peynir or karper), a couple of simits make up a filling and a very budget concious breakfast (as each costs about 0.75 TL), or even a lunch taken while on the go.
The legal age of drinking alcohol is 18 in Turkey.
Ayran is a popular drink of water and yoghurt not unlike the Finnish/Russian buttermilk or Indian lassi, but always served without sugar (and, in fact, typically with a little salt added). A version loved by the locals köpüklü ayran is a delicacy if you’re travelling by bus over the Toros (Taurus) Mountains. Ask for yayık ayranı or köpüklü ayran.
Turkish coffee (kahve), served in tiny cups, is strong and tasty, just be careful not to drink the slugdy grounds at the bottom of the cup. It is much different than the so called Turkish coffees sold abroad. Sade kahve is served black, while as şekerli, orta şekerli and çok şekerli will get you a little, some or a lot of sugar in your cup.
Instant coffees, cappuccinos, and espressos are gaining more popularity day by day, and can be found with many different flavours.
Despite coffee takes a substantial part in national culture, tea (çay) is also very popular and is indeed the drink of choice, and most Turks are heavy drinkers of tea in daily lives. Having entered the scene just in 1930s, tea quickly gained ground against coffee due to the fact that Yemen, the traditional supplier of coffee in Turkey then, was cut off from the rest of Ottoman Empire in early 20th century, and the first tea plants took root in Eastern Karadeniz after some unsuccessful trials to grow it in the country, as a result of protectionist economic politics that were put into effect after WWI. Be careful, if your tea is prepared by locals, it can be much stronger than you’re used to. Although it is not native-typical and a rather touristic feature, you have to taste the special apple tea (elma çayı) or sage tea (adaçayı, literally island tea) of Turkey!
Boza is a traditional cold, thick drink that originates from Central Asia, but also common in several Balkan countries. It is fermented bulgur (a kind of wheat) with sugar and water additions. Vefa Bozacisi  is the most known and traditional producer of boza in Istanbul. In Ankara, you get excellent Boza from Akman Boza Salonu in the old city in Ulus. Boza can also be found on the shelves of many supermarkets, especially in winter, packaged in 1-litre PET bottles. However these bottled bozas lack the sourness and consistency of traditional boza, they are sweeter and less dense.
Sahlep is another traditional hot drink, made from milk, orchid root and sugar, typically decorated with cinnamon. It is mostly preferred in winter and can be found in cafes and patisseries (pastane). You can also find instant sahlep in many supermarkets sold with the name Hazır Sahlep.
Red Poppy Syrup is one of the traditional turkish drinks made of red poppy petals, water and sugar by natural ways. Bozcaada is famous with red poppy syrup.
International brands of colas, sodas and fruit-flavoured sodas are readily available and much consumed alongside some local brands. Please note, in Turkish, soda means mineral water, whereas what is called as soda in English is gazoz or sade gazoz in Turkish.
While a significant proportion of the Turks are devout Muslims, alcoholic beverages are legal, widely available, and thoroughly enjoyed by the locals. On May 2013, the government applied a restriction to the sale of alcohol from 22.00 to 06.00, however restaurants and bars are not affected. The local firewater of choice is rakı, an anise-flavoured liquor double distilled from fermented grape skin. It is usually mixed with water and drunk with another glass of iced water to accompany it. You may order ‘tek’ (single) or ‘duble’ (double) to indicate the amount of rakı in your glass. Rakı is a national drink of Turkey. Make sure to try it but don’t overindulge as it is very potent! Remember not to mix it with anything else. There is a wide selection of different types in supermarkets. Mey , and Efe Rakı are two of the biggest producers. Only the connaisseurs know which type is the best. Yeni Rakı which is a decent variety has the wıdest distribution and consumption.
As for Turkish wine, the wines are as good as the local grape varieties. Kalecik Karası from Ankara, Karasakız from Bozcaada, Öküzgözü from Elmalı, Boğazkere from Diyarbakır are some of the most well-known varieties. The biggest winemakers are Kavaklıdere , Doluca , Sevilen , and Kayra – with many good local vineyards especially in the Western part of the country. In addition liquory fruit wines of Şirince near Izmir are well worth tasting. One specific sweet red wine to try while you’re there is Talay Kuntra .
There are two major Turkish breweries. Efes and Tekel Birası are two widely known lagers. In addition, you can find locally brewed Tuborg, Miller, Heineken, and Carlsberg too.
All cigarettes are sold freely and are still relatively cheap by western standards.
Although many, if not most, Turkish people do smoke, there is a growing health awareness about smoking and the number of smokers is slowly but steadily declining, and the rigid smoking ban that was introduced is suprisingly enforced.
Smoking in the presence of someone who does not smoke in a public place requires their permission. If someone does not like the smoke, they will ask you not to smoke or they will cough, then just stop and apologize. This is what the locals do.
If you are invited to someone’s home, do not smoke unless the host does first, and after he/she does, then you can ask for his/her permission to smoke.
If you are in a place where people smoke, you can smoke, but if you are in place where no one is smoking, ask them first for their permission.
Smoking is banned in public places (e.g. airports, metro stations and indoor train stations, schools, universities, government administration buildings, in all workplaces, concert halls, theatres and cinemas) and on public transport (airplanes, ferries, trains, suburban trains, subways, trams, buses, minibuses, and taxis). Smoking is banned in sports stadiums, the only outdoor areas where this ban is extended. It is a finable offence of 69 liras (~ €32, $45, £28). Separately smoking is also banned, in restaurants, bars, cafes, traditional teahouses, the remaining air-conditioned public places including department stores and shopping mall restaurants; and there are no exceptions as indoor non-smoking sections are also banned. Apart from a fine of 69 liras (~ €32, $45, £28) for smokers, there is a heavy fine of 5,000 liras (~€2,318, $3,260, £2,028) for owners, for failing to enforce the ban properly and that is why it is strictly enforced by these establishments.
In Istanbul, especially in non-tourist areas, some bars/restaurants/music venues and even work places will bring you an ashtray as there will be many people smoking inside, even though there is a sign on the wall forbidding it, many people consider it to be up to the discretion of the owners/workers of the building. However, bars/restaurants/music venues in tourist areas (eg. Beyoğlu, Sişli etc…) are relentlessy “raided” (and in case of any violations – not just for flouting the smoking ban – fined heavily) by the zabıta (municipal official), so these establishments will much less likely dare to violate the bans. Although such “raids” will be disconcerting for tourists, customers will not be affected as the zabıta does not issue fines to customers – at most will be asked to leave the place, in case of serious violations.
However the smoking ban is openly flouted in government administration buildings, where the civil servants seem to think that they are somehow above the law.
Outside the cities and tourist resorts, the smoking ban is less rigidly enforced in small towns and in the villages hardly at all, because the municipal police (zabıta) rarely comes to these places to enforce it and issue fines, leading to some establishments and its customers to ignore this, but even there it is nevertheless best to follow the less enforced smoking ban.
While smoking is strictly prohibited on public transport, you will see some taxi drivers smoking in their taxis, which are also included in the smoking ban, but is the only form of public transport where this ban is openly flouted. When entering the taxi just request the taxi driver not to smoke, and he will politely oblige – in fact most of them will put out their cigarettes immediately once they see a customer hailing them or approaching them.
Accommodation in Turkey varies from 5-star hotels to a simple tent pitched in a vast plateau. So the prices vary hugely as well.
All major cities and tourist spots have 5-star hotels, many of them are owned by international hotel chains like Hilton, Sheraton, Ritz-Carlton, Conrad to name a few. Many of them are concrete blocks, however some, especially the ones out of cities, are bungalows with private gardens and private swimming pools.
If you are into holiday package kind of thing in a Mediterranean resort, you’d definitely find better rates when booking back at home rather than in Turkey itself. The difference is considerable, compared with what you’d pay when booking at home, you may end up paying twice as much if you simply walk in the resort.
Hostels and guesthouses
Youth hostels are not widespread, there are a few in Istanbul, mainly around Sultanahmet Square where Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque are, and still fewer are recognized by Hostelling International (HI, former International Youth Hostel Federation, IYHF). However, guesthouses/pensions (pansiyon) provide cheaper accommodation than hotels, replacing the need for hostels for low-cost accommodation, regardless of their visitors’ age. Please note, pansiyon is the word in Turkish which is also used for small hotels with no star rankings, so somewhere with this name does not automatically mean it must be very cheap (expect up to 50 YTL daily per each person). B&Bs are also generally covered by the word pansiyon, as most of them present breakfast (not always included in the fee, so ask before deciding whether or not to stay there).
Unique in the country, Olympos to the southwest of Antalya is known for its pensions welcoming visitors in the wooden tree-houses or in wooden communal sleeping halls.
It is possible to rent a whole house with two rooms, a kitchen, a bathroom, and necessary furnitures such as beds, chairs, a table, a cooker, pots, pans, usually a refrigerator and sometimes even a TV. Four or more people can easily fit in these houses which are called apart hotels and can be found mainly in coastal towns of Marmara and Northern Aegean regions, which are more frequented by Turkish families rather than foreigners. They are generally flats in a low-story apartment building. They can be rented for as cheap as 25 YTL daily (not per person, this is the daily price for the whole house!), depending on location, season and the duration of your stay (the longer you stay, the cheaper you pay daily).
Recently, Bugday Association has launched a project named TaTuTa (acronym from the first syllables of Tarım-Turizm-Takas: Agriculture-Tourism-Barter [of knowledge]), a kind of WWOOF-ing, which connects farmers practicing organic/ecological agriculture and individuals having an interest at organic agriculture. The farmers participating in TaTuTa share a room of their houses (or a building in the farm) with the visitors without charge, and the visitors help them in their garden work in return. For more about TaTuTa
Camping and RV-camping
There are many private estates dotting the whole coastline of Turkey, which the owner rents its property for campers. These campsites, which are called kamping in Turkish, have basic facilities such as tap water, toilets, tree shade (this is especially important in dry and hot summers of the western and southern coasts) and some provide electricity to every tent via individual wires. Pitching a tent inside the cities and towns apart from campsites is not always approved, so you should always ask the local administrator (village chief muhtar and/or gendarme jandarma in villages, municipalities belediye and/or the local police polis in towns) if there is a suitable place near the location for you to pitch your tent. Pitching a tent in the forest without permission is OK, unless the area is under protection as a national park, a bioreserve, a wildlife refuge, a natural heritage or because of some other environmental concern. Whether it is an area under protection or not, setting fire in forests apart from the designated fireplaces in recreational (read “picnic”) areas is forbidden anyway.
Stores offering camping gear, while present, are hard to come across, being located on back alleys, underground floors of large shopping arcades, or simply where you would least expect to find them. So, unless you are exactly sure you can obtain what you need at your destination, it’s best to pack along your gear if intending to camp. In smaller stores in non-major towns, the price of many of the stuff on sale is pretty much negotiateable—it is not uncommon for shop attendants asking 30 TL for camp stove fuel, whereas it would cost typically 15 TL or even less in another store in a neighbouring town.
Caravan/trailer parks cannot be found as much as they used to be; only a few remain from the 70s. The most known one is the one in Ataköy, near the Atatürk International Airport in Istanbul. However, caravan riders can stay overnight in numerous resting areas along the highways and motorways, or virtually in any place which seems to be suitable. Filling the water tanks and discharging wastewater effluent seems to matter most.
Naile’s Art Home is a marbling paper (Ebru) gallery and workshop located in Cappadocia.
Kayaköy Art School , located in Kayaköy, a ghost town near Fethiye is offering art classes in summer, specializing on photography, painting, and sculpture.
You can take the Ottoman Turkish classes in Adatepe, a village frequented by intellectuals near Küçükkuyu/Altınoluk in the northern Aegean Region. You can also participate in philosophy classes taking place every summer in nearby Assos, organized as a continuation of the ancient “agora”/”forum” tradition of Mediterranean cities.
Glass workshops located around Beykoz on the northern Asian banks of the Bosphorus in Istanbul, are offering one-day classes that you can learn making (recycled) glass and ornaments made of glass.
There are many language schools where you can study Turkish in most of the big cities. Ankara University affiliated Tömer is one of the most popular language schools in Turkey and has branches in many big cities, including Istanbul, Ankara, and Izmir among others.
Many Turkish universities (both public and private) are participating in pan-European student exchange programs (Socrates, Erasmus, and the like). Some also have agreements with non-European universities, too. Check with your own university and the one that you intend to study in Turkey.
Many foreigners living in Istanbul support themselves by teaching English. Finding a good teaching job is usually easier with a well-recognized certificate like the ones listed below:
ITI Istanbul in 4. Levent runs Cambridge University’s CELTA and DELTA courses year-round
Work as an English teacher is reasonably easy to stumble upon. ESL teachers with a Bachelor’s Degree and TESOL Certificate can expect to earn 800 – 2,500 TRY (monthly) and will usually teach 20 – 35 hours in a week. Contracts will sometimes include accommodations, airfare, and health-care.
Being that import-export is huge in Turkey, there are also many opportunities outside of teaching, though these are often much more difficult to find and require some legal work.
You need to have a work permit to work in Turkey. The control over illegal workers have grown stricter in the past five years with the consequence of deportation, so take the work permit issue seriously.
However, if you have your own company in Turkey you are allowed to “manage” it without having a work permit. Setting up what is known as an FDI (foreign direct investment) company is relatively straightforward, takes a few days and costs around 2300 ytl (April 07). You don’t need a Turkish partner, the company can be 100% foreign owned and required a minimum of two people as share holders. Running costs for a company average about 2500 ytl per year for a small to medium enterprise, less for an inactive company.
Owning a company allows you to be treated as Turkish in respect of purchasing real estate and bypasses the need for military permission and allows you to complete a sale in one day if required.
Dial 155 for police, from any telephone without charge. However, in rural areas there is no police coverage, so dial 156 in such a place for jandarma (Military Police), a military unit for rural security.
Big cities in Turkey, especially Istanbul, are not immune to petty crime. Although petty crime is not especially directed towards tourists, by no means are they exceptions. Snatching, pickpocketing, and mugging are the most common kinds of petty crime. However, recently with the developing of a camera network which watches streets and squares –especially the central and crowded ones- 24-hour a day in Istanbul, the number of snatching and mugging incidents declined. Just like anywhere else, following common sense is recommended. (Please note that the following recommendations are for the big cities, and most small-to-mid size cities usually have no petty crime problems at all) Have your wallet and money in your front pockets instead of back pockets, backpack or shoulder bag.
You should drive defensively at all times and take every precaution while driving in Turkey. Drivers in Turkey routinely ignore traffic regulations, including driving through red lights and stop signs, and turning left from the far right lane; these driving practices cause frequent traffic accidents. Drivers should be aware of several particular driving practices prevalent in Turkey. Drivers who experience car troubles or accidents pull to the side of the road and turn on their emergency lights to warn other drivers, but many drivers place a large rock or a pile of rocks on the road about 10-15 meters behind their vehicles instead of turning on emergency lights. You may not use a cell phone while driving. It is strictly prohibited by law.
Don’t exhibit your camera or cellphone for too long if it is a new and/or expensive model (they know what to take away, no one will bother to steal a ten-year-old cell phone as it would pay very little). The same goes for your wallet, if it’s overflowing with money. Leave a wide berth and move away from the area quickly if you see two or more people begin to argue and fight as this may be a ruse to attract your attention while another person relieves you of your valuables. Be alert, this often happens very quickly. Watch your belongings in crowded places and on public transport, especially on trams and urban buses.
Avoid dark and desolate alleys at night. If you know you have to pass through such a place at night, don’t take excessive cash with you but instead deposit your cash into the safe-box at your hotel. Stay away from demonstrating crowds if the demonstration seems to be turning into an unpeaceful one. Also in resort towns, when going to beach, don’t take your camera or cell phone with you if there will be no one to take care of them while you are swimming. If you notice that your wallet has been stolen it is wise to check the nearest trash cans before reporting the loss to the police. It is often the case that thieves in Turkey will drop the wallet into the trash to avoid being caught in possession of the wallet and proven a thief. Obviously it is highly likely that your money will no longer be in it, but there is a chance that your credit cards and papers will be.
See also scams section of Istanbul article to have an idea about what kinds of scams you may come across with in other parts of the country too, especially the touristy ones, not just Istanbul.
Upon entering some museums, hotels, metro stations, and almost all shopping malls, especially in larger cities, you will notice security checkpoints similar to those found in airports. Don’t worry, this is the standard procedure in Turkey and does not imply an immediate danger of attack. These security screenings are also conducted in a much more relaxed way than the airports, so you will not have to remove your belt to avoid the alarm when walking through the metal detector.
Though slightly off-topic be advised to carry passport or other means of identification at all times. One may not be requested to show them for a long period, then all of a sudden a minibus is checked by the traffic police (or the military, particularly in Eastern Turkey), or one runs into an officer of the law with time on his hand, and one must show papers. Some government buildings may ask you to temporarily surrender your passport in return for equipment such as headphones for simultaneous translation etc. and you may find your passport stored in an open box along with the locals ID cards which may be a little disconcerting. Hotels may request you to hand your passport in until you paid the bill, which puts you into an awkward situation. Referring to the police always made them hand the passport back, once the registration procedure was finalized. Showing a personal visiting card, one or two credit cards or knowing the address of a respectable hotel may solve the no-papers situation, but any self-respecting officer will tell you that you are in the wrong, and will be sorry next time. If treated politely however police and military can be quite friendly and even offer rides to the next city (no joke intended).
If you intend to travel to Eastern or Southeastern Anatolia, stay ahead of the news. Although it offers many beautiful sights, the situation is far from secure due to ethnic strife and protests, sometimes resulting in violence. The region is far from a war zone, but take precaution when visiting this volatile place. The real risk of threat is not very big though, if you stick on major routes and follow common sense rules (such as avoiding demonstrations).
Animals – Turkish wilderness is home to both venomous and non-venomous snake (yılan) species. In fact, humid forests of northeastern Black Sea region is habitat of a small-sized but one of the most poisonous snakes in the world. Southern and especially southeastern parts (even cities!) of the country has large numbers of scorpions (akrep), so exercise caution if/when you are sleeping on open rooftops, which is common in southeastern region in summer. If you are stung by one, seek urgent medical aid.
As for wild mammals, presumably the most dangerous ones are wolves, bears and wild boars. All of these animals live only in mountainous areas (of almost all regions) and your chance of sighting one is very low (except boars which are not so rare). Wolves and bears do not attack if you don’t follow or disturb them (or, particularly, their youngs) aggressively, however boars are known to attack even with the slightest provocation.
The biggest animal threat comes from stray dogs (or sheepdogs in rural areas). Don’t assume you will come across gangs of aggressive stray dogs next to the gate of Hagia Sophia, or the beach club however. They are mostly found in rural areas and non-central parts of the cities. They are usually discreet and are usually afraid more of you than you are afraid of them. Rabies (kuduz) is endemic in Turkey (and most of the world) , so anyone bitten by a dog or other carnivore should seek urgent treatment, despite what you may be told by your hotel or other well meaning strangers.
Many stray dogs you’ll see in the cities bear plastic “ear rings”. Those ear tags mean the dog is cleaned up, vaccinated (against rabies and a number of other diseases), sterilized, and then returned back to the streets as this is the most humane treatment (compare with keeping them in a cage or a cage-like environment or putting them to sleep). The process is going on, so we can assume stray dog problem in Turkey will disappear in natural ways sometime in future.
Be careful when crossing the roads as mentioned in get around/on foot section.
There are “Tourism Police” sections of the police departments of Ankara, Antalya, Istanbul (in Sultanahmet), and Izmir providing help specifically for tourists, where travellers can report passport loss and theft or any other criminal activity, they may have become victims of. The staff is multilingual and will speak English, German, French, and Arabic.
Dial 112 from any telephone, anywhere, free of charge for an ambulance.
Food safety – Food is generally free of parasitic or bacterial contamination, but be prudent anyway. Look at where local people are preferring to eat. Do not eat stuff that is sold outdoors, at least in summer and at least which local folk don’t eat. They can spoil fairly quickly without needed refrigeration. Wash thoroughly and/or peel fresh fruits and vegetables. They may be free of biological contaminants but their skin is probably heavily loaded with pesticides (unless you see the not-very-common certified organic produce marker on, of course). Food in western regions of the country is OK for (western) travellers for the most part, but the more east, south, and northeast you go, the more unaccustomed contents in the food you’ll come across, like goat or goose meat or hot/heavy spices. These contents may or may not cause diarrhea, but it is wise to have at least some anti-diarrhea medicine nearby, especially if you are going to travel to places a bit off-beaten-track.
Water safety – However tempting it may be on a hot day, try to avoid water from public water tanks and fountains (şadırvan), frequently found in the vicinity of mosques. Also, though tap water is always chlorinated, it is better to drink only bottled water. Bottled water is readily available everywhere except the most remote, uninhabited spots.
The most common volumes for bottled water are 0.5 litre and 1.5 litre. 5 lt, 8 lt, 10 lt, and gigantic 19 lt bottles (known as office jar in the West, this is the most common variety used in households, delivered to houses by the employees of specialized water selling shops, because it is far too heavy to carry) can also be found with varying degrees of possibility. General price for half-a-litre and one-and-a-half-litre bottled water is YTL 0.50 and YTL 1.25 respectively in kiosks/stalls in the central parts of the cities and towns (can be much higher in a touristy or monopolistic place such as beach, airport, café of a much-visited museum, kiosk of a roadside recreation facility), while it can be as cheap as YTL 0.15 and YTL 0.35 respectively in supermarkets during winter (when the number of bottled water sales drop) and a little higher in summer (still cheaper than kiosks, though). Water is served free of charge in intercity buses, packaged in 0.25 lt plastic cups, whenever you request from the steward. In kiosks, water is sold chilled universally, sometimes so cold that you have to wait the ice to thaw to be able to drink it. Supermarkets provide it both reasonably chilled and also at room temperature.
If you have no chance of finding bottled water –for example, in wilderness, up in the eastern highlands- always boil your water; if you have no chance of boiling the water, use chlorine tablets –which can be provided from pharmacies in big cities-, or devices like LifeStraw. Also avoid swimming in fresh water, which you are not sure about its purity, and at seawater in or near the big cities –unless a beach which is declared safe to swim exists. And lastly, be cautious about water, not paranoid.
Hospitals – In Turkey, there are two kinds of hospitals (hastane)-private and public. Private hospitals are run by associations, private parties, and private universities. Public hospitals are run by the Ministry of Health, public universities, and state-run social security institutions. All mid-to-big size cities, as well as major resort towns, have private hospitals, more than one in many cities, but in a small town all you can find will probably be a public hospital. Be aware that public hospitals are generally crowded. So expect to wait some time to be treated. But for emergency situations this won’t be a problem. Although this is not legal, you may also be denied entry to the public hospitals for expensive operations if you don’t have a state-run national (Turkish) insurance or a necessary amount of cash for prepayment which replaces it, though showing a respected credit card may solve this problem. Emergency situations are exception and you’ll be treated without prepayment etc. A travel health insurance is highly recommended because the better private hospitals operate with the “user-pays” principle and their rates are much inflated compared with the public hospitals. Also make sure your insurance includes air transport (like a helicopter) if you are going to visit rural/wilderness areas of Black Sea or Eastern regions, so you can be dispatched to a city with high-standard hospitals on time. In the outlying hoods of cities, there are usually also policlinics which can treat simpler illnesses or injuries. In the villages all you can find are little clinics (sağlık ocağı, literally “health-house”) which have a very limited supply and staff, though they can effectively treat simple illnesses or provide antibody against, for example, snake bite. On road signage, hospitals (and roads leading to hospitals) are shown with an “H” (over the dark blue background), whereas village clinics are shown with a red crescent sign, Turkish equivalent of red cross.
There is an emergency ward (acil servis) open 24 hours a day in every hospital. Suburban policlinics don’t have to provide one, but some of them are open 24-hr anyway. Village clinics do certainly have a much limited opening hours (generally 8 am to sunset).
Dentists – There are lots of private dentist offices in the cities, especially along the main streets. Look for the diş hekimi signs around, it won’t take long before you see one. Most dentists work on an appointment, although they may check or start the treatment on your turning up without an appointment if their schedule is okay. A simple treatment for a tooth decay costs about 40 YTL on the average.
Ordinary toothbrushes and pastes (both local and international brands) can be obtained from supermarkets. If you want something special, you may check out pharmacies. It is okay to brush teeth with tap water.
Pharmacies – There are pharmacies (eczane in Turkish) in all cities and many towns. Pharmacies are open from 8:30AM until 7PM, however every town has at least one drugstore on duty overnight (nöbetçi eczane), all other pharmacies in the town usually display its name, address and telephone numbers on their windows. Most basic drugs, including painkillers such as Aspirin, are sold over the counter, although only in pharmacies.
Mosquitoes – Keeping a mosquito repellent handy is a good idea. Although the risk of malaria anywhere in the country is long gone (except the southernmost areas near the Syrian border which used to have a very low level of risk until up to 1980s), mosquitoes can be annoying especially in coastal areas out of cities, including vacation towns at nights between June and September. In some towns, especially the ones near the deltas, mosquito population is so large that people desert the streets during the “mosquito raid” which occurs between the sunset and one hour after that. DEET-containing aerosol repellents (some are suitable to apply to the skin while others, the ones that are in tall tin cans are for making a room mosquito-free before going to bed, not to be applied onto skin, so choose what you buy wisely) can be obtained from supermarkets and pharmacies. There are also solid repellents coming in a tablet form which are used with their special devices indoors having an electricity socket. They release scentless chemicals into the air of the room which disturb the senses of mosquitoes and make them unable to “find” you. The tablets, together with their devices, can also be obtained from supermarkets and pharmacies. Beware! You shouldn’t touch those tablets with bare hands.
Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever (Kırım-Kongo kanamalı ateşi in Turkish, shortly KKKA) is a serious viral disease and transmitted by a tick (kene) species. It can kill the infected person in a very short time, usually within three or four days. This disease has claimed more than 20 lives in Turkey within the past two years. The biggest risk is in the rural parts (not urban centres) of Tokat, Corum, Yozgat, and Sivas provinces, all situated in an area where disease-carrying tick thrives because of the area’s location between the humid climate of maritime Black Sea Region and arid climate of Central Anatolia. Authorities recommend to wear light coloured clothing which makes distinguishing a tick clinged to your body easier. It’s also recommended to wear long trousers rather than shorts if you plan to walk through dense and/or tall grass areas (the usual habitat for ticks). If you see a tick on your body or clothing, in no means try to pull it out since this may cause the tick’s head (and its mouth where it carries the virus) sticking inside your skin. Instead, go to the nearest hospital immediately to seek urgent expert aid. Being late to show up in hospital (and to diagnose) is number one killer in this disease. Symptoms are quite like that of flu and a number of other illnesses, so doctor should be informed about the possibility of Crim.-Cong. hemorr. fever and be shown the tick if possible.
Coastal Black Sea Region, Marmara Region, Aegean and Mediterranean coasts, and East Anatolia are generally deemed free of this disease (and also free of the disease-carrying species of tick) with no casualties. But in the name of being cautious, you should head for the nearest hospital anyway if you are bitten by (most likely an innocent) tick. Also remember that if you should head for the danger zone described above, ticks are not active in winter. Their active period is April to October, so is the danger period.
Public restrooms – Though many main squares and streets in the cities have a public restroom, if you cannot manage to find one, look for the nearest mosque, where you will see a public restroom in a corner of, or below its courtyard. Despite the fact that there is no shortage of cheap toilet papers anywhere in the country, however, you are unlikely to find toilet paper in almost any of the public restrooms (except lavatories of restaurants –including the road restaurants, hotels and most of the cafés and bars, of course). Instead, you are likely to find a bidét or a tap (Don’t be puzzled. That’s because devout Muslims use water instead of paper to clean up and paper usually used as a dryer after cleaning.). So it is a good idea to have a roll of toilet paper in your backpack during your walkings for sightseeing. It is best to take your single roll of toilet paper from home or bathroom of the hotel you’re staying at, because the smallest size available in Turkey market is 4-rolls per package (8-rolls per package being the commonest) which would last very long (actually longer than your trip, unless you will do all the road down to India overland). It isn’t expensive but it takes unnecessary backpack space, or unnecessary landfill space if you won’t use it liberally and won’t take the unused rolls back to home as an unusual souvenir from Turkey. In the better places on the road in the country there are rest rooms that are maintained and an attendent ready to collect YTL.50 to YTL 1. from the tourist for the privilege of using one. Restroom is tuvalet in colloquial Turkish, though you’ll more likely to see WC signs, complete with diagrams and doors signed Bay or Bayan (with their rather crude translations: ‘Men’, ‘Women’).
Menstrual products – Different types and designs of disposable pads are widely available. Look around in the supermarkets. However, Turkish women prefer tampons much less than European women do, so there are less types of tampons than disposable pads.
Hamam – If you haven’t been to one, you’ve missed one of life’s great experiences and never been clean. You can catch your inner peace with history and water in a bath (hamam). See hamams in Istanbul.
Things to do
Turks are a very friendly, polite and hospitable people, sometimes even to a fault.
When you are invited into a Turkish home, make sure to bring them a gift. Anything is fine from flowers to chocolate and indeed something representative from your country (but not wine and other alcoholic beverages if you are about to meet the host or if you do not know them well enough, as many Turks, for religious reasons or not, do not drink alcoholic beverages, and that is why it would be considered inappropriate as a gift). When you arrive at the house take off your shoes just outside or immediately inside the door, unless the owner explicitly allows you to keep them on. Even then, it might be more polite to remove your shoes. And if you really want their respect, thank your host for the invitation and compliment them. When inside the house, don’t ask for anything for they will surely offer it. The host will make sure to make you feel at home, so don’t take advantage of their kindness.
People in Turkey respect elderly people, so in a bus, tram, subway and in other forms public transportation, young(er) people will always offer you a place to sit if you are an old(er) person as well as a handicapped person or a pregnant woman or have children with you.
It is respectful to bend slightly (not a complete bow) when greeting someone older or in a position of authority.
Try to use some Turkish phrases. They will be complimentary if you try, and there is no reason to be embarrassed. They realize that Turkish is very difficult for foreigners and won’t scoff at all at your mistakes; on the contrary, they will be delighted for trying it, even if they may not always be able to understand your pronunciation!
Things to avoid
Turkish people understand that visitors are usually not aware of Turkish culture and customs, and tend to be tolerant of blunders in this regard by foreigners. There are, however, some which will meet with universal disapproval, and these should be avoided at all costs:
Turks in general have very strong nationalistic views, and would view any criticisms of their country and expressions and attitudes insulting the Turkish flag, the republic and Atatürk – the founding father of the republic as very offensive and with varying degrees of hostility. To avoid getting into the bad raps of your hosts, it is advisable to only praise the country and avoid bringing up anything negative about it.
Don’t mention the Armenian Genocide, Kurdish separatism and the Cyprus problem. These are extremely sensitive topics and are definitely to be avoided. Turkish society has a highly emotional approach to these issues.
Be respectful of the Turkish anthem. Do not mock or mimick the Turkish anthem, as Turks are extremely proud and sensitive of their national symbols, and will be very offended.
Be respectful of the Turkish flag. Don’t put it on places where people sit or stand, don’t drag it, don’t wrinkle it, don’t contaminate it, don’t use it as a dress or uniform. Not only will Turks be very offended, furthermore the desecration of the Turkish flag is a punishable offence. The flag is extremely important and well respected in Turkey.
Turkey is a predominantly Muslim country, though secular, and although you will see varying degrees of Islamic practice in Turkey, with most Turks subscribing to a liberal form of Islam, it is extremely rude to insult or mock some of its traditions, and ensure that you do not speak badly of the Islamic religion. In regard to the Call to Prayer, which is read 5 times a day from the speakers of the numerous mosques throughout Turkey. Do not mock or mimick these calls, as Turks are extremely proud and sensitive of their heritage and culture, and will be very offended.
Social custom and etiquette breaches:
Don’t try to shake hands with a devout Muslim (that is veiled) woman unless she offers her hand first, and with a devout Muslim (often recognizable with a cap and beard) man unless he offers his hand first.
Don’t blow your nose during meals, even discreetly. This is considered extremely rude.
Don’t pick your teeth during meals, even discreetly. This is considered extremely rude.
Do not put your feet up while sitting and try not to show the bottom of your feet to someone. This is considered rude.
Don’t point with your finger at someone, even discreetly. This is considered rude.
Don’t chew gum while having a conversation and during public occasions. This is considered extremely rude.
Don’t touch someone without permission. This is considered extremely rude.
Don’t bear hug or back slap someone, especially in formal situations and occasions and with someone you just met and/or you do not know well enough. This is considered very rude.
Don’t use swear words during conversation or while talking to oneself in public and also among friends. This is considered extremely rude.
Public drunkenness (especially the loud and obnoxious variety) is definitely not appreciated and is frowned upon, especially in more conservative areas of the country. Drunken tourists may also attract the attention of pickpockets. However what is absolutely not tolerated with drunkenness especially by the police, if it is accompanied with physical aggressiveness towards other people, this may result with a fine and if this is repeated a heavier fine and/or a visit to the police station may result (if you are tourist, deportation from the country can result).
Certain gestures, common in the western world, are considered rude expressions in this culture. People tend to be tolerant if they can see you are a foreigner. They know you are probably doing it subconsciously, but if you take the time to keep these in mind, you won’t have any misunderstandings. Making an ‘O’ with your thumb and forefinger (as if to say “OK!”) is rude because you are making the gesture for a hole – which has connotations referring to homosexuality in the Turkish psyche. Avoid clicking your tongue. Some people do this subconsciously at the beginning of a sentence. It is a gesture of dismissal. Also the “got your nose” gesture which is made by making a fist and putting your thumb between your forefinger and the middle finger is considered the equivalent of the middle finger in Turkey.
Other things to watch for
Public displays of affection in larger cities and tourist resorts is tolerated but might invite unnecessary stares from the public. In more rural areas it is frowned upon and is to be avoided. Gay and lesbian travelers should avoid any outward signs of affection, as this will definitely invite unnecessary stares from the public. However overt displays of affection regardless of sexual orientation is regarded as inappropriate.
Avoid shouting or talking loudly in public. Talking loudly is generally considered rude, especially on public transportation. Talking on a mobile phone on public transportation is not considered rude but normal, unless the conversation is too “private”.
It’s not so common for Turks to smile. Avoid smiling at a stranger, because if you do they most likely will not respond in kind and they will regard you either as odd or think that you are mentally handicapped. Smiling in Turkey towards strangers in public is not done and will be considered inappropriate. Smiling is traditionally reserved for family and friends; smiling at a stranger will be considered offensive, as they will either think that you are making fun of them and there is something wrong with their clothes or hair. Furthermore, an automatic “Western smile” is widely regarded as insincere, as in “You don’t really mean it”.
Most of Turk drivers will not respect pedestrian crossings so, be aware when crossing the street.
Because of religious traditions, all women are required to wear head scarves and not to wear miniskirts or shorts upon entering a mosque (or a church and synagogue). The same goes for the tombs of Islamic saints, too, if the tomb is not named “museum” officially. If you don’t have a shawl or a scarf to put on your head, you can borrow one at the entrance. However wearing-a-scarf rule is somewhat relaxed recently, especially in big mosques of Istanbul in which seeing a tourist is not a rarity. On such mosques, no one is warned about their clothes, or because of their lack of head scarves. Even if you’d have to wear a head scarf, no need to worry about how head scarves can be worn properly, just put it onto the crown of your head (you may wrap it under your chin or behind your neck, lest it slip), that will be excessively adequate.
Also, men are required to wear trousers, not shorts, upon entering a mosque (or a church and synagogue), however nowadays no one is warned about their clothes (at least in big cities). You may find when entering a mosque in more rural areas you will be expected to follow all traditional procedures.
During the prayer time, worshippers choose to line in the front rows of the mosques, at such a time stay behind and try not to be noisy. During the Friday noon prayer, which is the most attended, you might be asked to leave the mosque, don’t take it personally, it is because the mosque will be very crowded, there just won’t be enough room for both the worshippers and the sightseers. You will be able to enter back as soon as worshippers are out of the gate.
Unlike some other Middle Eastern cultures, eating, drinking, smoking (which is strictly banned), talking or laughing loudly, sleeping or just lying, even sitting on the ground inside the mosques is frowned upon in Turkish culture. Public displays of affection is definitely taboo.
All shoes should be removed before entering any mosque. There are shoes desks inside the mosques, though you can choose to hold them in your hand (a plastic bag which would be used only for this purpose would help) during your visit. Some mosques have safeboxes with a lock instead of shoe desks.
Although there are “official” opening hours, which are typically shorter than what the mosque is actually open, at the entrances of the most sightseen mosques, they don’t really mean anything. You can visit a mosque as long as its gates are open.
Despite the odd tourists who do not conform to the dress code, it is best to dress conservatively and to follow all traditional procedures, when entering mosques, tombs and other places of worship; not only because it is required but also as a sign of respect.
Gay and lesbian travelers
Turkey is considered to be quite safe for gay and lesbian travelers, and violence against homosexuals is quite rare. There are no laws against homosexuality in Turkey, but same-sex relationships are not recognized by the government and revealing your orientation openly is very likely to draw stares and whispers.
Dial 112 for an ambulance in anywhere, from any telephone, without a charge. In case of a fire, dial 110; for police, call 155. However, in rural areas there is not a police coverage, so dial 156 for gendarme, a military unit for rural security. All these numbers are free of charge and can be called from a telephone booth without inserting a calling card, or any phone including cell phones.
While not as common as they used to be, possibly because of the widespread use of mobile phones which are virtually used by the whole population in the country, public pay phones can still be found at the sides of central squares and major streets in towns and cities and around post offices (PTT), especially around their outer walls. With the phase-out of old magnetic cards, public phones now operate with chip telekom cards which are available in 30, 60 or 120 units and can be obtained at post offices, newspaper and tobacco kiosks. (However emergency numbers can be called without card or anything from these phones.) You can also use your credit card on these phones, though it may not work in the off chance. All phones in the booths have Turkish and English instructions and menus, many also have German and French in addition.
There are also telephones available in some kiosks and shops where you pay cash after your call. To spot these, look for kontürlü telefon signs. These telephones are more expensive than the ones at the booths, though.
It is estimated that approximately 98% of the population of Turkey lives within the coverage areas of Turkey’s three cell phone line providers. Line providers from most countries have roaming agreements with one or more of these companies.
Pre-paid mobile phone SIM cards can be purchased for approximately 20-50 TL. These can be purchased at the airport on arrival or from the many outlets in Istanbul and other large cities. Providers include Vodaphone.
Here is a quick list of telephone codes for some major cities and towns of touristic importance:
216—Istanbul-Asian Side, and Princes’ Islands
224—Bursa, and Uludağ
232—Izmir, and Çeşme
242—Antalya, Alanya, Kemer, and Kaş
252—Muğla, Bodrum, Marmaris, and Fethiye
256—Aydın, and Kuşadası
258—Denizli, and Pamukkale
286—Çanakkale, and Gallipoli
384—Nevşehir, and most of Cappadocia (though a few well-known Cappadocian towns which are parts of Aksaray Province have 382 as their area code)
Prior to the telephone code, dial 0 for intercity calls.
Numbers starting with 0800 are pay-free, whereas the ones starting with 0900 are high-fee services. 7-digit numbers starting with 444 (mainly used by companies) are charged as local calls wherever they are dialed in Turkey.
Dial 00 prior to country code for international calls from Turkey. When calling into Turkey, the international country code that should prefix city code and phone number is 90.
Post offices are recognizable by their yellow-black PTT signs. Letters and cards should be taken to a post office since the postboxes on the streets are rare (and there is no guarantee that they are emptied at all, even if you spot one). Nevertheless, Turkish Post (PTT) prints some beautiful stamps. Postage for cards and letters costs 0.80 TL for domestic shipments, and 1.10 TL (about €0.55) for international shipments to most countries, although may be a little more (up to 1.35 TL) for most distant countries. Please check the PTT webpage for the most current rates . Main post offices in cities are open between 8:30AM and 8:30PM, whereas post offices in towns and smaller post offices in cities are usually open between 8:30AM and 5:30PM.
Poste restante/general delivery letters should be sent to an address in the format of: official full name of the addressee (because the receiver will be asked for an ID card, passport or anything that can proof he/she is the receiver) + POSTRESTANT + name of the quarter/hood/district if in a city where there are more than one post office or name of the town where the post office is + postal code (if known, not obligatory, generally available at the entrance or on the interior walls of the post office itself) + the name of the province in which the quarter/town of the post office is located. The receiver should pay 0.50 TL upon taking his/her mail.
Although not as widespread as they used to be in the last decade with more and more Turkish households tuning in DSL connections, internet cafes or net cafes are still available in reasonable numbers in cities and towns. In fact, any major town has at least one. All of them have good DSL connections, and price for connection is about more or less 1.50 TL/hour. Most, if not all, of these internet-cafés also have cd-writers which are available for anyone who makes an additional payment. Free wireless connections are available at some airports, hotels and restaurants/cafés (especially in big cities). Some webpages are blocked by court order ——although most internet cafes get around these blocks by tricks on proxy settings.
Please see following web sites for information on Telecommunication services : TTNET, DSL internet provider Turkcell, the largest mobile operator also provides 3G internet Vodafone, mobile operator also provides 3G internet Avea,mobile operator also provides 3G internet
Hotel— Every hotel has their own Wi-Fi. Some hotels do have trouble with their network setup or the connection due to the historical location however at the least you will have free wi-fi at your hotel. All you have to do is to learn the wifi password to access the internet.
Cafes— Every café, bistro, restaurant share their internet with their guests. Even the small restaurants now have internet access. Stability and speed depend on where you are and what kind of café, bistro or restaurant you are in. Starbucks, Nero etc. typically have stable wi-fi unless very crowded. If you are in a Starbucks all you have to do is connect your device (SSID should be TTNET or DorukNet, AND if you are in Nero DorukNet) and fill out some basic information for verification that you have to fill. After that, you are ready to go. And if you are in the other restaurant or cafés you can just ask to your waiter to get SSID and Password and after that you are ready to go.
Public Center and Squares— Municipality of Istanbul recently announced that free public wi-fi will be available in most common city centers and squares. All you have to do is (when you near of one of these centers of course) register your id via your cell phone and you will get an access password.
Wi-Fi on the Go— You can rent a mobile wifi hotspot, ready local mobile phone packages (unlimited local calls, sms messaging and internet) and also international mobile phone packages during your stay in Turkey. It works based on 3G connection in the whole country, and you can connect up to 10 devices at the same time. These pocket-sized devices can be easily booked online.
While there are plenty of international companies that rent a mobile hotspot, mainly two local companies are operating: