Wednesday, November 16, 2022
Turkey travel guide - Travel S helper

Turkey

travel guide

Turkey (Turkish: Türkiye) is a Mediterranean country located in West Asia’s Anatolian area, with a tiny portion in Southeastern Europe. It is divided from Asia by the Turkish Straits (Bosphorus, Sea of Marmara, and Dardanelles). Turkey is bounded on the north by the Black Sea, on the west by the Aegean Sea, and on the southwest by the Mediterranean Sea. It is bordered on the west by Bulgaria and Greece, on the northeast by Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia, and on the southeast by Syria, Iraq, and Iran. While the majority of the nation is physically located in Asia, the majority of Turkish people believe themselves to be Europeans.

Turkey offers travelers a plethora of destination options: from Istanbul’s dome-and-minaret-filled skyline to Roman ruins along the western and southern coasts, from Lycia’s heavily indented coastline against a mountainous backdrop to Pamphylia’s wide and sunny beaches, to the East’s cold and snowy mountains, from Bodrum’s crazy “foam parties” to Middle Eastern-flavored cities.

Tourism in Turkey has grown rapidly over the past two decades and is an important part of the economy. In 2013, 37.8 million foreign visitors came to Turkey, making it the 6th most popular tourist destination in the world, contributing $27.9 billion to Turkey’s revenues. In 2012, 15% of tourists came from Germany, 11% from Russia, 8% from the United Kingdom, 5% from Bulgaria, 4% from Georgia, the Netherlands and Iran, 3% from France, 2% from the United States and Syria, and 40% from other countries.

In Turkey you can find 13 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Turkey is home to two of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World: the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus and the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus.

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Turkey - Info Card

Population

84,680,273

Currency

Turkish lira (₺) (TRY)

Time zone

UTC+3 (TRT)

Area

783,356 km2 (302,455 sq mi)

Calling code

+90

Official language

Turkish

Turkey | Introduction

Geography Of Turkey

Turkey’s land mass of over 750,000 square kilometres is slightly larger than the state of Texas and more than three times the size of the United Kingdom. However, in terms of topographical diversity and especially in terms of plant diversity, Turkey has the characteristics of a small continent. For example, Turkey is home to about 10,000 plant species (compared to about 13,000 in the whole of Europe), of which one in three is endemic to the country.

In fact, there are more plant species in Istanbul province (2,000) than in the whole of the UK. Turkey’s rich archaeological heritage is known to many, but the country is also home to many equally valuable ecosystems, including moorlands, heathlands, grasslands and coastal plains. Turkey has many forests (about a quarter of the country), but more importantly, about half of the country is a semi-natural landscape that has not been completely altered by humans.

Weather & Climate in Turkey

The climate in Turkey is very diverse, depending on the different topography and latitude.

The coastal areas of the Aegean and Mediterranean enjoy the typical Mediterranean climate. During the sunny and hot summer (May to October) there is hardly a drop of rain. The winters in these regions are mild and rainy, and it snows very rarely in the coastal areas, with the exception of the mountain regions, which are higher than 2000 meters, which are very snowy and often inaccessible. The water temperature in the Aegean and Mediterranean Sea is warm during the long summer season (May to October), which is the bathing season, and fluctuates between 23 ° and 28 ° C.

The region around the Sea of ​​Marmara, including Istanbul, has a transitional climate between an oceanic and a semi-Mediterranean climate, but it rains, though not much, during the very warm summer (as showers that usually last 15-30 minutes) . Winters are colder than on the west and south coasts. Snow is common on the coast, but does not stay long and is limited to a few days in winter. The water temperature in the Marmara Sea is also colder than in the Aegean and the Mediterranean Sea, although the water temperature in summer (June, July and August) only reaches between 20 ° and 24 ° C and the bathing season is limited to these summer months.

The Black Sea region, with its oceanic climate , has the highest rainfall and is the only region in Turkey with year-round precipitation. The eastern part of this coast has the highest rainfall in the country with an average of 2,500 mm per year. In summer it is warm and humid, while in winter it is cool and humid. Snow is common in coastal areas, although it does not stay on the ground for long and is limited to a few days in winter. As expected, the snow in the mountains is very high and often not passable, in the highest areas there are glaciers all year round. The water temperature along the entire Turkish Black Sea coast is always cool and fluctuates between 10 ° and 20 ° C all year round and is even less suitable for bathing in summer than in the Marmara Sea.

Most of the coastal areas have high relative humidity for most of the year, which makes hot weather feel hotter and cold weather colder than it actually is.

In inland areas such as Ankara, summers are generally hot (although nights are cooler and you won’t be comfortable outdoors wearing just a light T-shirt) and winters can be cold and snowy. The further east the town is, the colder the winters and the heavier the snow. The north-east (around Erzurum and Kars) is the only inland region with cool and rainy summers.

The southeastern region near the Syrian border has a desert-like climate, the temperature in summer is often over 40 ° C and it does not rain. There is occasional snowfall in winter.

Culture In Turkey

At the risk of sounding like a cliché from a tourist brochure, Turkey is actually a strange mix of the West and the East – you could swear you were in a Balkan country or Greece if you were in the northwestern and western parts of the country (except that the Byzantine-style churches are replaced by Byzantine-style mosques), which are in fact partly inhabited by people from the Balkans who migrated during the turmoil before, during and after the First World War, while the south-eastern parts of the country have little or no cultural differences with Turkey’s southern and eastern neighbours. In the north-east of the country, influences from the Caucasus are added. It is easy to say that Turkey is the most oriental of all western nations, or, depending on your perspective, the most occidental of all eastern nations.

Perhaps one commonality across the country is Islam, the faith of the majority of the population. However, the interpretation of this faith varies greatly across the country: Many people in the northwest and on the western coasts are quite liberal when it comes to religion, while people in central steppes are much more conservative. The rest of the country is somewhere in between, with the coastal regions being relatively liberal, while the inland regions tend to be relatively conservative. The largest religious minority in the country are the Alevis, who make up to 20% of the population and represent a form of Islam closer to the Shia version of Islam and whose rituals borrow heavily from the shamanistic ceremonies of the ancient Turks. Other religious minorities – the Greek Orthodox, the Armenian Apostolic, the Jews, the Syriac Oriental Orthodox and the Roman Catholics, the latter of whom have settled in Turkey mainly in the past 500 years migrating from Western European territories – used to be numerous all over the country, but today are mostly confined to the major cities of Istanbul and Izmir, or to parts of south-eastern Anatolia in the case of the Syriac Oriental Orthodox. Despite the large Muslim majority, Turkey remains officially a secular country, without a declared state religion.

Demographics Of Turkey

According to the address-based population registration system, Turkey had 74.7 million inhabitants in 2011, almost three quarters of whom live in cities. Estimates for 2011 indicate that the population is growing by 1.35 per cent each year. The average density of population in Turkey is 97 people per square kilometre. The 15-64 age group accounts for 67.4 per cent of the total population, the 0-14 age group for 25.3 per cent, and people aged 65 and over for 7.3 per cent. In 1927, when the first official census was conducted in the Republic of Turkey, the population was 13.6 million. The largest city in Turkey, Istanbul, is also the most populous city in Europe and the third largest city in Europe in terms of size.

Article 66 of the Turkish Constitution defines a ‘Turk’ as ‘any person who is linked to the Turkish state by the bond of citizenship’; therefore, the legal use of the term ‘Turk’ as a citizen of Turkey differs from the ethnic definition. However, the majority of the Turkish population is of Turkish origin. It is estimated at 70-75%. There are no reliable data on the ethnic composition of the population, as the Turkish census figures do not include statistics on ethnicity. Officially recognised in the Treaty of Lausanne are the 3 “non-Muslim” minority groups of Armenians, Greeks and Jews. The Kurds, a distinct ethnic group, are the largest non-Turkish ethnic group, accounting for about 18-25% of the population. Kurds are concentrated in the east and southeast of the country in the region also known as Turkish Kurdistan.

Kurds constitute a majority in the provinces of Tunceli, Bingöl, Muş, Iğdır, Elâzığ, Ağrı, Batman, Şırnak, Bitlis, Van, Mardin, Siirt and Hakkari, a near majority in the province of Şanlıurfa (47%) and a large minority in the province of Kars (20%). In addition, due to internal migration, there are Kurdish communities in all major cities in central and western Turkey, particularly in Istanbul, where an estimated 3 million Kurds live, which makes the city of Istanbul one of the most populated Kurdish cities in the world. Minorities other than Kurds account for about 7-12% of the population. Minorities other than the 3 officially recognised minorities have no minority rights. The word “minority” remains a controversial subject in Turkey, although the Turkish government is frequently criticised because of its treatment of minorities. Although minorities are not recognised, the state-run Turkish Radio and Television Company (TRT) broadcasts television and radio programmes in minority languages. In addition, some classes in minority languages may be selected in elementary schools.

An estimated 2.5% of the population are international migrants. The largest number of refugees in the world are located in Turkey, including 2.2 million refugees from Syria (as of September 2015).

Religion In Turkey

As a secular state with no official state religion, the Turkish constitution guarantees the freedom of religion and conscience. The role of religion has been controversial over the years since the formation of Islamist parties. For decades the wearing of the hijab was banned in schools and government buildings because it was considered a symbol of political Islam. However, the ban was lifted in universities in 2011, government buildings in 2013 and schools in 2014. The government of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the Justice and Development Party (AKP) continue the explicit political programme of Islamisation of education to raise a “pious generation” against secular opposition, resulting in the loss of jobs and schools for many non-religious citizens of Turkey.

Islam

The dominant religion in Turkey is Islam, having 99.8% of the population declared as Muslim, with the largest sect being the Hanafite schools of Sunni Islam.  There are also Sufi Muslims. Approximately 2% are non-denominational Muslims. The highest religious authority of Islam, the Religious Authority (Turkish: Diyanet İşleri Başkanlığı), is responsible for interpreting the laws of the Hanafi school and regulating the operation of the 80,000 registered mosques and the employment of local and provincial imams. Some have also complained (see quote) that under the Islamist government of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the former role of the Diyanet – to maintain control over the religious sphere of Islam in Turkey – has been “largely reversed”. The Diyanet, now largely expanded, promotes a certain type of conservative (Sunni Hanafite) Islam in Turkey by issuing fatwas prohibiting activities such as “feeding dogs at home, celebrating the Western New Year, lottery and tattoo” and projects abroad this “Turkish Islam”.

Academics estimate the Alevis population at between 15 and 20 million, while the Alevis Federation – Bektaşi – says it is around 25 million.Under the Sunni Islamist government of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, growing discrimination and persecution of the Alevi minority began.

According to the WIN-Gallup International project on the World Index of Religion and Atheism, Turkey is the country with the most irreligious Muslims in the Islamic world, with 73% of the Muslim population. According to an in-depth study by PEW Global, only 15% of Muslims in Turkey say at least one of the five prayers at home or in a mosque, while another PEW report suggests that only 7-13% of Turks believe that religion should directly or indirectly influence laws.

Christianity

The percentage of Christians in Turkey rose from 19% (or perhaps even 25% of the 16 million inhabitants) in 1914 to 7% in 1927, as a result of events that significantly impacted on the country’s population structure, particularly the Armenian genocide, the population exchange between Greece and Turkey, and Christian emigration, which actually began at the end of 19th century as well as ongoing in the first quarter in the 20th century. The property tax on non-Muslims in 1942, the emigration of some Turkish Jews to Israel after 1948 and the ongoing Cyprus conflict which damaged relations between Turks and Greeks (culminating in the Istanbul pogrom which took place on 6-7 September 1955) were other significant events that contributed to the decrease of the non-Muslim community in Turkey.

Nowadays, the number of people belonging to various Christian denominations is over 120,000, which represents less than 0.2% of the Turkish population, including approximately 80,000 Eastern Orthodox, approximately 35,000 Roman Catholics, around 18,000 Greeks from Antioch, around 5,000 Greek Orthodox as well as a smaller number of Protestants. There are currently 236 churches open for worship in Turkey. The Eastern Orthodox Church has been based in Istanbul since the 4th century.

Judaism

There are about 26,000 people who are Jewish, the vast majority of whom are Sephardic. Jewish communities existed throughout Asia Minor from at least the 5th century BC, including many Spanish and Portuguese Jews who were expelled from Spain and Portugal have been absorbed by the Ottomans during the second half of the 15th century. Despite emigration in the 20th century, there remains a small Jewish population in present-day Turkey.

Agnosticism and atheism

According to a Eurobarometer poll in 2010, 94% of Turks believe in God, while only 1% do not believe in God. This indicates that 5% of the population is agnostic and the remaining 1% is clearly atheist. However, according to another poll by KONDA, the percentage of atheists is 2.9%.

A recent poll suggested that 4.5 million people were not religious in 2013. The same data suggests that 85% of the non-religious are under the age of 35.

Language In Turkey

The only official language of Turkey is Turkish. Turkish is an Altaic language and its closest living relatives are other Turkic languages spoken in Southwest, Central and North Asia; and to a lesser extent by large communities in the Balkans. Since Turkish is an agglutinative language, native speakers of Indo-European languages usually have difficulty learning it. Since 1928, Turkish has been written in a variant of the Latin alphabet (after so many centuries of using the Arabic alphabet, which can be seen in many historical texts and documents), with the additions of ç/Ç, Ş/Ğ, ı, İ, ö/Ö, ş/Ş and ü/Ü, and with the exclusions of Q, W and X.

Kurdish is also spoken by about 7-10% of the population. There are several other languages, such as Laz in the northeast (also spoken in neighbouring Georgia), and in general people living near the borders often speak the language on the other side, such as Arabic in the southeast.

Thanks to migration, there is at least one person in most villages, even in the countryside, who has worked in Germany and therefore speaks German. The same applies to other Western European languages such as Dutch (often wrongly called “Flemish” there) or French. With recent immigration from the Balkans, it is also possible to meet native speakers of Serbo-Croatian, Bulgarian and Albanian, especially in the big cities in western Turkey, but don’t count on it. English is also becoming increasingly popular among the younger generation. The “universities” that train students for a career in tourism are churning out thousands of young people eager to put their knowledge of the tourist into practice, with varying degrees of success. Language universities produce students who are nowadays quite good in their chosen language.

Internet & Communications in Turkey

Dial 112 for an ambulance to arrive anywhere, from any phone, free of charge. In case of fire, dial 110; for the police, dial 155. In rural areas, however, there is no police coverage, so dial 156 for the gendarmerie, a military unit for rural security. All these numbers are free and can be called from a phone box without inserting a phone card, or from any phone, including mobile phones.

Phone

Although they are not as widespread as they used to be, perhaps due to the widespread use of mobile phones, which are used by virtually the entire population of the country, payphones can still be found on the sides of central squares and main streets in cities and near post offices (PTTs), especially on their outer walls. With the abolition of the old magnetic cards, public telephones now work with telecom smart cards, which are available in 30, 60 or 120 pieces and can be purchased at post offices, newsstands and tobacconists. (However, it is possible to call emergency numbers from these phones without a card or anything else). You can also use your credit card on these phones, although it may not work immediately. All kiosk phones have instructions and menus in Turkish and English, and many also in German and French.

Some kiosks and shops also have telephones where you can pay cash after the call. To find them, look for the signs kontürlü telefon. However, these phones are more expensive than the ones at the kiosk.

It is estimated that about 98% of the Turkish population lives in the coverage areas of the three Turkish mobile operators. Line providers in most countries have roaming agreements with one or more of these companies.

Prepaid mobile phone SIM cards can be purchased for around TRY 20-50. They can be purchased on arrival at the airport or at the many outlets in Istanbul and other major cities. Vodaphone is one of the suppliers.

Here is a short list of telephone codes for some major cities and towns of tourist importance:

  • 212 – European side of Istanbul
  • 216 – The Asian Side of Istanbul and the 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
  • 312-Ankara
  • 332-Konya
  • 384-Nevşehir and most of Cappadocia (although a few well-known Cappadocian towns belonging to Aksaray province have 382 as their area code).

Dial before the telephone area code for long-distance calls.

Numbers starting with 0800 are free of charge, while those starting with 0900 are high tariff services. 7-digit numbers starting with 444 (mainly used by businesses) are charged as local calls, regardless of where in Turkey they are dialled.

Dial 00 before the country code for international calls from Turkey. For calls to Turkey, the international country code must precede the area code and the number is 90.

Post

Post offices can be recognised by their yellow and black PTT signs. Letters and cards should be taken to a post office, as street mailboxes are rare (and there is no guarantee that they will be emptied even if you spot one). Nevertheless, the Turkish Post Office (PTT) prints very nice stamps. Postage for cards and letters is TRY 0.80 for domestic mail and TRY 1.10 (about €0.55) for international mail to most countries, although it can be slightly higher (up to TRY 1.35) for more distant countries; PTT website for current rates. Main city post offices are open from 8.30am to 8.30pm; city post offices and smaller town post offices are usually open from 8.30am to 5.30pm.

Letters from the post office/general delivery service should be sent to an address in the format : full official name of the addressee (as the addressee will be asked for an identity card, passport or other document proving that he/she is the correct addressee) + POST OFFICE + name of the quarter/district if there are several post offices in a city, or name of the city where the post office is located + postcode (if known, not compulsory, usually found at the entrance or on the inside walls of the post office itself) + name of the province where the quarter/district of the post office is located. The recipient must pay TRY 0.50 upon receipt of the item.

Internet

Although they are not as widespread as they were in the last decade, as more and more Turkish households have DSL connections, internet cafés or cybercafés are still present in reasonable numbers in towns and villages. In fact, every big city has at least one. All have good DSL connections and the price of the connection is about TRY 1.50/hour. Most, if not all, of these internet cafes also have CD burners available for an additional fee. Free wireless connections are available in some airports, hotels and restaurants/cafés (especially in the big cities). Some websites are blocked by court order – although most internet cafes get around these blocks by tricking proxy settings.

Information on telecommunication services can be found on the following websites: TTNET, DSL Internet Service Provider [www] Turkcell, the largest mobile operator also offers 3G Internet [wwwVodafone, the mobile operator also offers 3G Internet [www] Avea, the mobile operator also offers 3G Internet [www].

Wi – Fi

Hotel: Each hotel has its own wifi. Some hotels have problems with their network configuration or connection due to their historical location, but at least you have free wifi in your hotel. You only need to learn the wifi password to access the internet.

The cafés:

All cafés, bistros and restaurants share their internet with their customers. Even small restaurants now have internet access. The stability and speed depends on where you are and what kind of café, bistro or restaurant you are in. Starbucks, Nero etc. usually have a stable wifi connection unless there are a lot of people around. If you are in a Starbucks, simply connect your device (the SSID must be TTNET or DorukNet, AND if you are in Nero DorukNet) and enter some basic verification information to fill in. After that, you’re good to go. And if you are in another restaurant or café, just ask your server to give you an SSID and password and you are good to go.

Centre and public spaces :

The Istanbul Municipality recently announced that free public wifi will be available in most city centres and public squares. All you need to do (if you are near one of these centres, of course) is to log on via your mobile phone and you will receive an access password.

Wi-Fi on the move:

You can rent a mobile wifi hotspot during your stay in Turkey. It works on the basis of a 3G connection throughout the country and you can connect up to 10 devices at the same time. These handheld devices can be easily booked online. Many international companies rent mobile hotspots, but it is usually two local companies that operate them:

– Alldaywifi;

– Rent ‘n Connect ;

Economy Of Turkey

Turkey has the 17th largest GDP in the world in PPP and the 18th largest nominal GDP.

The customs union between the EU and Turkey in 1995 led to extensive tariff liberalisation and is one of the main pillars of Turkey’s external trade policy. Turkey’s exports amounted to $143.5 billion in 2011 and $163 billion in 2012. However, higher imports, which amounted to 229 billion dollars in 2012, threatened the balance of trade (main import partners in 2012: Russia 11.3%, Germany 9%, China 9%, United States 6%, Italy 5.6%).

Turkey has a formidable automobile industry, which produced more than 1.3 million motor vehicles in 2015, placing it 14th in the world. Turkish shipbuilding exports amounted to $1.2 billion in 2011. The main export markets are Malta, the Marshall Islands, Panama and the United Kingdom. Turkish shipyards have 15 floating docks of various sizes and a dry dock. Tuzla, Yalova and İzmit have become dynamic shipbuilding centres. In 2011, there were 70 active shipyards in Turkey, with another 56 under construction. Turkish shipyards are very well known for the production of chemical tankers and oil tankers up to 10,000 dwt as well as their mega yachts.

Turkish brands such as Beko and Vestel are among the largest manufacturers of consumer electronics and home appliances in Europe and invest significant resources in research and development of new technologies in these sectors.

Other key sectors of the Turkish economy include banking, construction, consumer electronics, electronics, textiles, oil refining, petrochemicals, food, mining, steel and machinery. In 2010, the agricultural sector accounted for 9% of GDP, while the industrial sector accounted for 26% and the service sector for 65%. In 2004, it was estimated that 46% of total disposable income was received by the richest 20% of the population, while the poorest 20% received only 6%. The employment rate for women in Turkey was 30 per cent in 2012, the lowest of all OECD countries.

Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) totalled $8.3 billion in 2012, a figure expected to rise to $15 billion in 2013. Fitch Group upgraded Turkey’s credit rating to investment grade in 2012 after an 18-year gap, followed by a rating upgrade by Moody’s in May 2013 when it raised Turkey’s sovereign bond rating to the lowest investment grade, Baa3. In September 2016, Moody’s downgraded Turkey’s sovereign debt to investment grade. The debt of private banks in Turkey was TL 6.6 billion in 2002 and had increased to TL 385 billion by the end of 2015.

Entry Requirements For Turkey

Turkey is one of only three countries in the Middle East that tolerate Israeli citizens in their country. Thus, entry into Turkey is not a problem for holders of an Israeli passport.

Citizens of the countries listed below can enter Turkey without a visa for 90 days, unless otherwise stated: Albania, Andorra, Argentina, Azerbaijan (30 days), Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina (60 days), Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica (30 days), Czech Republic, Northern Cyprus (Turkish Republic), Denmark, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, Iceland, Hong Kong (SAR passport), Iran, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan (30 days), Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan (30 days), Latvia (30 days), Lebanon, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macao (30 days), Macedonia, Malaysia, Moldova (30 days), Monaco, Mongolia (30 days), Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Peru, Romania, Russia (60 days), San Marino, Serbia, Singapore, Slovenia, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Tajikistan (30 days), Thailand (30 days), Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkmenistan (30 days), Ukraine (60 days), Uruguay, Uzbekistan (30 days), Vatican City and Venezuela.

German and French nationals do not need a visa for stays of less than 90 days and can even enter with their identity card or an expired passport/identity card, unless they enter at land border crossings that do not fall under the jurisdiction of the Council of Europe (e.g. from Iran, Iraq and Syria).

Citizens of the following countries can apply for a tourist visa online. Electronic visas cost between USD 15 and USD 60 depending on the passport (for most EU countries: USD 20, for USA/Canada/Australia: USD 60), plus a service fee of USD 0.70. According to the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, visitors entering Turkey without a visa can obtain their e-visa through interactive terminals at Turkish airports, but the fee is higher than for the online e-visa (usually USD 10 more than for the e-visa). Some airlines have already turned away passengers without eVisa (Pegasus, Italy, June 2014).

Valid for three months: Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, Canada, Croatia, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Haiti, Hong Kong (BNO passport), Ireland, Jamaica, Kuwait, Maldives, Malta (free of charge), Mexico (with valid Schengen, UK visa, Canada, Japan, the United States or Canada), the Netherlands, Norway, Oman, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Spain, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, United Arab Emirates and the United States of America. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.

Valid for two months: Belarus

Valid for one month: Armenia, Bahrain, Bangladesh (with valid Schengen, Irish, UK or US visa), Republic of Cyprus, Hungary, India (with valid Schengen, Irish, UK or US visa), Indonesia, Mauritius, Moldova, Pakistan (with valid Schengen, Irish, UK or US visa), Philippines if you have a valid Schengen or OECD visa or residence permit, Slovakia, South Africa.
(NOTE: Payments in sterling may only be made in Bank of England £10 notes. No Scottish or Northern Irish notes and no other denominations, e.g. £5 or £20 or £50).

For more information, please visit the website of the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

How To Travel To Turkey

Get In - By plane

Turkey’s main international airport is Istanbul Atatürk International Airport. Ankara Esenboğa Airport offers a relatively limited range of international flights. In the high summer and winter seasons, there are also direct charter flights to Mediterranean resorts such as Antalya. In 2005, customs at Istanbul International Airport was reorganised so that now you have to go through customs and “enter” there instead of first going to a regional destination and going through customs there. Baggage is usually taken to its final destination without any further formalities, but you may need to declare it to make sure it gets there.

The information given by the flight attendants on the arriving flight may not be sufficient. Until the procedure is changed (it is supposed to be temporary), it is advisable to check at Istanbul airport. As a new security check has to be carried out for each domestic flight, it is advisable to hurry and not spend too much time in transit. There are also other regional airports that receive a limited number of flights from abroad, especially from Europe and especially during the high season (June-September).

Sabiha Gökçen Airport

SAWSabihaGökçen Airport, located about 50 km east of Taksim Square on the Asian side of Istanbul, is of particular interest to low-cost airline travellers. Airlines flying to this airport include EasyJetGermanwingsCondorTHY (Turkish Airlines) and many others. It is worth noting that it is possible to take a plane operated by the budget airline Air Arabia to Sharjah (United Arab Emirates) and from there to India at a very reasonable price. But all these low-cost options involve departure and arrival times in the middle of the night. There are shuttle buses to the airport from Taksim Square operated by Havas and Havatas.

Get In - By train

From Western Europe to Turkey by train, the journey goes via Budapest, then via Bucharest or Sofia to Istanbul. The best route is through Romania, starting in Bucharest with the Bosforus Express, as it is direct and has sleeping cars. The journey through Bulgaria via Sofia and Plovdiv usually involves changing trains in the early hours of the morning and sleeping berths at best. Both trains run at night and meet just before the Turkish border. At the border station in Kapikule you have to go out for passport control. After that, the journey becomes disorganised due to the endless works on the railway line to Istanbul.

Passengers are transferred to alternative buses and, while work continues at the junction, end up either in Kapikule, in Çerkezköy, about 115 km west of Istanbul, or in Halkali, just north of the city. Buses continue to Sirkeci, Istanbul’s railway station on the European side, which has no trains today. Second class fares are about 20 euros from Sofia, 40 euros from Bucharest, plus a 10 euro supplement for couchettes – see below for train tickets and other discounts. The level of accommodation on board is similar to the Turkish domestic slow trains described below.

The historic Orient Express took the route to Bucharest, but no longer exists. Its name is still present in a restaurant in Sirkeci and on an occasional tourist train, which is luxurious and very expensive, but currently avoids Turkey because of railway works.

To enter Turkey by train, you will probably need a visa in advance – see the “Visas” section above and below at Istanbul Ataturk Airport.

There are currently no cross-border trains to any other country, although a new line to Georgia and the Caucasus may open in 2017. For Greece, you have to go to Sofia and then change to Thessaloniki. For Iran, the timetable optimistically envisages the Trans-Asia Express to Tabriz and Tehran, but there are no trains running. There is no foreseeable prospect of services to Armenia, Iraq, Syria or Azerbaijan, the Nakhichevan enclave.

Get In - By car

Travelling to Turkey from Central Europe is not too difficult. You will need your international insurance card (Green Card) in any case. Make sure that the “TR” is not cancelled and make sure that your insurance is also valid for the Asian part of Turkey. Otherwise, you will have to buy Turkish car insurance separately. In any case, Turkish customs will enter in your passport the date on which the car (and therefore you) must leave Turkey again.

A Carnet de Passage is not required unless you intend to travel to Iran, for which you will need a Carnet de Passage.

National driving licences from some European countries are accepted. If you are unsure, get an international driving licence beforehand.

The most important roads in Europe are:

  • The E80 enters Turkey via the Kapıkule Gate (northwest of Edirne, southeast of Svilengrad) from Bulgaria.
  • The E87 enters Turkey from Bulgaria through the Dereköy border gate (north of Kırklareli, south of Tirnovo).
  • The E90 enters Turkey from Greece through the İpsala border gate (west of Keşan, east of Alexandroupolis).

A convenient connection from Western Europe, especially if you want to avoid the narrow and perhaps poorly maintained Balkan highways, is the weekly EuroTurk Express trains , which leave Bonn-Beuel station (Germany) every Saturday midday and arrive two nights later in the afternoon in Çerkezköy, about 100 km northwest of Istanbul, or an hour’s drive on a high-level highway. Fares start at 139 euros for passengers and 279 euros for cars.

The main routes from the Middle East enter Turkey through numerous border gates around Antakya (Antioch), Syrian cities such as Aleppo and Latakia, the Habur border gate (south of Silopi, north of Zakho) from Iraq and the Dogubeyazit border gate (near Ararat) from Iran.

The main roads from the Caucasus enter Turkey through the Sarp/Sarpi border gate from Georgia (south of Batumi) and through the Türkgözü border gate south of Akhaltsikhe (this is the closest border gate to Tbilisi, but the last kilometres on the Georgian side were really bad as of summer 2009). The border with Armenia is currently closed and therefore not passable by car.

There are also other border gates (not listed here), from all countries with which Turkey shares a land border (except Armenia), that lead to secondary roads that can be accessed by car.

Pay attention to public holidays, as these border crossings can sometimes be extremely congested. Especially in summer, many Turks living in Germany go home, which leads to huge queues at the border.

Get In - By bus

Europe

From Bucharest there is a daily bus to Istanbul at 16:00 for RON125. There are also several daily buses from Constanta, Romania and Sofia, Bulgaria, from where you can take connections to the main European cities. Another option is the bus from Athens in Greece via Thessaloniki. You can also find smaller bus companies offering connections to other Balkan countries. Some Turkish bus companies operate between Sofia and Istanbul. These buses usually stop in different cities along the way. Since June 2015, there is a direct bus connection from Odessa, Ukraine, to Istanbul once a week for 1,000 UAH (about 40 EUR).

Georgia

There are several border crossings on the Turkish-Georgian border, including in Batumi and Tbilisi. You may have to change buses at the border. However, there are many bus companies that run directly between Istanbul-Batumi and Istanbul-Tbilisi.

Iran

There is a direct bus to Istanbul from Tehran in Iran that takes about 48 hours and costs USD 35 for a one-way ticket between Istanbul or Ankara and Tehran.

  • Dogubeyazit/Bazerghan This border crossing between Turkey and Iran is easily (and quickly) reached by public transport. Take a bus to Bazerghan and a shared taxi to the border (approx. 2-3 USD). Cross the border on foot and take a minibus (approx. 5 minutes) to Dogubeyazit. Check the security situation in the area due to the unresolved conflict with the PKK.
  • There are also buses from Van to Urmia that cross the border from Turkey/Iran to Esendere/Sero. The buses cost about 13 euros and it takes more than 6 hours to cover the 300 km. This is due to the bad roads, the difficult snow conditions in winter and also the many military checkpoints concerning the P.K.K. for security reasons.

This southern road is less frequented than the northern Dogubeyazit/Bazerghan road as it is much slower, but it is a scenic mountain road. Make sure you have a clear idea of the exchange rates if you want to change Turkish lira or rial, as the official bank at the border does not change these currencies and you have to deal with the abundance of the black market.

Syria

From Aleppo in Syria, a 3-hour bus to Antakya from 05:00 costs SYP250. There is also a minibus service at 15:00 for SYP350. From Antakya you can catch connecting buses to almost anywhere in Turkey, but initial fares may be too high and timetables are often impractical. If you are travelling to Istanbul, there are bus connections from Damascus, with changes en route to Antakya. Buying a bus ticket in Damascus is much cheaper than in Aleppo or Antakya. If you are coming from Syria, it is worth buying extra snacks and drinks before leaving the country, as these are much more expensive at the bus stations in Turkey.

Get In - By boat

Many people arrive in Bodrum on one of the hydrofoils or ferries that connect most of the nearby Greek islands to the port. It’s a nice way to arrive. Although many of the lines that start and end in Istanbul have recently been discontinued (due to bankruptcy), there are still direct summer sailings to eastern Italy.

Other major cities on the Aegean coast are also connected by ferries to the nearest Greek islands. Trabzon, a large city on the eastern Black Sea coast, has a regular ferry service to and from Sochi, on Russia’s Black Sea coast. Mersin, Taşucu and Alanya on the Mediterranean coast have ferry connections to Famagusta (with Mersin) or Kyrenia (with others) in northern Cyprus.

How To Travel Around Turkey

Get Around - By plane

Larger cities are also served by airlines, at reasonable prices, which beats the experience of travelling by bus, especially for long distances. Tickets can be easily purchased at the domestic terminal in Istanbul and at the local counters of Turkish Airlines, Onur Air, Pegasus Airlines and Atlasjet, among others. Many major cities have daily connections to the transport centres of Ankara and Istanbul, while others only have flights on certain days. On arrival at regional airports, there is often a Havaş bus service to the city centre, which is much, much cheaper than taking a taxi.

They can wait half an hour, but are available after the main flights arrive. In some places, there is a whole fleet of minibuses waiting for a big flight, then heading for the towns in the region. For example, if you are going to Agri in the east, a connecting minibus will take you to Dogubeyazit in about twenty or thirty minutes, so you don’t have to go to Agri first and then wait for a bus from Dogubeyazit. Ask for such easy connections when you arrive!

Get Around - By bus

Turkey has a very good long-distance bus network with air-conditioned buses, reserved seats and a generally good quality of service, at least with the major operators. There are now some companies offering luxury buses with first-class seats and service. Standard buses, however, have narrower seats than those in economy class on planes. Buses are often crowded, but smoking is strictly prohibited. The use of mobile phones is also restricted on many buses.

Five major bus companies with websites (but with little support in English) are:

Bus travel is convenient in Turkey. Go to the otogar (bus station) in any of the larger cities and you will find a bus to almost any destination within half an hour or a couple of hours at most. The buses are driven by drivers and a number of assistants. During the journey you will be offered free drinks and a nibble or two, and stops are made at busy roadside restaurants every two and a half hours or so. The further east you travel, the more irregular the buses, but even places as far away as Dogubeyazit or Van are served by regular services to many places hundreds of kilometres away. Only the smaller towns do not have a direct bus to Istanbul or Izmir at least once every two days.

To find the right bus quickly, you need some help and therefore some trust. There are scammers waiting for you and some help you buy a ticket for a bus that does not leave in the next two hours. Sometimes there is simply no other bus, but on other occasions you sit there while other buses with the same destination leave long before. If you have time to lose: Check the departure (and arrival) times of other companies, this can generally save you time. However, if you hint that you really want to leave NOW (use expressions like “hemen” or “şimdi”, or “acelem var” – I am in a hurry), people will notice that you are in a hurry and you will leave on the next bus going to your destination.

If you have a choice between several providers, ask about the number of seats on the buses you are comparing. Basically, more capacity means more comfort (all bus seats have roughly the same legroom, but larger buses with 48 seats are certainly more comfortable than a Dolmuş with 15 seats, which may be called a “bus” by the selling company). In addition, the bus company with the largest board is usually the one with the most buses and routes. If possible, ask other travellers you meet about their experiences with different operators: even large operators have different standards of service, and even with the same operator, standards can vary from region to region.

Don’t be surprised if, halfway to a strange and distant destination, you are asked to get off the bus (your luggage is often already next door) and get on another one. The other bus “buys” you and takes you to your destination. This can even happen with “direct” or “non-stop” tickets.

Sometimes long-distance bus lines leave you stranded on a ring road around a city instead of taking you to the centre. This can be annoying. Find out in advance (and hope they don’t lie to you). On the other hand, many companies have “aracı service vehicles” or service vehicles for the centre if Otogar is on the outskirts of a city, as is often the case today. In some cities, these service vehicles are shared by many companies and there is a whole fleet of them meant for different parts of the metropolis. The company may also choose to combine passengers from several buses, which means you may have to wait for one or two other buses before setting off. Prepare your ticket to prove that you were on a bus (although most of these services are offered in good faith).

In some cities (including Ankara, except Istanbul), the municipality has banned the use of public buses because of their impact on traffic. In such cases, you may have to take a public bus or metro to get to your destination. The use of taxis is probably to be avoided (at least from Otogar) as they tend to abuse their monopoly position by refusing to go to closer destinations, being rude to the passenger, charging the night fare, etc. If you need to take a taxi, it is usually advisable to do so from outside the bus station.

Seating on buses is partly indicated by the “koltuk numarası” or seat number on your ticket, partly by the ritual line-up of women next to women, couples together, etc. So don’t get too upset if you have to give up your seat. Generally, as a foreigner, you will have the best seat most of the time.

A word of advice: it is often easier to sit in the back regardless of the number of koltuks and not be disturbed for a large part of the journey. This is especially true if you are travelling alone and want to keep it that way, even if the last row is reserved for the service driver who wants to sleep. And remember: many buses take short-term tickets on the route and park them in the last two or three rows. Also bear in mind that the back of the bus can be noisier than the front, as that is where the engine is.

If you have a bicycle, it will be transported free of charge. On most buses it fits in the luggage compartment of the bus – make sure you have the tools to fold your bike as small as possible (height is the most important factor).

Fez Bus. This is another alternative, hop on hop off travel network that connects Istanbul with the most popular tourist destinations in Western Turkey and some other destinations. The buses go from hostel to hostel and have an English-speaking tour guide on board. The ticket can be purchased for a few days or for the whole summer. Departures are every other day. More expensive than the local buses, but can be much less strenuous and offer a different experience. The main office in Istanbul is in Sultanahmet, next to Orient Youth Hostel, on Yeni Akbiyik cd.

Get Around - By train

Long-distance trains in Turkey fall into three categories: (i) very fast and modern; (ii) slow and scenic; and (iii) discontinued for the long term due to reconstruction or other reasons. The train operator is TCDD, the Railways of the Republic of Turkey, visit their website for timetables, fares and reservations. In autumn 2016 they are creating a new customer portal, www.tcddtasimacilik.gov.tr, but this is a work in progress, as is the railway itself.

Most Turkish cities have some kind of rail connection, but not the Mediterranean and Aegean resorts, which have only sprung up in recent years and are located in the mountains (Kuşadası is the exception, as it is near Selçuk on the route between Izmir and Pamukkale). For some destinations, connecting buses join the trains, for example in Eskişehir for Bursa and in Konya for Antalya and Alanya. The main cities also have metro and suburban lines, which are described on their pages.

Very fast and modern trains are called YHT: yüksek hızlı tren. They serve Istanbul, Eskişehir, Konya and Ankara. They are clean, comfortable and modern; fares are low and reservation is mandatory (see below, it is the same reservation procedure as for slow trains). They travel on new reserved lanes at up to 300 km/h and can thus keep to the timetable. For example, from Istanbul Pendik to Ankara (six hours per day, standard one-way fare about 20 euros), and likewise 4½ hours to Konya (two per day). Its main drawback is the absence of the YHT or any other main train line into the centre of Istanbul – currently you have to take the metro to Pendik and then walk or take a taxi to the YHT station. See the Istanbul page for more information on this 90-minute transfer, but note that Pendik is convenient for Sabiha Gökçen Airport (SAW).

As the JHT routes are short, they only run during the day and only offer snacks. Train announcements in English prohibit “tobacco, alcohol, smelly food and peanuts”. Anti-smoking and anti-alcohol rules are enforced, it is not clear how zealous they are about peanuts. Between cities, the JHTs make a few stops. The only one likely to be of interest to visitors is Sincan, as a hub with Ankara’s suburban system.

The JHT network is being gradually expanded so that trains could reach the centre of Istanbul again by 2018. Other lines are under construction, from Ankara to Kars, from Konya to Adana and from Istanbul to Edirne. The long-term strategy is to create a high-speed, high-capacity line for passengers and freight from Edirne on the western border to Kars in the east.

However, where JHT traffic stops, line closures and interruptions immediately begin, as the Ottoman-era Turkish railways have been closed for the 21st century. The main closures and suspensions (until 2016) are as follows

  • From Ankara to Irmak, 60 km east: bus connection for trains to Erzurum and Kars (Doğu Express), Elazig and Tatvan on Lake Van (Vangölü Express) and Diyarbakirund Kurtalan (Guney Kurtulan Express) ;
  • From Konya to Karaman, 100 km further east: bus connection for the Toros Express to Adana ;
  • From Van Est to Tabriz and Tehran in Iran (the former Trans-Asia Express) cancelled;
  • East of Adana to Gaziantep cancelled;
  • Between Izmir and Bandirma (for the ferry to Istanbul) cancelled;
  • No long-distance trains in the centre of Istanbul as described above;
  • The Ankara railway station, suburban railway and metro are partially closed, but the JHTs are not affected.

More details on these routes can be found on the pages of the cities concerned and on the TCDD website.

The conventional trains are slow and picturesque, with the emphasis on slow: Most run at night, and trips from Ankara to eastern cities take 24 hours. They are infrequent, daily at best, sometimes only one or two a week. The typical train consists of a sleeper (yataklı vagon), a couchette (kuşetli) and three open sedans (single row – aisle – double row arrangement), as well as a buffet that may or may not include food, so bring your own. Their cleanliness and comfort depend on the crowd: In quiet times they are fine, but when they are crowded they get dirty quickly. They are difficult to use for people with reduced mobility, and the reconstruction of the station will make them even more difficult to reach. In principle, these trains are non-smoking, but there is often a smell of tobacco smoke on board. They are diesel-powered and run on one track: on straight stretches they can do 100 km/h, but in the mountains they climb steep slopes and take sharp turns. As a result, they usually start on time but get held up on the way.

You can book long-distance trains (”anahat”) on the TCDD website; international trains can be booked by other means (see below) but not through the website; and regional trains (”bolger”) are not bookable. Check the timetable first for up-to-date information on timetables and disruptions. Note, however, that the timetable and reservation system sometimes gives different service days for certain services without good reason. The timetable only shows the main stations where the train waits for about 10 minutes, and you may have just enough time to rush to the station kiosk to fill up. Trains also stop briefly at many small roadside stops where food vendors sometimes board.

To buy your ticket, you then go to the reservation system, but it is only open 15 to 30 days in advance – if you keep looking, you get the impression that there is no train. Select your preferred train connection and seat/sleeper. Then the system will show the price and give you the option to buy immediately or hold the option for a few days. Write down your confirmation number immediately and print your ticket at home whenever it suits you – no need to validate it at the station. It is unclear whether a flexible ticket on your phone is currently allowed without validation.

The Inter Rail Global Pass and the Balkan Flexipass are valid on all trains in Turkey and trains to and from Europe, but you may need to reserve a seat. TCDD also offers discounts for people under 26 (genç bilet, whether you are a student or not) and for people over 60 (yaşlı bilet). Check their website for other discount offers, but these are usually for commuters and people repeating multiple journeys.

Tickets can also be bought at train stations (either at ticket offices or self-service kiosks), travel agencies or PTT post offices. The main stations (including Sirkeci station, which has no train) accept credit cards and can book you a ticket for any train, but they are unlikely to accept non-Turkish cash. (And these days it can be difficult to find a money changer as they are being replaced by ATMs). It is strongly recommended to book in advance in summer, on Fridays and Sundays, and around public and religious holidays. Of course, you can get a reservation for immediate departure, and on trains other than JHT trains there are usually unreserved seats and a crowd on the platform to claim them. Don’t forget that in main stations there can be a security queue just to enter the station concourse, then another queue for tickets, then another queue for security and document control to get onto the platform. You can’t just swing and jump on it.

Get Around - By car

As in all neighbouring countries (except Cyprus off the south coast of Turkey), driving in Turkey is on the right-hand side of the road.

It is illegal to use a mobile phone while driving. The maximum allowed blood alcohol content for drivers was recently lowered to 0.01 grams per litre, which means that even a pint of beer drunk just before driving will be temporarily confiscated and you will have to pay a fine of over 800 TL (265 €/US$) if you are sober. Seatbelts must be worn in the front and back of the car, but although not wearing a seatbelt carries a fine, this is not always respected by local residents, including the drivers themselves.

Turkish panels are almost identical to those used in Europe, and the differences are often insignificant. Place names on a green background lead to motorways (on which you have to pay a toll unless it is a bypass around or within a city); on a blue background they indicate other motorways; on a white background they indicate country roads (or a road within a city for which the city authorities are responsible) ; and on a brown background, they indicate that the road leads to a historical site, an ancient city, a place of tourist interest or a city outside Turkey (these signs were on a yellow background until a few years ago, so there is still a possibility that there are yellow signs here and there that have not been replaced). Also note that these signs are not always standardised; for example, some of the blue signs may lead to country roads.

Today, most interurban roads avoid the city centres by bypassing them. If you want to enter the centre for shopping, eating or other activities, follow the signs to Şehir Merkezi, which are usually white and no longer accompanied by translations, although you can still spot some old signs that say “Centrum” in addition to Şehir Merkezi. City centres usually have two or more entrances/exits through the ring roads surrounding them.

As Turkey uses the metric system, all distances on signs are in kilometres unless otherwise stated (as are metres, but never miles).

Motorways

Use of the motorways is free of charge, with the exception of the interurban motorways (otoyol). Although the quality and size of Turkish roads varies greatly, the toll motorways are three-lane and very smooth and fast. Motorways are explicitly signposted with separate green signs and road numbers preceded by the letter O. The motorway network currently consists of roads extending west, south and east of Istanbul (to Edirne, Bursa and Ankarares respectively), a network in the central Aegean stretching from Izmir, and another connecting the major city of Adana in the eastern Mediterranean with its neighbouring cities in all directions.

Most motorways no longer have toll booths (two glaring exceptions are the third bridge over the Bosphorus north of Istanbul and the bridge and motorway over the Gulf of İzmit towards Bursa, where you can still pay cash) and instead have lanes that automatically scan the windscreen for RFID stickers (HGS) or tags (OGS) as you enter and exit. HGS stickers are easier to use and allow you to install as many lira as you like. To buy an HGS sticker, look for the service buildings at the main toll stations. They are also available at post offices.

The KGS, a system with prepaid cards, was abolished.

In addition to the distance driven, the motorway toll also depends on the type of vehicle you have. For example, the Edirne-Istanbul motorway – about 225 km and the main access point to Istanbul from Europe – costs 8.50 TL for a car. Recent additions to the network, such as the Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge and the Osman Gazi Bridge (which cross the Bosphorus and the Gulf from İzmit, respectively), tend to be much more expensive per kilometre.

Fuel

Despite neighbouring countries with the richest oil reserves, fuel in Turkey is ridiculously expensive, in fact one of the most expensive in the world due to very high taxes. For example, a litre of unleaded petrol costs just under TRY 5 (€ 2.15 – almost USD 11 per US gallon!). Diesel and LPG are easier on your wallet (and the environment in the case of LPG), but not as drastically.

Petrol stations (benzin istasyonu) are often lined up along the motorways, most (if not all) are open 24 hours a day and accept credit cards (you have to get out of the car and enter the petrol station building to enter your PIN code if you use a credit card). At all these stations you can find unleaded petrol (kurşunsuz), diesel (dizel or motor) and LPG (liquid petroleum gas). In many (if not most) of them you can also find CNG (compressed natural gas, CNG). The exception, however, are the petrol stations in the villages away from the main roads, as they often only offer diesel, which is used to run agricultural machinery. It is advisable to keep your gas tank full when travelling off the main roads. Also, petrol stations on (toll) motorways are less frequent than on other roads, usually once every 40-50 km. Be sure to refuel at the first petrol station you pass (there are signs indicating that you will soon pass one) when the warning sign “Tank empty” is lit.

Biofuels are not common. The closest thing to a biofuel for the occasional driver is sold at some petrol stations affiliated to the national Petrol Ofisi chain under the name of bio-booze. But it is not a biofuel at all: it consists of some bioethanol (2% of the total volume) mixed with pure petrol, which makes up the rest (98%). Biodiesel is still at the experimental stage and is not available on the market.

Repair shops

In all cities there are repair shops, usually grouped in complexes dedicated to self-repair (in Turkish usually somewhat incorrectly called sanayi sitesi or oto sanayi sitesi, meaning “industrial zone” or “self-industrial zone”), located on the outskirts of the cities. And in all cities there are large factories (sales, service, spare parts) that are larger than the sanayi sitesi, called oto plaza.

Rent a car

You can rent a car to travel around Turkey from an international or local car rental company. If you are arriving by plane, you will find car rental counters in the arrival terminals of all airports, such as Istanbul IST Atatürk Airport.

Get Around - By boat

Fast ferries (hızlı feribot) are fast (50-60km/hour) catamaran-like ferries that connect e.g. Istanbul with the other side of the Sea of Marmara. They reduce the journey time considerably. From the Yenikapı pier in Istanbul (southwest of the Blue Mosque), for example, you can get to Bursa-Otogar in two hours, with less than an hour for the boat trip to Yalova. Similar services operate to connect different parts of Istanbul with the Asian part, or to places further away from the Bosphorus. And this type of fast ferry is increasingly used throughout 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, with the ships of the latter line also stopping in all major cities along Turkey’s Black Sea coast. Unfortunately, however, these two routes are only served during the summer months.

On all inhabited Turkish islands, there is at least one daily boat trip in summer to the nearest town or village on the mainland. However, as winter conditions on the seas can be harsh, the frequency of travel decreases considerably due to bad weather.

Perhaps one of the best cruising grounds in the world, Turkey offers thousands of years of history, culture and civilisation in a stunning mountainous setting. The coastline is a mix of wide gulfs, quiet bays, shady beaches, uninhabited islands, small villages and bustling towns. Many of these places are still only accessible by boat. Rare in the Mediterranean, you can still find some solitude 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 is home to some of the most beautiful yachts in the world, known as schooners.

Get Around - By bike

To put it simply, long-distance cycling is not very easy in Turkey, mainly for two reasons: Most of the country is hilly, and dedicated cycle paths are almost non-existent, especially along interurban roads. That said, most coastal towns now have cycle lanes of various shapes and lengths along the coast (though built for leisure rather than serious traffic), and most motorways built in the last decade or so have fairly wide and well-paved verges that can be used as cycle lanes.

If you have already made up your mind and want to try cycling on your trip to Turkey, always stay on the right-hand side of the road as much as possible; avoid riding at night outside towns or lit roads, don’t be surprised by drivers honking their horns and don’t ride on motorways, it’s forbidden. You may prefer country roads with much less traffic, but there is also the problem of free-roaming sheepdogs, which can sometimes be very dangerous. Country roads also have far fewer road signs than motorways, making them a maze where it is easy to get lost even if you are not Turkish and don’t have a detailed map.

Air can be pumped into tyres for free at any petrol station. Bicycle repair shops are rare in cities and often in hard-to-reach places; motorbike repair shops can be tried as an alternative (but they are very reluctant to repair a bicycle if they are busy with customers who have motorbikes).

On the Prince Islands of Istanbul, renting a bicycle is a fun, cheaper and obviously more pet-friendly alternative to renting a horse-drawn carriage. On these islands, the well-paved roads are only used by horse-drawn carriages, bicycles and public service vehicles (such as ambulances, police cars, school buses, rubbish trucks, etc.).

Get Around - By thumb

Almost all drivers have an idea of what the universal hitchhiker sign (“thumb”) means. Do not use any other sign that could be equivalent to a danger signal. In addition to the thumb, it is certainly useful to have a sign with the name of the destination. The waiting time for a lift is usually no more than half an hour, although this varies greatly depending on traffic density (as elsewhere) and region. For example, it usually takes much longer to pull up a trip to Mediterranean Turkey than to the Marmara region. The best places to hitchhike are intersections with traffic lights where the ring roads and the road coming from the city centre cross. Don’t move too far away from the traffic lights so that drivers are slow enough to see you and stop; but stay far enough away from the traffic lights so that you are safely on the side of the road. Do not try to hitchhike on the highways, no one will be slow enough to stop, it is also illegal to enter the highways as a pedestrian. Don’t start hitchhiking before you have left a city, as cars may be going to other parts of the city and not to your destination. Unless you are in a hurry, try to avoid hitchhiking after dark, especially if you are travelling alone.

Even if the drivers only take you along to say a word or two during their long solo ride, you should always be alert and not asleep.

Sometimes you may not find anyone driving directly to your destination. So don’t refuse someone who has stopped to give you a lift – refusing someone who has stopped to give you a lift is rude – unless they drive a few kilometres further and take a road that doesn’t reach your destination at an upcoming turn-off. You may have to change several cars even on a 100-km journey, driving from town to town. However, due to the large number of trucks transporting goods for foreign markets, there may be unexpected long-distance journeys, for example from a town in western Turkey to Ukraine or southern Germany.

Few but some drivers – especially pickup drivers – may ask you for money (“fresh”). Refuse and tell them that if you had money to waste, you would be on a bus and not on the side of the road.

Drivers who remain in this area may point downwards (towards the lane) or in the direction of travel, or flash their lights as they pass to indicate that they would not make a good long-distance drive. Smile and/or wave your hand to show courtesy.

Get Around - On foot

There are two marked long-distance hiking trails in Turkey, one of them is the famous Lycian Way, between Fethiye and Antalya, the other is the Way of Saint Paul, between Antalya and Yalvaç in the north, in the Turkish Lake District. Both are about 500 km long and signposted with painted stones and signs. As the Lycian Way is much older, it offers more opportunities for shopping and staying overnight in the villages along or near its route.

The eastern Black Sea region includes some beautiful and quite long trekking routes among the greenest of the green plateaus, even far above the clouds, and some travel agencies in Turkey’s main cities offer guided trekking tours – including transport – in this region.

Within cities, the main roads and avenues that normally give priority to pedestrians have pedestrian crossings painted white or, less commonly, yellow (zebra crossings). However, for many motorists these are just decorative designs on the pavements, so it is best to cross roads where the traffic lights are. Nevertheless, make sure that all vehicles have stopped, as it is not uncommon for drivers not to stop within the first few seconds of the traffic lights turning red for vehicles. On wide roads, pedestrian overpasses and pedestrian subways are preferable. On narrow main roads, you can cross the road anytime and anywhere during rush hour as cars are in stop-go-stop-go mode due to heavy traffic. Even on narrow streets within residential areas, you do not have to stay on the pavement, but can walk in the middle of the road and then move aside when a car is coming.

Destinations in Turkey

Regions in Turkey

  • Aegean Turkey
    Greek and Roman ruins between the azure sea on one side and silvery olive groves on the other
  • Black Sea Turkey
    Heavily forested mountains that offer great outdoor sports like trekking and rafting
  • Central Anatolia
    Tree-poor central steppes with the national capital, Hittite and Phrygian ruins and the moon-like Cappadocia.
  • Eastern Anatolia
    High and mountainous eastern part with harsh winters
  • Marmara Region
    The most urbanised region with Byzantine and Ottoman monuments in some of the country’s largest cities.
  • Mediterranean Turkey
    Mountains covered with pine forests rising to the right of the highly indented coastline of the crystal clear sea
  • Southeast Anatolia
    Semi-desert Easternmost part of the country

Cities in Turkey

  • Ankara – the capital of Turkey and its second largest city
  • Antalya – the fastest growing city, hub of a number of seaside resorts
  • Bodrum – a trendy coastal town on the southern Aegean Sea that is becoming a popular seasonal playground for Turkish and international holidaymakers, with a citadel, Roman ruins, trendy clubs and a series of villages surrounding the peninsula, each with a different character, from chic to rustic.
  • Edirne – the second capital of the Ottoman Empire
  • Istanbul – the largest city in Turkey, former capital of the Ottoman and Byzantine Empires and the only major city in the world to straddle two continents.
  • Izmir – Turkey’s third largest city and the centre of a number of seaside resorts
  • Konya – a rather large city that is the heart of the mystical Sufi order, the site of Rumi’s tomb, and with elegant Seljuk architecture, all surrounded by vast steppes.
  • Trabzon – the wonderful Sumela Monastery is located just outside the city and is a great base for exploring north-eastern Turkey.
  • Urfa – a city with beautiful architecture and extremely hospitable inhabitants at the gateway to the Eastern world; where Kurdish, Arab and Persian cultures mix.

Other destinations in Turkey

  • Ani – impressive ruins of the medieval Armenian capital in the far east of the country; known as the City of a Thousand Churches
  • Cappadocia – a region in the central highlands known for its unique moonscapes (the “fairy chimneys”), underground cities, rock churches and houses carved out of rock
  • Ephesus – well-preserved ruins of the Roman city on the west coast
  • Gallipoli – site of the Anzac landing in 1915 and many monuments of the First World War
  • Mount Nemrut – a UNESCO World Heritage Site with head statues dedicated to the ancient gods on the summit.
  • Ölüdeniz – incomparable postcard beauty of the “Blue Lagoon”, perhaps the most famous beach in Turkey that you will see on every tourist brochure
  • Pamukkale – “the cotton castle”, a white world of travertines surrounding shallow cascading pools filled with thermal water
  • Sümela – beautiful monastery on the cliffs of a mountain, a must for every trip to the north-east coast
  • Uludağ – a national park with textbook belts of different forest types that vary according to altitude, and the country’s most important winter sports resort

Accommodation & Hotels in Turkey

Accommodation in Turkey ranges from 5-star hotels to simple tents set on a large plateau. Therefore, the prices also vary enormously.

Hotels

There are 5-star hotels in all major cities and tourist resorts, many of which belong to international hotel chains such as Hilton, Sheraton, Ritz-Carlton, Conrad, to name a few. Many of them are concrete blocks, but some, especially those outside the cities, are bungalows with private gardens and swimming pools.

If you want to go on a package holiday to a Mediterranean beach resort, you will certainly find better prices if you book from home rather than in Turkey itself. The difference is considerable, compared to what you would pay if you booked at home, you could pay double if you just go through the resort.

Hostels and guesthouses

Youth hostels are not widespread, there are a few in Istanbul, mainly around Sultanahmet Square where St. Sophia’s Church and the Blue Mosque are located, and even fewer are recognised by Hostelling International (HI, formerly International Youth Hostel Federation, IYHF). However, guesthouses and guesthouses (pansiyon) offer cheaper accommodation than hotels, replacing the need for youth hostels for inexpensive accommodation, regardless of the age of visitors. Please note that pansiyon is the word in Turkish that is also used for small hotels without a star rating, so a place with this name does not automatically mean it must be very cheap (expect up to 50 YTL per day for each person). Bed-and-breakfast rooms also usually fall under the word pansiyon, as most of them offer breakfast (which is not always included in the price, so do your research before deciding whether to stay there).

Unique in the country, Olympos, southwest of Antalya, is known for its guesthouses that welcome visitors in wooden tree houses or shared wooden dormitories.

It is possible to rent an entire house with two rooms, a kitchen, a bathroom and the necessary furniture such as beds, chairs, a table, a cooker, pots, pans, usually a refrigerator and sometimes even a TV. Four or more people can easily be accommodated in these houses, which are called separate hotels and are mainly found in the coastal towns of Marmara and the northern Aegean, which are frequented more by Turkish families than by foreigners. They are usually flats located in a low-rise apartment building. They can be rented for up to 25 YTL per day (not per person, that’s the daily price for the whole house!), depending on the location, the season and the length of your stay (the longer you stay, the less you pay per day).

Öğretmenevi – House of the Teacher

Like the statues of Atatürk and the crescent and star-shaped flags carved into the mountainsides, the öğretmenevi (“House of the Teacher”) is an integral part of the Turkish landscape. These state-run establishments, which exist in almost every city in Turkey, serve as affordable hostels for travelling educators and – since everyone is welcome if there is room – for those travelling on a teacher’s budget (approx. 35TRY/person, WIFI and hot water available, breakfast (Khavalti) 5TRY). For the most part, these guesthouses are dull affairs, 70s concrete boxes usually painted pink and located in some of the less interesting areas of the city. To find the professor’s house in a city, ask for öğretmenevi or use the address search engine at www.ogretmenevim.com.

Agritourism

Recently, Bugday launched a project called TaTuTa (acronym of the first syllables of Tarım-Turizm-Takas: Agriculture-Tourism-Barter [of knowledge]), a kind of WWOOF-ing that connects farmers practising organic or ecological farming with people interested in organic farming. Farmers participating in TaTuTas share a spare room in their house (or a farm building) with visitors who, in return, help them work in their garden.

Camping and RV-camping

There are many private properties on the Turkish coast whose owners rent out their property for campers. These campsites, called kamping in Turkish, have basic facilities such as tap water, toilets, tree shade (which is especially important in the dry and hot summers on the west and south coasts) and some provide electricity for each tent via individual lines. It is not always permitted to pitch a tent inside towns and outside campsites. You should therefore always ask the local administrator (muhtar village chief and/or jandarma gendarme in villages, belediye communities and/or polite local police in towns) if there is a suitable place nearby to pitch your tent. You may pitch your tent in the forest without permission unless the area is protected as a national park, bioreserve, wildlife sanctuary, natural heritage site or because of some other environmental issue. Regardless of whether it is a protected area or not, it is in any case forbidden to light fires in the forest outside designated fireplaces in recreation areas (read “picnic”).

Shops selling camping equipment are available but hard to find as they are located in alleyways, basements of large shopping centres or simply where you least expect to find them. Also, unless you are sure you can get everything you need locally, it is best to pack your bags if you plan to camp. In small shops in non-metropolitan towns, the price of most items on offer is practically negotiable – it is not uncommon for shopkeepers to charge TRY 30 for fuel for the camping cooker when it costs TRY 15 or less in another shop in a nearby town.

Caravan/motorhome parks are not as numerous as they used to be; few, if any, remain from the days when hippies roamed the Turkish streets in their vans – the most famous of which, Ataköy Caravan Park, known to motorhome enthusiasts for its privileged location in the city of Istanbul, has a long history (but there is another in operation a few kilometres away in the western suburbs of the city). However, caravanners can stay at numerous rest areas along the highways and roads, or virtually anywhere they see fit. Filling water tanks and draining waste water seem to be the most important.

Things To See in Turkey

As a general rule, most museums and sites in Turkey’s ancient cities are closed on Mondays, although there are many exceptions to this rule.

Ancient ruins and architectural heritage

At the crossroads of civilisations, there are an impressive number of ancient ruins in all regions of Turkey.

The Hittites, the first indigenous people to rise to found a state in Anatolia – although they were preceded by a certain Çatalhöyük, the oldest settlement found so far in Turkey – have left evidence of their existence on the ruins of Hattuşaş, their capital.

The ancient Greeks and the Romans who followed them left their mark mainly on the Aegean and the Mediterranean, leaving behind the marble ruins of hundreds of cities, temples and monuments. Some have been largely restored and shine with new splendour, such as Ephesus, as well as many others along the Aegean coast that are on the checklist of most travellers to Turkey, and others that are more obscure and off the beaten track, such as Aphrodisia near Denizli and Aizanoi near Kütahya.

Meanwhile, other indigenous peoples, such as the Lycians, carved beautiful tombs – many of which are quite well preserved and can be seen all over Lycia – for their loved ones who had disappeared on the rocky slopes.

Legendary Troy stands as an example of different civilisations literally living on top of each other. While what can be seen today is clearly Hellenistic, the site has its roots as Hittite Wilusa, and was then rebuilt many times by the ancient Greeks.

Perhaps the most unique “architectural” heritage in the country, some of the caves and churches in Cappadocia, carved out of “fairy chimneys” and underground cities (literally!), date back to the first Christians hiding from persecution.

The Romans’ successors, the Byzantines, innovated with more ambitious projects, culminating in the great St. Sophia of Istanbul, built in 537, which was the largest cathedral in the world for almost a thousand years. While one or two itinerant monasteries from this period can be found in almost every region of the country, most of the Byzantine heritage still intact today is in the Marmara region, especially in Istanbul, and in the area around Trabzon in the far northeast, which was the domain of the Empire of Trebizond, a shattered Byzantine state that survived the fall of Constantinople for about ten years.

The Seljuks, the very first Turkish state to be founded in Asia Minor, built most of their monuments – which include large majestic portals and very intricate masonry reminiscent of landmarks in some parts of Asia – in the major centres of the time in eastern and central Anatolia, especially Konya, their capital.

The Ottomans, who saw themselves as a Balkan state until their demise, built most of their monuments in the Balkans and the natural extension of the Balkans into what is now the Turkish-Moroccan region, as did the Byzantines, who inspired the Ottomans in many ways. Most of the earliest Ottoman monuments were built in Bursa, where Byzantine and Seljuk influences are hardly to be found. Later, when the dynasty came to Europe, some of the main monuments in Edirne show a kind of “transitional” and rather experimental style. It was only after the fall of Constantinople that the Ottomans adopted Byzantine architecture almost to scale, with some adaptations. However, Ottoman imperial architecture probably reached its peak not in Istanbul, but in Edirne – in the form of the Selimiye Mosque, the work of Sinan, the great Ottoman master builder of the 16th century.

The 19th century brought back Greek and Roman tastes in architectural styles, so there was a great explosion of neoclassical architecture, which was as fashionable in Turkey as it was in the rest of the world at the time. The Galata side of Istanbul, Izmir (most of which was unfortunately lost in the great fire of 1922) and many towns along the coast, of which Ayvalık is one of the most important and best preserved examples, quickly filled with elegant neoclassical buildings. At the same time, residents of the regions further inland preferred the pleasant, more traditional and less pretentious whitewashed half-timbered houses that make up picturesque towns such as Safranbolu, Beypazarı and Şirince in the north, centre and west of the country respectively. The beautiful and impressive wooden houses in the coastal districts and islands of Istanbul were also built at this time. Other contemporary trends of the time, such as Baroque and Rococo, did not make much headway in Turkey, although there were some experiments in combining them in Islamic architecture, as can be seen in the Ortaköy Mosque on the banks of the Bosphorus and a few others.

The further east you go, the more the landscape changes and so does the architectural heritage. In the remote valleys and hills of eastern Karadeniz and eastern Anatolia are numerous medieval Georgian and Armenian churches and castles, some of which are well preserved, but not all have been so lucky. The Armenian cathedral on Akdamar Island in Lake Van and the medieval castle of Ani are halfway between perfect preservation and total destruction, but both are must-sees if you’ve made your way east. For a change, Southeast Anatolia has more Middle Eastern architecture, with vaulted courtyards and an intense use of yellow stone with very exquisite brickwork. It is best seen in Urfa and especially in nearby Mardin and Midyat.

Being at the crossroads of civilisations also means being the battleground of civilisations more often than not. It is therefore not surprising that so many castles and citadels dot the landscape, both in the cities and in the countryside, on the coasts and inland. Most of the castles built at different times in history are now the main attractions of the towns on which they stand.

The 20th century was not kind to Turkish cities. Due to the pressure of high rates of migration from the countryside to the cities, many historic neighbourhoods were razed to the ground in favour of soulless (and usually boring and ugly) apartment buildings, and the suburbs of the big cities were turned into slums. There is no real jewel in the name of modern architecture in Turkey. Steel and glass skyscrapers, on the other hand, are now slowly and sparsely appearing in the big cities. One example where they are condensing into a skyline is the business district of Istanbul, although this is hardly impressive compared to the major metropolises of the world known for their skyscraper-filled skylines.

Things To Do in Turkey

While Turkey is rightly known for its warm Mediterranean beaches, winter sports, especially skiing, are possible – and even popular – in the mountainous interior between October and April, with a stable snow cover and constant below-freezing temperatures guaranteed between December and March. Some ski resorts further east have a longer snow cover.

The most popular winter resorts are 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 considered one of the places where you can ski in the morning and swim in the warm waters of the Mediterranean along the coast in Antalya in the afternoon, although the period of snow cover in Saklıkent is desperately short, so this does not happen every year.

Food & Drinks in Turkey

Food in Turkey

Turkish cuisine combines Mediterranean, Central Asian, Caucasian and Arab influences and is extremely rich. Beef is the most important (lamb is also common, but pork is very hard to find, although it is not illegal), and aubergines (aubergine), onions, lentils, beans, tomatoes, garlic and cucumbers are the main vegetables. A plethora of spices are also used. The main staples are rice (pilav), bulgur wheat and bread, and dishes are usually cooked in vegetable oil or sometimes butter.

There are many types of speciality restaurants, as most of them do not prepare or serve other types of food. Traditional Turkish restaurants serve meals prepared daily and preserved in a water bath. The meals are located at the entrance so that you can easily see and choose them. Kebapçis are restaurants that specialise in many types of kebab. Some kebab restaurants serve alcohol, others do not. There are subtypes such as ciğerci, Adana kebapçısı or İskender kebapçısı. Fish restaurants usually serve meze (cold dishes with olive oil) and rakı or wine. Dönerci’s are spread all over the country and serve kebab as fast food. Köfeci’s are restaurants that serve meatballs (Köfte) as the main dish. Kokoreçci, midyeci, tantunici, mantıcı, gözlemeci, lahmacuncu, pideci, çiğ köfteci, etsiz çiğ Köfteci are other types of local restaurants in Turkey that specialise in one food.

A full Turkish meal at a kebab restaurant starts with a soup, often made of lentils (mercimek çorbasi), and a series of meze starters, including olives, cheese, pickles and a wide variety of small dishes. The meze can easily be transformed into a complete meal, especially when eaten together with rakı. The main dish is usually meat: a common type of dish and Turkey’s most famous culinary export is kebab (kebap), grilled meat in various forms, including the famous kebab kebab (thin slices of meat scraped from a giant rotating skewer) and şişkebab (meat kebab), and many others. The köfte (meatball) is a variation of the kebab. There are hundreds of different types of köfte throughout Anatolia, but only 10-12 of them are known to residents of the big cities, e.g. İnegöl köfte, Dalyan köfte, sulu köfte, etc.

Mostly you eat at discount prices at kebab stands, which are everywhere in Istanbul and other big cities. For the equivalent of a few dollars, you can get a whole loaf of bread, sliced down the middle and filled with grilled meat, lettuce, onions and tomatoes. For North Americans familiar with kebabs wrapped in pita bread or wraps, look for the word “Dürüm” or “Dürümcü” on the windows of the kebab stands and ask for your kebab to be wrapped in a Dürüm bread or Lavaş, depending on the region.

Vegetarian

Vegetarian restaurants are not common and can only be found in very central areas of big cities and in some tourist resorts. However, all good restaurants offer vegetable dishes and some of the restaurants that offer the traditional “ev yemeği” (“home cooking”) have specialities based on olive oil that have a vegetarian component. A vegetarian would be very happy in the Aegean region, where all kinds of wild herbs are eaten as a main meal, cooked or raw, seasoned with olive oil. But a vegetarian would have real difficulty finding food, especially in the south-eastern region, where a dish without meat is not considered a dish. This is where supermarkets can help by stocking their shelves with tinned vegetables or even dishes cooked in olive oil and tinned fresh fruit. If you are vegetarian and visiting the rural areas of the south-east region, it is best to take your tinned food with you, as there are no supermarkets to save you.

Desserts

Some Turkish desserts are modelled on the sweet Arabic desserts with nuts: famous dishes are baklava, a puff pastry made of finely ground nuts and phyllo dough dipped in honey and spices, and Turkish Delight (lokum), a gummy confection made of rose water and sugar. There are also many other types of desserts prepared mainly with milk, such as kazandibi, keşkül, muhallebi, sütlaç, tavuk göğsü, güllaç, etc.

Breakfast

Turkish breakfast usually consists of çay (tea), bread, olives, feta cheese, tomatoes, cucumbers and sometimes spreads like honey and jam. This can become very monotonous after a while. A good alternative to try (if you have the chance) is menemen: a Turkish version of scrambled eggs/omelette. Red pepper, onion, garlic and tomato are combined with eggs. The food is cooked (and served) in a clay dish in the traditional way. Try spicing it up with a little chilli and make sure you also use plenty of bread for a hot and nutritious breakfast. Bread is ubiquitous in Turkey. You will be presented with a large basket of crusty bread at every meal.

The ubiquitous simit (also called gevrek in some Aegean cities like Izmir), which resembles a bagel but thinner, crispier and with toasted sesame seeds everywhere, is available in street vendor carts in virtually every central district of every city, at any hour except late at night. Perhaps with the addition of Turkish feta (beyaz peynir) or cream cheese (krem peynir or karper), a few imitations make a very economical topping and breakfast (as each costs about 0.75 TL), or even lunch on the go.

Drinks in Turkey

Turkish coffee (kahve), served in small cups, is strong and tasty, but be careful not to drink the muddy grounds at the bottom of the cup. It is very different from the so-called Turkish coffees sold abroad. Sade kahve is served black, while the şekerli, orta şekerli and çok şekerli coffees will put a little, a little or a lot of sugar in your cup.

Instant coffees, cappuccinos and espressos are becoming more popular every day and are available in many different flavours.

Although coffee is an important part of the national culture, tea (çay) is also very popular and in fact the common drink of choice. Most Turks are heavy tea drinkers in their daily lives. It was only in the 1930s that tea came on the scene and quickly prevailed over coffee as Yemen, then Turkey’s traditional supplier, was cut off from the rest of the Ottoman Empire in the early 20th century. The first tea plants took root in East Karadeniz after some attempts to grow tea in the country were unsuccessful due to protectionist economic policies after the First World War. Although not typical of the region and rather touristy, you should try the special apple tea (elma çayı) or sage tea (adaçayı, literally island tea) from Turkey.

Ayran is a popular water-yoghurt drink, reminiscent of Finnish/Russian “buttermilk” or Indian “lassi”, but always served without sugar (and in fact usually with a little salt added). If you are travelling by bus in the Taurus Mountains, ask for “köpüklü ayaran” or “yayık ayaranı”, a variant of this popular local drink.

Boza is a cold, thick, traditional drink native to Central Asia, but also common in several Balkan countries. It is a fermented bulgur (a type of wheat) to which sugar and water are added. [www.vefa.com.tr/index.php?dil=en Vefa Bozacisi] is the best known and most traditional boza producer in Istanbul. In Ankara, you can get excellent boza from Akman Boza Salonu in the old town of Ulus. On the shelves of many supermarkets you can also find boza, especially in winter, packaged in one-litre PET bottles. However, these bottled bozas do not have the bitterness and consistency of traditional boza, they are sweeter and less dense.

Sahlep (or salep) is another traditional hot drink made from milk, orchid root and sugar, typically decorated with cinnamon. It is especially favoured in winter and can be found in cafés and pastry shops (pastane) and can easily be confused with cappuccino. You can also find instant sahlep in many supermarkets, sold under the name Hazır Sahlep.

Red poppy syrup is one of the traditional Turkish drinks made naturally from red poppy flowers, water and sugar. Bozcaada is famous for its red poppy syrup.

International brands of colasodas and fruit juice drinks are readily available and commonly consumed alongside some local brands. Please note that soda in Turkish means mineral water, while what is called soda in English is called gazoz or sade gazoz in Turkish.

While a significant proportion of Turks are practising Muslims, alcoholic beverages are legal, widely available and much appreciated by the local population. The local firewater of choice is Rakı, an aniseed-flavoured liqueur double-distilled from fermented grape skins. It is usually mixed with water and drunk with another glass of ice water added. You can order a “tek” (single) or a “duble” (double) to indicate the amount of rakı in your glass. Try it out, but don’t overdo it because it is very effective. Remember not to mix it with anything else. Supermarkets have a wide range of different types. Mey and Efe Rakı are two of the biggest producers. Only connoisseurs know which type is the best. Yeni Rakı, which is a decent type for distribution and consumption wıdest.

As for Turkish wines, they are as good as the local grape varieties. Kalecik Karası from Ankara, Karasakız from Bozcaada, Öküzgözü from Elmalı, Boğazkere from Diyarbakır are among the best 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, the sweet fruit wines of Şirince near Izmir are worth tasting. A special sweet red wine to try during your stay is Talay Kuntra.

There are two big Turkish breweries. Efes and Tekel Birası are two very well-known lagers. There are also local breweries such as Tuborg, Miller, Heineken and Carlsberg.

Money & Shopping in Turkey

Money In Turkey

In 2005, Turkey lost six zeros in its currency, so that each lira after 2005 is worth one million lira before 2005 (or “old lira”). During the transition period between 2005 and 2009, the currency was briefly officially called the new lira (yeni lira). Since 1 January 2009, a new series of banknotes and coins has been introduced and the currency is again simply called lira (officially Turkish lira, Türk Lirası, locally symbolised TL, or more rarely with the new symbol ₺; don’t be confused if you see the currency symbolised YTL or ytl, meaning yeni lira). The ISO 4217 code is TRY, although few people except accountants know it in the country. The lira is divided into 100 kuruş (kr abbreviated). Since 1 January 2010, banknotes and coins issued before 2009 (those with yeni liras and yeni kuruş) are no longer legal tender, but can be exchanged at certain banks until 31 December 2019.

There is a new symbol for the Turkish lira , created by the Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey in 2012 after a national competition. However, like most implementations by the current AKP-led government, this symbol has proved controversial and divisive in Turkish society.

The banknotes are in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 and 200 TL. The 5, 10, 25 and 50 kuruşes coins are legal tender. There is also a 1 TL coin.

Currency exchange

There are legal exchange offices in every city and almost every municipality. Banks also exchange money, but they are not worth the trouble as they are usually overcrowded and do not offer better rates than exchange offices. You can see the rates offered by an office on the (usually electronic) signs located near its door. The euro and the US dollar are the most useful currencies, but sterling (Bank of England notes only, not Scottish or Northern Irish notes), Swiss francs, Japanese yen, Saudi riyal and a number of other currencies are not very difficult to change.

It is important to remember that most money changers only accept banknotes, so it can be very difficult to change foreign coins. In some places where there is a valid explanation, rarer currencies can be exchanged, for example Australian dollars in Çanakkale, where the grandchildren of the Anzacs gather every year to commemorate their grandfathers, or in Kaş, which is just opposite the Greek island of Kastelorizo, which in turn has a large diaspora in Australia. Generally speaking, if a place attracts many visitors from one country, it is possible to exchange that country’s currency there.

Tourist-oriented industries in the cities, as well as shops where large amounts of money change hands, such as supermarkets, usually accept foreign currency in most parts of the country (usually limited to the euro and the US dollar), but the rates they accept are usually somewhat lower than those in exchange offices. Ask first if they accept foreign currency.

Credit cards and ATMs

Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted, American Express much less so. All credit card users must enter their PIN code when using their card. Holders of older magnetic cards are exempt, but remember that unlike elsewhere in Europe, vendors have the right to ask you to present a valid photo ID to confirm that you are the owner of the card. ATMs are scattered throughout the cities, concentrated in central areas. It is possible to withdraw Turkish lira (and rarely foreign currency) from these machines using your foreign card. Every major city has at least one ATM.

ATMs ask you to give instructions in English or Turkish (and sometimes in other languages) as soon as you insert a foreign card (or a Turkish card that is not that of the operating bank). When you withdraw money from ATMs, if the ATM in question does not belong to the bank where you already have an account, it takes a certain percentage (usually 1%) of what you withdraw from your account each time. This percentage is higher for early withdrawals with your credit card.

No institution charges an additional commission for the use of a credit card.

Tipping

In general, tipping is not considered obligatory. However, it is very common to tip 5-10% in restaurants if you are satisfied with the service. In upscale restaurants, a tip of 10-15% is common. It is NOT possible to add the tip to the credit card bill. It is very common for Turks to pay the bill with a credit card and leave the tip in cash or coins. Most waiters will return your money in coins if possible, as Turks do not like to carry coins and usually leave them at the table.

Taxi drivers do not expect a tip, but it is customary to give them change. If you insist on getting exact change, ask para üstü? (pronounced “pah-rah oos-too”, which means “change”). The driver will be reluctant to give it back to you at first, but you will eventually manage.

If you are lucky enough to try a Turkish bath, it is customary to tip 15% of the total amount and divide it among all participants. This is an important point to bear in mind when tipping in Turkey and will ensure that your experience is smooth and enjoyable.

Supermarket cashiers usually round up the total amount to the nearest 5 kuruş when you pay in cash (but the exact amount is deducted when you pay by credit card). This is not a type of involuntary tipping, as the 2-3-4 kuruşes do not go into their pockets. It is simply because they are not sufficiently stocked with 1 kuruş coins, as these are very rare in circulation. So don’t be surprised if the change you get is a few kuruşes less than what the electronic cash register board tells you. It is perfectly normal to pay the exact amount if you have a sufficient number of 1 kuruş coins.

Bargaining

In Turkey, negotiating is a must. You can negotiate anywhere that doesn’t seem too luxurious: shops, hotels, bus company offices, etc. During negotiations, don’t show yourself as impressed and interested, and be patient. As foreigners (especially from the West) are not expected to be good negotiators, sellers are quick to reject any attempt at negotiation (or at least look like it), but be patient and wait, the price will come down! (Remember that even if the negotiation attempt is successful, if you take your credit card out of your wallet instead of cash, the agreed price may go up again, but probably to a lower level than the original).

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 window or entrance of shops, only there you can get a VAT refund. Don’t forget to take the necessary documents from the shop that will allow you to get the VAT back when you leave Turkey.

Although Turkey has a customs union with the European Union for certain goods, unlike the situation in the EU, there is currently no initiative to abolish duty-free shops at airports.

What to buy?

Besides the classic tourist souvenirs like postcards and trinkets, here are some examples of what you can bring back from Turkey.

  • Leather clothing – Turkey is the largest leather producer in the world, so leather clothing is cheaper than elsewhere. Many shops in the Laleli, Beyazıt, Mahmutpaşa neighbourhoods of Istanbul (around the tram line that runs through Sultanahmet Square) specialise in leather.
  • Rugs and Kilims – Many regions of Turkey produce handmade kilims and rugs. Although the symbols and figures vary depending on the region where the rug is made, they are generally symbolic expressions based on ancient Anatolian religions and/or Turkish nomadic life that developed around shamanic beliefs over 1000 years ago. Shops specialising in handmade rugs and kilims can be found in all major cities, tourist areas and the Sultanahmet region.

You really can’t go anywhere in Turkey without someone trying to sell you a carpet. People approach you on the street, engage you in a friendly little conversation about where you’re from, how you like Turkey, and ask you: “Would you like to come with me to my uncle’s shop? It’s just around the corner and they have the best authentic kilims”. It can be irritating to be let go, but remember that a big part of these people’s economy comes from tourists’ wallets, so you can’t blame them for trying.

  • Silk – dresses and scarves. Although they are available in many parts of the country, silk lovers should travel to Bursa and learn the basics of haggling beforehand.
  • Earthenware – Cappadocian handmade pottery (amphorae, old-fashioned plates, flower pots, etc.) is made from local salted clay. The salinity of the clay, thanks to the salt spray produced by the Salt Lake – the second largest lake in Turkey – in the heart of Central Anatolia, makes the local pottery of the highest quality. In some towns in Cappadocia, it is possible to see or even experience the making of these artefacts in designated workshops. The classic Ottoman patterned tiles produced in Kütahya are also famous.
  • Turkish coffee and Turkish lokumas – If you like them during your trip to Turkey, don’t forget to take some packets home. They are available everywhere.
  • Honey – The pine honey (çam balı) from Marmaris is famous and has a much more distinctive taste and consistency than ordinary flower honey. Although it is not easy to come by, if you can find it, don’t miss the honey from the Macahel Valley, which is made from the flowers of a semi-deciduous temperate forest that is almost completely out of human reach, in the far northeast of the Black Sea region.
  • Chestnut dessert – Made from syrup and chestnuts grown in the foothills of Mount Uludağ, chestnut dessert (kestane şekeri) is a famous and delicious product from Bursa. There are many variations, e.g. covered with chocolate. Chestnut-based desserts are also available elsewhere, but they are relatively more expensive and in smaller packages.
  • Souvenirs made from scum – Despite its name meaning “sea foam”, which it resembles, scum (lületaşı) is only mined in one place in the world: in the landlocked province of Eskişehir in the extreme northwest of the Central Anatolia region. This rock, which looks like gypsum at first glance, is carved into smoking pipes and cigarette holders. It has a soft, creamy texture and makes an excellent decorative object. Available in selected shops in Eskişehir.
  • Castilian soap (olive oil) – Natural, a silky feeling on the skin and a warm Mediterranean atmosphere in your bathroom. Absolutely cheaper than in Northern and Western Europe. The street markets of the Aegean region and the southern Marmara region are full of olive oil soap, almost all handmade. Even some elderly people in the Aegean region make their Castilian soap in the traditional way: during or shortly after the olive harvest, neighbours gather in yards around large wood-fired cauldrons, and then the wash extracted from the wood ash is added to the hot water-olive oil mixture. Don’t forget that supermarkets in the Aegean region usually only sell industrial soaps made from tallow and laced with chemicals. In the towns of the Aegean region, you can find natural soap with olive oil in specialised olive and olive oil shops. Some of these shops even offer organic soaps: made from organic olive oil and sometimes with the addition of organic essential oils.
  • Other soaps that are unique to Turkey are: Laurel soaps (defne sabunu), produced mainly in Antakya (Antioch), Isparta soaps, enriched with rose oil and produced in abundance in the Isparta region, and bıttım sabunu, a soap made from the seed oil of a local variety of the pistachio tree, native to the mountains of the south-eastern region. In Edirne, soaps are made in the form of various fruits. They are not used for their lather but make a good assortment, when different “fruits” are placed in a basket on a table, they also fill the air with their sweet fragrance.
  • Olive-based products, apart from soap – olive oil-based shampoos, olive oil-based colognes and zeyşe, an abbreviation of the first syllables of zeytin şekeri, a dessert similar to chestnut desserts but made from olives, are other olive-based products to try.

WARNING: Bringing an antique (defined as over 100 years old) out of Turkey is subject to strict restrictions or, in many cases, prohibited. If someone offers to sell you an antique, they are either a liar trying to sell cheap imitations or they are committing a crime in which you are an accomplice if you buy the object.

Festivals & Holidays in Turkey

The informed traveler should bear in mind that when traveling to, within, or around Turkey, multiple holidays must be observed as travel delays, traffic congestion, accommodation reservations, and crowded meeting facilities may occur. Banks, offices, and shops are closed on official holidays and traffic increases on all subsequent holidays, so do your research before you go. Don’t be discouraged by these holidays, it’s not that difficult and often very interesting to travel to Turkey on holiday, just plan as much as you can.

  • 1 January: New Year’s Day (Yılbaşı)
  • 23 April: National Sovereignty and Children’s Day (Ulusal Egemenlik ve Çocuk Bayramı) – Anniversary of the founding of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey.
  • 1 May: Labour and Solidarity Day (Emek ve Dayanışma Günü, unofficially also İşçi Bayramı, i.e. Labour Day) was banned as a public holiday for almost 40 years and was only reinstated as a bank holiday in 2009, as it usually degenerated into violence in previous years. Travellers are advised to be careful not to walk into the middle of a May Day parade or rally.
  • 19 May: Atatürk Memorial Day and Youth and Sports Holiday (Atatürk‘ü Anma Gençlik ve Spor Bayramı) – Atatürk’s arrival in Samsun and the beginning of the War of Independence.
  • 30 August: Victory Day (Zafer Bayramı) – Celebration of the end of the war for Turkish independence over the invading forces. A great day of the armed forces and demonstration of military might through huge military parades.
  • 29 October: Republic Day (Cumhuriyet Bayramı or Ekim Yirmidokuz) is the anniversary of the proclamation of the Turkish Republic. If it falls on a Thursday, for example, you should include Friday and the weekend in your travel plans. 29 October is the official end of the tourist season in many seaside resorts in Mediterranean Turkey and there is usually a big party in the town squares.
  • 10 November, 09:05 – From 09:05, the moment Atatürk, the founder of the Turkish Republic, died in 1938 at Dolmabahçe Palace in Istanbul, traffic normally stops and sirens sound for two minutes. This moment is officially observed throughout the country, but shops and official offices are not closed on this day. However, don’t be surprised if you are on the street, hear a loud bang and suddenly people and traffic on the pavements and streets stop for a moment of silence in honour of this event.

Religious holidays

Ramadan (Ramazan in Turkish) is a month-long period of fasting, prayer and celebration during which devout Muslims do not drink or eat anything, not even water, from sunrise to sunset. Shops, banks and official offices are not closed during this time. In some parts of Turkey, such as. in most parts of the interior and east of the country, as residents are more conservative than in the rest of the country, it is considered in bad taste to eat snacks or drink lemonade in public places or on transport in front of residents – to be on the safe side, Look at yourself, how people behave – but restaurants are usually open and there is no problem eating as usual, although some restaurant owners take the opportunity to take a much-needed holiday (or do some renovation work) and close their establishment completely for 30 days. However, you are unlikely to see a closed pub in the major cities, central districts and tourist resorts in western and southern Turkey. At sunset, after a call to prayer and a cannon shot, fasting observers immediately sit down for iftar, the first meal of the day. Banks, shops and official places are NOT closed during this time.

During Ramadan, many communities set up tent-like structures in the main squares of cities specifically for the needy, poor, elderly or disabled, and also provide passers-by with hot meals during sunset (iftar) for free (a bit like soup kitchens serving full meals instead). Iftar is a form of charity that is very rewarding, especially when it involves feeding a needy person. It was first practised for this purpose by the Prophet Muhammad when Islam was introduced. Travellers are welcome but should not avail themselves of it throughout the fasting period just because it is free.

Immediately after Ramazan is Eid-ul-Fitr, or the three-day bank holidays Ramazan Bayramı, also known as Şeker Bayramı (i.e. “sugar” or more accurately “sweets festival”), during which banks, offices and shops are closed and there is a lot of travelling. However, many restaurants, cafés and bars will be open.

Kurban Bayrami (pronounced koor-BAHN bahy-rah-muh) in Turkish, (Eid el-Adha in Arabic) or Feast of Sacrifice is the most important Islamic religious holiday of the year. It lasts several days and is a public holiday in Turkey. During this time, almost everything will be closed (however, many restaurants, cafés, bars and some small shops will be open). Kurban Bayrami is also the time of the annual pilgrimage (Hajj) to Mecca, so there is a lot of national and international travel in Turkey at this time. If you are in a small town or village, you can even watch the slaughter of an animal, usually a goat but sometimes a cow, in a public square. In recent years, the Turkish government has taken repressive measures against these unofficial culls, so they are not as common as they used to be.

The dates of these religious holidays change according to the Muslim lunar calendar and therefore take place 10-11 days (the exact difference between the Gregorian and lunar calendars is 10 days and 21 hours) earlier each year. According to this calendar,

  • Şeker/Ramazan Bayramı
  • Kurban Bayramı continues for four days

During the two religious holidays, many (but not all) cities offer free public transport (note, however, that this does not apply to private minibuses, dolmuşes, taxis or intercity buses). This depends on the place and time. For example, Istanbul Public Transport offered free transport on Eid el-Fitr 2008, but not on Eid el-Adha 2008, where passengers had to pay a reduced fare. In some years everything was free on the two holidays, in others there were no discounts. To be sure, check whether or not other passengers are using a ticket or token.

Traditions & Customs in Turkey

Things to do

Turks are a very friendly, polite and hospitable people, sometimes to excess.

  • If you are invited to a Turkish home, be sure to bring a gift. Anything is fine, from flowers to chocolates to something representative of your country (but no wine or other alcoholic beverages if you are just getting to know the host or if you do not know him or her well enough, as many Turks do not drink alcoholic beverages for religious or other reasons and it would therefore be considered an inappropriate gift). When you arrive at the house, take your shoes off in front of or just inside the door, unless the owner specifically allows you to leave them on. Even then, it may be more polite to take your shoes off. And if you really want people to respect you, thank your host for inviting you and compliment him or her. Once you have entered the house, don’t ask for anything, because they will surely give it to you. The host will make you feel at home, so don’t take advantage of their kindness.
  • In Turkey, people respect the elderly. For example, on buses, trams, metros and other public transport, young people will always offer you a seat if you are an elderly person, a disabled person, a pregnant woman or if you have children with you.
  • It is respectful to bow slightly (not completely) when greeting an older person or a person in a position of authority.
  • Try to use a few phrases in Turkish. They will help you if you try and there is no reason to be ashamed. They know that Turkish is very difficult for foreigners and will not make fun of your mistakes at all; on the contrary, they will be happy to try, even if they don’t always understand your pronunciation!

Things to avoid

Turks understand that visitors are generally ignorant of Turkish culture and customs and tend to tolerate foreigners’ mistakes in this regard. However, there are some that meet with general disapproval and these should be avoided at all costs:

Politics:

  • Turks generally have very strong nationalistic views and would consider any criticism of their country and any statement or attitude insulting the Turkish flag, the Republic and Atatürk – the founding father of the Republic – as very offensive and more or less hostile. To avoid falling out of favour with your hosts, it is advisable to only praise the country and not mention anything negative about it.
  • Do not mention the Armenian genocide, Kurdish separatism and the Cyprus problem. These are extremely sensitive issues and should be avoided at all costs. Turkish society has a very emotional approach to these issues.

Symbols

  • Be respectful of the Turkish anthem. Do not make fun of or imitate the Turkish anthem, because Turks are extremely proud and sensitive towards their national symbols and will be very offended.
  • Be respectful of the Turkish flag. Do not put it on places where people are sitting or standing, do not pull it, do not crumple it, do not defile it, do not use it as a dress or uniform. Not only will Turks be very offended, but desecrating the Turkish flag is a punishable offence. The flag is extremely important in Turkey and is highly respected.

Religion:

  • Turkey is a predominantly Muslim, albeit secular, country and although one can see varying degrees of Islamic practice in Turkey, with most Turks favouring a liberal form of Islam, it is extremely impolite to insult or ridicule some of its traditions and care should be taken not to speak ill of the Islamic religion. Regarding the call to prayer, which is read out 5 times a day by speakers at the many mosques in Turkey. Do not mock or imitate these calls, because Turks are extremely proud and sensitive to their heritage and culture and will be very offended.

Violation of customs and social manners :

  • Do not attempt to shake hands with a devout (i.e. veiled) Muslim woman unless she offers her hand first, and with a devout Muslim man (often recognisable by his cap and beard) unless he offers his hand first.
  • Do not blow your nose during meals, even discreetly. This is considered extremely rude.
  • Do not pick your teeth during meals, even discreetly. This is considered extremely rude.
  • Do not put your feet up when you sit down and try not to show the soles of your feet to anyone. This is considered rude.
  • Do not point your finger at anyone, even discreetly. This is considered rude.
  • Do not chew gum during conversation or at public events. This is considered extremely rude.
  • Do not touch anyone without permission. This is considered extremely rude.
  • Do not agree to kiss or slap someone, especially in formal situations and occasions and with someone you have just met and/or do not know well enough. This is considered very rude.
  • Do not use swear words during conversation or when interacting with each other in public or even among friends. This is considered extremely rude.
  • Public drunkenness (especially the loud and obnoxious variety) is certainly not appreciated and is frowned upon, especially in the more conservative parts of the country. Drunk tourists can also attract the attention of pickpockets. However, drunkenness is absolutely not tolerated, especially by the police. If it is accompanied by physical aggression towards other people, it can result in a fine, and if it is repeated, a more severe fine and/or a visit to the police station can result (if you are a tourist, you can be expelled from the country).
  • Certain gestures that are common in the Western world are considered clumsy expressions in this culture. People tend to be tolerant when they can see that you are a stranger. They know you probably do it unconsciously, but if you take the time to notice this, you will have no 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 in the Turkish psyche has connotations that relate to homosexuality. Avoid clicking your tongue. Some people do it unconsciously at the beginning of a sentence. It is a gesture of rejection. The gesture of “grabbing one’s nose”, which consists of making a fist and placing the thumb between the index and middle fingers, is also considered the equivalent of the middle finger in Turkey.

Other points to consider

  • Public displays of affection in big cities and tourist destinations are tolerated but may attract public attention. In more rural areas, this practice is frowned upon and should be avoided. Gay and lesbian travellers should avoid any outward display of affection as this may lead to unnecessary public stares. However, open displays of affection, regardless of sexual orientation, are considered inappropriate.
  • Avoid shouting or speaking loudly in public. Speaking loudly is generally considered rude, especially on public transport. Talking on a mobile phone on public transport is not considered rude, but normal, unless the conversation is too “private”.
  • It is not that often that Turks smile. Avoid smiling at a stranger because if you do, they will most likely not respond to you in the same way and may think you are strange or mentally challenged. Smiling in Turkey towards strangers in public is not appropriate and is considered inappropriate. Smiling is traditionally reserved for family and friends; smiling at a stranger is considered offensive as they will either think you are making fun of them or that there is something wrong with their clothes or hair. Furthermore, an automatic “Western smile” is widely seen as insincere, in the sense of “you don’t really mean it”.
  • Most Turkish drivers do not respect pedestrian crossings, so be alert when crossing the road.

Mosques

Due to religious traditions, all women must wear a headscarf and are not allowed to wear miniskirts or shorts when entering a mosque (or church and synagogue). The same applies to the tombs of Muslim saints, unless the tomb is officially called a “museum”. If you do not have a scarf or shawl to wear over your head, you can borrow one at the entrance. However, the rule about wearing a headscarf has been relaxed a bit lately, especially in the big mosques of Istanbul where it is not uncommon to see a female tourist. In these mosques, no one is admonished for their dress or lack of headscarf. Even if you have to wear a headscarf, don’t worry about wearing it properly, just place it on the crown of your head (you can wear it under your chin or behind your neck so it doesn’t slip), which is quite sufficient.

Also, men are required to wear trousers and not shorts when entering a mosque (or church and synagogue), but nowadays no one is warned about their clothing (at least in the big cities). In more rural areas, you must follow all the traditional procedures for entering a mosque.

During prayer time, worshippers line up in the front rows of the mosques, staying at the back and trying not to make any noise. During the Friday noon prayer, which is the busiest, you may be asked to leave the mosque. Don’t take it personally, it’s because the mosque will be very crowded, there just isn’t enough room for worshippers and tourists. You can go back once the worshippers are outside.

Unlike some other Middle Eastern cultures, in Turkish culture it is frowned upon to eat, drink, smoke (which is strictly forbidden), speak or laugh loudly, sleep or just lie down, even sit on the floor inside mosques. Public displays of affection are definitely taboo.

All shoes must be removed before entering a mosque. There are offices for shoes inside mosques, but you can keep them in your hand during your visit (a plastic bag used only for this purpose would be helpful). Some mosques have safes with locks instead of shoe lockers.

There are “official” opening hours at the entrances of the most visited mosques, which are usually shorter than those of the mosque, but they don’t mean much. You can visit a mosque as long as its doors are open.

Despite the few tourists who do not follow the dress code, it is preferable to dress conservatively and follow all traditional procedures when entering mosques, tombs and other places of worship; not only because it is mandatory, but also as a sign of respect.

Gay and lesbian travelers

Turkey is considered quite safe for gay and lesbian travelers, and violence against homosexuals is quite rare. There are no laws against homosexuality in Turkey, but homosexual relationships are not recognized by the government, and openly revealing your orientation is likely to attract attention and whispers.

Culture Of Turkey

Turkey has a very diverse culture, which is a mixture of various elements of Turkish, Anatolian, Ottoman (which was itself a continuation of Greco-Roman and Islamic culture) and Western culture and traditions, which began with the westernisation of the Ottoman Empire and continues to this day. This intermingling came about through the meeting of the Turks and their culture with those of the peoples who were on their way when they migrated westwards from Central Asia. Turkish culture is the result of efforts to become a “modern” Western state while preserving traditional religious and historical values.

Art

Turkish painting in the Western sense developed actively from the middle of the nineteenth century. The very first painting courses were established in 1793 at what is now Istanbul Technical University (then the Imperial Military Engineering School), mainly for technical purposes. At the end of the nineteenth century, the human figure in the Western sense became established in Turkish painting, especially with Osman Hamdi Bey. Impressionism, as one of the contemporary trends, appeared later with Halil Paşa.

The young Turkish artists sent to Europe in 1926 returned inspired by contemporary currents such as Fauvism, Cubism and even Expressionism, which are still very influential in Europe. The subsequent “Group D” of artists, led by Abidin Dino, Cemal Tollu, Fikret Mualla, Fahrünnisa Zeid, Bedri Rahmi Eyüboğlu, Adnan Çoker and Burhan Doğançay, introduced some of the trends that lasted in the West for more than three decades. Other important movements in Turkish painting were the “Yeniler Grubu” (Newcomer Group) of the late 1930s, the “On’lar Grubu” (Group of Ten) of the 1940s, the “Yeni Dal Grubu” (New Branch Group) of the 1950s and the “Siyah Kalem Grubu” (Black Pencil Group) of the 1960s.

Turkish music and literature are examples of a mixture of cultural influences. The interaction between the Ottoman Empire and the Islamic world, as well as Europe, has contributed to a mixture of Turkish, Islamic and European traditions in modern Turkish music and literature. Turkish literature was heavily influenced by Persian and Arabic literature during most of the Ottoman period. The Tanzimat reforms introduced previously unknown Western genres, especially the novel and the short story. Many writers of the Tanzimat period wrote in several genres simultaneously: for example, the poet Nâmık Kemal also wrote the important novel İntibâh(Awakening) in 1876, while the journalist Şinasi famously wrote the first modern Turkish play, the one-act comedy “Şair Evlenmesi” (The Poet’s Wedding) in 1860. Most of the roots of modern Turkish literature were formed between the years 1896 and 1923. Broadly speaking, there were three main literary movements during this period: the Edebiyyât-ı Cedîde Movement (New Literature), the Fecr-i Âtî Movement (Dawn of the Future) and the Millî Edebiyyât Movement (National Literature). The first radical step of innovation in 20th century Turkish poetry was taken by Nâzım Hikmet, who introduced the style of free verse. Another revolution in Turkish poetry took place in 1941 with the Garip movement. The blending of cultural influences in Turkey is dramatised, for example, in the form of the “new symbols of the clash and intertwining of cultures” in the novels of Orhan Pamuk, winner of the 2006 Nobel Prize for Literature.

Turkey has a very diverse folk dance culture. The hora is performed in Eastern Thrace; the zeybek in the Aegean region, south of Marmara and in Central-Eastern Anatolia; the teke in the Western Mediterranean region ; Kaşık Oyunları and Karşılama in West-Central Anatolia, in the Western Black Sea region, south of Marmara and in the Eastern Mediterranean region; horon in the Central and Eastern Black Sea region; halay in Eastern Anatolia and in the Central Anatolia region; and bar and lezginka in Northeastern Anatolia.

Architecture

Seljuk architecture combined the elements and features of Central Asian Turkish architecture with those of Persian, Arab, Armenian and Byzantine architecture. The transition from Seljuk to Ottoman architecture can be seen most clearly in Bursa, which was the capital of the Ottoman state between 1335 and 1413. After the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople (Istanbul) in 1453, Ottoman architecture was heavily influenced by Byzantine architecture. The Topkapı Istanbul Palace is one of the most famous examples of classical Ottoman architecture and was the main residence of the Ottoman sultans for about 400 years. Mimar Sinan (c. 1489-1588) was the most important architect of the classical period of Ottoman architecture. He was the chief architect of at least 374 buildings constructed in the 16th century in various provinces of the Ottoman Empire.

From the 18th century onwards, Turkish architecture was increasingly influenced by European styles, which is particularly evident in the buildings of the Tanzimat era in Istanbul such as the Dolmabahçe, Çırağan, Feriye, Beylerbeyi, Küçüksu, Ihlamur and Yıldız palaces, all designed by members of the Ottoman court architect family Balyan. The Ottoman seaside houses (yalı) on the Bosphorus also reflect the fusion of classical Ottoman and European architectural styles in the above-mentioned period. The first national architectural movement (Birinci Ulusal Mimarlık Akımı) at the beginning of the 20th century attempted to create a new architecture based on motifs from Seljuk and Ottoman architecture.

The movement was also called Turkish Neoclassicism or National Architectural Renaissance. The most important architects of this movement were Vedat Tek (1873-1942), Mimar Kemaleddin Bey (1870-1927), Arif Hikmet Koyunoğlu (1888-1982) and Giulio Mongeri (1873-1953). The most notable buildings of this period are the Istanbul Grand Post Office (1905-1909), the Tayyare Apartments (1919-1922), the 4th. Istanbul Vakıf Han (1911-1926), the Museum of Art and Sculpture (1927-1930), the Ankara Museum of Ethnology (1925-1928), the first headquarters of Ziraat Bank in Ankara (1925-1929), the first headquarters of Türkiye İş Bankası in Ankara (1926-1929), the Bebek Mosque and the Kamer Hatun Mosque.

Sport

The most popular sport in Turkey is club football (football). Galatasaray won the UEFA Cup and the UEFA Super Cup in 2000. The Turkish national football team finished 3rd in the 2002 FIFA World Cup and the 2003 FIFA Confederations Cup, winning bronze. At UEFA Euro 2008, the team reached the semi-finals (3rd place on goal difference).

Other common sports such as basketball and volleyball are also popular. The Turkish men’s national basketball team finished second and won silver medals at the 2010 FIBA World Cup and the 2001 EuroBasket, both hosted by Turkey. They also won two gold medals (1987 and 2013), one silver medal (1971) and three bronze medals (1967, 1983 and 2009) at the Mediterranean Games. Turkish basketball club Anadolu Efes S.K. won the Korać FIBA Cup in 1995-96, finished 2nd in the Saporta FIBA Cup in 1992-93, and qualified for the Euroleague and Superleague Final Four in 2000 and 2001, where they finished 3rd respectively. Another Turkish basketball club, Beşiktaş, won the FIBA EuroChallenge in 2011-12, while Galatasaray won the Eurocup in 2015-16 and Fenerbahçe finished second in the Euroleague in 2015-16. The 2013-14 Women’s Euroleague final was played between two Turkish teams, Galatasaray and Fenerbahçe, and won by Galatasaray.

The Turkish national women’s volleyball team won the silver medal at the 2003 European Championship, the bronze medal at the 2011 European Championship and the bronze medal at the 2012 FIVB World Grand Prix. She also won one gold medal (2005), six silver medals (1987, 1991, 1997, 2001, 2009, 2013) and one bronze medal (1993) at the Mediterranean Games. Women’s volleyball clubs in Turkey, namely Fenerbahçe, Eczacıbaşı and Vakıfbank, have won numerous titles and medals at the European Championships. Fenerbahçe won the FIVB Women’s World Club Championship in 2010 and the CEV Women’s Champions League in 2012. Vakıfbank represented Europe as winners of the CEV Women’s Champions League in 2012-13 and also became world champions by winning the FIVB Women’s World Club Championship in 2013.

The traditional Turkish national sport has been yağlı güreş (oil wrestling) since Ottoman times. The annual Kırkpınar oil wrestling tournament has been held in Edirne since 1361. The international wrestling styles regulated by FILA, such as freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling, are also very popular. Many European, World and Olympic championship titles have been won by Turkish wrestlers, both individually and in national teams.

Cuisine

Turkish cuisine is considered one of the most important in the world, its popularity due in large part to the cultural influences of the Ottoman Empire and in part to the significant tourism industry. It is largely the legacy of Ottoman cuisine, which can be described as a fusion and refinement of the cuisines of Central Asia, the Caucasus, the Middle East, the Mediterranean and the Balkans.

The country’s location between the East and the Mediterranean gave the Turks complete control over the main trade routes, and an ideal environment allowed plants and animals to flourish. Turkish cuisine was firmly established by the mid-400s, at the beginning of the Ottoman Empire’s six-hundred-year rule. Yoghurt salads, fish in olive oil and stuffed and packaged vegetables became staples for the Turks. The empire, which eventually stretched from Austria to North Africa, used its land and sea routes to import exotic ingredients from all over the world. By the end of the 16th century, the Ottoman court employed more than 1,400 domestic cooks and enacted laws regulating the freshness of food. Since the fall of the Empire during the First World War (1914-1918) and the establishment of the Turkish Republic in 1923, foreign foods such as French hollandaise sauce and Western fast food have found their way into the modern Turkish diet.

Media

Hundreds of television channels, thousands of local and national radio stations, several dozen newspapers, a prolific and profitable national cinema and rapid growth in broadband internet use form a very dynamic media industry in Turkey. In 2003, a total of 257 television channels and 1,100 radio stations had licences, while others operated without licences. Of these licences, 16 television channels and 36 radio stations reached a national audience. The majority of these audiences are shared by the public broadcaster TRT and network-type channels such as Kanal D, Show TV, ATV and Star TV.

Audiovisual media have a very high penetration rate due to the widespread use of satellite dishes and cable systems. The Supreme Radio and Television Council (RTÜK) is the government body responsible for overseeing broadcast media. In terms of circulation, the most popular newspapers are PostaHürriyetSözcüSabah and Habertürk. Turkish TV dramas are becoming increasingly popular beyond Turkey’s borders and are among the country’s most important exports, both in terms of profit and publicity. Having conquered the television market in the Middle East over the past decade, Turkish programmes were broadcast in more than a dozen countries in Central and South America in 2016. Freedom House believes that the Turkish media is not free.

Stay Safe & Healthy in Turkey

Stay Safe in Turkey

Dial 155 for the police from any toll-free phone. However, in rural areas there is no police coverage, so in such areas dial the Jandarma (military police), a military unit for rural security.

Turkey’s big cities, especially Istanbul, are not immune to petty crime. Although petty crime is not specifically directed against tourists, it is by no means an exception. Robberies, pickpockets and muggings are the most common types of petty crime. However, thanks to the recent development of a network of cameras that monitor streets and squares – especially the central streets and busy squares – 24 hours a day in Istanbul, the number of kidnappings and muggings has decreased. As everywhere, common sense applies here. (Please note that the following recommendations apply to large cities and most small to medium-sized cities generally do not have problems with petty crime) Keep your wallet and money in your front pockets and not in your back pockets, backpack or shoulder bag.

You must drive defensively at all times and take all necessary precautions when driving in Turkey. Turkish drivers routinely ignore traffic rules, including running red lights and stop signs and turning left from the right lane; these driving practices are the cause of frequent road accidents. Drivers should be aware of some specific driving practices that are widespread in Turkey. Drivers who have problems with their car or have an accident will pull over to the side of the road and turn on their emergency lights to warn other drivers. However, many drivers place a large boulder or pile of stones on the road about 10-15 metres behind their vehicle instead of turning on their emergency lights. You must not use a mobile phone while driving. It is strictly prohibited by law.

Don’t leave your camera or mobile phone out for too long if it’s a new and/or expensive model (they know what to take, no one will bother stealing a ten-year-old mobile phone as it would be very unprofitable). The same goes for your wallet if it is overflowing with money. Give a wide berth and move away from the area quickly if you see two or more people start arguing and fighting as this can be a ruse to get 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 trams and city buses.

Avoid dark and deserted alleys at night. If you know you will have to pass such a place at night, do not take too much cash with you, but rather deposit your money in the hotel safe. Avoid crowds of demonstrators if the demonstration does not seem to be peaceful. Even in seaside resorts, if you go to the beach, do not take your camera or mobile phone with you if no one is looking after it while you swim. If you notice that your wallet has been stolen, it is advisable to check the nearest rubbish bins before reporting the loss to the police. Thieves in Turkey often throw their wallets in the trash to avoid being caught with the wallet and to prove that they are thieves. Of course, it is very likely that your money is gone, but your credit cards and papers might still be there.

Also have a look at the section on scams in the article on Istanbul to get an idea of the types of scams you might also encounter in other parts of the country, especially in tourist areas, not only in Istanbul.

When entering some museums, hotels, metro stations and almost all shopping centres, especially in big cities, you will notice security checks similar to those at airports. Don’t worry, this is standard procedure in Turkey and does not imply any immediate risk of attack. These security checks are also carried out in a much more relaxed manner than at airports, so you don’t have to take off your seatbelt to avoid the alarm when you go through the metal detector.

Even if it is a bit off topic, it is advisable to always carry a passport or other identification document. You may not be asked to show it for a long time, and then suddenly a minibus is checked by the traffic police (or the army, especially in eastern Turkey), or you meet a law enforcement officer who has time on his hands and you have to show your papers. In some government buildings you may be asked to temporarily hand over your passport in exchange for equipment such as headphones for simultaneous translation, etc., and you may be asked to keep your passport in an open box with the local IDs, which can be a bit disconcerting. Hotels may ask you to hand over your passport until you have paid the bill, which puts you in an uncomfortable situation. When approached, they will always ask you to return your passport once the registration process is complete. Showing a personal business card, a credit card or two, or knowing the address of a reputable hotel can solve the non-payment situation, but any decent officer will tell you that you are wrong and will regret it next time. However, if you are treated politely, the police and the army can be very friendly and even offer to drive you to the next town (no joke).

If you are planning to visit Eastern or South-Eastern Anatolia, keep up to date with the latest news. Although it offers many beautiful places, the situation is far from safe due to ethnic conflicts and protests that sometimes lead to violence. The region is far from being a war zone, but take precautions when visiting this unstable place. However, the actual risk of a threat is not very high if you stay on the main roads and follow common sense (e.g. avoid demonstrations).

Be careful when crossing roads as described in the section “Walking”.

Animals

In the Turkish wilderness there are both venomous and nonvenomous snake species (yılan). In fact, the rainforests of the northeastern Black Sea region are home to a small snake that is among the most venomous in the world. In the south and especially in the south-east of the country (also in the cities) there are a large number of scorpions (akrep). So be careful when sleeping on open roofs, which is common in the south-eastern region in summer. If you are stung by one of them, seek medical help immediately.

As for wild mammals, the most dangerous are undoubtedly wolvesbears and wild boars. All these animals live only in mountainous areas (in almost all regions) and your chances of spotting one are very low (with the exception of wild boars, which are not so rare). Wolves and bears do not attack unless you follow them or aggressively disturb them (or especially their young), but wild boars are known to attack at the slightest provocation.

The biggest animal threat is from stray dogs (or sheepdogs in rural areas). Do not think that you will encounter gangs of aggressive stray dogs near St. Sophia Gate or the Beach Club. They are mostly found in rural areas and in decentralised parts of cities. They are generally discreet and are usually more afraid of you than you are of them. Rabies (kuduz) is endemic in Turkey (and most parts of the world) [www], so anyone bitten by a dog or other carnivore should see a doctor urgently, despite what your hotel or other well-meaning foreigners may tell you.

Many stray dogs you see in cities wear plastic “earrings”. These earrings mean that the dog has been cleaned, vaccinated (against rabies and a number of other diseases) and neutered and then sent back to the streets, as this is the most humane treatment (compared to keeping it in a cage or crate-like environment or putting it to sleep). The process is underway, so we can expect the stray dog problem in Turkey to disappear naturally in the future.

Natural disasters

Much of Turkey is at risk of earthquakes.

Tourist police

In the police stations of Ankara, Antalya, Istanbul (in Sultanahmet) and Izmir, there are “tourism police” departments specifically for tourists where travellers can report the loss and theft of their passports or other criminal acts of which they might become victims. The staff is multilingual and speaks English, German, French and Arabic.

Stay Healthy in Turkey

Dial 112 from any phone, anywhere, free of charge for an ambulance.

Food safety – Food is usually free of parasites or bacterial contamination, but still be careful. Look at where the local people prefer to eat. Do not eat, at least in summer, produce sold outside that the locals do not eat. They can spoil quite quickly without needing to be refrigerated. Wash and/or peel fresh fruit and vegetables thoroughly. They may be free of organic contaminants, but their skins are likely to be heavily contaminated with pesticides (unless you see the label “certified organic”, which of course is not very common). The food in the western parts of the country is mostly acceptable for (western) travellers, but the further east, south and north-east you go, the more you will encounter unusual contents in the food, such as goat or goose meat or hot/heavy spices. These contents may or may not cause diarrhoea, but it is advisable to have at least some anti-diarrhoea medication nearby, especially if you are travelling to places a little off the beaten track.

Water safety – As tempting as it may be on a hot day, try to avoid water from public reservoirs and wells (şadırvan), which are often found near mosques. Even though tap water is usually chlorinated, it is best to drink bottled water only, except in remote mountain villages connected to a local spring. Bottled water is available everywhere except in the most remote and uninhabited areas.

The most common volumes for bottled water are 0.5 litres and 1.5 litres. There are also, to varying degrees, huge 19-litre bottles (known in the West as bureau jugs, this is the most common type used in households and delivered to homes by water shop staff because it is far too heavy to carry). The general price of bottled water in half-litre and one-and-a-half-litre bottles is TRY0.50 and TRY1.25 respectively at kiosks/shops in the city centre (it can be much higher at tourist or monopoly locations such as the beach, the airport, the café of a popular museum, the kiosk of a roadside recreation facility), while it can be as cheap as TRY0.15. or TRY0.35 in supermarkets in winter (when the number of bottled water sold decreases) and slightly more in summer (but still cheaper than kiosks). In intercity buses, water is served free of charge in 0.25-litre plastic cups at the steward’s request. Kiosks everywhere sell chilled water, sometimes so cold that you have to wait for the ice to thaw before you can drink it. Supermarkets offer it both well chilled and at room temperature.

If you cannot find bottled water – e.g. in the wilderness, on the Eastern Highlands – always boil your water; if you cannot boil water, use chlorine tablets – available in pharmacies in big cities – or devices such as LifeStraw. Also avoid swimming in fresh water that you are unsure of its purity, and in seawater in or near major cities, unless there is a beach that has been declared safe for swimming. Finally, be careful with the water, don’t be paranoid.

Hospitals – There are two types of hospitals (hastane) in Turkey: private and public. Private hospitals are run by associations, private parties and private universities. Public hospitals are managed by the Ministry of Health, public universities and public social security institutions. All medium to large cities as well as the major resorts have private hospitals, in many cities even several, but in a small town you will probably find only one public hospital. Be aware that public hospitals are usually overcrowded. So expect to wait a while before you can be treated. However, this is not a problem for emergencies. Although it is not legal, you may also be denied access to public hospitals for expensive surgery if you do not have state (Turkish) national (Turkish) insurance or the cash to pay in advance to replace it, although presenting an approved credit card may solve this problem. Emergency situations are the exception and you will be treated without prepayment etc. Travel medical insurance is highly recommended as the best private hospitals are self-pay and their rates are much higher than public hospitals. Also make sure that your insurance includes air transport (e.g. by helicopter) if you are travelling to rural/rural areas on the Black Sea or in the eastern regions so that you can be taken to a city with top hospitals in time. In the outskirts of the cities there are usually also polyclinics that can treat simpler illnesses or injuries. In the villages, you will only find small clinics (sağlık ocağı, literally “nursing home”) with very limited equipment and staff, but which can effectively treat simple diseases or provide antibodies against snakebites, for example. On road signs, hospitals (and roads leading to hospitals) are marked with an “H” (on a dark blue background), while village clinics are marked with a red crescent, the Turkish equivalent of the red cross.

Every hospital has a 24-hour emergency service (acil served). Suburban police clinics are not required to provide one, but some of them are still open 24 hours a day. Village clinics certainly have very limited hours of operation (usually from 8am to sunset).

Dentists – There are many private dental practices in the cities, especially along the main roads. Look out for diş hekimi signs in the area, it won’t be long before you see one. Most dentists work by appointment, although they can start treatment as soon as you arrive without an appointment if their schedule is right. A simple treatment for a gap in your teeth costs about TRY 40 on average.

Normal toothbrushes and noodles (local and international brands) can be bought in supermarkets. If you want something special, you can go to the pharmacy. You can brush your teeth with tap water.

Pharmacies – There are pharmacies (eczane in Turkish) in all cities and many towns. Pharmacies are open from 8:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., but every town has at least one on-call pharmacy (nöbetçi eczane). All other pharmacies in the town usually have their name, address and telephone numbers in the shop window. Most basic medicines, including painkillers such as aspirin, are available without prescription, but only in pharmacies.

Mosquitoes – It is a good idea to have mosquito repellent on hand. Although the risk of malaria has long disappeared throughout the country (except in the southernmost areas near the Syrian border, where the risk was very low until the 1980s), mosquitoes can be a nuisance at night between June and September, especially in coastal areas outside cities, including resorts. In some cities, especially near deltas, the mosquito population is so large that people leave the streets during the “mosquito round”, which occurs between sunset and one hour after. Aerosol repellents containing DEET (some are suitable for applying to the skin, while others, in large doses, are for making a room mosquito-free before bedtime, not for applying to the skin, so choose wisely what you buy) are available in supermarkets and pharmacies. There are also solid repellents in tablet form that can be used with their special indoor devices that have a power socket. They release odourless chemicals into the indoor air that disrupt the mosquitoes’ senses and prevent them from “finding” you. The tablets and associated devices can also be purchased in supermarkets and pharmacies. Caution. You must not touch these tablets with your bare hands.

Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever (Turkish Kırım-Kongo kanamalı ateşi, or KKKA for short) is a severe viral disease transmitted by a species of tick (Kene). It can kill the infected person in a very short time, usually within three or four days. This disease has claimed more than 20 victims in Turkey in the last two years. The greatest risk is in rural areas (not urban centres) in the provinces of Tokat, Corum, Yozgat, Amasya and Sivas, all of which are in an area where the tick that transmits the disease thrives because of its location between the humid climate of the maritime Black Sea region and the dry climate of central Anatolia. The authorities recommend wearing light-coloured clothing, which makes it easier to spot a tick hanging on the body. It is also recommended to wear long trousers instead of shorts if you plan to walk in areas with dense and/or tall grass (the usual habitat of ticks). If you see a tick on your body or clothing, do not attempt to remove it under any circumstances, as the tick’s head (and the mouth in which it carries the virus) could then bore into your skin. Instead, go to the nearest hospital immediately to get urgent specialist help. Late arrival at hospital (and diagnosis) is the main cause of death from this disease. The symptoms are very similar to those of influenza and a number of other diseases, so the doctor should be informed of the possibility of Crimean-Congo haemorrhage and be shown the tick if possible.

The Black Sea coastal region, the Marmara region, the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts and eastern Anatolia are generally considered free of the disease (and also of the tick species that transmits the disease), with no fatalities. Nevertheless, you should take the precaution of visiting the nearest hospital if you are bitten by a (most likely harmless) tick. Also remember that ticks are not active in winter when you are in the danger zone described above. Their activity period is from April to October, as is the danger period.

Public toilets – Although many main squares and streets in cities have public toilets, if you can’t find one, look for the nearest mosque where you will find public toilets in a corner of its courtyard or below. Although there is no shortage of cheap toilet paper throughout the country, it is unlikely that you will find toilet paper in almost all public toilets (with the exception of toilets in restaurants – this of course includes roadside restaurants, hotels and most cafés and bars). On the contrary, you are likely to find a bidet or a tap (Don’t be perplexed. Practising Muslims use water instead of paper to clean, and paper is usually used to dry after cleaning). So it’s a good idea to carry a roll of toilet paper in your backpack when you go sightseeing. It is best to take your own toilet roll home or to the bathroom of the hotel you are staying in, as the smallest size available in the Turkish market is 4 rolls per pack (8 rolls per pack is the most common), which would take a very long time (actually longer than your trip, unless you come all the way to India by land). It’s not expensive, but it takes up unnecessary space in your backpack, or unnecessary space in the trash if you don’t use it liberally and take the unused rolls home as an unusual souvenir from Turkey. In the best areas of the country, there are toilets by the road that are maintained and an attendant willing to collect TRY 0.50 to TRY 1. from the tourist for the privilege of using a toilet. The toilets are tuvalet in familiar Turkish, but you will more often see toilet signs with diagrams and doors marked Bay or Bayan (with their rather rudimentary translations: “men”, “women”).

Menstrual products – Different types and models of disposable sanitary pads are widely available. Look for them in supermarkets. However, Turkish women prefer tampons much less than European women, so they are less common. They are only available in some pharmacies.

Hamam – If you haven’t been there yet, you’ve missed one of life’s great experiences and you’ve never been clean. In a bath (hamam) you can find your inner peace with history and water.

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