- For other places with the same name, see Turkey (disambiguation).
Turkey offers a wealth of destination varieties to travellers: from dome-and-minaret filled skyline of Istanbul to Roman ruins along the western and southern coasts, from heavily indented coastline against a mountainous backdrop of Lycia and wide and sunny beaches of Pamphylia to cold and snowy mountains of the East, from crazy "foam parties" of Bodrum to Middle Eastern-flavoured cities of Southeastern Anatolia, from verdant misty mountains of Eastern Black Sea to wide steppe landscapes of Central Anatolia, there is something for everyone's taste—whether they be travelling on an extreme budget by hitchhiking or by a multi-million yacht.
|Aegean Turkey |
Greek and Roman ruins between azure sea on one side and silvery olive groves on the other
|Black Sea Turkey |
Heavily forested mountains offering great outdoor sports such as trekking and rafting
|Central Anatolia |
Tree-poor central steppes with the national capital, Hittite and Phrygian ruins, and moon-like Cappadocia
|Eastern Anatolia |
High and mountainous eastern part with harsh winters. Historically inhabited by Armenians.
|Marmara Region |
The most urbanized region with Byzantine and Ottoman monuments in some of the country's greatest cities
|Mediterranean Turkey |
Mountains clad with pine woods ascending right from the heavily-indented coastline of the crystal clear sea
|Southeastern Anatolia |
Semi-desert/mountainous part of the country. Primarily Kurdish inhabited.
- 1 Ankara — the capital of Turkey and its second largest city
- 2 Antalya — the fastest growing city, hub to an array of beach resorts
- 3 Bodrum — a trendy coastal town in Southern Aegean which turns into a crowded city in season when it serves as a playground for Turkish and international holidaymakers alike, featuring a citadel, Roman ruins, trendy clubs and a number of villages surrounding the peninsula each with a different character from classy to rustic
- 4 Edirne — the second capital of the Ottoman Empire
- 5 Istanbul — Turkey's largest city, the former capital of both the Ottoman and Byzantine Empires, and the only major city in the world to straddle two continents
- 6 Izmir — Turkey's third largest city, hub to an array of beach resorts
- 7 Konya — a quite large city that is the heartland of mystic Sufi order, the site of Rumi's tomb, and with some elegant Seljuq architecture, all surrounded by vast steppes
- 8 Trabzon — the wonderful Sumela Monastery is just outside the city and it is a great gateway to exploring the Turkish Northeast
- 9 Urfa — a city with beautiful architecture and extremely friendly locals at the gates of Eastern World; where Turkish, Kurdish, Arabic, and Assyrian cultures mingle
- 1 Ani — impressive ruins of the medieval Armenian capital in the far east of the country; known as the city of 1000 churches
- 2 Cappadocia — an area in the central highlands best known for its unique moon-like landscape (the "fairy chimneys"), underground cities, cave churches and houses carved in the rocks
- 3 Ephesus — well-preserved ruins of the Roman city on the west coast
- 4 Gallipoli — site of 1915 Anzac landing and many WWI memorials
- 5 Mount Nemrut — a UNESCO World Heritage site with head statues dedicated to ancient gods on its summit
- 6 Ölüdeniz — incomparable postcard beauty of the "Blue Lagoon", perhaps the most famous beach of Turkey which you will see on any tourism brochure
- 7 Pamukkale — "the Cotton Castle", white world of travertines surrounding cascading shallow pools filled with thermal waters
- 8 Sümela — stunning monastery on the cliffs of a mountain, a must-see on any trip to the northeast coast
- 9 Uludağ — a national park featuring school textbook belts of different types of forests varying with altitude, and the major winter sports resort of the country
|Currency||Turkish lira (TRY)|
|Population||83.6 million (2020)|
|Electricity||230 volt / 50 hertz (Schuko, Europlug)|
|Time zone||UTC+03:00, Europe/Istanbul, Asia/Istanbul|
|Emergencies||112, 110 (fire department), 155 (police), +212-177|
|edit on Wikidata|
There is evidence that the bed of the Black Sea was once an inhabited plain, before it was flooded in prehistoric times by rising sea levels. Mount Ararat (Ağrı Dağı), at 5,165 m, is Turkey's highest point and the legendary landing place of Noah's Ark on the far eastern edge of the country. The area that is now Turkey has been part of many of the world's greatest empires throughout history. The city of Troy, famously destroyed by the Greeks in Homer's Illiad, has always been associated to the entrance to the Dardanelles strait in northwestern Anatolia. Subsequently, the area was to become part of the Roman Empire, and subsequently the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire after the Roman empire spit into two, with the city of Constantinople (now Istanbul) as the regional capital, as well as the Eastern Roman capital after the split. The Ottoman Empire subsequently defeated the Eastern Roman Empire, and dominated the eastern Mediterranean, until its defeat by the Allies in World War I.
The Turkish Republic (Türkiye Cumhuriyeti) was founded in 1923 from the remnants of the Ottoman Empire. Soon thereafter the country instituted secular laws to replace traditional religious fiats, and instigated many other radical reforms to rapidly modernise the state. Changing from Arabic script to the 29-letter Turkish alphabet, based on the Roman alphabet, was one of many personal initiatives of the founder of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. Atatürk continues to be revered, and you can see his face gazing down on you or up into the distance in a fatherly, visionary or determined manner in many, many places around Turkey. Atatürk died in 1938 and was succeeded by his right hand man, İsmet İnönü, who had been the first prime minister of the new republic. It was Inönü that boosted the cult of personality around Atatürk and who led Turkey for a longer time than his larger-than-life predecessor. Turkey joined the UN in 1945 and became a member of NATO in 1952.
Turkey occupies a landmass slightly larger than Texas, at just over 750,000 km², and is more than three times the size of the United Kingdom. In terms of the variety of terrain and particularly the diversity of its plant life, however, Turkey exhibits the characteristics of a small continent. There are, for example, some 10,000 plant species in the country (compared with some 13,000 in all of Europe) — one in three of which is endemic to Turkey. Indeed, there are more native plant species within Istanbul city limits (2,000) than in the whole of the United Kingdom. While many people know of Turkey's rich archaeological heritage, it possesses an equally valuable array of ecosystems — peat bogs, heath lands, steppes, and coastal plains. Turkey possesses much forest (about a quarter of the land) but, as importantly, some half of the country is semi-natural landscape that has not been entirely remodelled by man.
While it may sound like a tourism brochure cliché, Turkey really is a curious mix of the west and the east—you may swear you were in a Balkan country or in Greece when in northwestern and western parts of the country (except that Byzantine-influenced churches are substituted with Byzantine-influenced mosques), which are indeed partly inhabited by people from Balkan countries, who immigrated during the turmoil before, during, and after World War I, while southeastern reaches of the country exhibit little if any cultural differences from Turkey's southern and eastern neighbours. Influences from the Caucasus add to the mix in the northeast part of the country. It can be simply put that Turkey is the most oriental of western nations, or, depending on the point of view, the most occidental of eastern nations.
Perhaps one thing common to all of the country is Islam, the faith of the bulk of the population. However, interpretation of it varies vastly across the country: many people in northwestern and western coasts are fairly liberal about the religion (being nominal Muslims sometimes to the point of being irreligious), while folk of the central steppes are far more conservative (don't expect to find a Saudi Arabia or an Afghanistan even there, though). The rest of the country falls somewhere in between, with the coastal regions being relatively liberal while inland regions are relatively conservative as a general rule. The largest religious minority in the country are the Alevites, who constitute up to 20% of the population and who subscribe to a form of Islam closer to that of the Shiite version of Islam and whose rituals draw heavily from the shamanistic ceremonies of ancient Turks. Other religious minorities—the Greek Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic, Jews, Syriac Oriental Orthodox, and Roman Catholics, the latter of whom mainly settled in Turkey within the last 500 years from Western European countries—once numerous across the country, are now mostly confined to the large cities of Istanbul and Izmir, or parts of Southeastern Anatolia in the case of the Syriac Oriental Orthodox. Despite its large Muslim majority population, Turkey officially remains a secular country, with no declared state religion.
There are several holidays that can cause delays in travel, traffic congestion, booked up accommodations and crowded venues. Banks, offices and businesses are closed during official holidays and traffic intensifies during all of the following holidays so do your research before you visit. Do not be put off by these holidays, it is not that difficult and often quite interesting to travel during Turkish holidays; plan ahead as much as possible.
- 1 January: New Year's Day (Yılbaşı)
- 23 April: National Sovereignty and Children's Day (Ulusal Egemenlik ve Çocuk Bayramı) — anniversary of the establishment of the Turkish Grand National Assembly rallies, Turkish flags and Atatürk portraits everywhere, all modes of travel busy
- 1 May: Labour and Solidarity Day (Emek ve Dayanışma Günü, also unofficially known as İşçi Bayramı, i.e. Worker's Day) was long banned as a holiday for almost 40 years and only restarted as a national holiday in 2009 because in years past it usually degenerated into violence. Don't get caught in the middle of a May Day parade or gathering.
- 19 May: Atatürk Commemoration and Youth & Sports Holiday (Atatürk'ü Anma Gençlik ve Spor Bayramı) — the arrival of Atatürk in Samsun, and the beginning of the War of Independence
- 30 August: Victory Day (Zafer Bayramı) — Celebration of the end of the war for Turkish Independence over invasion forces. A big Armed Forces day and display of military might by huge military parades.
- 29 October: Republic Day (Cumhuriyet Bayramı or Ekim Yirmidokuz) is anniversary of the declaration of Turkish Republic. If it falls on a Thursday for example, Friday and the weekend should be considered in your travel plans. October 29 is the official end of the tourist season in many resorts in Mediterranean Turkey and usually there is a huge celebration at the town squares.
- 10 November, 09:05 — Traffic usually stops and sirens blare for two minutes starting at 09:05, the time when Atatürk, founder of the Turkish Republic, died in Dolmabahçe Palace in Istanbul in 1938. That moment in time is officially observed throughout the country but businesses and official places are not closed for the day. However, do not be surprised if you are on the street, you hear a loud boom and all of a sudden people and traffic stop on the sidewalks and streets for a moment of silence in observance of this event.
Ramadan is the 9th and holiest month in the Islamic calendar and lasts 29–30 days. Muslims fast every day for its duration and most restaurants will be closed until the fast breaks at dusk. Nothing (including water and cigarettes) is supposed to pass through the lips from dawn to sunset. Non-Muslims are exempt from this, but should still refrain from eating or drinking in public as this is considered very impolite. Working hours are decreased as well in the corporate world. Exact dates of Ramadan depend on local astronomical observations and may vary somewhat from country to country. Ramadan concludes with the festival of Eid al-Fitr, which may last several days, usually three in most countries.
If you're planning to travel to Turkey during Ramadan, consider reading Travelling during Ramadan.
Ramadan (Ramazan in Turkish) is a month long time of fasting, prayer and celebration during which pious Muslims neither drink nor eat anything, even water, from sun up to sun down. Businesses, banks and official places are not closed during this time. In some parts of Turkey, such as most of inland and eastern locations as locals are more conservative than people in the rest of the country, it is considered to be bad taste to eat snacks or drink sodas in front of locals in public places or transport—to be completely on the safe side, watch how local folk act—but restaurants are usually open and it is no problem to eat in them as usual, though some restaurant owners use it as an opportunity for a much-needed vacation (or renovation) and shut their business completely for 30 days. However, you will unlikely see any closed establishment in big cities, central parts of the cities, and touristy towns of western and southern Turkey. At sunset, call for prayer and a cannon boom, fasting observers immediately sit down for iftar, their first meal of the day. Banks, businesses and official places are not closed during this time.
During Ramadan, many city councils set up tent-like structures in the major squares of the cities that are for the needy, those in poverty or the elderly or handicapped, and are also served for passers by, with warm meals during the sunset (iftar), free of charge (much like soup kitchens, instead serving full meals). Iftar is a form of charity that is very rewarding especially when feeding someone who is needy. It was first practised by the Prophet Muhammad during the advent of Islam, for that purpose. Visitors are welcome to join, but do not take advantage of it during the entire fasting period, just because it is free of charge.
Immediately following Ramazan is the Eid-ul Fitr, or the three-day national holiday of Ramazan Bayramı, also called Şeker Bayramı (i.e. "Sugar" or more precisely "Candy Festival") during which banks, offices and businesses are closed and travel will be heavy. However, many restaurants, cafés and bars will be open.
Kurban Bayrami (pronounced koor-BAHN bahy-rah-muh) in Turkish, (Eid el-Adha in Arabic) or sacrifice holiday is the most important Islamic religious festival of the year. It lasts for several days and is a public holiday in Turkey. Almost everything will be closed during that time (many restaurants, cafes, bars and some small shops will be open). Kurban Bayrami is also the time of the annual pilgrimage (Hajj) to Mecca, so both domestic and international travel is intense in Turkey at this time. If you are in smaller towns or villages you may even observe an animal, usually a goat but sometimes a cow, being slaughtered in a public place. The Turkish government has cracked down on these unofficial slaughterings so it is not as common as it once was.
The dates of these religious festivals change according to the Muslim lunar calendar and thus occur 10-11 days (the exact difference between Gregorian and Lunar calendars is 10 days and 21 hr) earlier each year. According to this,
- Şeker/Ramazan Bayramı
- Kurban Bayramı continues for four days
During both religious holidays, many cities provide public transport for free (this does not include privately owned minibuses, dolmuşes, taxis, or inter-city buses). This depends on the place and time. For example, Istanbul's public transport authority has provided free transport in Eid-ul Fitr, but not in Eid-ul Adhawhen its passengers had to pay a discounted rate. For some years, it was all free in both holidays, while in some others there was no discount at all. To be sure, check whether other passengers use a ticket/token or not.
The climate in Turkey is often (rather simplistically) described as Mediterranean, and this brings to mind the imagery of sunny, hot summers and warm seas. The reality is a bit more complicated than this, however. While most of the southern and western coasts of Turkey fit this description quite well, most of Turkey does not. In fact, the northern coasts are rainy enough to feature temperate rainforests, with the lush Euxine-Colchic forests stretching all the way from northern Istanbul (see Belgrad Forest) to Georgia. Meanwhile the continental inland regions, especially in the east, can get brutally cold with temperatures approaching -40°C during the coldest nights of winter.
Keeping this information in mind, it is very important to plan accordingly.
Black Sea coast (Zonguldak, Samsun, Trabzon)
Areas on the Black Sea coastline experience an oceanic climate, similar to Western Europe, albeit the Black Sea coastline is quite a bit rainier.
Summers are warm, but they feature regular heavy showers and therefore risk of floods and mudslides.
Winter ranges from mild to cold, but is generally chilly with lengthy periods of rain and brief breaks of sunshine.
Snow in the region is occasional, and falls most winters. Watch out if you decide to climb the mountains, they can feature intense snowfalls.
Marmara region (Istanbul, Bursa, Edirne)
Areas on the coast of the Marmara Sea, including Istanbul, have an oceanic climate as well, however it might be more accurate to call it a dry-summer oceanic climate, similar to areas like the Pacific Northwest.
Marmara's winters are possibly the hardest vacation sales pitch in the country, except perhaps continental locations in Eastern Turkey. While not brutally cold by any means, it is utterly miserable, as it experiences -although most locals might find the term suffers through more accurate- almost 20 days of rain a month.
Summers are very warm in Istanbul and hot in southern Marmara, but unlike the Black Sea region, all of the region is relatively less rainy during summer, nevertheless with high levels of humidity.
Snow in this region is occasional, but falls every winter, and is likely to affect road conditions especially in relatively highland locations.
Aegean (Bodrum, İzmir, Pamukkale) and Mediterranean (Antalya, Adana, Ölüdeniz) coasts
Areas on the Mediterranean and Aegean coastlines have a typical Mediterranean climate, similar to the Central Valley in California, Adelaide in Australia, and of course the rest of the Mediterranean Basin.
Summers are hot and dry, with temperatures reaching 35°C very regularly.
Winters are mild with occasional rainstorms, which can get quite heavy.
Snow in this region is rare, except in Gallipoli, where a few snowy periods are typical.
Inland regions generally have a continental climate, with hot, dry summers (expect around 30°C during the day, unless mentioned below) and cold, snowy winters (expect around 0°C during the day, unless mentioned below). The individual differences inside these regions are too many and too complicated to talk about here; however, there are general warnings that are useful.
- Summers in the southeastern part of the country and near valleys inland from the Aegean coast can get very hot, with daytime averages near or above 35°C (95°F)
- Winters in the eastern part of the country can get very cold as well, with nighttime temperatures regularly plunging below -18°C (0°F)
- Spring is thunderstorm season in inland locations, and severe storms can definitely be a problem.
Turkey is one of only three Middle Eastern countries that accept Israeli passport holders in their country.
Turkish visa requirements were relaxed in 2020. Ordinary passport holders of the countries below can enter Turkey visa-free for tourism and commerce, for up to 90 days unless a shorter period is stated. Your passport must be valid for 60 days beyond your maximum stay, so for most visitors that is 150 days beyond entry. That is just under five months: they politely ask for six months validity on entry but it is not a requirement. (Be prepared to argue this point with airline clerks.) So, no visa needed if you're from:
- all EU and EEA countries, plus Monaco, Liechtenstein, Andorra and the Vatican, and the United Kingdom, except the Republic of Cyprus. For Latvia entry is only for 30 days.
- other European countries are Albania (90 days), Bosnia and Herzegovina (90), Kosovo (90), Moldova (90), Montenegro (90), North Macedonia (90), Serbia (90), Ukraine (90), and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (no limit).
- CIS countries: Russia (60), Belarus (30), Azerbaijan (30), Georgia (90), Kazakhstan (30), Kyrgyzstan (30), Mongolia (30), Tajikistan (30), Turkmenistan (30) and Uzbekistan (30); but not Armenia.
- Central and South America and the Caribbean: Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica (30), Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Peru, St Kitts and Nevis, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay, and Venezuala.
- Others are Brunei, Hong Kong (SAR Passports only), Iran, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya (depends on age), Macau (30), Malaysia, Morocco, New Zealand, Qatar, Seychelles, Singapore, South Korea, Syria, Thailand (30) and Tunisia.
A national ID card is acceptable instead of a passport from the EU and EEA countries of Germany, Belgium, France, Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal and Greece, plus Georgia, TR Northern Cyprus and Ukraine. It is ambiguous whether the card needs 90+60 days remaining validity on entry.
For some of those countries, you may even enter on a passport/ID that is expired within the last five years. Never plan on doing this, as it is unlikely you would be allowed to leave the previous country or to board a flight or boat. There would have to be some special reason. "Fighting in Syria this last ten years" will not do, as the waiver specifically excludes arrivals from Iran, Iraq or Syria.
The visa-free regime is only for tourist and commercial visits. Employment or study requires a visa from the Turkish consulate; e-visas are not available for this.
Other citizens need a visa, but most can get an e-visa online. Official prices are quoted in US dollars; for instance, it is US$50 for the US, US$60 for Australia and Canada, and no fee for Mexico. These rates (correct as of August 2021) are only for prior application. Beware third-party websites scalping you for more.
An e-visa is valid for three months for passport holders of Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Canada, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Haiti, Hong Kong (BNO Passport), Jamaica, Maldives, Mexico, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, United Arab Emirates and United States. It is valid for one month from Armenia, Bahrain, China, Cyprus, East Timor, Fiji, Indonesia, Mauritius, Namibia, South Africa, Suriname, Taiwan, and Zambia.
A longer list of nationalities can get an e-visa valid for one month, with a big catch: you must already hold some other valid visa such as an EU Schengen, British or Irish visa. Those people will have jumped through various official hoops to get such a visa, so it is as if Turkey has expatriated its consular processes and doesn't need to closely vet such applicants. The rules vary - for some there is an age restriction, or even a requirement to arrive on Turkish Airlines. These additional countries are Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Bangladesh, Benin, Botswana, Burkino Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Congo, Cote d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, India, Iraq, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Nepal, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Palestine, Philippines, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Vietnam, Yemen, and Zimbabwe.
Visa on arrival
You can also get your visa on arrival at a Turkish airport, but usually pay US$10 more. The same conditions as for the e-visa apply. However, you may have to face down airline clerks saying you cannot check-in without a visa when leaving for Turkey from another country.
Use a bank card in the airport machines to avoid grief over acceptable bank notes.
Turkey's chief international gateway by air is Istanbul Airport (IST IATA), opened in Oct 2018. This has excellent global connections, as the flag-carrier Turkish Airlines is vying with the Gulf carriers to capture traffic between Europe and the Middle- and Far-East; it also serves all major Turkish cities. It is 40 km northwest of downtown, reach the city by bus.
The former main airport Atatürk closed in April 2019. Beware out-of-date road signage & maps, and crooked taxi drivers who may try to take you to what is now a demolition site.
Another gateway is Istanbul's second airport, Sabiha Gökçen Airport (SAW IATA), 50 km east of central Istanbul on the Asian side. It is particularly used by budget airlines such as Pegasus. The flight connections are not as extensive as Istanbul's, but they include the main Turkish cities, Ercan in Northern Cyprus, and several Gulf States. This airport is also convenient for Pendik railway station, for fast trains to Eskişehir, Ankara and Konya. There are shuttle buses to the airport from Taksim square.
Beach resorts such as Antalya, Bodrum and Dalaman have direct package-tour flights from Europe, including from minor and secondary airports. You may be able to book these as flight-only.
There are occasional summer international flights direct to other Turkish cities such as Ankara, Adana and Izmir. But normally, reaching these means changing planes in Istanbul and clearing immigration, security and customs there. You need to allow the best part of two hours for this. Ask at your departure airport whether your bags are being checked through to your destination, or whether you need to pick them up in Istanbul.
From Western Europe to Turkey by train, the route goes through Budapest then overnight from either Bucharest or Sofia to Istanbul. A sleeper train departs Sofia around 21:00 nightly, running via Plovdiv, Kapikule on the border, and Edirne, to terminate at Halkali at 07:40. TCDD run a connecting bus between Halkali and Sirkeci downtown, otherwise change to the frequent Marmaray cross-city train to reach central Istanbul. From June to Sept another sleeper, the Bosphor Express, departs Bucharest at 12:45, running via Ruse to Kapikule. Here it is coupled to the train from Sofia, and all passengers have to get out for border procedures, before continuing to Halkali. The westbound train leaves Halkali at 21:40 to reach Sofia by 09:00 and Bucharest by 19:00 next day. From October to May the through-train from Bucharest doesn't run, so you change trains at Ruse then again at Kapikule, with a similar timetable. Trains from further west (i.e. Budapest and Belgrade) don't connect with the trains to Turkey, so you need to spend a night in either Sofia or Bucharest. Second class single fares are about €20 from Sofia, €40 from Bucharest, plus couchette supplement of €10. The standard of accommodation aboard is similar to the Turkish domestic slow trains.
Optima Express runs a car-train between Villach in Austria and Edirne about twice a week April-November, taking 33 hours. Departure days vary. This train enables motorists to avoid the tricky, tiring roads through the Balkans; however it is also open for passengers without cars. Optima don't offer tickets from intermediate stations such as Zagreb.
In June 2019, another train ran daytime between Plovdiv in Bulgaria and Edirne. It was meant to be a permanent service, but lasted for just one weekend then they cancelled! It is not known if it will ever resume - it created a useful extra route between Bulgaria and Turkey, avoiding arrival / departure in the small hours.
The Budapest-Belgrade line is closed until 2022 for engineering works, and Belgrade-Sofia through-trains may not run in 2021, so it's better to reach Turkey via Bucharest.
It's murder on that Orient Express
The Orient Express ran from 1883 between Paris and Constantinople, initially by multiple trains and ferries, with the first through-service in 1889. From the outset it used several routes, so Bucharest and Sofia can both claim to be on the original route. This is the train that famously got stuck in a blizzard near Çerkezköy for six days in 1929. Agatha Christie wasn't aboard that day, but in 1931 she suffered a 24 hour delay, giving her too much time to plot foul motives and deeds for the characters of her next novel. The full Orient Express ran to 1977 then was curtailed to Bucharest then to Budapest then to Vienna, and ran for the last time in 2007. Private tourist trains continue to use the name, best known being the Venice-Simplon Orient Express, which once or twice a year goes all the way to Istanbul. The name also lives on in a restaurant at Sirkeci.
The new railway between Turkey and Georgia only carries freight, but passenger trains between Ankara, Kars, Tbilisi and Baku are expected to start in 2021.
Trains to Iran run once a week. From Istanbul you need to travel to Ankara on Saturday to be sure of catching the Sunday train to Tatvan. From there you cross the lake to Van, then join the Monday overnight train to Tabriz and Tehran. So that is three days in all. This service used to be called the "Trans-Asia Express" but they don't use that name now.
You probably need a visa in advance to enter Turkey by train – see section on visas above and under Istanbul Airport.
There are no cross-border trains to any other country. For Greece, travel to Sofia then change for Thessaloniki. There is no foreseeable prospect of services to Armenia, Iraq, Syria, or the Azerbaijan exclave of Nakhchivan.
From Central Europe, getting to Turkey is not too difficult. In any case you'll need your International Insurance Card (Green Card). Pay attention to "TR" not being cancelled and be sure your insurance is valid for the Asian part of Turkey, too. Otherwise you will have to buy Turkish car insurance separately. In any case, Turkish customs will make an entry into your passport stating when the car (and thus you) have to leave Turkey again.
National driving licences from some of the European countries are accepted. If you are not sure about your situation, obtain an international driving licence beforehand.
Major roads from Europe are:
- E80 enters Turkey at Kapıkule border gate (NW of Edirne, SE of Svilengrad) from Bulgaria
- E87 enters Turkey at Dereköy border gate (north of Kırklareli, south of Tirnovo) from Bulgaria
- E90 enters Turkey at İpsala border gate (west of Keşan, east of Alexandroupolis) from Greece
And see "By train" above for the car-train between Villach in Austria and Edirne. The former EuroTurk car-train from Bonn no longer runs.
Major roads from Middle East enter Turkey at numerous border gates around Antakya (Antioch), from Syrian cities such as Aleppo and Latakia, Habur border gate (south of Silopi, north of Zakho) from Iraq, and Dogubeyazit border gate (near Ararat) from Iran.
Major roads from Caucasia enter Turkey at Sarp/Sarpi border gate from Georgia (south of Batumi) and Türkgözü border gate south of Akhaltsikhe (this is the nearest border gate from Tbilisi but the last few kilometres on the Georgian side were really bad as of summer 2009).
Since 1993, the border with Armenia has been closed, thus it's impossible to cross into Turkey through Armenia.
During holidays these border gates may be extremely congested at times. Especially during the summer many Turks who live in Germany drive back home and this creates huge lines at the border.
From Bucharest there is a daily bus to Istanbul at 16:00 for RON125. There are also several daily buses from Constanta, Romania and from Sofia, Bulgaria and from there you can get connections to the major cities of Europe. Another possibility is the bus from Athens in Greece via Thessaloniki. You may also find smaller bus companies offering connections to other countries in the Balkans.
A couple of Turkish bus companies operate buses between Sofia and Istanbul. These buses typically stop at various cities along the way. A direct bus service connects Odessa, Ukraine with Istanbul once a week for 1,000 грн (about €40) (2015).
There are several border points between Turkey and Georgia, in particular in Batumi and Tbilisi. You may have to change at the border, but should be able to find direct buses from Istanbul to Batumi, Tbilisi and Baku in Azerbaijan.
Bus companies also connect Erbil to the Turkish cities of Diyarbakır (10–15 hours) and Istanbul (36–48 hours). The list of companies here is incomplete; there are at least two other Turkish companies running buses from Erbil to cities in Turkey - look around for flyers on Iskan Road in Erbil. Arrival time depends on border formalities.
- Cizre Nuh (Tel Erbil: 0750 340 47 73) runs everyday at 15:30 from the New City Mall, 60m Road to Istanbul ($100) via Silopi ($40) Diyarbakır and other cities in between. Tickets can be bought at the New City Mall, Flyaway on Barzani Namir and at a phone shop on Shekhi Choly close to the Bazaar.
- Can Diyarbakir (Tel Erbil: 0750 895 62 17-18-19) leaves daily from Family Mall on 100mt Road to Istanbul via Ankara, Diyarbakır and other cities in between.
- Best Van runs from Ainkawa Road in Erbil to Istanbul via Adana, Aksaray, Ankara (departure at 14:00) and Diyarbakır (departure at 16:00, via Hasankeyf and Batman). The bus back from Diyarbakır to Erbil departs at 11:00.
- Dogubeyazit/Bazerghan This Turkey/Iran border crossing is easily (and quickly) done by public transport. Take a bus to Bazerghan and a shared taxi to the border (US$2-3). Cross the border stretch per pedes and catch a frequent minibus (~5 TL, 15 minutes) to Dogubeyazit. Check the security situation in the region, due to the unsolved PKK conflict.
- There are also buses from Van to Urmia crossing the Turkey/Iran border at Esendere/Sero. The buses cost ~€13 and it takes more than 6 hr to finish the 300 km path. This is because of the poor roads, harsh snowy conditions during the winter and also many military checkpoints because of security reasons concerning the PKK.
Make sure you get a clear idea about exchange rates if you want to change Turkish lira or rial as the official bank at the border does not exchange these currencies and you have to deal with the plentiful black market.
If you're sure you want to go . . . assume it'll be a change of bus at the border. The through-buses for Damascus and Beirut haven't run for years.
To Istanbul there are Black Sea ferries several times a week from Chornomorske, the main port for Odessa in Ukraine. They run all year and take vehicles. In bygone years ferries sailed between Istanbul and other Black Sea ports, and elsewhere in the Med, but they no longer do so.
Cruise ships usually dock on Istanbul's European side, around Karaköy / Galataport close to the historic centre. These ships are on cruise itineraries, check with the operator whether a point-to-point journey ending in Istanbul is possible.
Several Greek islands lie close to the Turkish Aegean coast and are linked by hydrofoil fast ferries, and also have westward ferries that ultimately reach Piraeus the port for Athens. Routes (some seasonal) include Bodrum-Kos, Çeşme-Chios, Datça-Rhodes & Symi, Kuşadası-Samos and Marmaris-Rhodes.
From July 2019 a direct ferry sails between Turkey and mainland Greece, run by Aegean Seaways [dead link]. This sails overnight M W F from Lavrion near Athens at 22:00 to reach Çeşme near Izmir in Turkey at 06:00, sailing back from Çeşme Tu Th Sa at 22:00 overnight. On Sunday the ferry sails from Lavrion at 11:00 to reach Çeşme at 19:00, then sails back near midnight to return to Lavrion at 08:00. It is intended to run this service year-round.
There are ferry connections from Kyrenia in Northern Cyprus to Taşucu, Mersin (near Adana) and Alanya. A year-round truckers ferry goes to Taşucu, while seasonal fast ferries depart to both Taşucu and Mersin.
It's a huge country, with mountains impeding the highways and railways, so domestic air travel is well-developed. Especially on routes to Istanbul it's also very competitive, with Turkish Airlines, Onur Air and Pegasus Airlines fighting for your custom, so fares are affordable. There are flights between Istanbul and Ankara hourly; Izmir and Adana have several flights a day to Istanbul (both IST and SAW) and Ankara, and every city has at least a daily flight.
Regional airports usually have a connecting Havaş bus to the city centre, which will wait, within reason, for incoming flights. Buses and minibuses also fan out from the airports to other nearby towns.
Turkey has a very good long-distance bus network with air-conditioned buses, reserved seats and generally good-quality service, at least with the major operators. There are now quite a number of companies providing more comfortable buses with 2 + 1 seats per row. Standard buses, however, have seats narrower than those of economy class on aircraft. Buses are often crowded and smoking is prohibited.
Go to the Otogar (bus station) in any of the major cities and you can find a bus to almost any destination departing within half an hour, or a couple of hours at the most. Buses are staffed by drivers and a number of assistants. During the ride you will be offered free drinks, a bite or two, and stops will be made every 2½ hr or so at well-stocked road restaurants. The further east you travel, the less frequent buses will be, but even places as far as Dogubeyazit or Van will have regular services to many places hundreds of kilometres away. Only the smallest towns do not have a bus straight to Istanbul or Izmir at least once every two days.
The four biggest bus companies are:
Although, even the smallest company can nowadays be booked via a streamlined website of that bus company. All of them demand a Turkish phone number, but you might just fill in a fake one starting with "539" or so. But the email address should work, to get the ticket. All companies accept foreign passengers and passports. In high season it might make sense to book ahead—just check out the situation a couple of days ahead online. You can also use websites that accumulate all the connections, like obilet or busbud—check both, they have different companies. Buses are reliable and will pick you up—remember Istanbul has at least 3 bus stations.
Otherwise, bus tickets can also be bought inside of bus terminals. Often checking out several ticket booths will give you a better price, since some specialize on certain bus companies and others do not.
Be careful, scammers will be waiting for you in and before bus stations, and some may assist you in buying a ticket to a bus that won't depart in the next two hours. Sometimes there simply is no other bus, but on other occasions you will be sitting there while other buses with the same destination start well ahead. If you have some time to spare: check the departure (and arrival) times of other companies, that may save you time overall. Still, if you indicate you really want to leave now (use phrases like "hemen" or "şimdi", or "acelem var" - I am in a hurry ), people will realize you are in hurry, and off you go on the next bus departing for your destination.
If you have several operators to choose from, ask for the number of seats in the buses you compare. Roughly, a larger capacity implies a greater comfort (all bus-seats have approximately the same leg-room, but larger 48-seat buses are certainly more comfortable than a 15-seat Dolmuş, which may be considered a 'bus' by the company selling the seat). Also, the bus company with the largest sign is usually the one with the most buses and routes. If possible, ask other travellers you meet about their experiences with different operators: even big operators have different standards of service, and even with the same operator the standards may vary from region to region.
Don't be surprised if halfway to some strange and far-off destination you are asked out of the bus (your luggage will often be already standing next to it) and transferred to another. The other bus will "buy" you, and will bring you to the destination. This may even happen for 'direct' or 'non-stop' tickets.
Sometimes long-haul bus lines will leave you stranded on some ring-road around a city, rather than bringing you to the center. That can be annoying. Inquire ahead (and hope they don't lie). On the other hand, many companies will have "servis aracı" or service vehicles to the center, when the Otogar is on the periphery of a city, as they nowadays often are. In some cities these service vehicles are used by many companies combined, and a fleet of them, to different parts of the metropolis, will be waiting. The company may also choose to combine the passengers of multiple buses; meaning that you may have to wait until another bus or two arrives before departing. Keep your ticket ready as proof you were on a bus (though most of these services are run on good faith). In some cities (including Ankara, excluding Istanbul), the municipality have prohibited the use of service buses due to their effect on traffic. In that case, you might have to take a public bus or metro to get to your destination. One should probably avoid using taxis (at least departing from the Otogar) since they usually tend to abuse their monopolistic position by refusing to go to closer destinations, behaving rudely towards the passenger, charging on the night tariff, etc. If you have to take a taxi, it is usually suggested that you do it from outside the bus terminal.
Seating within buses is partly directed by the "koltuk numarası" or seat number on your ticket, partly by the ritualistic seating of women next to women, couples together and so forth. So don't be too annoyed if you are required to give up your seat. In general, as a foreigner, you will have the better seat much of the time. It is often easiest to take a seat in the back, whatever the number of your koltuk, and not be bothered for much of the ride. This is particularly true if you travel alone, and want to keep it that way, even though the last row may be reserved for the driver-off-duty, who wants to sleep. And remember: many buses pick up short-track fare along the ride, and park them in the last two or three rows. The back of the bus may be more noisy than the front, since that is where the engine is located.
If you have a bicycle it will be transported free of extra charge. In most buses it fits in the luggage area of the bus. Make sure you have the tools to fold your bike as small as possible (height matters most)
Fez Bus. This is another alternative, a Hop on hop off travel network that links Istanbul to the most popular tourist destinations in western Turkey, and a few other destinations. The buses runs hostel to hostel and have an English speaking tour leader on board. The pass can be purchased for a few days or all summer. Departures are every other day. More expensive than local buses, but could be far less hassle, and offers a different experience. The main office in Istanbul is in Sultanahmet next to the Orient Youth Hostel on Yeni Akbiyik Cd. 
Mainline train services in Turkey fall into three categories: i) very fast and modern; ii) slow and scenic; and iii) suspended long-term for rebuilding or for other reasons. The train operator is TCDD, Turkish Republic State Railways, visit their website for timetables, fares and reservations. The trains are inexpensive, but trains often sell out. See below for how to buy tickets.
Most cities in Turkey have a rail connection of some sort, but not the Mediterranean and Aegean holiday resorts, which have been built in the 21st century and are hemmed in by mountains. (Kuşadası is the exception, being close to Selçuk on the line between Izmir and Pamukkale.) For some destinations, connecting buses meet the trains, eg at Eskişehir for Bursa, and at Konya for Antalya and Alanya. The main cities also have metro and suburban lines, described on those cities’ pages.
The very fast, modern trains are called YHT: yüksek hızlı tren. These serve Istanbul, Eskişehir, Konya and Ankara. They are clean, comfortable and modern; fares are low and reservations are compulsory. They run on new, dedicated track at up to 300 km/h so they keep to time. Thus, from Istanbul it’s under 5 hours to Ankara (8 per day, standard single about €20), and likewise 5 hours to Konya (3 per day). Because journey times are short, YHT trains only run daytime, and have only snack-catering. On-train announcements in English forbid “smoking, alcohol, smelly food and peanuts.” The smoke-free and alcohol-free rules are enforced, it’s unclear how zealous they are about peanuts. Between the cities, YHTs make a few momentary intermediate stops. The only one likely to be relevant to visitors is Eryaman, as an interchange with the Ankara suburban system.
The YHT network is gradually extending: routes under construction are from Ankara towards Kars, from Konya towards Adana, and from Istanbul towards Edirne. The long-term strategy is to create a high-speed, high-capacity passenger and freight route from Edirne on the western border through to Kars in the east.
But where the YHT services terminate, the line closures and disruptions immediately begin, as Turkey’s Ottoman-era railways are upgraded for the 21st century. The main closures (as at 2021) are from Adana east to Gaziantep, and between Izmir and Bandirma (for the Istanbul ferry).
Conventional trains are slow and scenic, with the emphasis on slow: most run overnight, with journeys from Ankara to eastern cities taking 24 hours. They are infrequent, at best daily, sometimes only one or two per week. The typical train set includes a sleeping car (yataklı vagon), a couchette car (kuşetli), and three open saloons (layout is single row-aisle-double row), plus a buffet that may or may not have any food, plan on bringing your own. How clean and comfortable they are depends on how busy: at quiet times they are fine, but when crowded they soon become filthy. (Always carry your own toilet-roll and hand-wipes.) They are difficult for anyone with impaired mobility to use, and station re-building makes access worse. Nominally these trains are non-smoking, but there’s often a smell of tobacco smoke aboard. They are diesel-hauled and run on single track: on straight level sections they can rattle along at 100 km/h, but in the mountains they plod up steep gradients and round tight bends. So they generally start on time but become delayed along the route.
Tourist trains operated by TCDD run several long-distance routes, eg Ankara to Kars. These cost about twice the normal fare; they make a few 2-3 hour stops for tourist excursions, so the total running time is a little longer. You're tied to the tourist itinerary without flexibility of stopover. The accommodation is the same as on conventional trains: indeed the rolling stock has been provided by pulling sleeping cars off the conventional trains, so the travel experience on these has been degraded. A private tourist train is Cappadocia Express, expected to launch in 2022: it will run overnight from Istanbul to Kayseri in luxury sleeping cars then bus tourists to Cappadocia National Park. It's aimed at the Japanese market but anyone will be able to book. Details are not yet announced but you can expect a hefty price.
Buying tickets: Reservations are essential for YHT trains and recommended for other mainline services. YHT and standard mainline (anahat) trains are best booked via the TCDD website. International trains (uluslararası) can be booked by other methods (below) but not via the website; and regional (bolger) trains are not bookable. TCDD replacement buses are considered trains, and bookable (or not) on the same basis. Consult the timetable first, for the latest on timings and disruptions, but beware that timetable and reservations system sometimes give different days of running for some services, for no discernable reason. The timetable only lists the main stations, where the train waits for about ten minutes, and you'll just have time to dash to the station kiosk and replenish your food supplies. The trains also stop momentarily at many little wayside halts, where sometimes food vendors will hop on.
Then to buy your ticket, move to the reservation system, but this only opens 15 to 30 days in advance – look further ahead and it will seem like there aren’t any trains. Pick your preferred train service and seat or berth, whereupon the system will display the price and give you the choice of immediate purchase, or of holding the option for a few days. Immediately note your confirmation number, and print your ticket at home whenever convenient: it doesn’t need validating at the station. It’s unclear whether a soft ticket on your phone is acceptable without validation.
The Inter Rail Global Pass and Balkan Flexipass are valid for all trains within Turkey and the trains to & from Europe, but you may still need a seat reservation. TCDD also offer discounts for those under 26 (genç bilet, whether or not you’re a student) and for those over 60 (yaşlı bilet). Check their website for other discount offers, but usually these are aimed at commuters and others making multiple repeat journeys.
Tickets can also be bought from the stations (either at the counter, or from self-service kiosks), from travel agents, or from PTT post offices. The main stations (including Sirkeci) accept credit cards and can book you onto any bookable train, but they’re unlikely to accept non-Turkish cash. (And nowadays you may struggle to find a money-changer, as they’re replaced by ATMs.) Advance reservations are strongly recommended during summer, on Fridays and Sundays, and around public holidays and religious festivals. Of course you may be able to get a reservation for immediate departure, and the non-YHT trains usually have non-bookable seats, and a scrummage on the platform to claim them. Bear in mind that the main stations may involve a queue for security just to get into the station hall, then another queue for tickets, then a further queue for security and document-check to get onto the platform. You can’t just rock up and jump on.
Like all of its neighbours, except Cyprus off the southern coast of Turkey, driving is on the right side of the road in Turkey.
It is illegal to use a mobile phone while driving. Maximum permitted amount of alcohol in blood for drivers is 0.05 mg per ml (0.05%), similar to most European countries. A pint of beer enjoyed before driving might get your licence temporarily confiscated in case of police checks. The use of seat belts both at the front and back line is obligatory, but, although failing to use one carries a penalty, this is not always adhered to by locals, including the drivers themselves.
Turkish road signs are almost identical to the ones used in Europe, and differences are often insignificant. The place names written on green background lead to motorways (which you should pay a toll, unless it is a ring road around or within a city); on blue background means other highways; on white background means rural roads (or a road inside a city under the responsibility of city councils); and on brown background indicates the road leads to a historical place, an antique city, or a place of tourist interest (these signs used to be on yellow background till a few years ago, so still there is a chance of unreplaced yellow signs existing here and there). These signs are sometimes not standardized.
Most intercity highways avoid city centres by circling around them. If you'd like to drive into the centre for shopping, dining, and the like, follow the signposts saying Şehir Merkezi, which are usually on white background, and are accompanied by no further translations though you can still spot some old signs saying "Centrum" besides Şehir Merkezi. City centres typically have two or more entrances/exits from the ringroads that surround them.
As Turkey uses the metric system, all distances on the signboards are in kilometres, unless otherwise stated (such as metres, but never in miles).
There are no fees to use the highways except intercity motorways (otoyol). While Turkish highways vary widely in quality and size, the toll motorways have three lanes and are very smooth and fast. Motorways are explicitly signed with distinct green signs and given road numbers prefixed with the letter O. The motorway network consists of the routes stretching out to west, south and east from Istanbul (towards Edirne, Bursa and Ankara respectively), a network in Central Aegean fanning out of Izmir, and another one connecting the major eastern Mediterranean city of Adana to its neighbouring cities in all cardinal directions.
Most motorways no longer have toll booths (two glaring exceptions are the third bridge crossing the Bosphorus north of Istanbul and the bridge and motorway across the Gulf of İzmit to the direction of Bursa, where you can still pay in cash) and instead have lanes automatically scanning the windowpane for the RFID stickers (HGS) or tags (OGS) while accessing and again exiting the motorway. HGS stickers are easier to use and allow you to install as much liras as you need. To buy an HGS sticker, look for the service buildings at the major toll stations. They are also available in postoffices.
KGS, a system using prepaid cards, has been phased out.
In addition to the distance driven, motorway fees also depend on the type of your vehicle. Edirne–Istanbul motorway—about 225 km and the main entry point to Istanbul from Europe—costs 8.50 TL for a car, for example. The newest additions to the network, such as the Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge and the Osman Gazi Bridge (crossing the Bosphorus and the Gulf of İzmit, respectively) tend to be much more expensive per km.
Fuel and charging
Fossil fuel in Turkey is more expensive than some neighbouring countries. For example, a litre of gasoline costs a little less than 5 TL. Diesel and LPG are less damaging to your wallet, but not that drastically.
Petrol stations (benzin istasyonu) are frequent along highways, most are open round the clock and accept credit cards (you have to get out of the car and enter the station building to enter your PIN code if you are using a credit card). In all of them you can find unleaded gasoline (kurşunsuz), diesel (dizel or motorin), and LPG (liquid petroleum gas, LPG). Some also sell CNG (compressed natural gas, CNG). However the rare fuel stations in remote villages often only have diesel, which is used for running agricultural machinery. So keep your gas tank topped up if you are going to stray away from main roads. Also petrol stations along motorways are rarer than other highways, usually only about every 40-50km, so don't get too low on these roads either.
Biofuels are not common. What most resembles a biofuel available to a casual driver is sold in some of the stations affiliated with national chain Petrol Ofisi under the name biyobenzin. But still it is not mostly biofuel: it consists of a little bioethanol (2% of the total volume) stirred into pure gasoline which makes up the rest (98%). Biodiesel is in an experimental stage yet, not available in the market.
As of 2021 there are very few electric vehicle charging stations, however more will be added during 2022.
In all cities and towns, there are repair shops, usually located together in complexes devoted to auto-repairing (usually rather incorrectly called sanayi sitesi or oto sanayi sitesi in Turkish, which means “industrial estate” and “auto-industrial estate” respectively), which are situated in the outskirts of the cities.
In all cities and towns,there are big 3 s plants (sales, service, spare parts). These are more corporate than sanayi sitesi these called oto plaza.
Renting a car
You may rent a car to get around Turkey from an international or local car rental agent. The main airports all have car rental desks, but book ahead for the best deals.
The minibus (or Minibüs as called in Istanbul) is a small bus (sometimes car) that will ride near-fixed routes. The ride may be from the periphery of a major city to the centre or within a city, but may also take three to four hours from one city to the next, when demand along the route is not sufficient to justify large buses. They sometimes make a detour to bring some old folks home or collect some extra heavy luggage. You will find them in cities as well as in inter-city traffic. All during their journey people will get in and out (shout “Inecek var” – “someone to get off” – to have it stop if you’re in). The driver tends to be named “kaptan” (captain), and some behave accordingly. The fare is collected all through the ride. In some by a specially appointed passenger who will get a reduction, in others by a steward, who may get off halfway down the journey, to pick up a dolmuş of the same company heading back, and mostly by the driver himself. If the driver collects himself, people hand money on from the back rows to the front, getting change back by the same route. On some stretches tickets are sold in advance, and things can get complicated if some of the passengers bought a ticket and others just sat inside waiting, for maybe half an hour, but without a ticket.
The concept of dolmuş in Istanbul is different than the rest of Turkey. The vehicles are different and they take a maximum of 7 sitting passengers, with no standing. They do not tend to take passengers along the way, they depart immediately when they are full, and many of them operate 24 hours a day. The name derives from “dolmak”, the verb for “to fill”, as they usually depart only when they are full, though they sometimes start at fixed hours, whatever the number.
Fast ferries (hızlı feribot) are fast (50-60km/hour) catamaran-type ferryboats that connect for instance Istanbul to the other side of the Marmara Sea. They can cut travel time dramatically. Again for instance leaving from the Yenikapı jetty in Istanbul (just a bit southwest of the Blue Mosque) you can be at the Bursa otogar in two hours, with less than an hour for the actual boat ride to Yalova. Similar services are operated to connect several parts of Istanbul with the Asian side, or places farther up the Bosporus. This type of fast ferry is increasingly seen all over the country wherever there is sufficient water.
There are also ferry connections between Istanbul and Izmir operating only in summer months.
All inhabited Turkish islands have at least one daily cruise to the nearest mainland city or town during summer. But as winter conditions at the seas can go harsh, the frequency of voyages drop significantly due to the bad weather.
Perhaps one of the best cruising grounds in the world, Turkey offers thousands of years of history, culture and civilization set against a stunning mountainous backdrop. The coastline is a mixture of wide gulfs, peaceful coves, shady beaches, uninhabited islands, small villages and bustling towns. Many of these locations are still only accessible by boat. Rare in the Mediterranean, one can still find some seclusion on a private charter in Turkey. Turkey has more coastline than any other Mediterranean country. The best way to see Turkey is from your own private yacht on your own schedule. Turkey offers some of the most exquisite yachts in the world, known as gulets.
Simply put, long distance cycling is not a very easy task to do in Turkey, mainly for two reasons: most of the country's terrain is hilly, and special lanes devoted to bicycles are virtually non-existent, especially along the intercity routes. That being said, most coastal cities nowadays have cycling lanes of varying shapes and lengths along the shores (mainly built for a leisurely ride rather than serious transportation, though) and most highways built within the last decade or so have quite wide and well surfaced shoulders, which can double as bicycle lanes.
If you have already made up your mind and give cycling a try in your Turkey trip, always stay as much on the right side of the roads as possible; avoid riding a bicycle out of cities or lighted roads at night, do not be surprised by drivers hooting at you, and do not go on the motorway, as it is forbidden. You could better prefer rural roads with much less traffic density, but then there is the problem of freely roaming sheepdogs, which can sometimes be quite dangerous. Rural roads also have much much less signboards than the highways, which turns them into a labyrinth, in which it is easy to get lost even for non-local Turkish people, without a detailed map.
Air can be pumped into tyres at any petrol station without charge. Bicycle repair-shops are rare in cities and often in hard-to-locate places; motorcycle repair shops can be tried alternatively (however, they are very reluctant to repair a bicycle if they are busy with their customers who have motorcycles).
On Istanbul's Princes' Islands, renting a bike is an amusing and cheaper alternative to hiring a horse-drawn carriage. On these islands well-paved roads are shared only by horse-drawn carriages, bicycles and public service vehicles (like ambulances, police vans, school buses, garbage trucks).
Ebikes with removable batteries are manufactured and sold at reasonable prices, but check first with your airline if you plan to fly with it. As elsewhere, ebikes with non-removable batteries are strictly forbidden on all flights.
Almost every driver has an idea about what universal hitchhiking sign (“thumb”) means. Don’t use any other sign which may be equivalent of a signal meaning a danger. In addition to the thumb, having a signboard with the destination name certainly helps. Waiting for someone to take you generally doesn't exceed half an hour, though this dramatically varies depending on the density of traffic (as is elsewhere) and the region, for example, it usually takes much longer to attract a ride in Mediterranean Turkey than in Marmara Region. Best hitchhiking spots are the crossroads with traffic lights, where ring-roads around a city and the road coming from the city center intersect. Don’t be so away from the traffic lights so drivers would be slow enough to see you and stop to take you; but be away enough from the traffic lights for a safe standing beside the road. Don’t try to hitchhike on motorways, no one will be slow enough to stop, it is also illegal to enter the motorways as a pedestrian. Don’t start to hitchhike until you are out of a city as cars may head for different parts of the city, not your destination, and if not in hurry, try to avoid hitchhiking after night falls, especially if you are a lone female traveler.
Although the drivers are taking you just to have a word or two during their long, alone journey, always watch out and avoid sleeping.
On some occasions, you may not be able to find someone going directly to where your destination is, so don’t refuse anyone stopped to take you – refusing someone stopped to take you is impolite - unless he/she is going to a few kilometres away, and if he/she would go to a road that doesn’t arrive at your destination in a coming fork. You may have to change several cars even on a 100-km course, changing in each town after town. However, because of the enormous numbers of trucks carrying goods for foreign markets, you could possibly find unexpected long-haul trips.
Not many, but some drivers may ask for money (“fee”) from you. Refuse and tell them that if you had money to waste, you would be on a bus, and not standing on the side of the road.
Drivers staying in the area may point downwards (to the road surface) or towards the direction they’re driving or flash their headlights while passing, indicating that they wouldn't make a good long-haul ride. Smile and/or wave your hand to show courtesy.
Trail blazing is on the rise in Turkey lately and nowadays all Turkish regions have waymarked hiking trails of various lengths and shapes. Most of them follow a theme, such as connecting to the sites of an ancient civilization, retracing the footsteps of a historical figure or chasing the treats of a specific regional cuisine. The oldest, and the most popular trail is the Lycian Way, which snakes its way over the mountains backing the Turquoise Coast in the southwest. The website of the Culture Routes Society maintains an up-to-date list of the major hiking trails in the country. Guided tours, often involving hiking the most scenic sections and homestays in the villages, along some of these trails are offered by local travel agencies as well as those based in major cities.
Inside the cities, there are white-, or rarely yellow-painted pedestrian crossings (zebra crossing) on the main streets and avenues, which are normally pedestrian-priority spots. However, for many drivers, they are nothing more than ornamental drawings on the road pavements, so it is better to cross the streets at where traffic lights are. Still, be sure all the cars stopped, because it is not unusual to see the drivers still not stopping in the first few seconds after the light turns to red for vehicles. As a better option, on wide streets, there are also pedestrian overpasses and underground pedestrian passages available. In narrow main streets during rush hour, you can cross the street anywhere and anytime, since cars will be in a stop-go-stop-go manner because of heavy traffic. Also in narrow streets inside the residential hoods, you need not to worry about keeping on the sidewalk, you can walk well in the middle of the road, only to step aside when a car is coming.
- See also: Turkish phrasebook
The sole official language of Turkey is Turkish. Turkish is a Turkic language and its closest living relatives are other Turkic languages, which are spoken in southwestern, central and northern Asia; and to a lesser degree by significant communities in the Balkans. Because Turkish is an agglutinative language, native speakers of non-agglutinative languages, such as Indo-European languages, generally find it difficult to learn. For many centuries, Turkish was written in the Arabic alphabet, evident in many historical texts and documents, but it has been written in the Latin alphabet since 1928. This means that Turkish is now written using the same letters as English, albeit with the addition of ç/Ç, ğ/Ğ, ı, İ, ö/Ö, ş/Ş and ü/Ü and the exclusions of q/Q, w/W and x/X.
Kurdish is also spoken by an estimated 7-10% of the population. Language policy towards Kurdish has varied from brutal suppression to trying to ignore the language since the "Young Turkish" revolt shortly before World War I and speaking Kurdish can be seen as a political statement. Several other languages exist, like Laz in the North-East (also spoken in adjacent Georgia), and in general people living near borders will often speak the language of the other side too. For example, people in the south-east often speak Arabic.
Thanks to migration, even in rural areas most villages will have at least one person who has worked in Germany and can thus speak German. The same goes for other Western European languages like Dutch/Flemish or French. Recent immigration from the Balkans means there is also the possibility of coming across native Serbo-Croatian, Bulgarian, and Albanian speakers mainly in big cities of western Turkey. English is also increasingly popular among the younger generation. The "universities" that train pupils for a job in tourism pour out thousands of youngsters who want to practice their knowledge on the tourist, with varying degrees of fluency. Language universities produce students that nowadays are pretty good at their chosen language.
As a general rule, most museums and sites of ancient cities in Turkey are closed on Mondays (even Hagia Sophia). The Turkish government offers a museum pass for many sights and museums in Turkey for 375 TL. Check out what is included, and buy it if it makes sense for you. Numerous sights can still be seen for free though.
Ancient ruins and architectural heritage
At the crossroads of civilizations, all parts of Turkey are full of a mindblowing number of ancient ruins.
Göbekli Tepe, an ancient archaeological site near the city of Şanlıurfa in Southeastern Anatolia, Turkey.
Hittites, the first indigenous people that rose to found a state in Anatolia—although Çatalhöyük and Göbekli Tepe preceding them, the earliest settlement and earliest temple ever found to the date in Turkey—left the proof of their existence at the ruins of Hattuşaş, their capital. The Hittites spoke an Indoeuropean language (the oldest one attested in writing) and were contemporaries of the "New Kingdom" of Ancient Egypt, engaged in extensive correspondence and diplomacy with the eastern Mediterranean world.
Ancient Greeks and closely following Romans left their mark mostly in Aegean and Mediterranean Regions, leaving behind the marble ruins of hundreds of cities, temples, and monuments. Some are largely restored to their former glory, such as Ephesus as well as numerous others along the Aegean coast which are on the checklist of most travellers to Turkey, along with some more obscure ones off the beaten path such as Aphrodisias near Denizli, and Aizanoi near Kütahya.
In the meantime, some other indigenous peoples, such as Lycians, were carving beautiful tombs—many of which are fairly well preserved and can be seen all around Lycia—for their dearly departed ones onto the rocky hillsides.
Legendary Troy stands out as an example of different civilizations literally living on the top of each other. While what is visible today is clearly Hellenistic, the place has its roots as Hittite Wilusa, and later re-built many times over by Ancient Greeks.
Perhaps the most unique "architectural" heritage in the country, some of the Cappadocian cave houses and churches carved into "fairy chimneys" and underground cities (in a literal sense!) date back to early Christians hiding from persecution.
Successors of Romans, the Byzantines, broke new ground with more ambitious projects, culminating in grand Hagia Sophia of Istanbul, built in 537, and which had the distinction of being the largest cathedral in the world for almost a thousand years. While a stray monastery or two dating back to the era can be found in almost any part of the country, most of the Byzantine heritage intact today is found 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 rump Byzantine state that survived the Fall of Constantinople for about a decade.
Seljuks, the first ever Turkic state to be founded in Asia Minor, built most of their monuments—which incorporates large majestic portals and heavily delicate stonework, reminiscent of some landmarks in parts of Asia—in major centres of the time in Eastern and Central Anatolia, especially in Konya, their capital.
Ottomans, who had considered themselves as a Balkan state until their demise, built most of their landmarks in Balkans and the natural extension of Balkans within today's Turkey—Marmara Region—just like the Byzantines, whom the Ottomans inspired to in so many ways. Most of the earlier Ottoman monuments were built in Bursa, which have little Byzantine and comperatively large Seljuk influences, and later, when the dynasty moved to Europe, in Edirne, some of the major landmarks of which exhibit some kind of "transitional" and fairly experimental style. It wasn't until the Fall of Constantinople that the Ottomans adopted Byzantine architecture almost full scale with some adjustments. However, the Ottoman imperial architecture possibly reached its zenith not in Istanbul, but in Edirne—in the form of Selimiye Mosque, a work of Sinan, the great Ottoman architecture of 16th century.
19th century brought back the Greek and Roman taste of architectural styles, so there was a huge explosion of neo-classical architecture, as much fashionable in Turkey as in the much of the rest of the world at that time. Galata side of Istanbul, Izmir (though unfortunately most of which was lost to the big fire of 1922), and numerous towns along the coasts, one most prominent and well preserved example being Ayvalık, quickly filled with elegant neo-classical buildings. At the same time, people in more inland locations were favouring pleasant, more traditional, and less pretentious half-timbered whitewashed houses, which form picturesque towns such as Safranbolu, Beypazarı, and Şirince in northern, central, and western part of the country respectively. It was also this time beautiful and impressive wooden mansions of Istanbul's seaside neighbourhoods and islands were built. Other contemporary trends of the era, such as Baroque and Rococo, didn't make much inroads in Turkey, although there were some experiments of combining them into Islamic architecture, as can be seen at Ortaköy Mosque on the banks of Bosphorus along with some others.
As the landscapes change the more east you go, so does the architectural heritage. The remote valleys and hilltops of Eastern Karadeniz and Eastern Anatolia are dotted with numerous medieval Georgian and Armenian churches and castles—some of which are nicely well preserved but not all were that lucky. Armenian cathedral on Akdamar Island of Lake Van and medieval Ani are two that lay somewhere on the midway between perfectly preserved and undergone total destruction, but both are absolutely must-sees if you've made your way that east. For a change, Southeastern Anatolia features more Middle East-influenced architecture, with arched courtyards and heavy usage of yellow stones with highly exquisite masonry. It's best seen in Urfa, and especially in Mardin and nearby Midyat.
Being on the crossroads of civilizations more often than not also means being the battleground of civilizations. So it's no wonder why so many castles and citadels dot the landscape, both in towns and countryside, and both on the coasts and inland. Most of the castles built during different stages of history are today main attractions of the towns they are standing on.
20th century wasn't kind on Turkish cities. Due to the pressure caused by high rates of immigration from rural to urban areas, many historical neighbourhoods in cities were knocked down in favour of soulless (and usually, drab ugly) apartment blocks, and outskirts of major cities transformed to shantytowns. There is not really much of a gem in the name of modern architecture in Turkey. Steel-and-glass skyscrapers, on the other hand, are now slowly and sparsely being erected in major cities, one example where they concentrate much as to form a skyline view being the business district of Istanbul, although hardly impressive compared with major metropolises around the world known for their skyscraper filled skylines.
- Along the Troad Coast — ancient legends intertwine with beautiful landscapes and the deep blue Aegean Sea
- Lycian Way — walk along the remotest section of the country's Mediterranean coast, past ancient cities, forgotten hamlets, and balmy pine forests
- Beaches line the entire Mediterranean coast, but those with well-developed resorts are between Alanya to the east and Kuşadası on the Aegean coast to the west. There are scores more small places that only locals head for, such as the Gulf of Saros, handy for Istanbul. The Marmara and Black Sea beaches are not worth seeking out.
- Nargile (hooka or water pipe) – Once upon a time, the nargile, or Turkish water pipe, was the centre of Istanbul’s social and political life. Today some of the locals still consider it one of life’s great pleasures and is something interesting to try.
- Hamam – A visit to a hamam or Turkish bath is an essential part of any trip to Turkey and is something you'll be sure to repeat before leaving. There is at least one historical hamam in each neighborhood of Istanbul and other large cities. Take care in selecting a hamam, as they can vary greatly in cleanliness. Most places will offer a scrubbing and/or a massage. Just being in the Hamam (as a sauna), is enough for seeing and experiencing the place, but the scrubbing is a great experience. The massage is not necessarily better than those found in western countries. Many hamams cater for tourists nowadays and are widely overpriced, mind them. A traditional and authentic hamam does not have to be expensive and certainly you would not pay in euros there.
- Winter sports – Not what you might expect here, but the mountainous interior of Turkey has bitter-cold winters with reliable snow cover. Some popular resorts in the northwest are Uludağ near Bursa, Kartepe near Izmit, Kartalkaya near Bolu and Ilgaz near Kastamonu; in the northeast are Palandöken near Erzurum and Sarıkamış near Kars; and central is Erciyes near Kayseri. At Saklıkent near Antalya you're supposed to be able to ski in the morning then reach the Med for a swim in the afternoon, but its snow cover is brief and unreliable.
- Watch football – Süper Lig is soccer's top tier in Turkey, with 16 teams playing August to May. Istanbul has six teams at this level and Ankara has two. The national team usually play home games at Atatürk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul.
- Cycling – The premier race is the President's Tour of Turkey, held over a week in April.
Exchange rates for Turkish lira
As of September 2021:
Exchange rates fluctuate. Current rates for these and other currencies are available from XE.com
What does it cost?
Sometimes (fruit and vegetable) market stands have price signs. Otherwise, if you are a tourist, you will probably be quoted a much higher price. Hence, it is of no use buying there, unless you know the real price. In the following some common prices.
The currency of the country is the Turkish lira, denoted by the symbol "₺" or "TL" (ISO code: TRY). Wikivoyage articles will use TL to denote the currency.
The lira is divided into 100 kuruş (abbreviated kr).
In 2005, Turkey dropped six zeroes from its currency, thus making each post-2005 lira worth one million pre-2005 lira (or so called "old lira"). Don't be confused if you see the currency symbolised YTL or ytl, standing for yeni lira). Pre-2009 banknotes and coins (those bearing yeni lira and yeni kuruş) are not legal tender, and can no longer be exchanged at banks.
Banknotes are in 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 and 200 TL denominations. Coins of 5, 10, 25 and 50 kuruş are legal tender. There's also a 1 TL coin.
There are legal exchange offices in all cities and almost any town. Banks also exchange money, but they are not worth the hassle as they are usually crowded and do not give better rates than exchange offices. You can see the rates an office offers on the (usually electronic) boards located somewhere near its gate. Euros and US dollars are the most useful currencies, with often less than a 1% buy-sell spread. But pounds sterling (Bank of England notes only, not Scottish or Northern Irish notes), Swiss francs, Japanese yen, Saudi riyals, and a number of other currencies are also not very hard to exchange (for a good rate).
It is important to remember that most exchangers accept only banknotes, it can be very hard to exchange foreign coins. In some places, where there is a meaningful explanation for it, more uncommon currencies can also be exchanged, too, for example Australian dollars may be exchanged in Çanakkale where grandchildren of Australian and New Zealander WWI soldiers gather to commemorate their grandfathers every year, or in Kaş, which is just across the Greek island of Kastelorizo, which in turn has a large diaspora in Australia. As a general rule, if a place attracts many visitors from a country, then it is usually possible to exchange that country’s currency there.
Tourism-oriented industries in tourism-oriented towns, as well as shops where big amounts of money change hands, like supermarkets, in most parts of the country, generally accept foreign currency (usually limited to Euro and American dollars only), but the rates they accept the currency are usually a little worse than those of exchange offices. Ask if they accept foreign currency.
Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted, American Express much less so. All credit card users have to enter their PIN codes when using their cards. Older, magnetic card holders are excepted from this, but remember that, unlike some other places in Europe, salespeople haves the legal right to ask you to show a valid ID with a photo on to recognize that you are the owner of the card.
Cash machines are scattered throughout the cities, concentrated in central parts. It is possible to draw Turkish lira (and sometimes US dollars or/and euros) from these ATMs with your foreign Visa, Mastercard or Maestro card (not necessarily a credit card). Any major town has at least one ATM.
ATMs ask whether to provide instructions in English or in Turkish (and sometimes some other languages, too) as soon as you insert a foreign card (or a Turkish card which is not the operating bank’s own).
Most ATMs will offer a direct currency conversion (DCC) into your home currency (€, US$, etc.), so you will then be charged in your home currency and not in Turkish Lira. This is best to avoid since the rates offered are usually far worse than what your bank would charge you for the Turkish Lira you're about to withdraw.
Specific costs for ATM withdrawals depend on your foreign bank, but many ATMs in Turkey add a commission / fee on-top of the dispensed amount (even for US dollar and euro withdrawals), which is then together charged to you bank. In the following an overview of banks and charges:
- Ziraat, HSBC: no ATM fee (as of 2021)
- Halkbank: no ATM fee nor DCC offered
- odeabank: no ATM fee nor DCC offered
- Sekerbank: no ATM fee
- TEB: 2.1%
- Türkiye Bankasi: 2.9%
- DenizBank and VakifBank: 3%
- Garanti BBVA: 5% (as of 2021)
- AKBank: 7.95%
Always ask for the price if it is not displayed anywhere, even for a çay. Otherwise, you will constantly be overcharged as a tourist.
Apart from classical tourist souvenirs like postcards and trinkets, here are a few of what you can bring back home from Turkey.
- Leather clothing — Turkey is the biggest leather producer in the world, so the leather clothing is cheaper than elsewhere. Many shops in Laleli, Beyazıt, Mahmutpaşa districts of Istanbul (all around the tram line which goes through Sultanahmet Square) are specialized on leather.
- Carpets and kilims — Many regions in Turkey produce handmade kilims and carpets. Though the symbols and figures differentiate depending on the region in which the carpet is produced, they are generally symbolic expressions based on ancient Anatolian religions and/or nomadic Turkic life which takes shape around shamanic beliefs more than 1,000 years ago. You can find shops specialized on handmade carpets and kilims in any major city, tourist spot and Sultanahmet Area.
- You seriously cannot go anywhere in Turkey without someone trying to sell you a carpet. People will approach you on the street, engage in a little friendly conversation about where you're from, how do you like Turkey, and "would you like to come with me to my uncle's shop? It's just around the corner, and has the best authentic kilims." It can be irritating if you let it get to you, but remember that a large part of these people's economy comes from tourist's wallets so you can't blame them for trying.
- Silk — Dresses and scarves. Although can be found in many parts of the country, silk fans should head for Bursa and before that, pick up basics of bargaining.
- Earthenware — Handmade Cappadocian pottery (amphoras, old-style plates, flowerpots etc.) are made of local salty clay. Salt content of clay, thanks to salt spray produced by the Salt Lake –which is the second largest lake in Turkey- in the heartland of Central Anatolia, is what makes local earthenware top quality. In some Cappadocian towns, it is possible to see how these artifacts are produced, or even to experience producing one, at the dedicated workshops. Tiles with classical Ottoman motives that are produced in Kütahya are also famous.
- Turkish delight and Turkish coffee — If you like these during your Turkey trip, don’t forget to take a few packages back home. Available everywhere.
- Honey — The pine honey (çam balı) of Marmaris is famous and has a much stronger taste and consistency than regular flower honeys. Although not easily attained, if you can find, don’t miss the honey of Macahel valley, made out of flowers of a temperate semi-rainforest, which is almost completely out of human impact, in the far northeastern Black Sea Region.
- Chestnut dessert — Made out of syrup and chestnuts grown on the foothills of Mt. Uludağ, chestnut dessert (kestane şekeri) is a famous and tasty product of Bursa. There are many variations, such as chocolate coated ones. Chestnut dessert can be found in elsewhere, too, but relatively more expensive and in smaller packages.
- Meerschaum souvenirs — Despite its name meaning “sea foam” which it resembles, meerschaum (lületaşı) is extracted only in one place in the world: landlocked Eskişehir province in the extreme northwest part of Central Anatolia Region. This rock, similar to gypsum at sight, is carved into smoking pipes and cigarette holders. It has a soft and creamy texture and makes for a great decorative item. Available at some shops in Eskişehir.
- Castile (olive oil) soap — Natural, a silky touch on your skin, and a warm Mediterranean atmosphere in your bathroom. Absolutely cheaper than those to be found in Northern and Western Europe. Street markets in the Aegean Region and southern Marmara Region is full of olive oil soap, almost all of which are handmade. Even some old folk in the Aegean Region is producing their castile soaps in the traditional way: during or just after the olive harvest, neighbours gather in yards around large boilers heated by wood fire, then lye derived from the wood ash is added to hot water and olive oil mix. Remember – supermarkets out of the Aegean Region are generally offering no more than industrial tallow based soaps full of chemicals. In cities out of the Aegean Region, natural olive oil soap can be found in shops specialized in olive and olive oil. Some of these shops are even offering ecological soaps: made of organic olive oil and sometimes with additions of organic essential oils.
- Other soaps unique to Turkey are: laurel soaps (defne sabunu) which is produced mainly in Antakya (Antioch), soaps of Isparta enriched with rose oil which is produced abundantly in the area around Isparta, and bıttım sabunu, a soap made out of the oil of seeds of a local variety of pistachio tree native to the mountains of Southeastern Region. In Edirne, soaps shaped as various fruits are produced. Not used for their lather, rather they make a good assortment when different “fruits” are placed in a basket on a table, they fill the air with their sweet scent as well.
- Olive-based products apart from soap — Other olive-based products to give a try are olive oil shampoos, olive oil based eau de colognes and zeyşe, abbreviation from the first syllables of zeytin şekeri, a dessert similar to chestnut desserts, but made from olives.
In Turkey, bargaining is a must. One can bargain everywhere that doesn’t look too luxurious: shops, hotels, bus company offices, and so on. During your bargaining, don’t look so impressed and interested, and be patient. Since foreigners (especially Western people) aren’t expected to be good at bargaining, sellers are quick to reject any bargaining attempt (or are at least quick to look like so), but be patient and wait, the price will fall! (Don’t forget, even if you are successful at your bargaining attempt, when you get your credit card out of your wallet, rather than cash, the agreed price may rise again, though probably to a lower level than the original one)
You can get a VAT refund (18% or 23% on most items) if you are not a citizen or permanent resident of Turkey. Look for the blue “Tax-Free” sticker on the windowpane or entrance of the shops, these kind of shops are the only places you can get a VAT refund. Don’t forget to take the necessary papers from the shop that will enable you for a VAT reclaim when leaving Turkey.
Although Turkey is in a customs union with the European Union for some goods, unlike the situation in the EU, there is not an initiative to abolish duty-free shops in the airports.
Taking any antique (defined as something more than 100 years old) out of Turkey is subject to heavy restrictions or, in many cases, forbidden. If someone offers to sell you an antique, either he/she is a liar trying to sell cheap imitations or he/she is committing a crime to which you will be an accessory if you purchase the item.
In general, tipping is not considered obligatory. However, it is very common to leave a 5% to 10% tip in restaurants if you're satisfied with the service. At high-end restaurants a tip of 10-15% is customary. It is NOT possible to add tip to the credit card bill. It is very common amongst Turkish people to pay the bill with a credit card and leave the tip in cash or coins. Most waiters will bring your cash back in coins as much as possible, that's because Turkish people don't like to carry coins around and usually leave them at the table.
Taxi drivers do not expect tips, but it is common practice to let them keep the change. If you insist on taking exact change back, ask for para üstü? (pronounced “pah-rah oos-too”, which means “change”). Driver will be reluctant to give it at first, but you will eventually succeed.
If you are fortunate enough to try out a Turkish bath, it is customary to tip 15% of the total and split it up among all of the attendants. This is an important thing to keep in mind when tipping in Turkey, and will ensure your experience goes smoothly and is enjoyable.
Supermarket cashiers usually round up the total sum to the next 5 kuruş if you pay in cash (the exact sum is extracted when paid by a credit card though). This is not a kind of involuntary tip, as the 2-3-4 kuruşes don’t go into their pockets. It is simply because they are not adequately supplied with enough 1 kuruş coins as it is very rare in circulation. So don’t be surprised if the change given to you is short of a few kuruşes from what should be given to you according to what the electronic board of the till says. It is totally okay to pay the exact sum if you have enough number of 1 kuruş coins.
- See also: Middle Eastern cuisine
Turkish cuisine combines Mediterranean, Central Asian, Caucasian, and Arabic influences, and is extremely rich. Beef is the most important meat (lamb is also common but pork is very hard to find although not illegal), and eggplant (aubergine), onion, lentil, bean, tomato, garlic, and cucumber are the primary vegetables. An abundance of spices is also used. The main staples are rice (pilav), bulgur wheat and bread, and dishes are typically cooked in vegetable oil or sometimes butter.
There are many kinds of specialized restaurants to choose from, since most do not prepare or serve other kinds of food. Traditional Turkish restaurants serve meals daily prepared and stored in a bain-marie. The meals are at the entrance so you can easily see and choose. Kebapçis are restaurants specialized in many kinds of kebab. Some Kebab restaurants serve alcohol while others don't. There are subtypes like ciğerci, Adana kebapçısı or İskender kebapçısı. Fish restaurants typically serve meze (cold olive oil dishes) and Rakı or wine. Dönerci's are prevalent through country and serve döner kebap as a fast food. Köfeci's are restaurants with meatballs (Köfte) served as main dish. Kokoreçci, midyeci, tantunici, mantıcı, gözlemeci, lahmacuncu, pideci, çiğ köfteci, etsiz çiğ köfteci are other kinds of local restaurants found in Turkey which specialization in one food.
A full Turkish meal at Kebab restaurant starts with a soup, often lentil soup (mercimek çorbasi), and a set of meze appetizers featuring olives, cheese, pickles and a wide variety of small dishes. Meze can easily be made into a full meal, especially if they are consumed along with rakı. The main course is usually meat: a common dish type and Turkey's best known culinary export is kebab (kebap), grilled meat in various forms including the famous döner kebap (thin slices of meat shaved from a giant rotating spit) and şişkebab (skewered meat), and a lot more others. Köfte (meatball) is a variation of the kebab. There are hundreds of kinds of köfte throughout Anatolia, but only about 10 to 12 of them are known to the residents of the larger cities, kike İnegöl köfte, Dalyan köfte, sulu köfte etc.
Eating on the cheap is mostly done at Kebab stands, which can be found everywhere in Istanbul and other major cities. For the equivalent of a couple dollars, you get a full loaf of bread sliced down the middle, filled with broiled meat, lettuce, onions, and tomatoes. For North Americans familiar with "donairs" wrapped in pita bread or wraps, you should look for the word dürüm or dürümcü on the windows of the kebab stands and ask for your kebab to be wrapped in a dürüm or lavaş bread depending on the region.
Vegetarian restaurants are not common, and can be found only in very central parts of big cities and some of the tourist spots. However, every good restaurant offers vegetable dishes, and some of the restaurants offering traditional “ev yemeği” (“home food”) have olive-oil specialities which are vegetarian in content. A vegetarian would be very happy in the Aegean region, where all kinds of wild herbs are eaten as main meals, either cooked or raw, dressed with olive oil. But a vegetarian would have real difficulty in searching for food especially in Southeastern region, where a dish without meat is not considered a dish. At such a place, supermarkets may help with their shelves full of canned vegetables, or even canned cooked olive-oil courses and fresh fruits. If you are a vegetarian and going to visit rural areas of Southeastern region, better take your canned food with you, as there will be no supermarkets to rescue you.
Some Turkish desserts are modeled on the sweet and nutty Arabic kind: famous dishes include baklava, a layered pastry of finely ground nuts and phyllo dough soaked in honey and spices, and Turkish Delight (lokum), a gummy confection of rosewater and sugar. There are also many more kinds of desserts prepared using milk predominantly, such as kazandibi, keşkül, muhallebi, sütlaç, tavuk göğsü, güllaç etc.
Turkish Breakfast, tend to comprise of çay (tea), bread, olives, feta cheese, tomato, cucumber and occasionally spreads such as honey and jam. This can become very monotonous after a while. A nice alternative to try (should you have the option) is menemen: a Turkish variation on scrambled eggs/omelet. Capsicum (red bell pepper), onion, garlic and tomato are all combined with eggs. The meal is traditional cooked (and served) in a clay bowl. Try adding a little chili to spice it up and make sure to use lots of bread as well for a filling hot breakfast. Bread is omnipresent in Turkey, at any given meal you'll be presented with a large basket of crusty bread.
Ubiquitous simit (also known as gevrek in some Aegean cities such as Izmir), much like bagel but somewhat thinner, crustier, and with roasted sesame seeds all over, is available from trolleys of street vendors in virtually any central part of any town and city at any time except late at night. Perhaps with the addition of Turkish feta cheese (beyaz peynir) or cream cheese (krem peynir or karper), a couple of simits make up a filling and a very budget conscious breakfast (as each costs about 0.75 TL), or even a lunch taken while on the go.
Turkish coffee (kahve), served in tiny cups, is strong and tasty, just be careful not to drink the sludgy 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 as şekerli, orta şekerli and çok şekerli will get you a little, some or a lot of sugar in your cup.
Instant coffees, cappuccinos, and espressos are gaining more popularity day by day, and can be found with many different flavours.
Despite coffee taking a substantial part in national culture, tea (çay) is also very popular and is indeed the usual drink of choice. Most Turks are heavy drinkers of tea in their daily lives. Having only entered the scene in the 1930s, tea quickly gained ground against coffee due to the fact that Yemen, the traditional supplier of coffee to Turkey then, was cut off from the rest of the Ottoman Empire in the early 20th century, and the first tea plants took root in Eastern Karadeniz after some unsuccessful trials to grow it in the country, as a result of protectionist economic policies that were put into effect after World War I. Be careful, if your tea is prepared by locals, it can be much stronger than you're used to. Although it is not native-typical and a rather touristy feature, you have to taste the special apple tea (elma çayı) or sage tea (adaçayı, literally island tea) of Turkey.
Ayran is a popular drink of water and yoghurt not unlike the Finnish/Russian "buttermilk" or Indian "lassi", but always served without sugar (and, in fact, typically with a little salt added). If you're travelling by bus over the Taurus Mountains, ask for "köpüklü ayaran' or "yayık ayaranı", a variety of the drink much loved by locals.
Boza is a traditional cold, thick drink that originates from Central Asia, but is also common in several Balkan countries. It is fermented bulgur (a kind of wheat) with sugar and water additions. Vefa Bozacisi is the best known and traditional producer of boza in Istanbul. In Ankara, you get excellent Boza from Akman Boza Salonu in the old city area of Ulus. Boza can also be found on the shelves of many supermarkets, especially in winter, packaged in 1-litre PET bottles. However these bottled bozas lack the sourness and consistency of traditional boza, they are sweeter and less dense.
Sahlep (or Salep) is another traditional hot drink, made from milk, orchid root and sugar, typically decorated with cinnamon. It is mostly preferred in winter and can be found in cafés and patisseries (pastane) and can be easily confused by the looks of it with cappuccino. You can also find instant sahlep in many supermarkets sold with the name Hazır Sahlep.
Red poppy syrup is one of the traditional Turkish drinks made of red poppy petals, water and sugar by natural ways. Bozcaada is famous for red poppy syrup.
International brands of colas, sodas and fruit-flavoured sodas are readily available and much consumed alongside some local brands. In Turkish, soda means mineral water, whereas what is called as soda in English is gazoz or sade gazoz in Turkish.
Rakı is Turkey's national drink, the aniseed-flavoured twice-distilled spirit similar to anise, ouzo, sambuca and arak. It's distilled first from raisins or grapes, or less often from figs, beet sugar or other sources. The first distillation creates a very strong spirit called suma. This is mixed with aniseed and water, re-distilled, re-diluted then matured for 30 days. It's sold at 40% abv strength and always drunk in a long glass mixed with water, which turns it cloudy. You might indicate tek (single) or duble (double) for how much rakı goes into your glass, and have a second glass of iced water at hand. It's nice with appetisers, meze or seafood; don't drink large amounts without a meal unless you're Kemal Atatürk setting your country to rights. Every supermarket stocks rakı: common brands (also marketed in the west) include Yeni, Tekirdağ, and Efe.
As for Turkish wine, the wines are as good as the local grape varieties. Kalecik Karası from Ankara, Karasakız from Bozcaada, Öküzgözü from Elmalı, Boğazkere from Diyarbakır are some of the most well-known varieties. The biggest winemakers are Kavaklıdere, Doluca, Sevilen, and Kayra with many good local vineyards especially in the Western part of the country. In addition liquory fruit wines of Şirince near Izmir are well worth tasting. One specific sweet red wine to try while you're there is Talay Kuntra.
There are two major Turkish breweries. Efes and Tekel Birası are two widely known lagers. In addition, you can find locally brewed Tuborg, Miller, Heineken, and Carlsberg too.
All cigarettes except ecigs are sold freely and are still relatively cheap by western standards.
Although many Turkish people do smoke, there is a growing health awareness about smoking and the number of smokers is slowly but steadily declining, and the rigid smoking ban that was introduced is surprisingly enforced.
Smoking in the presence of someone who does not smoke in a public place requires their permission. If someone does not like the smoke, they will ask you not to smoke or they will cough, then just stop and apologize. This is what the locals do.
If you are invited to someone's home, do not smoke unless the host does first, and after they do, then you can ask for their permission to smoke.
Smoking is banned in public places (e.g. airports, metro stations and indoor train stations, schools, universities, government administration buildings, in all workplaces, concert halls, theatres and cinemas) and on public transport (airplanes, ferries, trains, suburban trains, subways, trams, buses, minibuses, and taxis). Smoking is banned in sports stadiums, the only outdoor areas where this ban is extended. It is a finable offence of 69 TL. Separately smoking is also banned, in restaurants, bars, cafes, traditional teahouses, the remaining air-conditioned public places including department stores and shopping mall restaurants; and there are no exceptions as indoor non-smoking sections are also banned. Apart from a fine for smokers, there is a heavy fine of 5,000 TL for owners, for failing to enforce the ban properly and that is why it is strictly enforced by these establishments.
In Istanbul, especially in non-tourist areas, some bars/restaurants/music venues and even work places will bring you an ashtray as there will be many people smoking inside, even though there is a sign on the wall forbidding it, many people consider it to be up to the discretion of the owners/workers of the building. However, bars/restaurants/music venues in tourist areas (e.g. Beyoğlu, Sişli etc...) are relentlessly "raided" (and in case of any violations – not just for flouting the smoking ban – fined heavily) by the zabıta (municipal official), so these establishments will much less likely dare to violate the bans. Although such "raids" will be disconcerting for tourists, customers will not be affected as the zabıta does not issue fines to customers – at most will be asked to leave the place, in case of serious violations.
However the smoking ban is openly flouted in government administration buildings, where the civil servants seem to think that they are somehow above the law.
Outside the cities and tourist resorts, the smoking ban is less rigidly enforced in small towns and in the villages hardly at all, because the municipal police (zabıta) rarely comes to these places to enforce it and issue fines, leading to some establishments and its customers to ignore this, but even there it is nevertheless best to follow the less enforced smoking ban.
While smoking is strictly prohibited on public transport, you will see some taxi drivers smoking in their taxis, which are also included in the smoking ban, but is the only form of public transport where this ban is openly flouted. When entering the taxi just request the taxi driver not to smoke, and he will politely oblige - in fact most of them will put out their cigarettes immediately once they see a customer hailing them or approaching them.
Accommodation in Turkey varies from 5-star hotels to a simple tent pitched in a vast plateau. So the prices vary hugely as well.
All major cities and tourist spots have 5-star hotels, many of them are owned by international hotel chains like Hilton, Sheraton, Ritz-Carlton, Conrad to name a few. Many of them are concrete blocks, however some, especially the ones out of cities, are bungalows with private gardens and private swimming pools.
If you are into holiday package kind of thing in a Mediterranean resort, you would definitely find better rates when booking back at home rather than in Turkey itself. The difference is considerable, compared with what you would pay when booking at home, you may end up paying twice as much if you simply walk in the resort.
Hostels and guesthouses
Hostels are not widespread, there are a few in Istanbul, mainly around Sultanahmet Square where Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque are, and around Taksim Square, and still fewer are recognized by Hostelling International (HI, former International Youth Hostel Federation, IYHF). Alternatively, guesthouses (pansiyon) provide cheaper accommodation than hotels (expect around 50 TL daily per person). B&Bs are also generally covered by the word pansiyon, as most of them present breakfast (not always included in the fee, so ask before deciding whether or not to stay there).
Unique in the country, Olympos to the southwest of Antalya is known for its welcoming visitors in the wooden tree-houses or in wooden communal sleeping halls.
It is possible to rent a whole house with two rooms, a kitchen, a bathroom, and necessary furnitures such as beds, chairs, a table, a cooker, pots, pans, usually a refrigerator and sometimes even a TV. Four or more people can easily fit in these houses which are called apart hotels and can be found mainly in coastal towns of Marmara and Northern Aegean regions, which are more frequented by Turkish families rather than foreigners. They are generally flats in a low-story apartment building. They can be rented for as cheap as 25 TL daily (not per person, this is the daily price for the whole house!), depending on location, season and the duration of your stay (the longer you stay, the cheaper you pay daily).
Öğretmenevi (teacher's house)
Like Atatürk statues and crescent-and-star flags etched into the sides of mountains, the öğretmenevi (“teacher’s house”) is an integral part of the Turkish landscape. Found in almost every city in Turkey, these government-run institutions serve as affordable guesthouses for educators on the road and—since anyone is welcome if space is available—for those traveling on a teacher’s budget (about 35 TL/person, WiFi and hot water available, breakfast (kahvalti) 5 TL).
For the most part, these guesthouses are drab affairs, 1970s-era concrete boxes usually painted in a shade of pink and found in some of the least interesting parts of town. To find the teacher's house in a town ask around for öğretmenevi.
The Bugday Association has launched a project named TaTuTa (acronym from the first syllables of Tarım-Turizm-Takas: Agriculture-Tourism-Barter [of knowledge]), a kind of agritourism, which connects farmers practising organic/ecological agriculture and individuals having an interest at organic agriculture. The farmers participating in TaTuTa share a room of their houses (or a building in the farm) with the visitors without charge, and the visitors help them in their garden work in return. For more about TaTuTa, see http://www.bugday.org/tatuta/index.php?lang=EN
Camping and RV-camping
There are many private estates dotting the whole coastline of Turkey, which the owner rents its property for campers. These campsites, which are called kamping in Turkish, have basic facilities such as tap water, toilets, tree shade (this is especially important in dry and hot summers of the western and southern coasts) and some provide electricity to every tent via individual wires. Pitching a tent inside the cities and towns apart from campsites is not always approved, so you should always ask the local administrator (village chief muhtar and/or gendarme jandarma in villages, municipalities belediye and/or the local police polis in towns) if there is a suitable place near the location for you to pitch your tent. Pitching a tent in the forest without permission is OK, unless the area is under protection as a national park, a bioreserve, a wildlife refuge, a natural heritage or because of some other environmental concern. Whether it is an area under protection or not, setting fire in forests apart from the designated fireplaces in recreational (read “picnic”) areas is forbidden anyway.
Stores offering camping gear are hard to come across, usually in back alleys, underground floors of large shopping arcades. So, unless you are exactly sure you can obtain what you need at your destination, it's best to pack along your gear if intending to camp. In smaller stores in non-major towns, the price of many of the stuff on sale is pretty much negotiable—it is not uncommon for shop attendants to ask 30 TL for camp stove fuel, whereas it would cost typically 15 TL or even less in another store in a neighbouring town.
Caravan/trailer parks cannot be found as much as they used to be; there remains only a few, if any, from the days hippies tramped the Turkish highways with their vans—perhaps the most famous one, the Ataköy caravan park, known amongst the RV-ers for its convenient location in the city of Istanbul is long history (but there is another one still in operation several kilometres out in the western suburbs of the city). However, caravan riders can stay overnight in numerous resting areas along the highways and motorways, or virtually in any place which seems to be suitable. Filling the water tanks and discharging wastewater effluent seems to matter most.
The service to make reservations for Turkey is only available outside of Turkey. This is due to a tax struggle between the website and the government. So, you best book your accommodation before coming to Turkey. Otherwise, you can always use Tor or a VPN to get around this limitation.
- Naile's Art Home  is a marbling paper (Ebru) gallery and workshop in Cappadocia.
- Kayaköy Art School  [dead link], in Kayaköy, a ghost town near Fethiye is offering art classes in summer, specializing on photography, painting, and sculpture.
- You can take the Ottoman Turkish classes in Adatepe, a village frequented by intellectuals near Küçükkuyu/Altınoluk in the northern Aegean Region. You can also participate in philosophy classes  taking place every summer in nearby Assos, organized as a continuation of the ancient “agora”/”forum” tradition of Mediterranean cities.
- Glass workshops around Beykoz on the northern Asian banks of the Bosphorus in Istanbul, are offering one-day classes that you can learn making (recycled) glass and ornaments made of glass.
- There are many language schools where you can study Turkish in most of the big cities. Ankara University affiliated Tömer is one of the most popular language schools in Turkey and has branches in many big cities, including Istanbul, Ankara, and Izmir among others.
- Many Turkish universities (both public and private) participate in pan-European student exchange programs (Socrates, Erasmus, and the like). Some also have agreements with non-European universities, too. Check with your own university and the one where you intend to study in Turkey.
- Many foreigners living in Istanbul support themselves by teaching English. Finding a good teaching job is usually easier with a well-recognized certificate like the ones listed below:
- ITI Istanbul in 4. Levent runs Cambridge University's CELTA and DELTA courses year-round 
Work as an English teacher is reasonably easy to stumble upon. ESL teachers with a Bachelor’s Degree and TESOL Certificate can expect to earn 800-2,500 TL (monthly) and will usually teach 20–35 hours in a week. Contracts will sometimes include accommodations, airfare, and health-care.
Being that import-export is huge in Turkey, there are also many opportunities outside of teaching, though these are often much more difficult to find and require some legal work.
You need to have a work permit to work in Turkey. The control over illegal workers have grown stricter in the past five years with the consequence of deportation, so take the work permit issue seriously.
However, if you have your own company in Turkey you are allowed to "manage" it without having a work permit. Setting up what is known as an FDI (foreign direct investment) company is relatively straightforward, takes a few days and costs around 2,300 TL (April 2007). You don't need a Turkish partner, the company can be 100% foreign owned and requires a minimum of two people as shareholders. Running costs for a company average about 2,500 TL per year for a small to medium enterprise, less for an inactive company.
Owning a company allows you to be treated as Turkish in respect of purchasing real estate and bypasses the need for military permission and allows you to complete a sale in one day if required.
Dial 112 to contact the police or the gendarme (a military-styled unit of the Interior Ministry responsible for rural safety) from any phone, free of charge.
Upon entering some museums, hotels, metro stations, and almost all shopping malls, especially in larger cities, you will notice security checkpoints similar to those found in airports. Don't worry, this is the standard procedure in Turkey and does not imply an immediate danger of attack. These security screenings are also conducted in a much more relaxed way than the airports, so you will not have to remove your belt to avoid the alarm when walking through the metal detector.
Carry your passport or other means of identification at all times. One may not be requested to show them for a long period, then all of a sudden a minibus is checked by the traffic police (or the military, particularly in Eastern Turkey), or one runs into an officer of the law with time on his hand, and one must show papers. Some government buildings may ask you to temporarily surrender your passport in return for equipment such as headphones for simultaneous translation, etc., and you may find your passport stored in an open box along with the locals ID cards which may be a little disconcerting. Hotels may request you to hand your passport in until you paid the bill, which puts you into an awkward situation. Referring to the police always made them hand the passport back, once the registration procedure was finalized. Showing a personal visiting card, one or two credit cards or knowing the address of a respectable hotel may solve the no-papers situation, but any self-respecting officer will tell you that you are in the wrong, and will be sorry next time. If treated politely however police and military can be quite friendly and even offer rides to the next city (no joke intended).
If you intend to travel to Eastern or Southeastern Anatolia, stay ahead of the news. Although it offers many beautiful sights, the situation is far from secure due to ethnic strife and protests, sometimes resulting in violence. The region is far from a war zone, but take precaution when visiting this volatile place. The real risk of threat is not very big though, if you stick on major routes and follow common sense rules (such as avoiding demonstrations).
- See also: Istanbul#Scams
Big cities in Turkey, especially Istanbul, are not immune to petty crime. Although petty crime is not especially directed towards tourists, by no means are they exceptions. Snatching, pickpocketing, and mugging are the most common kinds of petty crime. The installation and operation of a camera network which watches streets and squares –especially the central and crowded ones- 24-hour a day in Istanbul, has reduced the number of snatching and mugging incidents. Just like anywhere else, following common sense is recommended. (The following recommendations are for the big cities, and most small-to-mid size cities usually have no petty crime problems at all.) Have your wallet and money in your front pockets instead of back pockets, backpack or shoulder bag.
Don’t exhibit your camera or cellphone for too long if it is a new and/or expensive model (they know what to take away, no one will bother to steal a ten-year-old cell phone as it would pay very little). The same goes for your wallet, if it’s overflowing with money. Leave a wide berth and move away from the area quickly if you see two or more people begin to argue and fight as this may be a ruse to attract your attention while another person relieves you of your valuables. Be alert, this often happens very quickly. Watch your belongings in crowded places and on public transport, especially on trams and urban buses.
Avoid dark and desolate alleys at night. If you know you have to pass through such a place at night, don’t take excessive cash with you but instead deposit your cash into the safe-box at your hotel. Stay away from demonstrating crowds if the demonstration seems to be turning into an unpeaceful one. Also in resort towns, when going to beach, don’t take your camera or cell phone with you if there will be no one to take care of them while you are swimming. If you notice that your wallet has been stolen it is wise to check the nearest trash cans before reporting the loss to the police. It is often the case that thieves in Turkey will drop the wallet into the trash to avoid being caught in possession of the wallet and proven a thief. Obviously it is highly likely that your money will no longer be in it, but there is a chance that your credit cards and papers will be.
Driving and road safety
You should drive defensively at all times and take every precaution while driving in Turkey. Drivers in Turkey routinely ignore traffic regulations, including driving through red lights and stop signs, and turning left from the far right lane; these driving practices cause frequent traffic accidents. Drivers who experience car troubles or accidents pull to the side of the road and turn on their emergency lights to warn other drivers, but many drivers place a large rock or a pile of rocks on the road about 10-15 m behind their vehicles instead of turning on emergency lights. You may not use a cell phone while driving. It is strictly prohibited by law.
Most Turkish drivers do not respect pedestrian crossings, so be careful when crossing a street, as mentioned in the get around/on foot section.
The Turkish wilderness is home to both venomous and non-venomous snake (yılan) species. Southern and especially southeastern parts (even cities) of the country have large numbers of scorpions (akrep), so exercise caution if/when you are sleeping on open rooftops, which is common in the southeastern region in summer. If you are stung by one, seek urgent medical aid.
As for wild mammals, the most dangerous ones are wolves, bears and wild boars, but attacks on humans are extremely rare. All of these animals live only in mountainous areas (of almost all regions) and your chance of sighting one is very low (except boars which are not so rare). Wolves and bears are unlikely to attack unless you follow or disturb them (or, particularly, their young) aggressively. However, in the mating season between November and January, boars are known to attack even with only the slightest provocation.
The biggest animal threat comes from stray dogs (or sheepdogs in rural areas). Don’t assume you will come across gangs of aggressive stray dogs next to the gate of Hagia Sophia or the beach club however. They are mostly found in rural areas and non-central parts of the cities. They are usually discreet and are usually more afraid of you than you are of them. Rabies (kuduz) is endemic in Turkey (and most of the world) , so anyone bitten by a dog or other carnivore should seek urgent treatment, despite what you may be told by your hotel or other well meaning strangers.
Many stray dogs you’ll see in the cities bear plastic “ear rings”. Those ear tags mean the dog was cleaned up, vaccinated (against rabies and a number of other diseases), sterilized, and then returned back to the streets as this is the most humane treatment (compare with keeping them in a cage or a cage-like environment or putting them to sleep). The process is going on, so we can assume the stray dog problem in Turkey will disappear in natural ways sometime in the future.
Most of Turkey has hot summers, with extremely hot summers in the southeastern interior, and while no part of Turkey is a desert, be extra careful when going to the south and southeast if you have never been in a hot-summer climate before. Take it easy on the first few days of your vacation. It’s always an excellent idea to put extra sunscreen on and avoid alcohol as you get used to the summer heat. However despite stereotypes, Turkey isn’t hot all year round. There are harsh winters in the central and especially eastern regions of the country and in the mountains, and the northern parts of Turkey (see Marmara and Black Sea regions) have mild, maritime climates with warm but not hot summers.
Much of Turkey is prone to earthquakes.
There are "Tourism Police" sections of the police departments of Ankara, Antalya, Istanbul (in Sultanahmet), and Izmir providing help specifically for tourists, where travellers can report passport loss and theft or any other criminal activity, they may have become victims of. The staff is multilingual and will speak English, German, French, and Arabic.
Dial 112 from any telephone, anywhere, free of charge for an ambulance.
Food safety - Food is generally free of parasitic or bacterial contamination, but be prudent anyway. Look at where local people are preferring to eat. Do not eat stuff that is sold outdoors, at least in summer and at least which local folk don’t eat. They can spoil fairly quickly without needed refrigeration. Wash thoroughly and/or peel fresh fruits and vegetables. They may be free of biological contaminants but their skin is probably heavily loaded with pesticides (unless you see the not-very-common certified organic produce marker on, of course). Food in western regions of the country is OK for (western) travellers for the most part, but the more east, south, and northeast you go, the more unaccustomed contents in the food you’ll come across, like goat or goose meat or hot/heavy spices. These contents may or may not cause diarrhea, but it is wise to have at least some anti-diarrhea medicine nearby, especially if you are going to travel to places a bit off-beaten-track.
Water safety - However tempting it may be on a hot day, try to avoid water from public water tanks and fountains (şadırvan), frequently found in the vicinity of mosques. Also, though tap water is mostly chlorinated, it is better to drink only bottled water except when in remote mountain villages connected to a local spring. Bottled water is readily available everywhere except the most remote, uninhabited spots.
The most common volumes for bottled water are 0.5 litre and 1.5 L. 5 L, 8 L, 10 L, and gigantic 19 L bottles (known as office jar in the West, this is the most common variety used in households, delivered to houses by the employees of specialized water selling shops, because it is far too heavy to carry) can also be found with varying degrees of possibility. General price for half-a-litre and one-and-a-half-litre bottled water is 0.50 TL and 1.25 TL respectively in kiosks/stalls in the central parts of the cities and towns (can be much higher in a touristy or monopolistic place such as beach, airport, café of a much-visited museum, kiosk of a roadside recreation facility), while it can be as cheap as 0.15 TL and 0.35 TL respectively in supermarkets during winter (when the number of bottled water sales drop) and a little higher in summer (still cheaper than kiosks, though). Water is served free of charge in intercity buses, packaged in 0.25 l plastic cups, whenever you request from the steward. In kiosks, water is sold chilled universally, sometimes so cold that you have to wait the ice to thaw to be able to drink it. Supermarkets provide it both reasonably chilled and also at room temperature.
If you have no chance of finding bottled water –for example, in wilderness, up in the eastern highlands- always boil your water; if you have no chance of boiling the water, use chlorine tablets – which can be provided from pharmacies in big cities - or devices like LifeStraw. Also avoid swimming in fresh water, which you are not sure about its purity, and at seawater in or near the big cities –unless a beach which is declared safe to swim exists. And lastly, be cautious about water, not paranoid.
Hospitals – In Turkey, there are two kinds of hospitals (hastane)-private and public. Private hospitals are run by associations, private parties, and private universities. Public hospitals are run by the Ministry of Health, public universities, and state-run social security institutions. All mid-to-big size cities and as major resort towns have private hospitals, more than one in many cities, but in a small town all you can find will probably be a public hospital. Public hospitals are generally crowded. So expect to wait some time to be treated. But for emergency situations this won't be a problem. Although this is not legal, you may also be denied entry to the public hospitals for expensive operations if you don’t have a state-run national (Turkish) insurance or a necessary amount of cash for prepayment which replaces it, though showing a respected credit card may solve this problem. Emergency situations are exception and you'll be treated without prepayment, etc. Travel health insurance is highly recommended because the better private hospitals operate with the “user-pays” principle and their rates are much inflated compared with the public hospitals. Also make sure your insurance includes air transport (like a helicopter) if you are going to visit rural/wilderness areas of Black Sea or Eastern regions, so you can be dispatched to a city with high-standard hospitals on time. In the outlying hoods of cities, there are usually also policlinics which can treat simpler illnesses or injuries. In the villages all you can find are little clinics (sağlık ocağı, literally “health-house”) which have a very limited supply and staff, though they can effectively treat simple illnesses or provide antibody against, for example, snake bite. On road signage, hospitals (and roads leading to hospitals) are shown with an “H” (over the dark blue background), whereas village clinics are shown with a red crescent sign, Turkish equivalent of red cross.
There is an emergency ward (acil servis) open 24 hours a day in every hospital. Suburban policlinics don’t have to provide one, but some of them are open 24-hr anyway. Village clinics do certainly have a much limited opening hours (generally 08:00 to sunset).
Dentists – There are lots of private dentist offices in the cities, especially along the main streets. Look for the diş hekimi signs around, it won’t take long before you see one. Most dentists work on an appointment, although they may check or start the treatment on your turning up without an appointment if their schedule is okay. A simple treatment for a tooth decay costs about 40 TL on the average.
Ordinary toothbrushes and pastes (both local and international brands) can be obtained from supermarkets. If you want something special, you may check out pharmacies. It is okay to brush teeth with tap water.
Pharmacies - There are pharmacies (eczane in Turkish) in all cities and many towns. Pharmacies are open 08:30-19:00, however every town has at least one drugstore on duty overnight (nöbetçi eczane), all other pharmacies in the town usually display its name, address and telephone numbers on their windows. Most basic drugs, including painkillers such as Aspirin, are sold over the counter, although only in pharmacies.
Mosquitoes - Keeping a mosquito repellent handy is a good idea. Although the risk of malaria anywhere in the country is long gone (except the southernmost areas near the Syrian border which used to have a very low level of risk until up to 1980s), mosquitoes can be annoying especially in coastal areas out of cities, including vacation towns at nights between June and September. In some towns, especially the ones near the deltas, mosquito population is so large that people desert the streets during the “mosquito raid” which occurs between the sunset and one hour after that. DEET-containing aerosol repellents (some are suitable to apply to the skin while others, the ones that are in tall tin cans are for making a room mosquito-free before going to bed, not to be applied onto skin, so choose what you buy wisely) can be obtained from supermarkets and pharmacies. There are also solid repellents coming in a tablet form which are used with their special devices indoors having an electricity socket. They release scentless chemicals into the air of the room which disturb the senses of mosquitoes and make them unable to “find” you. The tablets, together with their devices, can also be obtained from supermarkets and pharmacies. Beware! You shouldn’t touch those tablets with bare hands.
Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever (Kırım-Kongo kanamalı ateşi in Turkish, shortly KKKA) is a serious viral disease and transmitted by a tick (kene) species. It can kill the infected person in a very short time, usually within three or four days. This disease has claimed more than 20 lives in Turkey within the past two years. The biggest risk is in the rural parts (not urban centres) of Tokat, Corum, Yozgat, Amasya, and Sivas provinces, all situated in an area where disease-carrying tick thrives because of the area’s location between the humid climate of maritime Black Sea Region and arid climate of Central Anatolia. Authorities recommend to wear light coloured clothing which makes distinguishing a tick clinged to your body easier. It’s also recommended to wear long trousers rather than shorts if you plan to walk through dense and/or tall grass areas (the usual habitat for ticks). If you see a tick on your body or clothing, in no means try to pull it out since this may cause the tick’s head (and its mouth where it carries the virus) sticking inside your skin. Instead, go to the nearest hospital immediately to seek urgent expert aid. Being late to show up in hospital (and to diagnose) is number one killer in this disease. Symptoms are quite like that of flu and a number of other illnesses, so doctor should be informed about the possibility of CCHF and be shown the tick if possible.
Coastal Black Sea Region, Marmara Region, Aegean and Mediterranean coasts, and East Anatolia are generally deemed free of this disease (and also free of the disease-carrying species of tick) with no casualties. But in the name of being cautious, you should head for the nearest hospital anyway if you are bitten by (most likely an innocent) tick. Also remember that if you should head for the danger zone described above, ticks are not active in winter. Their active period is April to October, so is the danger period.
Public restrooms - Though many main squares and streets in the cities have a public restroom, if you cannot manage to find one, look for the nearest mosque, where you will see a public restroom in a corner of, or below its courtyard. Despite the fact that there is no shortage of cheap toilet papers anywhere in the country, however, you are unlikely to find toilet paper in almost any of the public restrooms (except lavatories of restaurants –including the road restaurants, hotels and most of the cafés and bars, of course). Instead, you are likely to find a bidet or a tap. (Don't be puzzled. That's because devout Muslims use water instead of paper to clean up and paper usually used as a dryer after cleaning.). So it is a good idea to have a roll of toilet paper in your backpack during your walkings for sightseeing. It is best to take your single roll of toilet paper from home or bathroom of the hotel you’re staying at, because the smallest size available in Turkey market is 4-rolls per package (8-rolls per package being the commonest) which would last very long (actually longer than your trip, unless you will do all the road down to India overland). It isn’t expensive but it takes unnecessary backpack space, or unnecessary landfill space if you won’t use it liberally and won’t take the unused rolls back to home as an unusual souvenir from Turkey. In the better places on the road in the country there are rest rooms that are maintained and an attendant ready to collect 1 TL from the tourist for the privilege of using one. Restroom is tuvalet in colloquial Turkish, though you’ll more likely to see WC signs, complete with diagrams and doors signed Bay or Bayan (respectively "men" and "women").
Menstrual products – Different types and designs of disposable pads are widely available. Look around in the supermarkets. However, Turkish women prefer tampons much less than European women do, so they are rarer. They are available only in some of the pharmacies.
Hamam - If you haven't been to one, you've missed one of life's great experiences and never been clean. You can catch your inner peace with history and water in a bath (hamam). See hamams in Istanbul.
Things to do
Turks are a very friendly, polite and hospitable people, sometimes even to a fault.
- When you are invited into a Turkish home, make sure to bring them a gift. Anything is fine from flowers to chocolate and indeed something representative from your country (but not wine and other alcoholic beverages if you are about to meet the host or if you do not know them well enough, as many Turks, for religious reasons or not, do not drink alcoholic beverages, and that is why it would be considered inappropriate as a gift). When you arrive at the house take off your shoes just outside or immediately inside the door, unless the owner explicitly allows you to keep them on. Even then, it might be more polite to remove your shoes. And if you really want their respect, thank your host for the invitation and compliment them. When inside the house, don't ask for anything for they will surely offer it. The host will make sure to make you feel at home, so don't take advantage of their kindness.
- People in Turkey respect elderly people, so in a bus, tram, subway and in other forms of public transportation, young(er) people will always offer you a place to sit if you are an old(er) person as well as a handicapped person or a pregnant woman or have children with you.
- It is respectful to bend slightly (not a complete bow) when greeting someone older or in a position of authority.
- Try to use some Turkish phrases. They will be complimentary if you try, and there is no reason to be embarrassed. They realize that Turkish is very difficult for foreigners and won't scoff at all at your mistakes; on the contrary, they will be delighted at you for trying it, even if they may not always be able to understand your pronunciation!
- Showing up late to a social gathering or a party isn't rude, but it is important to be on time for business appointments and other formal situations.
Things to avoid
Turkish people understand that visitors are usually not aware of Turkish culture and customs, and tend to be tolerant of blunders in this regard by foreigners. There are, however, some which will meet with universal disapproval, and these should be avoided at all costs:
- It is illegal to "insult Turkishness", i.e. criticising the country, the government, or national heroes. You don't have to speak about how great Ataturk is, or praise the country excessively; just be polite and there will be no problems.
- Don't mention the Armenian Genocide, Kurdish separatism or the Cyprus problem. These are extremely sensitive topics and are definitely to be avoided. Turkish society has a highly emotional approach to these issues. In particular, some statements about the Armenian Genocide, including referring to it as a genocide, are illegal in Turkey.
- Be respectful of the Turkish anthem. Do not mock or mimick the Turkish anthem, as Turks are extremely proud and sensitive of their national symbols, and will be very offended.
- Be respectful of the Turkish flag. Don't put it on places where people sit or stand, don't drag it, don't wrinkle it, don't contaminate it, don't use it as a dress or uniform. Not only will Turks be very offended, furthermore the desecration of the Turkish flag is a punishable offence. The flag is extremely important and well respected in Turkey.
- Despite misconceptions, Turkey isn’t Greek, Iranian or Arab. Comparing Turkey to those countries is very frustrating and offensive to locals due to political and cultural differences.
- Turkey is a predominantly Muslim country, and although you will see varying degrees of Islamic practice in Turkey, with many Turks subscribing to a liberal form of Islam, it is extremely rude to insult or mock its traditions or, for example, mimic the azan (call to prayer).
During Ramadan, it is disrespectful to eat, drink, smoke or chew gum in public during daytime. If you are a non-Muslim and wish to eat, doing that in your hotel room is fine. However, Ramadan etiquette is quite relaxed especially in the tourist areas and international areas of big cities.
Social custom and etiquette breaches:
- Don't try to shake hands with a devout Muslim (wearing a headscarf) woman unless she offers her hand first, and with a devout Muslim (often recognizable with a cap and beard) man unless he offers his hand first.
- Don't blow your nose during meals, even discreetly. This is considered extremely rude.
- Don't pick your teeth during meals, even discreetly. This is considered extremely rude.
- Do not put your feet up while sitting and try not to show the bottom of your feet to someone. This is considered rude.
- Don't point with your finger at someone, even discreetly. This is considered rude.
- Don't chew gum while having a conversation or during public occasions. This is considered extremely rude.
- Public drunkenness (especially the loud and obnoxious variety) is definitely not appreciated and is frowned upon, especially in more conservative areas of the country. Drunken tourists may also attract the attention of pickpockets. However what is absolutely not tolerated with drunkenness especially by the police, if it is accompanied with physical aggressiveness towards other people, this may result with a fine and if this is repeated a heavier fine and/or a visit to the police station may result (if you are tourist, deportation from the country can result).
- Certain gestures common in Western Europe are considered rude expressions in Turkey. People tend to be tolerant if they can see you are a foreigner. They know you are probably doing it subconsciously, but if you take the time to keep these in mind, you won’t have any misunderstandings. Making an ‘O’ with your thumb and forefinger (as if to say “OK!”) is rude because you are making the gesture for a hole - which has connotations referring to homosexuality in the Turkish psyche. Avoid clicking your tongue. Some people do this subconsciously at the beginning of a sentence. It is a gesture of dismissal. Also the "got your nose" gesture which is made by making a fist and putting your thumb between your forefinger and the middle finger is considered the equivalent of the middle finger in Turkey.
Other things to watch for
- Public displays of affection in larger cities and tourist resorts are tolerated but might invite unnecessary stares from the public. In more rural areas it is frowned upon and is to be avoided. Gay and lesbian travelers should avoid any outward signs of affection, as this will definitely invite unnecessary stares from the public. However overt displays of affection regardless of sexual orientation is regarded as inappropriate.
- Avoid shouting or talking loudly in public. Talking loudly is generally considered rude, especially on public transportation. Talking on a mobile phone on public transportation is not considered rude but normal, unless the conversation is too "private".
- It's not so common for Turks to smile. Avoid smiling at a stranger, because if you do they most likely will not respond in kind and they will regard you either as odd. Smiling in Turkey towards strangers in public is not done and might be considered inappropriate. Smiling is traditionally reserved for family and friends; smiling at a stranger might be considered weird, as if you were making fun of them and there was something wrong with their clothes or hair.
Because of religious traditions, all women are required to wear head scarves and not to wear miniskirts or shorts upon entering a mosque (or a church or synagogue). The same goes for the tombs of Islamic saints, too, if the tomb is not called a museum. If you don’t have a shawl or a scarf to put on your head, you can borrow one at the entrance. However wearing-a-scarf rule is somewhat relaxed, especially in big mosques of Istanbul in which tourists are common. In such mosques, no one is warned about their clothes, or because of their lack of head scarves. Even if you’d have to wear a head scarf, no need to worry about how head scarves can be worn properly, just put it onto the crown of your head (you may wrap it under your chin or behind your neck, lest it slip), that will be excessively adequate.
Also, men are required to wear trousers, not shorts, upon entering a mosque (or church or synagogue), however nowadays no one is warned about their clothes (at least in big cities). You may find when entering a mosque in more rural areas you will be expected to follow all traditional procedures.
During the prayer time, worshippers choose to line in the front rows of the mosques, at such a time stay behind and try not to be noisy. During the Friday noon prayer, which is the most attended, you might be asked to leave the mosque, don’t take it personally, it is because the mosque will be very crowded, there just won’t be enough room for both the worshippers and the sightseers. You will be able to enter back as soon as worshippers are out of the gate.
Unlike some other Middle Eastern cultures, eating, drinking, smoking (which is strictly banned), talking or laughing loudly, sleeping or just lying, even sitting on the ground inside mosques is frowned upon in Turkish culture. Public displays of affection are definitely taboo.
All shoes should be removed before entering any mosque. There are shoes desks inside the mosques, though you can choose to hold them in your hand (a plastic bag which would be used only for this purpose would help) during your visit. Some mosques have safeboxes with a lock instead of shoe desks.
Although there are official opening hours, which are typically shorter than what the mosque is actually open, at the entrances of the most sightseen mosques, they don’t really mean anything. You can visit a mosque as long as its gates are open.
Despite the odd tourists who do not conform to the dress code, it is best to dress conservatively and to follow all traditional procedures when entering mosques, tombs and other places of worship, not only because it is required but also as a sign of respect.
Gay and lesbian travellers
Turkey is considered to be quite safe for gay and lesbian travellers, and violence against homosexuals is quite rare. There are no laws against homosexuality in Turkey, but same-sex relationships are not recognized by the government or accepted by society. Revealing your sexual orientation openly is very likely to draw stares and whispers. Turkey is more conservative on LGBT matters than most of Europe, though more liberal than the Arab countries. Despite stereotypes, not everyone is homophobic, however be more cautious outside big cities and holiday resorts.
All buses have UBS socket to charge your phone. So, no need to carry "tons" of powerbanks.
As of 2021, all emergency services can be contacted by the phone number 112, free of charge, from any phone without inserting a calling/sim card. In case you get connected to the odd exchange in which the unified number doesn't work yet, dial 112 for an ambulance, 110 for fire department, 155 for police, 156 for gendarme (a military-styled unit for rural safety), and 177 for reporting forest fires.
Your phone may be blocked if you use an unregistered local SIM card
Foreign mobile phones without IMEI registration will be blocked after 120 days. This only happens if you use a Turkish SIM card. Phones with a foreign SIM card aren't affected by the blockage. This website explains how you can register your mobile phone in Turkey.
While not as common as they used to be, public pay phones can still be found at the sides of central squares and major streets in towns and cities and around post offices (PTT), especially around their outer walls. With the phase-out of old magnetic cards, public phones now operate with chip telekom cards which are available in 30, 60 or 120 units and can be obtained at post offices, newspaper and tobacco kiosks. (However emergency numbers can be called without card or anything from these phones.) You can also use your credit card on these phones, though it may not work in the off chance. All phones in the booths have Turkish and English instructions and menus, many also have German and French in addition.
There are also telephones available in some kiosks and shops where you pay cash after your call. To spot these, look for kontürlü telefon signs. These telephones are more expensive than the ones at the booths, though.
It is estimated that approximately 98% of the population of Turkey lives within the coverage areas of Turkey’s three cell phone line providers, and virtually everybody has one. Line providers from most countries have roaming agreements with one or more of these companies.
Pre-paid mobile phone SIM cards can be purchased for 20–50 TL. These can be purchased at the airport on arrival or from the many outlets in Istanbul and other large cities. Providers include Vodafone.
Here is a quick list of area codes for some major cities and towns of importance to tourists:
Area codes are used when calling from a mobile phone or from outside the area. Prefix the code with "0" when not using the country code, such as when calling from a landline elsewhere in the country.
Mobile phones have numbers starting with 5xx instead of the area code. This code is always used, also when dialing locally or from a phone with the same prefix.
Numbers starting with 0800 are pay-free, whereas the ones starting with 0900 are high-fee services. 7-digit numbers starting with 444 (mainly used by companies) are charged as local calls wherever they are dialed in Turkey.
Dial 00 prior to country code for international calls from Turkey. When calling into Turkey, the country code that should prefix city code and phone number is 90.
Post offices are recognizable by their yellow and black PTT signs. Letters and cards should be taken to a post office since the postboxes on the streets are rare (and there is no guarantee that they are emptied at all, even if you spot one). Nevertheless, Turkish Post (PTT) prints some beautiful stamps. Postage for cards and letters costs 1.60 TL for domestic shipments, and 3.70 TL for international shipments, PTT website for rates. Main post offices in cities are open 08:30-20:30, whereas post offices in towns and smaller post offices in cities are usually open 08:30-17:30.
Poste restante/general delivery letters should be sent to an address in the format of: official full name of the addressee (because the receiver will be asked for an ID card, passport or anything that can prove he or she is proper recipient) + POSTRESTANT + name of the quarter/neighbourhood/district if in a city where there is more than one post office or name of the town where the post office is and the postal code (if known, not obligatory, generally available at the entrance or on the interior walls of the post office) and the name of the province in which the quarter/town of the post office is located. The receiver has to pay 0.50 TL upon receipt of mail.
Although not as widespread as they used to be in the last decade internet cafes or net cafes are still available in reasonable numbers in cities and towns. In fact, any major town has at least one. All of them have good DSL connections, and price for connection is about more or less 1.50 TL/hr. Most, if not all, of these internet-cafés also have CD writers which are available for anyone who makes an additional payment.
- Turkcell, the largest mobile operator. Sells 2 GB, 5 GB, and 10 GB mobile internet for 22 Tl, 28 TL, and 32 TL respectively, including some minutes and SMS.
- Türk Telekom, formerly called Avea
Some webpages are blocked by court order (e.g. if you cannot see some pics on sites such as this one that is because imgur is blocked). Most internet cafés get around these blocks by tricks on their proxy settings. Wikivoyage is not blocked as of 2021 but if you can, download offline versions of the most relevant guides before your trip, either via PDF or by using Osmand, with which you get all guides of Wikivoyage in one download (only for Android). You can also use a VPN or Tor to bypass the blocks. The feature "Secure Wi-Fi" is usable for free on mobile devices.
- Every hotel has their own Wi-Fi. Some hotels do have trouble with their network setup or the connection due to the historical location however at the least you will have free Wi-Fi at your hotel. All you have to do is to learn the Wi-Fi password to access the internet.
- Every café, bistro, restaurant share their internet with their guests. Even the small restaurants now have internet access. Stability and speed depend on where you are and what kind of café, bistro or restaurant you are in. Starbucks, Nero, etc., typically have stable Wi-Fi unless very crowded. If you are in a Starbucks all you have to do is connect your device (SSID should be TTNET or DorukNet, and if you are in Nero DorukNet) and fill out some basic information for verification that you have to fill. After that, you are ready to go. And if you are in the other restaurant or cafés you can just ask to your waiter to get SSID and Password and after that you are ready to go.
- Free public Wi-Fi is offered by the Municipality of Istanbul in most common city centers and squares, see list. All you have to do is (when you near of one of these centers of course) register your id via your cell phone and you will get an access password.
- You can rent a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot during your stay in Turkey. It works based on 3G connection in the whole country, and you can connect up to 10 devices at the same time. These pocket-sized devices can be easily booked online. While there are plenty of international companies that rent a mobile hotspot, mainly two local companies are operating: Alldaywifi and Rent'n Connect.