Money & costs
Turkey is no longer Europe’s bargain-basement destination, but it still offers good value for money. Costs are lowest in eastern Anatolia, and Cappadocia, Selçuk, Pamukkale and Olympos still offer bargain prices. Prices are highest in İstanbul, İzmir, Ankara and the touristy coastal cities and towns. In these places you can get by on €30 to €40 per person per day, provided you use public transport, stay in pensions, share bathrooms and eat out at a basic eatery once a day (add extra for entry to sights). Away from İstanbul, and the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts, budget travellers can travel on as little as €25 to €35 per day. Throughout the country for €35 to €55 per day you can upgrade to midrange hotels with private bathrooms and eat most meals in restaurants. On more than €55 per day you can enjoy Turkey’s boutique hotels, take occasional flights, and wine and dine out every day.
Although inflation has dropped from the stratospheric levels of the 1990s to around 9%, if we quoted Turkish new lira, prices would probably be out of date before long.
In the cheapest restaurants locals leave a few coins in the change tray. Elsewhere you should tip about 10% to 15% of the bill. Some more expensive restaurants automatically add a 10% or 15% servis ücreti (service charge) to your bill, but there’s no guarantee this goes to the staff, so you may want to tip the staff directly.
Tips are not expected in cheaper hotels. In more expensive places a porter will carry your luggage and show you to your room. For doing this (and showing you how to turn on the lights and the television) he’ll expect about 3% of the room price.
It’s usual to round up metered taxi fares to the nearest 50 kuruş, so round up YTL4.70 to YTL5. Dolmuş drivers never expect a tip.
In Turkish baths you should tip around 10% to 20% to the masseuse/masseur. In the tourist-oriented hamams the fixed price may already be so high that you may assume that service is included, but it usually isn’t and a tip is appreciated.
If you are shown around a site that is not normally open to the public or are given a guided tour by the custodian, you should certainly tip them for their trouble. A few YTL for 10 or so minutes is usually fine.
Turkey is infamous for a galloping inflation rate that tipped 77.5% in the 1990s, with so many zeros regularly added to the currency that having a tea for 1, 000, 000 Turkish lira no longer seemed a joke.
An economic collapse in early 2001 compounded the country’s woes. Inflation skyrocketed and the value of the Turkish lira plummeted. Kemal Derviş, a newly appointed Minister of the Economy, succeeded in sweet-talking the IMF for loans and made much-needed economic reforms, thus avoiding a potentially disastrous downward spiral.
By January 2005, under the direction of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), the economy was considered robust enough to introduce the new Turkish lira (Yeni Türk Lirası) and finally do away with six zeroes on each and every banknote. For a year or so the yeni lira looked fairly stable, but in early 2006 a global downturn saw an exodus of international money and the currency lost some 18% of its value. Investors were left feeling shaky, sadly reminded of Turkey’s vulnerability due to its high debt and current-account deficit. While the AKP had been boasting about bettering their IMF repayments, they were left red-faced. With the aid of the Central Bank the currency is back on track – for now.
After decades of rampant inflation, the lira is now stable. The Yeni Turk Lirası (new Turkish lira; YTL) was used between 2005 and 2008 as an anti-inflationary measure; watch out for people dumping their old-currency kuruş coins on you. Yeni Türk Lirası is no longer valid, but if you have some notes and coins left over from a previous visit to Turkey, branches of Ziraat bank will exchange your ‘new’ lira for the same value of today’s lira.
ATMs dispense new Turkish lira to Visa, MasterCard, Cirrus and Maestro card holders. Look for these logos on the machines; they are found in most towns. Virtually all the machines offer instructions in English, French and German. It’s possible to get around Turkey using only ATMs, provided you remember to draw out money in the towns to tide you through the villages that don’t have them, and keep some cash in reserve for the inevitable day when the machine throws a wobbly, or it’s a holiday. You can usually draw out about €350 per day.
Note that if your card is swallowed by a stand-alone ATM booth, it may be tricky getting it back in a hurry – these booths are often run by franchisees rather than by the banks themselves.
US dollars and euros are the easiest currencies to change, although many banks and exchange offices will change other major currencies such as UK pounds and Japanese yen. You may find it difficult to exchange Australian or Canadian currency except at banks and offices in major cities.
Visa and MasterCard/Access are widely accepted by hotels, shops, bars and restaurants, although not by pensions and local restaurants outside main tourist areas. You can also get cash advances on these cards. Amex cards are rarely accepted.
It’s easy to change major currencies in exchange offices, some post offices (PTTs), shops and hotels, although banks tend to make heavy weather of it. Places that don’t charge a commission usually offer a worse exchange rate instead.
Although Turkey has no black market, foreign currencies are readily accepted in shops, hotels and restaurants in many tourist areas.
Our advice: don’t bring them! Banks, shops and hotels usually see it as a burden to change travellers cheques and will either try to get you to go elsewhere or charge you a premium for changing them.