Haggling is common in bazaars, as well as for out-of-season accommodation and long taxi journeys. In other instances, you’re expected to pay the stated price.
Feature: The Art of Bargaining
Traditionally, when customers enter a Turkish shop to make a significant purchase, they're offered a comfortable seat and a drink (çay, coffee or a soft drink). There is some general chitchat, then discussion of the shop's goods in general, then of the customer's tastes, preferences and requirements. Finally, a number of items are displayed for the customer's inspection.
The customer asks the price; the shop owner gives it; the customer looks doubtful and makes a counter-offer 25% to 50% lower. This procedure goes back and forth several times before a price acceptable to both parties is arrived at. It's considered bad form to haggle over a price, come to an agreement, and then change your mind.
If you can't agree on a price, it's perfectly acceptable to say goodbye and walk out of the shop. In fact, walking out is one of the best ways to test the authenticity of the last offer. If shopkeepers know you can find the item elsewhere for less, they'll probably call after you and drop their price. Even if they don't stop you, there's nothing to prevent you from returning later and buying the item for what they quoted.
To bargain effectively you must be prepared to take your time, and you must know something about the items in question, including their market price. The best way to learn is to look at similar goods in several shops, asking prices but not making counter-offers. Always stay good-humoured and polite when you are bargaining – if you do this the shopkeeper will too. When bargaining, you can often get a discount by offering to buy several items at once, by paying in a strong major currency, or by paying in cash.
If you don't have sufficient time to shop around, follow the age-old rule: find something you like at a price you're willing to pay, buy it, enjoy it, and don't worry about whether or not you received the world's lowest price.
In general, you shouldn't bargain in food shops or over transport costs. Outside tourist areas, hotels may expect to 'negotiate' the room price with you. In tourist areas pension owners are usually fairly clear about their prices, although if you're travelling in winter or staying a long time, it's worth asking about indirim (discounts).
The Aegean and Mediterranean coasts have moderate winter temperatures and hot, humid summers, while the Anatolian hinterland has extremely cold winters and excessively hot summers. The further east you travel, the more pronounced these climatic extremes become, so that much of eastern Turkey is unpassable with snow from December to April, with temperatures sometimes falling to around -12°C. In July and August temperatures rise rapidly and can exceed 45°C, making travel in the east very uncomfortable.
The Black Sea coast gets two to three times the national average rainfall, along with more moderate temperatures, making it rather like Central Europe but pleasantly warmer. Most rain falls here between September and March. İstanbul's climate is also more European, characterised by cold and wet winters and sweltering summers, making spring (April to May) and autumn (September to October) the mildest seasons – as on the Aegean and Mediterranean.
Dangers & Annoyances
Although Turkey is by no means a dangerous country to visit, it's always wise to be a little cautious.
- Despite the terrorist attacks in 2016, the likelihood of being caught in such incidents remains small. Coastal resorts have not been targeted to date, and, although attacks have hit airports in İstanbul and Ankara, the usual targets are government and military installations or convoys.
- Be aware of cultural differences, for example the lese-majesty rule about not insulting the Turkish Republic.
- In more conservative parts of the country, women should be aware of cultural differences in the way men and women interact – if in doubt, follow the lead of local women.
Sexual assaults have occurred against travellers of both sexes in hotels in central and eastern Anatolia. Make enquiries, check forums and do a little research in advance if you are travelling alone or heading off the beaten track.
Marches and demonstrations are a regular sight in Turkish cities, especially İstanbul. These are best avoided as they can lead to clashes with the police.
Flies & Mosquitoes
In high summer (late June to August), mosquitoes are troublesome even in İstanbul; they can make a stay along the coast a nightmare. Some hotel rooms come equipped with nets and/or plug-in bugbusters, but it's a good idea to bring some insect repellent and mosquito coils.
The laws against insulting, defaming or making light of the Turkish Republic, the Turkish flag, the Turkish government, the Turkish people and the Turkish president are taken very seriously. Making derogatory remarks, even in the heat of a quarrel, can be enough to get a foreigner carted off to jail.
Scams & Druggings
Various scams operate in İstanbul. In the most notorious, normally targeted at single men, a pleasant local guy befriends you in the street and takes you to a bar. After a few drinks, and possibly the attention of some ladies, to whom you offer drinks, the bill arrives. The prices are astronomical and the proprietors can produce a menu showing the same prices. If you don't have enough cash, you'll be frogmarched to the nearest ATM. If this happens to you, report it to the tourist police; some travellers have taken the police back to the bar and received a refund.
A less common variation on this trick involves the traveller having their drink spiked and waking up in an unexpected place with their belongings, right down to their shoes, missing – or worse.
Single men should not accept invitations from unknown folk in large cities without sizing the situation up carefully. You could invite your new-found friends to a bar of your choice; if they're not keen to go, chances are they are shady characters.
The spiking scam has also been reported on overnight trains, with passengers getting robbed. Turks are often genuinely sociable and generous travelling companions, but be cautious about accepting food and drinks from people you are not 100% sure about.
Do not buy coins or other artefacts offered to you by touts at ancient sites such as Ephesus and Perge. It is a serious crime here, punishable by long prison terms, and the touts are likely in cahoots with the local police.
In Sultanahmet, İstanbul, if a shoe cleaner walking in front of you drops his brush, don't pick it up. He will insist on giving you a 'free' clean in return, before demanding an extortionate fee.
As a pedestrian, note that some Turks are aggressive, dangerous drivers; 'right of way' doesn't compute with many motorists, despite the little green man on traffic lights. Give way to vehicles in all situations, even if you have to jump out of the way.
Government Travel Advice
For the latest travel information log on to the following websites:
- Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (www.smartraveller.gov.au)
- Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs (www.minbuza.nl)
- German Federal Foreign Office (www.auswaertiges-amt.de)
- Global Affairs Canada (www.travel.gc.ca)
- Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (www.mofa.go.jp)
- New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (www.safetravel.govt.nz)
- UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office (www.fco.gov.uk/travel)
- US Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs (www.travel.state.gov)
A number of incidents in 2016 illustrated the increased danger of terrorist attacks in Turkey, with jihadis linked to the Islamic State (Isis) group entering the country from war-torn Syria and Iraq and perpetrating horrible attacks on both locals and tourists. The terrorist group, often referred to as Daesh in Turkey, stated that at least two of the attacks were aimed at harming Turkey's tourist industry, in retaliation for the country's active role in the US coalition against Isis.
Other attacks have been undertaken by the TAK (Freedom of Kurdistan, also known as the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons or Hawks), a splinter group from the PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party). There is ongoing fighting between the Turkish state and the PKK, after peace talks faltered and a two-year ceasefire ended in 2015. The PKK, considered a terrorist organisation by the USA and the EU, wants greater rights and autonomy for Turkey's Kurdish population. Despite TAK's bombs in Ankara and İstanbul, attacks by the PKK and splinter groups still generally happen far from travellers' routes in remote parts of mountainous southeastern Anatolia, and target the Turkish military and government. However, check the latest situation if visiting southeastern Anatolia, as fighting has been seen in urban areas such as Diyarbakır.
At the time of writing, the US Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs advised of a high threat from terrorism in Turkey and advised US citizens to reconsider their travel to Turkey and totally avoid travelling to the country's southeast. The UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office advised caution at all times and warned against travel within 10km of the Syrian border and to Diyarbakır. The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade advised its citizen to exercise a high degree of caution throughout the country, and reconsider travel to İstanbul, Ankara and the southeast. However, it is worth remembering that, as with the atrocities seen in Western cities, these attacks are random; the chance of being caught in an incident is statistically low, so keep things in perspective amid the media coverage. The terrorists want to create a climate of fear and uncertainty, so do not fall into their trap; instead, weigh up the situation cautiously but rationally when deciding whether to visit. Once in Turkey, always avoid political rallies and large gatherings of people.
Do not visit areas in close proximity to the Syrian border, which are the most dangerous parts of Turkey. Here, there is the risk of being caught in the Turkish-Kurdish conflict and of being kidnapped or harmed by terrorists from Syria.
Turkey is not a safety-conscious country: holes in pavements go unmended; precipitous drops go unguarded; seat belts are not always worn; lifeguards on beaches are rare; and dolmuş (minibus) drivers negotiate bends while counting out change.
Incidents on the street remain rare, but do happen in big cities such as İstanbul, İzmir and Ankara, often perpetrated by young men and even boys in busy areas such as bazaars and transport terminals, and on public transport. Risks include pickpocketing, bag-slashing, bag-snatching and, very rarely, mugging.
The Ministry of Culture and Tourism offers various discount cards covering museums and sights. Visit www.muze.gov.tr/en/museum-card for more information.
Museum Pass: İstanbul The five-day card (₺85) offers a possible ₺165 saving on entry to the city's major sights, including Aya Sofya, and allows holders to skip admission queues.
Museum Pass: Cappadocia The three-day card (₺45) covers the major sights including Göreme Open-Air Museum, offering a possible ₺98 saving.
Museum Pass: The Aegean The seven-day card (₺75) covers 31 museums and sights from İzmir to Muğla, including Ephesus and Pergamum. Note that it doesn't include Hierapolis and the travertines at Pamukkale.
Museum Pass: The Mediterranean The seven-day card (₺60) covers 27 museums and sights from the Turquoise Coast east to Adana, including the Lycian sites on the Teke Peninsula.
Museum Pass: Turkey The 15-day card (₺185) covers some 300 museums and sights nationwide, from Topkapı Palace to Ani.
İstanbulkart The rechargeable travel card offers savings on İstanbul's public transport.
The following offer discounts on accommodation, eating, entertainment, transport and tours. They are available in Turkey but easier to get in your home country.
International Student Identity Card (www.isic.org)
International Youth Travel Card (www.isic.org)
International Teacher Identity Card (www.isic.org)
- Electrical current is 230V AC, 50Hz.
- You can buy plug adaptors at most electrical shops.
- A universal AC adaptor is also a good investment.
Embassies & Consulates
- Most embassies and consulates in Turkey open from 8am or 9am to noon Monday to Friday, then after lunch until 5pm or 6pm for people to pick up visas.
- Embassies of some Muslim countries may open Sunday to Thursday.
- To ask the way to an embassy, say: '[Country] başkonsolosluğu nerede?'
- Embassies are generally in Ankara.
- There are consulates in other Turkish cities.
Emergency & Important Numbers
|Turkey's country code||90|
|International access code from Turkey||00|
Entry & Exit Formalities
Most visitors need an e-visa, purchased online before travelling.
Jewellery and items valued over US$15,000 should be declared, to ensure you can take it out when you leave. Goods including the following can be imported duty-free:
- 600 cigarettes
- 200g of tobacco
- 1kg each of coffee, instant coffee, chocolate and sugar products
- 500g of tea
- 1L of alcohol exceeding 22% volume, 2L of alcoholic beverages max 22% volume
- Five bottles of perfume (max 120ml each)
- Personal electronic devices, but only one of each type
- Unlimited currency
- Souvenirs/gifts worth up to €300 (€145 if aged under 15)
Check the Ministry of Customs and Trade (http://english.gtb.gov.tr/) for more information.
- Buying and exporting genuine antiquities is illegal.
- Carpet shops should be able to provide a form certifying that your purchase is not an antiquity.
- Ask for advice from vendors you buy from.
- Keep receipts and paperwork.
Make sure your passport will still have at least six months' validity after you enter Turkey.
For stays of up to 90 days, most Western nationalities either don't require visas or should purchase one in advance from www.evisa.gov.tr.
- At the time of research, nationals of countries including Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Israel, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Sweden and Switzerland don't need a visa to visit Turkey for up to 90 days.
- Russians could enter without a visa for up to 60 days.
- Nationals of countries including Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, India, Ireland, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Taiwan, the UK and USA need a visa, which should be purchased online at www.evisa.gov.tr before travelling.
- Most nationalities, including the above, are given a 60- or 90-day multiple-entry visa.
- You must enter details of your passport and date of arrival in Turkey, click on the link in the verification email and pay with a Mastercard or Visa credit or debit card.
- Having completed this process, the e-visa can be downloaded in Adobe PDF format; a link is also emailed so it can be printed out later.
- It is recommended that you print out the e-visa to show on arrival in Turkey; keep it while in the country.
- It is recommended that applications are made at least 48 hours before departure.
- Many Western nationals can obtain a visa on arrival in Turkey, but this is not recommended as travellers have reported extra charges and bad experiences with the customs officials. Cash cannot be used.
- Visa fees cost US$15 to US$80, depending on nationality.
- In some cases, the 90-day visa stipulates 'per period 180 days'. This means you can spend three months in Turkey within a six-month period; when you leave after three months, you can't re-enter for three months.
- Check the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (www.mfa.gov.tr, www.evisa.gov.tr) for more information.
- No photos required.
- There are various types of ikamet tezkeresi (residence permit).
- If you don't have a Turkish employer or spouse to support your application, you can get a permit for touristic purposes.
- Touristic permits are typically valid for up to a year; the price varies according to the applicant's nationality and office of application, with charges starting at a few hundred lira including administrative charges.
- More details are available at the expat's website YellAli (https://yellali.com/advice/index).
Residency Applications: The Nitty Gritty
Applications for a tourist residency permit are submitted online (https://e-ikamet.goc.gov.tr) after which you'll receive an interview time at the residency office where you apply. You should take four passport photos and the following:
- A bank statement to give evidence of enough money to support yourself. The amount required varies between regions of Turkey. It's usually between ₺15,000 and ₺20,000 to safely qualify for a full year's permit.
- Proof of accommodation such as a rental contract. If you want to just extend your visitor's visa for a few months to do some more travelling, you can show a travel itinerary.
- Health insurance: note that travel insurance and foreign health insurance will not be accepted. The insurer must be a Turkish company and should state on your insurance contract: 'This policy covers the minimum coverage stipulated in the circular no 9, dated 06/06/2014, on private health insurance required to be taken out for residence permit applications.' A year of insurance costs about ₺600. (You'll need to enter insurance policy details for the online application too).
The process can be convoluted and the staff unhelpful in locations such as İstanbul; those working behind the desks in cities such as İzmir and Nevşehir are reputedly more helpful. Due to the amount of applications in İstanbul, there can be a wait between your online application and interview time.
Little English is spoken, so take a Turkish-speaking friend with you if possible.
If your application is successful, your touristic residency card will be posted to you (it usually takes two weeks). Due to the cost and time involved in the process, it's generally not worth applying unless you're applying for a year.
- Religion Dress modestly and be quiet and respectful around mosques.
- Hospitality Generous Turks take it seriously; you may receive a few invitations to dine or drink çay together.
- Restaurants Generally, whoever extended the invitation to eat together picks up the bill.
- Alcohol Bars are common, but public drinking and inebriation are less acceptable away from tourist towns.
- Greetings Turks value respect; when meeting a group of people, shake hands with all, male and female.
- Language Learn a few Turkish phrases; immeasurably helpful and appreciated by Turks.
- Relationships Do not be overly tactile with your partner in public; beware miscommunications with locals.
- Politics Be tactful; criticising Turkish nationalism can land you in prison.
- Queues Turks can be pushy in public situations; be assertive.
- A travel insurance policy covering theft, loss and medical expenses is recommended.
- A huge variety of policies is available; check small print.
- Some policies exclude 'dangerous activities', which can include scuba diving, motorcycling and even trekking.
- Some policies may not cover you if you travel to regions of the country where your government warns against travel, such as areas near the Syrian border.
- If you cancel your trip on the advice of an official warning against travel, your insurer may not cover you.
- Look into whether your regular health insurance and motor insurance will cover you in Turkey.
- Worldwide travel insurance is available at www.lonelyplanet.com/travel-insurance. You can buy, extend and claim online anytime – even if you're already on the road.
Checking insurance quotes…
- Throughout Turkey, the majority of accommodation options of all standards offer wi-fi.
- Wi-fi networks are also found at locations from cafes and carpet shops to otogars (bus stations) and ferry terminals.
- Our Turkey coverage uses the wi-fi access icon to indicate that a business offers a network.
- The internet access icon indicates that an establishment provides a computer with internet access for guest use.
- Internet cafe numbers are declining with the proliferation of wi-fi and hand-held devices.
- They are typically open from 9am until midnight, and charge around ₺2 an hour (İstanbul ₺3).
- Connection speeds vary, but are generally fast.
- Viruses are rife.
- The best cafes have English keyboards.
- Some cafes have Turkish keyboards, on which 'ı' occupies the position occupied by 'i' on English keyboards.
- On Turkish keyboards, create the @ symbol by holding down the 'q' and ALT keys at the same time.
Technically, you should carry your passport at all times. In practice, you may prefer to carry a photocopy.
There are laws against lese-majesty, buying and smuggling antiquities, and illegal drugs. Turkish jails are not places where you want to spend any time, particularly in their current horribly overcrowded state.
Maps are widely available at tourist offices and bookshops, although quality maps are hard to find. In İstanbul, try the bookshops on İstiklal Caddesi or Yenıçarşı Caddesi in Beyoğlu.
Mep Medya's city and regional maps are recommended, as are its touring maps including the following:
- Türkiye Karayolları Haritası (1:1,200,000) A sheet map of the whole country
- Adım Adım Türkiye Yol Atlası (Step by Step Turkey Road Atlas; 1:400,000)
- Newspapers Hürriyet Daily News (www.hurriyetdailynews.com) and Daily Sabah (www.sabahenglish.com) are English-language newspapers.
- Magazines Cornucopia (www.cornucopia.net) is a glossy magazine in English about Turkey; Turkish Airlines' in-flight monthly, Skylife (www.skylife.com/en), is also worth a read.
- Radio TRT broadcasts news daily, in languages including English, on radio and at www.trtworld.com.
- TV Digiturk (www.digiturk.com.tr) offers numerous Turkish and international satellite TV channels.
ATMs are widely available. Credit and debit cards are accepted by most businesses in cities and tourist areas.
Turkey's currency is the Türk Lirası (Turkish lira; ₺). The lira comes in notes of five, 10, 20, 50, 100 and 200, and coins of one, five, 10, 25 and 50 kuruş and one lira. Lack of change is a constant problem; try to keep a supply of coins and small notes for minor payments. Post offices have Western Union counters.
ATMs dispense Turkish lira, and occasionally euros and US dollars, to Visa, MasterCard, Cirrus and Maestro card holders. Look for these logos on machines, which are found in most towns. Machines generally offer instructions in foreign languages including English.
It's possible to get around Turkey using only ATMs if you draw out money in the towns to tide you through the villages that don't have them. Also keep some cash in reserve for the inevitable day when the machine throws a wobbly. If your card is swallowed by a stand-alone ATM booth, it may be tricky to get it back. The booths are often run by franchisees rather than by the banks themselves.
Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted by hotels, shops and restaurants, although often not by pensions and local restaurants outside the main tourist areas. You can also get cash advances on these cards. Amex is less commonly accepted outside top-end establishments. Inform your credit-card provider of your travel plans; otherwise transactions may be stopped, as credit-card fraud does happen in Turkey.
For current exchange rates see www.xe.com.
Euros and US dollars are the most readily accepted foreign currencies. Shops, hotels and restaurants in many tourist areas accept these, and taxi drivers will take them for big journeys.
The Turkish lira is weak against Western currencies, and you will probably get a better exchange rate in Turkey than elsewhere. The lira is virtually worthless outside Turkey, so make sure you spend it all before leaving.
US dollars and euros are the easiest currencies to change, although many exchange offices and banks will change other major currencies such as UK pounds and Japanese yen.
You'll get better rates at exchange offices, which often don't charge commission, than at banks. Exchange offices operate in tourist and market areas, with better rates often found in the latter, and some post offices (PTTs), shops and hotels. They generally keep longer hours than banks.
Banks are more likely to change minor currencies, although they tend to make heavy weather of it. Turkey has no black market.
Turkey is fairly European in its approach to tipping and you won't be pestered for baksheesh. Tipping is customary in restaurants, hotels and taxis; optional elsewhere.
Restaurants A few coins in budget eateries; 10% of the bill in midrange and top-end establishments.
Hotel porter €2 per bag (mid-range hotel), €5 per bag (top-end hotel).
Taxis Round up metered fares to the nearest lira.
Banks, shops and hotels usually see it as a burden to change travellers cheques, and will either try to persuade you to go elsewhere or charge you a premium for the service. If you do have to change them, try one of the major banks.
The following are standard opening hours.
Tourist information 9am to 12.30pm and 1.30pm to 5pm Monday to Friday
Restaurants 11am to 10pm
Bars 4pm to late
Nightclubs 11pm to late
Shops 9am to 6pm Monday to Friday (longer in tourist areas and big cities – including weekend opening)
Government departments, offices and banks 8.30am tonoon and 1.30pm to 5pm Monday to Friday
Most museums close on Monday; from April to October, many have extended hours. Other businesses with seasonal variations include bars, which are likely to stay open later in summer than in winter, and tourist offices in popular locations, which open for longer hours and at sometimes at weekends during summer.
The working day shortens during the holy month of Ramazan. Devoutly religious cities such as Konya and Kayseri virtually shut down during noon prayers on Friday (the Muslim sabbath); apart from that, Friday is a normal working day.
People in Turkey are generally receptive to having their photo taken. The major exception is when they are praying or performing other religious activities. As in most countries, do not photograph military sites, airfields, police stations and so on, as it could arouse the authorities' suspicions.
Check out Lonely Planet's best-selling Travel Photography for tips on taking great travel photos.
Turkish postanes (post offices) are indicated by black-on-yellow 'PTT' signs. Most post offices open Monday to Friday from around 8.30am to noon and 1.30pm to 5pm, but a few offices in major cities have extended opening hours.
Letters take between one and several weeks to get to/from Turkey.
When posting letters, the yurtdışı slot is for mail to foreign countries, yurtiçi for mail to other Turkish cities, and şehiriçi for local mail. Visit www.ptt.gov.tr for more information.
If you are shipping something from Turkey, don't close your parcel before it has been inspected by a customs official. Take packing and wrapping materials with you to the post office.
Parcels take months to arrive.
International couriers including DHL also operate in Turkey.
New Year's Day (Yılbaşı) 1 January
National Sovereignty & Children's Day (Ulusal Egemenlik ve Çocuk Günü) 23 April
Labor & Solidarity Day (May Day) 1 May
Commemoration of Atatürk, Youth & Sports Day (Gençlik ve Spor Günü) 19 May
Şeker Bayramı (Sweets Holiday) See Major Islamic Holidays
Democracy and National Solidarity Day 15 July
Victory Day (Zafer Bayramı) 30 August
Kurban Bayramı (Festival of the Sacrifice) See Major Islamic Holidays
Republic Day (Cumhuriyet Bayramı) 29 October
Major Islamic Holidays
The rhythms of Islamic practice are tied to the lunar calendar, which is slightly shorter than its Gregorian equivalent, so the Muslim calendar begins around 11 days earlier each year. The following dates are approximate.
|Islamic year||New Year||Prophet's Birthday||Start of Ramazan||Şeker Bayramı (After Ramazan finishes)||Kurban Bayramı|
|1440||20-21 Sep 2018||20-21 Nov 2018||16 May 2018||15-17 Jun 2018||21-24 Aug 2018|
|1441||31 Aug-1 Sep 2018||9-10 Nov 2019||6 May 2019||5-7 Jun 2019||11-14 Aug 2019|
|1442||19-20 Aug||28-29 Oct||23 Apr 2020||24-26 May 2020||31 July-3 Aug 2020|
Turks love smoking and there's even a joke about the country's propensity for puffing: Who smokes more than a Turk? Two Turks.
- Smoking in enclosed public spaces is banned, and punishable by a fine. Hotels, restaurants and bars are generally smoke-free, although bars sometimes relax the rules as the evening wears on.
- Off the tourist trail in budget and midrange hotels, the ban is enforced in public areas but more leniently in rooms, which may have ashtrays.
- Public transport is meant to be smoke-free, although taxi and bus drivers sometimes smoke at the wheel.
Taxes & Refunds
Value-added tax (VAT; KDV in Turkish) in Turkey is 18%, with a reduced rate of 8% applied to items including textiles, clothes, leather goods, carpets, shoes and books, and a super-reduced rate of 1% applied to items including newspapers. Bills should clearly state the tax included.
If you buy an item costing more than ₺100 + KDV from a shop participating in the national 'Global Refund: Tax Free Shopping' scheme, you are entitled to a KDV refund at your point of departure. The shop will give you a form to complete and present at the airport along with your purchases.
Sadly, this system doesn't always work, so it is best to only pay a price you feel is fair without the prospect of a VAT refund. There have been cases of shops abusing the system and giving the buyer a form in Turkish which actually says the refund has been paid, allowing the shopkeeper to keep the fee.
The country code is +90 and the international access code is +00. Within Turkey, numbers starting with 444 don't require area codes and, wherever you call from, are charged at the local rate.
If you only want to make one quick call, it's easiest to look for a booth with a sign saying kontörlü telefon (metered telephone). You make your call and the owner reads the meter and charges you accordingly. In touristy areas you can get rates as low as ₺0.50 per minute to Europe, the UK, the US and Australia.
If your cell phone is unlocked, you can purchase a prepaid SIM card (SIM kart) including some credit. There are three major networks: Turkcell (www.turkcell.com.tr), Vodafone (www.vodafone.com.tr) and Türk Telekom (www.turktelekom.com.tr). Each has shops throughout the city.
- Turks adore mobile (cep; pocket) phones.
- Reception is excellent across most of Turkey.
- Mobile phone numbers start with a four-figure number beginning with 05.
- Turkcell coverage is best, especially out east.
- You need to show your passport, and ensure the seller phones through or inputs your details to activate your account.
- SIM cards and kontör (credit) are widely available – at streetside booths and shops as well as mobile phone outlets.
- You can buy a local SIM and use it in your mobile from home, although the networks detect and bar foreign phones after 120 days.
- The minimum Turkcell credit you can buy is ₺20.
- The bigger the credit bundle, the better the rates you receive.
- Most shops charge a small commission on credit (eg ₺20 credit costs ₺22).
- The networks offer SMS bundles (for Turkey or abroad).
- Dial *123# to check credit.
- For assistance and information in English, call 8088 on Turkcell.
- On Turkcell, reverse charges by dialling *135*53, followed by the number, followed by #.
Staying in Turkey longer than 120 days? To avoid having your home phone banned, register it within a month of arrival. This costs ₺149.20 and the registration process is convoluted. For a run-down, go to https://yellali.com/advice/question/235/how-do-i-register-a-mobile-phone-in-turkey.
SIM Card Costs
SIM cards cost around ₺85 (including ₺30 in local call credit). An internet data pack with the SIM will cost around ₺25/30/40/60 for 1/2/4/8 GB and a pack for international calls will cost an extra ₺30/60 or so for one/two hours credit. Ask staff in the phone company shop to suggest the most cost-effective solution for your needs – prices and plans change constantly. Once you have the SIM, it can be recharged in amounts of ₺20 upwards.
Payphones & Phonecards
- Türk Telekom payphones can be found in most major public buildings, facilities and squares, and transport terminals.
- International calls can be made from payphones.
- All payphones require cards that can be bought at telephone centres or, for a small mark-up, at some shops. Some payphones accept credit cards.
- Two types of card are in use: floppy cards with a magnetic strip, and Smart cards, embedded with a chip.
- The cards typically cost ₺10 to ₺20.
- Phonecards are the cheapest way to make international calls.
- Cards can be used on landlines, payphones and mobiles.
- As in other countries, you call the access number, key in the PIN on the card and dial away.
- Stick to reputable phonecards such as IPC (www.ipccard.com).
- Cards are widely available in the tourist areas of major cities, but can be difficult to find elsewhere.
- Eastern European Summer Time all year round (GMT/UTC plus three hours).
- Turkish bus timetables and so on use the 24-hour clock, but Turks rarely use it when speaking.
Time Differences in Summer
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Difference from Turkey (hrs)
Difference from Turkey (hrs)
Most hotels have sit-down toilets, but hole-in-the-ground models – with a conventional flush, or a tap and jug – are common. Toilet paper is often unavailable, so keep some with you. Many taps are unmarked and reversed (cold on the left, hot on the right).
In most bathrooms you can flush paper down the toilet, but in some places this may flood the premises. This is the case in much of İstanbul's old city. If you're not sure, play it safe and dispose of the paper in the bin provided. Signs often advise patrons to use the bin. This may seem slightly gross to the uninitiated, but many Turks (as well as people from other Middle Eastern and Asian countries) use a jet spray of water to clean themselves after defecating, applying paper to pat dry. The used paper is thus just damp, rather than soiled.
Public toilets can usually be found at major attractions and transport hubs; most require a payment of around 50 kuruş. In an emergency it's worth remembering that mosques have basic toilets (for both men and women).
Every Turkish town of any size has an official tourist office run by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. Levels of helpfulness vary wildly – some staff may have sketchy knowledge of the area, and few speak fluent English. Tour operators, pension owners and so on are often better sources of information.
Ministry of Culture and Tourism (www.kultur.gov.tr)
GoTurkey (www.goturkeytourism.com) Includes contact information for official tourism offices inside Turkey and abroad. Go to the 'Planning Your Holiday/Before You Travel to Turkey' web page.
Travel with Children
Çocuklar (children) are the beloved centrepiece of family life in Turkey, and your children will be welcomed wherever they go. Your journey will be peppered with exclamations of Maşallah (glory be to God) and your children will be clutched into the adoring arms of strangers.
Best Regions for Kids
Ice cream by the Bosphorus, ferry rides, exploring the Grand Bazaar.
- Ephesus, Bodrum & the South Aegean
Ruins such as Ephesus for older children, plus beaches for kids of all ages. Holiday spots like Kuşadası, Bodrum, Marmaris and Akyaka offer plenty of sights, facilities, resorts, water parks and sports, with less touristy coastline nearby.
- Antalya & the Turquoise Coast
Water sports and activities from tandem paragliding to sea kayaking over submerged ruins. With younger children, holiday towns like Kaş offer picturesque lanes and sandy beaches.
The fantastical landscape of fairy chimneys (rock formations) and underground cities will thrill older children, as will cave accommodation. A safe, relaxing rural area with activities including horse riding, hot-air ballooning and walking.
- İzmir & the North Aegean
More Aegean beaches. İzmir's kordon (seafront) is a child-friendly promenade – plenty of space in which to expend energy and take horse-and-carriage rides.
Turkey for Kids
Travelling in family-focused Turkey is a blessing with kids big and small – waiters play with babies, strangers entertain and indulge at every turn, and free or discounted entry to sights is common. Do bear in mind, however, that facilities are often lacking and safety consciousness rarely meets Western norms.
- Cave hotels, Cappadocia These offer novel accommodation, as do Olympos tree houses and Kabak's beach retreats.
- Tandem paragliding, Ölüdeniz One of many western Mediterranean spots where you can mix beach-based fun and water sports with more dramatic activities.
- Resorts, Bodrum Holiday complexes and beaches around the pretty town, along with Kuşadası and Marmaris' water parks, make the Aegean a good option for a relaxed seaside holiday.
- Horse riding, Cappadocia A memorable way to see the rocky valleys, as is hot-air ballooning.
- Walking Teenagers will enjoy exploring Cappadocia or the Kaçkar Mountains.
- Cooking courses Available in locations such as İstanbul.
- Major sights For older children and teenagers, Turkey offers intriguing and romantic relics, from Ephesus to Ani, Pergamum and Afrodisias.
- Hippodrome, İstanbul Ruins such as this Byzantine race track offer plenty of space for toddlers to expend energy.
- Basilica Cistern, İstanbul Children will love the creepy atmosphere of this subterranean cavern, with walkways suspended over the water.
- Cappadocia Exploring the fairy chimneys, caves and underground cities will prove memorable for older kids.
- Turquoise Coast At Mediterranean spots such as Patara and Kekova, you can mix ruins with the beach, boat trips and sea kayaking.
- Ferries Popular in İstanbul and İzmir.
- Funiculars and antique tram, İstanbul Novel ways to climb Beyoğlu's hills.
- Teleferik, Bursa The world's longest cable car climbs 8.2km up Uludağ (Great Mountain; 2543m).
- Carriage rides, Princes' Islands Fayton (horse-drawn carriage) rides and bikes are offered on İstanbul's islands.
- Sweet treats Turkey does these as well as it does kebaps – including baklava, dondurma (ice cream) and lokum (Turkish delight).
- Many hotels in all price ranges have family suites.
- Self-catering apartments and villas are common in tourist areas such as Bodrum.
- Cots are increasingly common; many hotels will organise one with advance notice.
- Resorts offer kids' clubs, and hotels in tourist areas may be able to arrange babysitting.
- Children's menus are uncommon outside tourist areas, but restaurants will often prepare special dishes for children.
- High chairs are by no means common, but can sometimes be found in tourist areas (apart from İstanbul).
- Public baby-changing facilities are rare, but found in some chain restaurants.
- Breastfeeding in public is uncommon; best to do so in a private or discreet place.
- Seaside towns and cities often have playgrounds, but check the equipment for safety.
- Buses often lack functioning toilets, but they normally stop every few hours.
- Free travel for children under six on public transport within cities, and discounts on longer journeys, are common.
- Most car-rental companies can provide baby seats for a small extra charge.
- Dangerous drivers and uneven surfaces make using strollers an extreme sport.
- A 'baby backpack' is useful for walking around sights.
- In hot, moist climates, any wound or break in the skin may lead to infection. The area should be cleaned and then kept dry and clean.
- Encourage your child to avoid dogs and other mammals because of the risk of rabies and other diseases.
- For children and pregnant or breastfeeding women, double-check drugs and dosages prescribed for travel by doctors and pharmacists, as they may be unsuitable. The same applies to practitioners in Turkey.
- Some information on the suitability of drugs and recommended dosage can be found on travel-health websites.
- Double-check the suitability of prescriptions your children are given while in Turkey.
- Pasteurised UHT milk is sold in cartons everywhere, but fresh milk is harder to find.
- Consider bringing a supply of baby food – what little you find here, your baby will likely find inedible – or it will just be mashed banana.
- Migros supermarkets have the best range of baby food.
- Most supermarkets stock formula (although it is very expensive) and vitamin-fortified rice cereal.
- Disposable bebek bezi (nappies or diapers) are readily available.
- The best nappies are Prima and Huggies, sold in pharmacies and supermarkets; don't bother with cheaper local brands.
- Lonely Planet's Travel with Children has practical information and advice.
- In hotels and other buildings, look out for open power points.
- Many taps are unmarked and reversed (cold on the left, hot on the right).
On the street, watch for:
- Turkey's notorious drivers, particularly those on pavement-mounting mopeds.
- Crudely covered electric mains.
- Open stairwells.
- Serious potholes.
- Open drains.
- Carelessly secured building sites.
Perhaps learn your child's age and sex in Turkish – ay (month), yil (year), erkek (boy) and kız (girl). To make polite inquiries about other people's children: Kaç tane çocuklariniz varmı? (How many children do you have?).
Opportunities include everything from teaching to working on an organic farm.
Alternative Camp (www.ayder.org.tr) A volunteer-based organisation running camps for disabled people.
Culture Routes in Turkey (tinyurl.com/d6fld8l) Opportunities to help waymark and repair its hiking trails such as the Lycian Way. A project to renovate old buildings for use as trekking accommodation is coming up.
European Youth Portal (europa.eu/youth/evs_database) Database of European Union–accredited opportunities.
Gençlik Servisleri Merkezi (www.gsm.org.tr/en) GSM runs voluntary work camps for young people in Turkey.
Gençtur (genctur.com.tr) Organises voluntourism including farmstays, with offices in İstanbul and Berlin.
GoAbroad.com (www.volunteerabroad.com) A US-based company listing a range of opportunities in Turkey, mostly through international organisations.
Open Arms in Kayseri Grassroots charity working to improve the living conditions of Kayseri's large refugee population.
Ta Tu Ta (www.tatuta.org) Turkey's branch of WWOOF (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms) organises work on dozens of organic farms around the country, where you receive accommodation and board in exchange for labour.
Weights & Measures
- Weights & Measures Turkey uses the metric system.
Travelling in Turkey is straightforward for women, provided you follow some simple guidelines.
Outside tourist areas, the cheapest hotels, as well as often being fleapits, are generally not suitable for lone women. Stick with family-oriented midrange hotels.
If conversation in the lobby grinds to a halt as you enter, the hotel is not likely to be a great place for a woman.
If there is a knock on your hotel door late at night, don't open it; in the morning, complain to the manager.
We recommend female travellers stick to official campsites and camp where there are plenty of people around – especially out east. If you do otherwise, you will be taking a risk.
Tailor your behaviour and your clothing to your surrounds. Look at what local women are wearing. On the streets of Beyoğlu in İstanbul you'll see skimpy tops and tight jeans, but cleavage and short skirts without leggings are a no-no everywhere except nightclubs in İstanbul and heavily touristed destinations along the coast.
Bring a shawl to cover your head when visiting mosques.
On the street, you don't need to don a headscarf, but in eastern Anatolia long sleeves and baggy long pants should attract the least attention.
It is not unheard of, particularly in romantic spots such as Cappadocia, for women to have holiday romances with local men. As well as fuelling the common Middle Eastern misconception that Western women are more 'available', this has led to occasional cases of men exploiting such relationships. Some men, for example, develop close friendships with visiting women, then invent sob stories and ask them to help out financially.
Having a banter with men in restaurants and shops in western Turkey can be fun, and many men won't necessarily think much of it.
Particularly out east, however, passing through some towns, you can count the number of women you see on one hand, and those you do see will be headscarved and wearing long coats. Life here for women is largely restricted to the home. Eastern Anatolia is not the place to practise your Turkish (or Kurdish) and expect men not to get the wrong idea; even just smiling at a man or catching his eye is considered an invitation. Keep your dealings with men formal and polite, not friendly.
When travelling by taxi and dolmuş, avoid getting into the seat beside the driver, as this can be misinterpeted as a come-on.
On the bus, lone women are often assigned seats at the front near the driver. There have been cases of male passengers or conductors on night buses harassing female travellers. If this happens to you, complain loudly, making sure that others on the bus hear, and repeat your complaint on arrival at your destination; you have a right to be treated with respect.
Outside professional fields such as academia and the corporate sector, bagging a job in Turkey is tough. Most people teach English or nanny.
Check whether potential employers will help you get a work permit. Many employers, notably language schools, are happy to employ foreigners on an informal basis, but unwilling to organise work permits due to the time and money involved in the bureaucratic process. This necessitates working illegally on a tourist visa/residence permit. The '90 days within 180 days' regulation stipulated by some tourist visas (for more on this, see www.mfa.gov.tr/visa-information-for-foreigners.en.mfa) rules out the option of cross-border 'visa runs' to pick up a new visa on re-entry to Turkey.
Locals also occasionally report illegal workers, and there have even been cases of English teachers being deported.
Job hunters may pick up leads on the following expat and advertising websites:
One of the most lucrative non-specialist jobs open to foreigners is nannying for the wealthy urban elite, or looking after their teenage children and helping them develop their language skills.
There are opportunities for English, French and German speakers, and openings for young men as well as women, all mostly in İstanbul.
You must be prepared for long hours, demanding employers and spoilt children.
Accommodation is normally included, and the digs will likely be luxurious. However, living with the family means you are always on call, and you may be based in the suburbs.
You can earn a decent living, mostly in İstanbul and the other major cities, as an English teacher at a university or a school. Good jobs require a university degree and TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificate or similar.
As well as the job-hunting resources listed in the introduction to this section, log onto www.eslcafe.com, which has a Turkey forum, and www.tefl.com.
If you want to proactively contact potential employers, Wikipedia has lists of universities and private schools in Turkey.
There are lots of jobs at dershane (private schools), which pay good wages and offer attractions such as accommodation (although it may be on or near the school campus in the suburbs) and work permits. Some even pay for your flight to Turkey and/or flights home.
Jobs are available at all levels, from kindergarten to high school. Teachers who can't speak Turkish often find very young children challenging; many are spoilt and misbehave around foreign teachers. The best preschools pair a foreign teacher with a Turkish colleague.
You will often be required to commit to an unpaid trial period, lasting a week or two.
Unless a teacher has dropped out before the end of their contract, these jobs are mostly advertised around May and June, when employers are recruiting in preparation for the beginning of the academic year in September. Teachers are contracted until the end of the academic year in June.
Teaching at a language school is not recommended. The majority are exploitative institutions untroubled by professional ethics; for example making false promises in job interviews. A few Turkish schools are 'blacklisted' at teflblacklist.blogspot.com.
At some schools you teach in a central classroom, but at business English schools you often have to schlep around the city between the clients' workplaces.
Schools often promise you a certain number of hours a week, but classes are then cancelled, normally at the last minute, making this a frustrating and difficult way to make a living in Turkey.
The advantage of teaching privately is that you don't need a TEFL certificate or even a university degree. You can advertise your services on istanbul.craigslist.com.tr and www.sahibinden.com.
The disadvantage is that, unless you are willing to travel to clients' offices and homes (which is time-consuming, and potentially risky for women), they tend to cancel when they get busy and learning English suddenly becomes a low priority. As with business English schools, most teaching takes place on weekends and evenings, when the students have spare time.
University jobs command the best wages, with work permits and, often, flights thrown in. Universities also generally operate more professionally than many establishments in the previous sectors.
The teacher's job is often to prepare freshman students for courses that will largely be taught in English.
As with dershane, jobs are advertised around May and June, and run roughly from September until June.
Travellers sometimes work illegally for room and board in pensions, bars and other businesses in tourist areas. These jobs are generally badly paid and only last a few weeks, but they are a fun way to stay in a place and get to know the locals.
Given that you will be in direct competition with unskilled locals for such employment, and working in the public eye, there is a danger of being reported to authorities and deported.
- Visit www.konsolosluk.gov.tr for information on obtaining a çalışma izni (work permit).
- Your Turkish employer should help you get the visa.
- If it's an employer such as a school or international company, they should be well versed in the process and can handle the majority of the paperwork.
- The visa can be obtained in Turkey or from a Turkish embassy or consulate.
- The government plans to introduce a 'turquoise card', which will be a points-based system based on the applicant's vocational qualifications, educational background and professional experience.
Homosexuality is not a criminal offence in Turkey, but prejudice remains strong and there are sporadic reports of violence towards gay people – the message is discretion.
İstanbul has a flourishing gay scene, as does Ankara. In other cities there may be a gay bar.
For more on the challenges facing LGBT people in Turkey, visit www.outrightinternational.org/region/turkey.
BHN Mavi Tours (www.turkey-gay-travel.com) Gay-friendly İstanbul travel agent, with useful links on its website.
Kaos GL (www.kaosgl.com) Based in Ankara, the LGBT rights organisation publishes a gay-and-lesbian magazine and its website has news and information in English.
Lambdaistanbul (www.lambdaistanbul.org) The Turkish branch of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersexual Association.
LGBTI News Turkey (www.lgbtinewsturkey.com) News and links.
Improvements are being made, but Turkey is a challenging destination for disabled (özürlü) travellers. Ramps, wide doorways and properly equipped toilets are rare, as are Braille and audio information at sights. Crossing most streets is particularly challenging, as everyone does so at their peril.
Airlines and the top hotels and resorts have some provision for wheelchair (tekerlekli sandalye) access, and ramps are beginning to appear elsewhere. Dropped kerb edges are being introduced to cities, especially in western Turkey – in places such as Edirne, Bursa and İzmir they seem to have been sensibly designed. Selçuk, Bodrum and Fethiye have been identified as relatively user-friendly towns for people with mobility problems because their pavements and roads are fairly level. In İstanbul, the tram, metro, funicular railways and catamaran ferries are the most wheelchair-accessible forms of public transport. İstanbul Deniz Otobüsleri's (İDO) Sea Bus catamaran ferries, which cross the Sea of Marmara and head up the Bosphorus from İstanbul, are generally accessible. Urban and inter-city buses often accommodate wheelchairs, but fully accessible vehicles are uncommon. Ankara and İzmir's metros are also accessible. A breakdown of how the major cities are making their transport networks more accessible can be found at www.raillynews.com/2014/accessibility-disabled-2015-target-turkey.
Turkish Airlines offers a 20% discount on most domestic flights, and 25% on international fares, to travellers with minimum 40% disability, and in some cases to their companions. Some Turkish trains have disabled-accessible lifts, toilets and other facilities, although many are still boarded by steps. The bigger bus and ferry companies also often offer discounts.
Businesses and resources serving travellers with disabilities include the following:
Access-Able (www.access-able.com) Has a small list of accommodation and tour and transport operators in Turkey.
Apparleyzed (www.apparelyzed.com) Features info on facilities in İstanbul.
Hotel Rolli (www.hotel-rolli.de) Specially designed for wheelchair users.
Mephisto Voyages (www.mephistovoyage.com) Special tours for mobility-impaired people, utilising the Joëlette wheelchair system.
Physically Disabled Support Association (www.bedd.org.tr) Based in İstanbul.
SATH (www.sath.org) Society for Accessible Travel and Hospitality.
Accessible Travel Online Resources
Download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel guide from http://lptravel.to/AccessibleTravel.