Turkey is a country straddling eastern Europe and western Asia. Bound by the Black Sea to the north, Azerbaijan and Iran to the east, the Mediterranean and the Aegean Sea to the west and Iraq and Syria to the southwest, Turkey is a country with many connections.
The countries cosmopolitan capital, Ankara, is a center for performing arts and home to the State Opera and Ballet as well as the Presidential Symphony Orchestra. Its sea port of Istanbul draws in travellers from all over the world to view the iconic Byzantine Hagia Sophia, featuring a soaring 6th century dome and Christian mosaics; and Cappadocia feels like it has been painted from a fairytale, brought to reality in the Anatolian plains.
But Turkeys magic and intrigue doesn’t stop in its main cities. Outside of that, the country is home to beautiful mountains, seventeen UNESCO world heritage sites, insanely beautiful beaches, expansive lakes, impressive architecture and some of the friendliest people you will ever meet. Turkey’s cuisine and culinary delights are also endless, taking you to the heart of the country’s cultural heritage. For the sociable and family orientated Turks, gathering together and eating well, is an important time honoured ritual and the way to really deepen your understanding of this beautiful country.
Günaydın. = Good morning.
Benim adım Cj. = My name is Cj
Nasılsın? = How are you?
Özür dilerim. = I'm sorry.
Güle güle. = Goodbye.
Kaça?/ Ne kadar? - How much is it? / What does it cost?
Climate In Turkey
Turkey’s climate is varied. Whilst it is generally dry, it is heavily influenced by the presence of the sea to the north, south and west and by the mountains that cover most of the country. There is also a significant contrast between the winter and summer months in terms of temperatures.
Istanbul and European Turkey experience hot summers and cold winters, with the common occurrence of snow. Temperatures in January can reach below freezing throughout the middle of the country, and to the west and east, this can drop even further to −40 °F (−40 °C). Summers in Turkey are generally hot, with July exceeding temperatures of 86 °F (30 °C) in the southeast. The black sea coastlands are the wettest region, with rain falling through the year.
Spring and Autumn, from April to May and September to mid November (shoulder seasons) are the ideal times to visit Istanbul and the inland regions, when the temperatures are pleasant but not unbearably hot. If you are interested in visiting Eastern Turkey, be prepared for extremes of temperature not just between winter and summer but between night and day, due to the mountain ranges close to the coast. It can go from 35ºC in the daytime in summer, to –37ºC at night in winter. The best time to visit eastern Turkey is between April and September, with June being the best month to visit most places in eastern Turkey.
Currency In Turkey
The currency of Turkey is Turkish Lira (Turkish lira: ₺). Lack of small change can be a problem in Turkey so make sure you keep a supply of smaller notes and coins on you at all times.
At the time of writing the exchange rates from lira to euros and dollars were as follows:
€1 = ₺6
$ = ₺5.70
ATMs are widely available throughout Turkey and credit and debit cards are accepted by most businesses in larger cities and the main tourist areas. ATMs dispense Turkish lira and occasionally euros and US dollars to Visa, MasterCard, Cirrus and Maestro card holders. If you are heading out to the more rural areas, make sure you have cash on you.
Go Travel and Talk Top Tip: When withdrawing money from ATMs, always choose to pay in the local currency rather than your home currency. This will avoid extreme charges and poor exchange rates, and always let you bank know beforehand that you are travelling abroad. This will hopefully prevent them from freezing your card if they think it has been stolen.
When exchanging money you will probably get a better exchange rate in Turkey than in the UK or elsewhere. The lira is virtually worthless outside of Turkey, so make sure you spend it all before returning home! Euros and US dollars are the easiest currencies to change, although most exchange offices, post offices and banks will change other major currencies such as UK pounds and Australian dollars.
Getting Around Turkey
Turkey is well connected by air throughout the country, although most flights go via the transportation hubs of Istanbul and the capital city, Ankara. Internal flights are relatively priced, making it easy to move around the country if you are on a short timeframe.
Turkey’s intercity bus network is reasonable with modern and comfortable coaches crossing the country at all hours of the day and night for reasonable prices. Bus companies to look out for:
Instanbul Seyahat: Serves Istanbul and destinations throughout Thrace and Marama.
Kamil Koc: Serves most cities and towns throughout western and central Anatolia and along the Black Sea coast.
Süha Turizm: Network across the Mediterranean coast, central Anatolia, the Black Sea and the southeast.
Metro Turizm: Serves most cities and major towns throughout Turkey.
Pamukkale Turizm: Huge bus network across the Aegean Coast.
You can buy your tickets from the bus station (otogar) but where you can, it is best to buy online or in advance from the bus station before you travel. Make sure you take your passport / ID with you when booking your tickets.
Please note that unrelated men and women are not supposed to sit together, but bus companies rarely enforce this in the case of travellers and foreigners. Solo male and female travellers will only be assigned a seat next to another passenger of their own gender. If you are taking a night bus, avoid the front seats - you will have less legroom and be hit with lots of smoke from the driver!
Because most bus stations are located outside of towns and cities, bus companies sometimes provide free shuttle buses or servis. These free shuttles will take passengers to the bus company’s office or another central location. Ask when booking your tickets if this is included.
The locals get around by using minibuses called ‘dolmuș’ (pronounced dol-mush). The dolmuș’ run on set routes and you just flag them down and jump on. You have to tell them where you’d like to get off and they’ll charge you accordingly (dolmuș’ are far cheaper than buses, so this is a great way to save some cash and mingle with the locals).
A dolmuș can service short-distances within cities or long-distance routes. In terms of logistics, the best part of relying on the dolmuș system is that you don’t really need information on when or where they’re coming - you just know they will. This is great, because there’s not much information online at all. Schedules change with the seasons and spread via word of mouth, especially in the east. You’ll know it’s your dolmuș because it will have a paper sign on the window with your destination or a destination along your route. Sometimes you might have to catch multiple different dolmuș routes to get to your end destination.
To master the dolmuș system, learn to pronounce your destination properly (so locals can point you in the right direction) and grab an offline map app so you can keep an eye on where you are (Use maps.me). You should also get to know your route in case your dolmuș randomly drops you off somewhere along the way!
Several cities in Turkey have underground metro systems like Istanbul, Ankara and Bursa. To use the metro, you need to purchase the city’s transport card and credit.
Taxis in Turkey are fitted with meters. Make sure you tell them to start it as soon as you get in. Fares vary from city to city but make sure you keep an eye on it.
Train travel in Turkey is becoming increasingly popular. A high speed YHT network now links Istanbul, Ankara, Eskisehir and Konya with more lines under construction. The Dogu Ekspresi between Ankara and Kars have become a tourist focal point and should be booked in advance. If you are on a budget, overnight trains are a great way to save on a nights accommodation. The YHT trains are clean, air-conditioned and comfortable. Classes are either economy or business with a trolly service serving both. It is wise to buy your tickets ahead of travel, for overnight trains and for weekend travel, book as far in advance as you can. You can buy tickets at stations (only major stations for sleeping car tickets), through travel agencies or online. The website The Man in Seat 61 is a great resource.
Driving around Turkey is no mean feat due to the distances between places, but it does give you unparalleled freedom to explore the countryside, coastlines and off the beaten path villages and ruins.
Travel Insurance For Turkey
You can buy and claim online, even after you've left home. Travel insurance from WorldNomads.com is available to people from 140 countries and it is the only travel insurance we will ever use! It is designed for adventurous travellers with cover for overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities.
WorldNomads.com is backed by a suite of strong and specialist travel insurers who provide you with great cover, 24 hour emergency assistance and the highest levels of support. The WorldNomads.com prices are some of the most competitive online and if you need to change plans, you can buy more cover or claim online while you are still away. You can even buy a World Nomads policy if you're already travelling. They also offer travel safety advice and tips online through the World Nomads Travel Safety Hub and World Nomad members can learn the local lingo through a series of iPod & iPhone Language Guides and can stay in touch with family and friends with an online travel journal. You can find out more about why travel insurance is important for your trip. If you have any questions about your travel insurance or travel safety in general, please contact WorldNomads.com directly.
Medical Considerations For Turkey
The World Health Organisation recommends that you should have the following when travelling to Turkey:
- Hepatitis A and B (for protection against contaminated food/water).
These can be booked through your doctor. If you would like more information, check out Fit for Travel.
What To Pack For Turkey
- Long sleeved tops and long trousers (*pack layers)
- Warm socks
- Long dresses / light clothes for the beach
- Warm clothes for cooler cities & hiking - scarf, hat, gloves, jumpers, jackets
- Swimwear / beach items
- Sarong or scarf for when visiting mosques
- Waterproof clothing depending on when you go
- Walking shoes / walking boots / trainers / sandals
- Bug spray and sunscreen
- Battery pack / electronics
- First aid kit
- Packing cubes
- Zip lock bags for traveling with leftover food items / prevent liquid items from spilling
Safety Advice For Turkey
Turkey is shaking off its negative image after a number of high profile terror attacks in 2016 rattled the country. Three years on, the political situation is much calmer and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has relaxed its stance on travelling to most parts of the country. While Turkey is by no means a dangerous country to visit, it is important to remain a little cautious.
- If you are travelling on buses, do not store your backpack overhead or in the back of the bus, keep it on you at all times. For extra security, put your passport, money and phone in a money belt around your waist, under your clothes.
- When travelling on buses, always padlock your big bag.
- Be aware of cultural differences, dress modestly, do your research before you arrive in Turkey.
- Do not walk around at night on your own, always take a taxi, even if it is a short distance.
- Always ask your accommodation about the area and for safety advice.
- Keep your bank/credit cards separate so if anything happens, you have a second source of money.
- Do not walk around with your expensive Iphone in hand - pick pocketing is rife in the major cities.
- There are many stray dogs in Turkey that are not always friendly - please do not approach them. If you are bitten, seek medical advice immediately.
- Always have at least one photocopy of your passport, so if you lose it you have a spare copy.
- Always bring another form of identification with you (drivers license).
Budget For Turkey
This is completely subjective and dependent on what you do whilst exploring Turkey. Transport is relatively cheap and there are plenty of budget friendly homestays in the major towns and cities and couchsurfing opportunities in the more rural areas. However, if you are visiting the main cities and tourist attractions, eating out and exploring off the beaten path, your expenditure soon adds up.
For a backpackers budget, €27 ($30) per day should be about right.