22 Essential Tips for Planning Your Trip to Turkey
Turkey is a captivating country that straddles two continents, offering a rich tapestry of history, culture, and stunning landscapes. Whether you're planning your first visit or returning for another adventure, these 22 essential tips will help you make the most of your trip to Turkey.
1. Visa Requirements
- You Likely Need to Apply for a Visa: Even Americans and citizens of many other countries may require a visa to enter Turkey. Check Turkey's Ministry of Foreign Affairs page to understand your country's specific visa requirements.
- Online Visa Application: Americans, for example, can easily apply for their visa online, which costs $20 and typically takes just a few minutes. Remember to print or capture a screenshot of the approval page and bar code as you won't receive approval information via email.
- Multi-Entry Visa: The multi-entry visa allows you to stay in Turkey for up to 90 days.
2. Wifi Accessibility
- Wifi Can Be Spotty & Limited: Access to free wifi in Turkey may require a European or Turkish phone number to receive the passcode. This can be challenging, especially when trying to obtain an online visa at the airport. Options to overcome this limitation include having an international phone plan, getting a Turkish SIM card, or having a friend with a Turkish number assist you.
- Turkish eSim Cards: Some newer phones support eSim cards, making it more convenient to get a Turkish eSim card instead of a physical SIM card.
- Portable WiFi Rental: Consider renting a portable WiFi device for more reliable internet access during your trip.
3. Blocked Websites
- Websites May Be Banned: Be aware that certain websites like Booking.com, Wikipedia, and PayPal may be inaccessible or restricted in Turkey. Plan your research and transactions accordingly.
- PayPal Mobile App: If you have the PayPal mobile application, you can still access your account in Turkey, providing an alternative to accessing PayPal via the website.
- Varied Climate: Turkey's diverse topography leads to a range of climates, from desert-dry areas to sizzling hot summers and cold snowy winters. Coastal regions, like Istanbul, experience hot summers and mild winters, while northeastern areas are colder.
5. Best Time to Visit
- Summer: Prepare for extreme heat, with temperatures reaching up to 100°F (38°C). Consider UV umbrellas, sunscreen, and staying hydrated.
- Winter: Some parts of Turkey experience cold and snow. The tourism low season is typically from November to March.
- Spring: Ideal for visiting Turkey as everything is in bloom, and the weather is pleasant (April & May).
- Fall: September and October are excellent times to visit due to milder weather and fewer crowds.
6. Dress Code
- Diverse Culture: Turkey's culture and dress code vary greatly, with some regions being more conservative than others. Be prepared to adapt your clothing depending on the local customs and culture.
- Conservative Clothes: Bring conservative clothing to blend in and show respect when necessary.
- Summery Clothes: Pack lighter, summery clothes for areas where you feel more comfortable and in line with local fashion.
7. Language Barriers
- Limited English: English is not widely spoken in Turkey, so learning basic Turkish words and phrases will be incredibly helpful. Familiarize yourself with essential Turkish words to navigate common situations.
8. Expenses of Travel and Living in Turkey
Turkey offers an excellent value for travelers and expats. Here's an overview of the cost of various essentials:
- Food: Dining in Turkey ranges from as low as $1 for street food to around $5 for a meal at a cozy restaurant. Even at upscale establishments, a full meal with drinks, appetizers, dessert, and the main course may cost around $20, making Turkey very affordable compared to Western countries.
- Flights: Domestic flights within Turkey can be remarkably inexpensive, with prices typically ranging from $20 to $60 each way. Booking in advance often yields the best deals.
- Bla Bla Car: If you're seeking budget-friendly transportation between cities, consider Bla Bla Car, which costs about $1 per hour of travel.
- Public Transportation: Within cities, public transportation is both efficient and affordable. Fares usually start at around 15 cents (1 Turkish lira) and rarely exceed $1 (4 Turkish lira) for a one-way trip.
- Museum Entrances: Entrance fees for museums in Turkey typically range from $5 to $10 USD (30 to 60 Turkish lira) for foreigners.
- Organized Day Tours: For those interested in guided tours and excursions, prices usually start at $30 USD and increase based on the duration and activities included, often with lunch provided.
- Accommodation: The cost of accommodation varies by location. Budget travelers can find hostels for as low as $10/night,while Airbnbs typically start at $20/night, and hotels can be found from $30/night.
- Airport Transfers: Transfers from Istanbul Airport (IST) to the historic center usually cost between $15 and $20 USD (approximately 130 Turkish lira). An alternative is the Istanbul Welcome Card, starting at $75 USD, which includes access to various museums and public transportation.
9. Transportation Options in Turkey
Getting around Turkey is relatively straightforward:
- Domestic Flights: For efficiency and time-saving, consider booking domestic flights for as low as $20 to $60 each way.
- Public Transportation: Public transportation within cities is well-developed and cost-effective, with buses, trams, and ferries readily available. Istanbul, in particular, boasts a comprehensive public transport network.
- Inter-City Buses: To travel between cities, inter-city buses are a viable option, with fares typically ranging from $10 to $20 each way.
- Trains: Trains also connect various parts of the country, such as the Dogu Express Train.
- Airport Shuttles: Many hotels and homestays offer airport shuttle services for approximately $12 USD each way.
10. Utilizing Taxis in Turkey and Availability of Uber
When it comes to taxis in Turkey, it's important to be cautious due to potential scams:
- Taxi Scams: Some taxi drivers may take longer routes or pretend to be lost to increase the fare. Always use GPS, carry small bills, and insist on using the meter or agreeing on a fare before the journey.
- Uber: Uber is available in Turkey, providing a more reliable and secure option for taxi services. It's advisable to use Uber for added protection. Ensure you don't pay Uber drivers in cash, as the payment is deducted through the app.
Important Turkish taxi phrases:
- Straight: Düz (douz)
- Here: Burası (burasou)
- Right: Sağ (Saou)
- Left: Sol (Soh)
- OK: Tamam (tamman)
- Good: İyi (eiye)
11. Choosing the Right Travel Adapter for Turkey
In Turkey, the power plug socket is of type F, which is the general European outlet. The standard voltage is 220 V. It's advisable to bring your own travel adapter from home to avoid the hassle of finding one locally.
12. Safety Considerations for Traveling in Turkey
Turkey is generally a safe destination for travelers, including solo female travelers. While concerns about safety may arise due to media reports, many travelers find Turkey to be safer than they initially expected.
Street harassment is uncommon, and people are generally friendly and welcoming. However, it's always essential to remain vigilant and aware of your surroundings, as is the case when traveling anywhere in the world.
In summary, Turkey offers incredible value for travelers, reliable transportation options, and a safe environment for exploration. By following these tips and using caution in taxis, you can have a memorable and worry-free experience in this fascinating country.
13. Currency and Banking in Turkey
The official currency of Turkey is the Turkish Lira (TRY). Over the past few years, the value of the Turkish Lira has experienced significant fluctuations. Following periods of political and economic instability, the government took measures such as cutting inflation zeros and pegging the Lira to the US dollar at a 1:1 rate.
However, this pegging didn't last long, and as of the current exchange rate, it stands at approximately 18 Turkish Lira to 1 US dollar, making Turkey an attractive destination for travelers from the United States, Europe, and other countries.
14. Turkey's Historical, Political, and Religious Background
Turkey has a rich and complex history with various political, religious, and cultural influences. While much of the country prides itself on its secular and progressive values, there are also segments of Turkish society that seek a more conservative culture and the increased integration of Islam into public life, including government institutions. To gain a deeper understanding of Turkish history and its founder, Mustafa Ataturk, it's recommended to read about him or watch documentaries available on platforms like YouTube.
15. Exploring Turkish Cuisine and Food
Turkish cuisine is a delightful fusion of flavors influenced by Ottoman cuisine, which in turn draws from Central Asian, Middle Eastern, and Eastern European culinary traditions. Some of the key ingredients and flavors used in Turkish cuisine include red chili pepper, black pepper, mint, paprika, olive oil, cumin, and yogurt.
To immerse yourself in Turkish cuisine and culture, consider taking a cooking class. Participating in a class can provide insights into the historic origins of Turkish food, take you shopping at local markets, and guide you in preparing traditional dishes. Turkish cooking lessons offer a unique cultural and foodie experience.
Alternatively, you can explore Turkish cuisine through private guided food tours, sampling local dishes and visiting places like Misir Carsisi, one of Istanbul's largest spice markets. Some must-try Turkish dishes include Baklava, Dolma, Lokum (Turkish Delight), Kebap, Mercimek Koftesi, Corba soup, Kunefe, and Turkish Coffee.
16. Top Destinations to Explore in Turkey
When planning your trip to Turkey, it's helpful to have an itinerary that covers the top places to visit, where to stay, and things to do in each location. Here are some of the most popular places to explore in Turkey:
- Istanbul: A vibrant and historic city that straddles Europe and Asia, known for its stunning architecture, bustling markets, and rich cultural heritage.
- Cappadocia: Famous for its otherworldly landscapes, hot air balloon rides, and unique rock formations, Cappadocia is a must-visit destination in Turkey.
- Izmir: This city offers access to fascinating day trips, including visits to Ephesus, Cesme, Alacati, and Pamukkale, each with its own historical and natural attractions.
- Antalya: A coastal paradise with beautiful beaches and access to charming beach towns like Fethiye. Don't miss out on the cable car, boat trips, and waterfalls in the region.
- Marmaris/Fethiye: Explore these coastal gems, take a boat cruise along the Dalyan canal, enjoy a mud bath, and visit Turtle Beach for a relaxing experience.
17. Recommended Books to Read Before Your Trip to Turkey
To deepen your understanding of Turkey's history, culture, and society, consider reading these informative and engaging books:
- "A Turkish Awakening" by Alev Scott: This book provides insights into modern Turkish life and history, offering a better sense of the country's dynamics.
- "The Bastard of Istanbul" by Elif Shafak: This novel explores the connections between two families from Turkey and the United States, delving into themes of heritage and identity.
- "Birds Without Wings" by Louis de Bernieres: Set during the fall of the Ottoman Empire, this book explores the consequences of World War I and the forced migration of populations between Turkey and Greece.
- "A Strangeness in My Mind" by Orhan Pamuk: This book paints a vivid picture of Istanbul in the 1900s through the perspective of an Anatolian street hawker.
- "Constantinople: City of the World's Desire" by Philip Mansel: A historical account of the city of Constantinople, providing insights into its allure and significance.
- "Istanbul: Memories and the City" by Orhan Pamuk: In this memoir, Orhan Pamuk shares his personal reflections on Istanbul, offering a unique perspective on the city.
- "Atatürk: The Biography of the Founder of Modern Turkey" by Andrew Mango: Explore the life and legacy of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, a key figure in the founding of modern Turkey.
These books will not only enhance your appreciation of Turkey but also provide valuable context for your travels in this diverse and captivating country.
18. Solo Travel Tips for Turkey
Solo traveling in Turkey is a rewarding experience, although it may be different from other more popular solo travel destinations. Here are some insights into solo travel in Turkey:
- Turkey has a romantic charm that might make you wish you had a loved one to share the incredible moments with. However, you can still thoroughly enjoy your solo adventure.
- Compared to some other countries, you might encounter fewer solo travelers in Turkey, which can make your journey feel unique.
- Some fellow travelers may express surprise when you mention you're solo traveling in Turkey. It's essential to trust your instincts and prioritize your safety while exploring the country.
- Staying in hostels can be an excellent way to meet other travelers and make new friends during your solo trip. Hostels often have communal areas where you can socialize and connect with like-minded individuals.
19. Shopping Delights in Turkey
Turkey is a shopping paradise with a vast array of items to choose from, and you might find yourself wanting to pack an empty duffle bag just for shopping. Here are some of the fantastic things you can shop for in Turkey:
- Rugs: Turkey is famous for its intricately woven carpets and rugs, each with a unique design and story.
- Towels: Turkish towels, known as peshtemals, are not only practical but also beautifully designed.
- Jewelry: Turkish jewelry often features intricate patterns and semi-precious stones, making it a perfect souvenir.
- Books: Turkey has a rich literary history, and you can find books on various topics, including history, culture, and literature.
- Cooking Ware: Explore traditional Turkish cooking utensils and cookware, perfect for recreating authentic Turkish dishes at home.
- Copper Crafts: Turkey is known for its craftsmanship in copper, and you can find an array of copper items, from pots and pans to decorative pieces.
- Ceramics: Turkish ceramics are renowned for their intricate patterns and vibrant colors, making them a lovely addition to your home decor.
- Paintings: Local artists create beautiful paintings inspired by Turkey's landscapes and culture, making for unique souvenirs.
- Pillowcases: Turkish pillowcases often feature vibrant patterns and colors, adding a touch of Turkish flair to your home.
- Special Souvenirs: Look out for unique and artisanal souvenirs that capture the essence of Turkey, such as handcrafted soaps, spices, and textiles.
20. Discovering the Magic of Istanbul
Istanbul, Turkey's largest city, is a captivating destination overflowing with culture, history, and activities. To make the most of your visit to this magical city:
- Dedicate at least three to five days to explore Istanbul thoroughly. There are countless neighborhoods, attractions, and experiences to discover on both the Asian and European sides.
- Istanbul offers a wide range of experiences, from cooking lessons and museum visits to traditional Hamman spa sessions. Plan your itinerary to include a mix of cultural, historical, and culinary adventures.
- Don't forget to set aside time for shopping in Istanbul, as it's known as a shopping haven with a vast selection of items to choose from.
- Consider exploring Istanbul's diverse neighborhoods, each with its own unique character and attractions. From hip and hidden gems to historic districts, Istanbul has it all.
21. Accommodation Choices in Turkey
Turkey boasts a wide variety of accommodation options, ranging from hotels and Airbnbs to hostels. Here are some top recommendations for accommodations in various regions of Turkey:
- Juliet Rooms & Kitchen ($): A charming hotel with a hostel and restaurant, located in Moda, Eastern Istanbul.
- MGallery Galata ($$$$):A stunning hotel offering beautiful rooms, on-site restaurants, a spa, and a convenient location.
- Four Seasons Sultanahmet ($$$$$): Perfectly situated in the heart of the city's oldest district, this hotel offers a tranquil ambiance and a lovely patio restaurant.
- Airbnb ($):Consider staying with a local host for a more personalized experience and great prices.
- Carus Hotel ($$): A stunning cave hotel with a restaurant located steps away from everything in town.
- Mithra Cave Hotel ($$$): A classic cave hotel with access to a breakfast lookout for balloon watching.
- Museum Hotel ($$$$$): An elegant and luxurious hotel carved out of a rock cave.
- Graymark Hotel ($$):Affordable yet high-quality accommodation in a perfect location.
- Spil Suites ($$): Rent an entire apartment in downtown Izmir for more space and independence.
- Renaissance Izmir ($$$$$): A luxurious five-star hotel with state-of-the-art amenities in the city center.
When selecting your accommodations in Turkey, consider your budget, preferences, and the region you plan to visit to find the perfect place to stay.
22. Packing Essentials for Your Turkey Trip
Packing for Turkey is relatively straightforward, but there are some essential items and considerations to keep in mind:
- Turkish Electrical Adapter: Bring an adapter for Turkish electrical outlets to charge your devices.
- Camera: A good camera is a valuable companion for capturing the beauty and culture of Turkey. Consider lenses such as a 35mm or wide lens for versatile photography.
- Packing Cubes: Packing cubes can help keep your luggage organized and make it easier to find items.
- Weather-Appropriate Attire: Pack clothing suitable for the weather during your visit. Include a sweater for cold nights in certain regions and a hat for sunny days.
- Travel Insurance: Always have travel insurance to provide coverage for unexpected events during your trip.
- Comfortable Walking Shoes: Turkey's attractions often require a fair amount of walking, so comfortable shoes are a must.
- Scarf: When visiting mosques, it's respectful to cover your head and shoulders, so a scarf is handy.
- Bathing Suit: If you plan to experience a traditional Turkish bath or Hamman, bring a bathing suit.
- Compact Travel Towel: A compact travel towel is practical for on-the-go drying needs.
These items will help you stay comfortable and prepared throughout your journey in Turkey.