Turkey Country Guide
Turkey is an interesting blend of the past and the present. Strategically located between the Middle East countries and Europe, on the shores of the Mediterranean, it makes a good holiday destination. Its traditional glory, splendour and mystic charm go hand in hand with contemporary development.
Turkey is well known for its hospitable residents, delectable cuisine, oriental architecture reflected in the many mosques and palaces, and of course its beautiful coastline. Unlike other Mediterranean holidays, your visit to Turkey comes with a reasonable price tag.
Our Turkey country travel guide below will tell you all you need to know about the best of amazing Turkey. You can also check out the local tourist highlights. The best way to learn more about the culture is to take local tour.
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Turkey Country Guide
Useful information on this page includes:
Food & Drinks
Bottle of water (500ml) - 0.50 TL
Large Local Beer - 2.20 TL
Bottle of Wine - 10.00 TL
Cup of Coffee - 4.00 TL
Local snack (street/market food) - 6.00 TL
Average Restaurant Prices
Meal - 10.00 TL
Cola/Fanta - 2.00 TL
Fix Menu - 35.00 TL
Cola/Fanta - 5.00 TL
Bottle of Wine - 25.00 -30.00 TL
Glass of beer - 6.00 TL
Meal - 38.00 TL
Cola/Fanta - 5.00 TL
Bottle of Wine - 30.00 TL
Glass of beer - 6.00 TL
Budget: high season - 80Euro DB/BB; low season - 72Euro DB/BB
Mid-range: high season: 106 Euro Bung/HB: low season - 92 Euro Bung/HB
Top End: 130Euro DB/BB
Taxi ride (10 minute) - 25.00 TL
Local Transport Ticket (Train/Metro/Tram/Microbus etc) - n/a
Public Bus Ticket - 3.00 TL
Long Distance Tourist Bus Ticket - 7.00 TL
Car Hire (per day) - Low season: 23.00 Euro incl. Tax; Mid season: 30.00 Euro incl. Tax; High Season: 32.00 Euro incl. Tax
Petrol (1 Litre) 1.85 TL
Souvenir T-shirt - 17.00 TL
Local Handicraft - 40.00 - 60.00 TL
Internet (1 hour) - 2.00 TL
International Phone Call (per minute) - 3.00 TL
Movie ticket - 10.00 TL
The New Turkish Lira (YTL) is the official currency of Turkey and has been in circulation since January 2006. The currency is available as both notes and coins. To view the current Turkish exchange rate, click on this link to OANDA.com - The Currency Site.
Note Denominations: 1, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 YTL
Coin Denominations: 1, 5, 10, 25 and 50 Ykr
100 Ykr (New Kurus) = 1 YTL (New Turkish Lira)
Note: Old Turkish Lira is no longer in use.
Changing your money
The local currency can be exchanged against cash or traveller's cheques. Cash exchange is free of commission and can be done at the banks, bureaux de change or hotels. However, facility to exchange traveller's cheques is available only at the banks. Exchanging a traveller's cheque requires a passport proof.
If you are planning to re-exchange local currency for foreign currency or purchase of any goods that require a customs declaration, do not forget to ask for a transaction receipt. These receipts are proof of legal currency exchange. Take care to preserve the receipts, as you will be required to produce them at the customs, when you leave the country.
It's easy to get more for less in Turkey. If you travel by bus or train, stay in pensions, and eat one meal in a restaurant per day, you can get by at just €20.00 to €35.00. If you can spend €35.00 to €50.00 per day, you can ride on luxury buses, sleep comfortably in sleeper train compartments, stay in one and two star hotels, and indulge in restaurants meals most of the time. But if you are looking at spending more than €50.00 a day, you can stay in three and four star hotels, fly occasionally, and have restaurant meals all the time.
Remember that things are more expensive in Istanbul and the coast than in Cappadocia and other places inland.
Sample price guide
Small bottle of beer - € 1.30
Movie ticket - € 2.50-6.00
Night club entry - € 6.00-16.00
Open air seat at first league soccer game - € 7.00
Hamam bath and massage - € 6.00-25.00
Bosphorus ferry ride - € 2.00 (one way)
Basic meal from lokanta - € 3.00
While it's not necessary to leave a tip in cheaper restaurants, it is customary in plush restaurants - around 5% to the waiter, and also to the maitre d', even if your bill includes a service charge of 10-15%. Give a dollar to a porter, and round up the bill in a taxi. Offer a tip to a helpful tourist guide at an archaeological site. If he politely declines the money, make sure you offer the tip twice again before you settle for a "No, thank you". Tip the masseur in a hamam 10 to 20% of the price you pay for admission.
Credit/Debit Cards and ATMs: You will be able to use your Visa, MasterCard, Diners Club or an American Express card in Turkey. ATM facilities are also available in most places.
Traveller's Cheques: Traveller's cheques (TC) in US dollars or British pounds can be easily exchanged for the local currency without any additional charges; however, TCs can be exchanged only at banks.
Banking Hours: During weekdays, banks are open from 8.30 am to 5.00 pm, with a break from 12.00 to 1.30 pm. However, in large cities and shopping districts, banks function on weekends too.
There are no major health concerns if you keep your visit short and opt for high end accommodation and cuisine (ideally, no problems if you are on a business trip or a cruise); however, vaccination against typhoid is advised. Mosquitoes can be a bother during the summer months, with southeast Turkey being more prone to malaria. Other regions of the country that are frequented by the tourists remain unaffected though.
In the large towns and cities, chlorinated tap water is available but do not consume tap water; use bottled water for drinking purposes. Eatables from roadside shops and vendors are not recommended. Good medical care is available at the private hospitals in Ankara and Istanbul, but there are not enough facilities at the state hospitals. A general health insurance is advised.
Of late, Turkey has become the hub for many local and international terrorist groups. Kurdish militant activities and tension with neighbouring Iraq have begun to impact tourism here. Local terrorist outfits still plague southeast Turkey. Although Turkey boasts of a low crime rate, it is recommended that you guard your personal belongings and avoid public display of wealth. There have been many reported incidents of sexual assaults in tourist spots located along the coastal regions. Several areas of this country lie along a seismic fault line and experience frequent seismic activity. Tremors and earthquakes are quite common, especially in the southern regions. Please do check with your embassy for the latest news from this region before you embark on a visit.
Check out our Turkey weather page to find out the climate and weather in Turkey, the best time to visit, and for a comprehensive six-day Ankara weather forecast. Updated regularly, our six-day weather forecast will be a useful tool to help you plan your upcoming activities as you travel Turkey.
Telephone: Use the PTT booth to make calls. It is the cheapest alternative, with prepaid phone cards being available for this facility. The country code for Turkey is 90.
Mobile Telephone: Most mobile phone operators provide international roaming facilities in this region. Coverage in Turkey is generally good, with the exception of a few remote villages.
Internet: Internet access is limited to a few Internet cafés in the major cities.
Post: PTT signs in yellow indicate the presence of a post office. Main post offices function between 8.00 am and 12.00 pm during weekdays, including Saturday and from 9.00 am to 7.00 pm on Sundays. Small post offices have timings similar to that of government offices.
Media: Large media corporates dominate both the print and television media of Turkey, with a number of private television channels in operation. Freedom of the press still exists, but journalists face the risk of being executed, if their work goes against the sentiment of land, its government and most importantly the ‘Turkish identity'.
In the past there have been many such executions as per the controversial Turkish laws. These laws have drawn strong comments from many sources including the European Commission and are viewed as a crackdown on the right to expression. As per the minorities' criteria of the EU, Turkey now has broadcasts in Kurdish language.
A conglomerate of the remains of the famous Ottoman Empire, Turkey came into existence in 1923. It is a relatively young country but with a glorious heritage. The land has been home to many great empires - Byzantine, Greek, Roman, and that of Ottoman Turks. Even the apostles of Christ have left their influence on Turkey. The many religious and historical sites here provide an insight into its rich legacy. Remnants of bygone eras greet you at every turn of the road, making Turkey an open air museum. Every single era has left a lasting presence in this region.
A landslide victory in the elections of November 2001 brought the Islamic Justice and Development Party (AKP) to power. Then on, under the dynamic leadership of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey has been on the road to economic stability. In a bid to become a member of the EU, the country is consistently striving for economic progress.
The accession to the EU, which was initiated as early as October 2005, has been hampered by a few internal problems. Kurdish militant activity from across the border in Northern Iraq is a persistent problem and nothing much has been done to tackle the attacks. Also, political differences with Cyprus still remain unaddressed. Further, the trial ordered against the writer Orhan Pamuk for offending Turkish sentiments has challenged Turkey's stand on freedom of expression. With these issues to contend with, EU membership for the time being seems to elude Turkey.
A Turkish visa is usually valid for three months. Visa rules vary depending on the nationality of the visitor; however, all travellers should hold a valid passport. Visas are mandatory for American visitors with valid US passports. A visa can be acquired on your arrival in Turkey.
British nationals having a UK passport and residing in Britain or Hong Kong can obtain a multiple entry visa at the point of entry to Turkey. Non UK passport holders must, however, obtain a visa from their nearest Turkish Embassy, prior to the visit. Canadian, Australian and Irish citizens can get a multiple entry visa on their arrival in Turkey, provided their passports are valid. South African nationals are required to obtain a visa prior to their arrival in Turkey. New Zealanders with valid passports do not require a visa for short trips not exceeding 3 months.
Passport/Visa Note: Your passport should be valid during your stay in Turkey. All documents required for return or onward journey should be available with you and you should also have sufficient money to cover your vacation expenses. Appearances do matter a lot - if you don't look too well groomed, you could be denied a visa!
Note: It is recommended that you check the latest visa and passport requirements with your embassy before planning a trip to Turkey. These rules are subject to changes very often.
Turkish people treat visitors as ‘guests of god' and hence extend utmost courtesy and hospitality towards them. They are sensitive towards other foreign customs, irrespective of nationality, language or religion, and try to guide visitors in getting acclimatised to local traditions. Turks are sincere and gracious hosts and they offer the best of cuisine and accommodation to tourists visiting Turkey.
Strong emotional ties bind the Turkish families, with both parents providing and caring for the young, and the children in turn reciprocating with love and respect for the elders. Children are cared for until their marriage, after which they are expected to earn their living and be responsible for their family. Parents still provide help in times of need. Children extend the necessary financial and moral support to aging relatives. This mutual affection, respect and care nurture and strengthen family relations.
Located to the southeast of Europe and west of the Asian landmass, Turkey has a land area of about 814,578 sq km, equivalent to 32 times the area of the Netherlands. The Bosphorus (Istanbul Bogazi), the Marmara Sea and Dardanelle (Canakkale Bogazi) separate the Asian and European parts of Turkey.
Turkey also has an 8300 m long coastline running along the shores of the Black Sea in the north, the Aegean Sea in the west and the Mediterranean Sea in the south.
Apart from the neighbouring seas, Turkey has seven other neighbour countries - Bulgaria and Greece in the northwest, Armenia and Georgia in the northeast, Iran in the east, and Syria and Iraq located in the southeast.
To view a map of Turkey, click on this link to WorldAtlas.com.
Islam is the main religion, with 99% of the inhabitants being Muslims. The country as such is a secular state with the right to freedom of beliefs and religion being extended to all its citizens. No religion or rite can be forced on people, nor can anyone be blamed for their beliefs and customs. Turkey is also home to a few minority Jews and Christians (Protestants, Orthodox, Catholics, Gregorian and Suryani sects).
During the 1920s, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk led the war of independence against the great Ottoman Empire, bringing the 600 year old Islamic reign to an end. For the first time, secularism was introduced in Turkey.
Turkish is the national language. English, however, is popular in the tourist destinations. Some common Turkish words/phrases handy for travellers to know include:
Good-bye: Allahaismarladik (said by the person leaving) / Güle-Güle (said by the person seeing his/her friend off)
Good morning: Günaydin
Good evening: Iyi aksamlar
Good night: Iyi geceler
How are you?: Nasilsiniz?
I am well (I'm ok!): Iyiyim ( Tamam!)
I am well, thank you: iyiyim, tesekkür ederim
Yes: Evet (eh-veht)
No: Hayir (hay-yurh)
Thank You: Tesekkür ederim or Mersi(Merci)
Welcome: Hos Geldiniz
To view a list of Turkish embassies around the world, as well as foreign embassies within Turkey, click on this link to EmbassyWorld.com.
Turkey runs off a 230V; 50Hz system.
Population - 71.8 million people
Total Area - 780,580 square kilometres
Capital - Ankara
Time Zone - Standard time zone: UTC +2 hours
To view the current time in Turkey, click on this link to TimeAndDate.com.
Follow the link to view a current list of public holidays in Turkey.