Turkey has been an area of conflict between Asia and Europe. It’s surrounded by the Black Sea on the north, the Mediterranean Sea on the south and the Aegean Sea in the west. The European countries neighboring it are Bulgaria and Greece, whereas you will find Syria, Iraq, and Iran to the southeast of the country. In the heart of the country lies the capital city, Ankara.
It is hard to say, with which nation it shares the most, culturally. In the southeast, the Eastern culture and tradition thrive. This is the semi-arid region of Turkey plus the Eastern region has cold winters and hilly terrain. The southern border has a vibrant Mediterranean coastline with gorgeous pinewoods. While in the north, there is the Black Sea coast that is famous for its trekking trails.
The western region is similar to other European countries. It has cultural remnants from both Byzantine and Ottoman culture. This portion of the country is sometimes called the Aegean Turkey. Some popular cities within the region include Bursa, which was the capital of the Ottoman Empire, Antalya, a full of popular beach resorts, and Bodrum which is a coastal town boasting a busy nightlight amongst Roman ruins. Furthermore, Konya, a Sufi music hub, Urfa, a gateway to eastern culture, and Trabzon monastery are important destinations.
Plus, some natural attractions include Cappadocia, known for its moon-like scenery, Mount Nemrut, a UNESCO world heritage site, and Pamukkale or “Cotton Castle.” If nature is your interest, you can also visit Uludag National Park, and Oludeniz, a stunning beach town.
Places to See in Turkey
Search for the remains of Noah’s Ark, which is believed to have been washed to the slopes of Mount Ararat, which is 5165m high and situated in the East of the country. The mountain also offers an incredible sight, and it is visible from kilometers away. Keep in mind, however, to use the service of only authorized trekking companies.
The incredible pools of Pamukkale near Denizli will take all your stress away. Warm therapeutic water falls from the height and fills the natural travertine terraces. The place, along with the ancient ruins of the nearby city of Hierapolis, is even on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The wild Kackar mountains are situated in the northeast of the country, on the border with Georgia. Go trekking in the dense pine forests and scenic pastures or hike to almost 4000m-high mountains. Higher routes are only open during the summer, unless you are equipped for snowy weather.
White water rafting is becoming more and more popular with tourists every year! You can go down the Dalaman River, the Koprulu River, the Zamanti River, and the Coruh River. They are considered the top rafting descents in the world!
From the Eminonu dock, you can take a ferry to the Prince’s Islands, the popular summer getaway for Istanbulers. Cars are banned there, the only ways of transport are bicycles and horse-drawn carriages. It should be your choice if you are looking for peace and tranquility.
The city of Van in the East will be your starting point if you want to take a boat trip along the beautiful southern shore of Lake Van. The boat will take you to Akdamar island, where the 10th-century Armenian church is situated, famous for its fascinating stone reliefs, which depict the biblical scenes.
For a long time, before the Ottoman rule, the territory of Turkey was under the Greek rule and followed Orthodox Christian religion. Sumela Monastery is a great example of ancient Christian civilization in this area. It is situated just 54km away from Trabzon, it is set into a sheer cliff, 300m above the valley floor. The insides of the monastery are filled with amazing frescoes.
Cappadocia is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Turkey. It was formed by the eruption of Mount Erciyes and landscaped by nature over the next ages. Rock cones, sprawling pinnacles and gaping ravines make the view of the area totally and incredibly stunning! Also, hot-air balloon rides over the region are extremely popular.
Ankara is underestimated by travelers. However, it has some excellent museums to offer. The Museum of Anatolian Civilizations hosts a rich chronicle of the history of the region. Also, the Ethnographic Museum gives a good insight into the Turkish culture.
Antalya is one of the world’s most visited cities, although not really popular in the West. Situated on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey, the city offers wide sandy beaches, vivid nightlife and a fascinating Old Town. You can also enjoy the Archeological Museum with a superb interesting collection and the numerous historical sites available throughout the city.
The northern suburbs of Istanbul can be explored by ferry, which crosses the Bosphorus and stretches up to the Black Sea. If you want to escape tourist crowds, head to Unye, Giresun, or any other small town on the coast of the Black Sea, cool, green and quiet.
The cultural and architectural treasures of the former capital of Byzantium are known worldwide. The Blue Mosque, the Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sophie are the places, which make Istanbul one of the world’s most visited cities. The city offers tons plentiful activities and ways to entertain the travelers. However, even if you are on a low budget, you will find plenty to do in Istanbul for free.
You can’t visit Turkey without taking a traditional Turkish bath, known as hammam. Locals go there not only for a good hot steam, but also for massage and a scrub. It’s a great way to relax after an exhausting day of walking around the Old Town.
When to Go
Turkey has a big territory, and its weather depends on the particular region, as well as the season. Also, the best time to visit highly depends on the activities you are planning to go for. For sightseeing, the best time to visit would be spring and autumn, because it’s not too hot and not too cold.
However, for beach relaxation, these seasons may be too rainy and cloudy sometimes, so better choose hot summer days. Keep in mind, resort areas are very crowded from June to August. On the other hand, the sea is still warm, and temperatures are comfortable in September.
Turkey’s ski resorts are also developing and attracting more and more visitors every year. If you are planning to ski in regions such as Uludag or Palandoken, the best time would be from December to April.
What to Wear
The list of clothes you will need strongly depends on the region, season and activity you choose. If you come in summer, take light clothes made of natural fabrics. Don’t forget a hat and a sunscreen! During winter, take heavy clothes and a raincoat. Don’t forget mountain wear if you are going skiing or hiking! If you are going trekking, you should also take good sturdy shoes.
Turkish is the lingua franca, and the majority of the population speaks it. The senior citizens do not speak English. You will have the best chance finding someone who speaks English if you ask the help of youngsters to guide you. They will most likely understand you, but they tend to lack fluency.
One USD is equal to 3.53 Turkish Liras. The currency exchange is available without commission in currency exchange offices (döviz bürosu). Banks usually charge commission. Credit cards are easily acceptable, Visa in particular. Also, ATMs are widely available.
Local SIM Card & Free WiFi
Mobile coverage in Turkey is generally good, with exception of some rural areas. Roaming charges can be rather high, however. A pre-paid local SIM card can be purchased at the airport or from numerous outlets in Istanbul and other large cities.
The main mobile providers are Vodafone and Turkcell. Vodafone offices usually have shorter lines. On the other hand, Turkcell provides better coverage, particularly in the East. Keep in mind, foreign mobile phones without IMEI registration will be blocked after 120 days if you are using a Turkish SIM card.
If you are planning to stay in the country for a longer time, you need to register your phone within a month after arrival. To do that, you need to take your device to a government tax office, provide your passport, along with a Turkish residence permit, and fill in the form. You need to know your device’s IMEI number. The registration costs 132 Turkish Lira. Payment is required in cash. Then, take all the same documents, along with registration, to a certified mobile phone shop and buy a local SIM card. However, the easier way would be to buy a cheap second-hand phone for as little as 50 to 70 Turkish Lira and use it, while you are in Turkey.
A local SIM card costs between 65 and 95 Turkish Lira and usually includes a 35 Turkish Lira credit. Data packages come at a price of 20 Turkish Lira for 1Gb. You will need to provide your passport to purchase a SIM card. Later, you can buy kontör (credit) at most shops, mobile phone outlets, and streetside booths. The minimum credit available is 15 Turkish Lira.
However, if you just need to make one call, the easiest way would be to use one of kontörlü telefon (metered phones). In tourist areas, prices can be as low as 0, 5 Turkish Lia per minute to call Europe, the USA or Australia.
As for the Internet, almost all accommodations in Turkey offer free Wi-Fi connection for their guests, including guesthouses and hostels. So do most restaurants, bars, cafes, carpet shops, bus stations, and ferry terminals. Also, there are internet cafes available throughout the country, even in small towns and villages.
The predominant religion is Sunni Islam. Theoretically, Turkey guarantees complete freedom of worship to non-Muslims. The Turkish are very hospitable. Visitors should respect Islamic customs and traditions. Social conventions are rather modern, on the other hand. Shaking hands is the common form of greeting. Friends and family members you can kiss on the cheek.
Informal wear is acceptable in most situations. Beachwear should be kept to the beach or the pool. When visiting a mosque, women are required to cover their head, knees and wear long sleeves. Men are also forbidden to wear shorts in the sacred places. Smoking is acceptable, but prohibited in all public places, including cinemas, bars and public transportation.
Turkish cuisine is a mixture of Central Asian, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean influences, which causes numerous arguments about the origin of dishes. Anyway, the food is excellent and various. Meat is the main component of Turkish cuisine, lamb predominantly. Dishes are generally spicy, although not as much as Indian.
The wide range of vegetables, sauces, and dips can be found on every menu. Dolma (stuffed vegetables) is one of the most popular dishes. Other local specialties include Kofte, Shish kebab, Pide, and Lokum. If you can’t understand the name of the dish and what it consists of, you are likely to be allowed to go into the kitchen and choose what you like from the pots.
Major cities also offer a wide choice of international restaurants with a wide variety of European dishes. A service charge is often included in the bill in hotels and restaurants. However, if it’s not, a 10% – 15% tip is customary.
Turkey is a secular state, so alcohol is not strictly forbidden. However, during Ramadan, it is polite for foreigners to avoid drinking in public. The minimum drinking age in the country is 18. Keep in mind, wine and spirits can be much more expensive, due to heavy taxes, than local beer. Also, some local restaurants don’t serve alcohol. The most popular non-alcohol drinks are Raki, Ayran, tea, and black coffee.
Air connectivity is extensive, as well as reasonably priced. The national airline is Turkish Airlines.
Cycling around Turkey is not difficult. However, cyclists are advised to be prepared for high temperatures and bad road conditions, especially in the countryside. In large cities, you should be brave to get around by bike, due to heavy traffic and careless driving habits.
Turkey has an extensive bus network, which connects large urban areas with small rural regions. Plus, for long distances, this would be cheaper than taking an airplane.
Trains in Turkey are rather comfortable. They generally offer sleeping cars, couchettes, and restaurant cars. Some even have the air-conditioning. Prices are relatively cheap, although express trains will cost more. A trip from Istanbul to Ankara usually takes around 4 hours.
Ferries operate in both Dardenelles and Bosphorus. However, they are more suitable for entertainment trips, than for transportation. You can take a ferry from Canakkale to Eceabat, from Gelibolu to Lapseki, as well as from Bostanci, Kartal, and Yalova to Yenikapi, Yalova, and Bandirma.
Turkey’s road network is improving quickly. Four-line motorways connect major cities. There are also well-maintained highways available. However, in rural areas, roads are not as good. And also, the standards of driving can be poor. Serious accidents are common.
Renting vs. Bus, Train, Taxi
There are many types of taxis, share-taxis, and minibusses in operation. Taxis
are numerous in all Turkish cities and towns. All taxis have meters, which should be turned on upon departure. It is customary to round the sum when paying the fare. For long distances, the price should be negotiated beforehand.
A dolmus is a collective taxi, a minibus, which follows the specific route. The prices are fixed by the municipalities. Each passenger pays a fare according to the traveled distance. This is a very comfortable way of transportation, much cheaper than a taxi and most often chosen by the locals.
Cars can be rented, but the fuel prices are high. All international car rental companies are presented. Both chauffeur-driven and self-drive cars are available for hire in all large towns and resorts.
Right or Left Driving
Cars drive on the right side of the road here.
Turkey Trip Cost
Staying here can be expensive if you choose a five-star hotels. There are many luxury hotel chains here from Ritz Carlton to Conrad. A double hotel room price will start from US$30 and go up to as much as US$250, depending on the hotel level. If you want cheaper lodging options, you can temporarily rent an apartment. Typically, there are only a few hostel rooms available. A bed in a dormitory usually costs a minimum of US$8.
As for food, a fish kebab will cost around US$2 – US$3, and so will beer. For a meal in a restaurant, you will pay a minimum of US$10. A bus ticket from Istanbul to Gallipoli Peninsula will cost around US$15. So will the cheapest airplane ticket from Istanbul to Cappadocia. Car hire day cost is US$25.
Entertainments can be rather expensive, on the other hand. For a hot-air balloon flight in Cappadocia, you will pay a minimum of US$200. A four-day cruise costs US$250 – US$350. However, a boat trip will cost just US$10.
Electricity & Plug Type
Turkey uses type F sockets. You need to bring a travel adapter to fit the proper socket type. Check out the above-linked page to see the photos and other useful information. The standard voltage is 220 V. Many of your devices may need a step-up transformer to match the electrical voltage.
How to Reach
The national airline is Turkish Airlines. It flies to multiple destinations around the world, which include the USA and the UK. Other airlines, which operate flights to Turkey are Atlas Global, British Airways, and Pegasus. It takes almost 10 hours to fly from New York to Istanbul and 3,5 hours to fly from London.
It is possible to get to Istanbul by rail from many other European cities. However, this way is very slow. The journey from London takes three days via Belgrade and Sofia and four days via Budapest.
Where to Stay
Accommodation facilities in Turkey vary greatly, from budget hotels to luxury seaside resorts. Standards and amenities are not always at the European level, but you will still have a wide choice.
Bed and Breakfasts
Bed and breakfasts and guesthouses are available in some resorts and most towns and villages. They usually offer more basic amenities, than hotels, but they are cheaper.
There is a number of campsites throughout the country, although the facilities are often limited. Wild camping is generally fine. However, it is better to obtain a permission from the landowner if it’s not public ground.
There numerous hostels in Turkey, but the facilities vary. Popular backpacker’s destinations, such as Gelibolu, Kusadasi, and Olympus, offer a wide choice. Also, in Istanbul, you will find some upmarket hostels, if you are ready to spend a little more.
There are numerous apartments and villas available for rent throughout the country, particularly on the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts, as well as in Cappadocia and other large cities.
How Safe is Turkey
Turkey is not the safest destination. There is a high threat of terrorism, which has increased, due to the recent military conflict in Syria. Also, the threat of kidnapping is increasing near the border.
Although Turkey’s healthcare system has improved greatly in the recent years, the country still has only basic medical facilities. On the other hand, there is a large number of private health care facilities. In large cities, such as Istanbul and Ankara, the clinics’ standards will even match the level of Western Europe. The prices are not low, so it is highly advised to have travel insurance.
Before coming into the country, you need to have vaccinations against the following disease: hepatitis A, diphtheria, and tetanus. Sometimes, vaccinations against typhoid, rabies, malaria, hepatitis B, and tuberculosis are also recommended.
Summer temperatures in the country can go up to 40oC, so you should drink a lot of water to avoid dehydration. In towns and cities, mains water is chlorinated. It is recommended to drink only bottled water. Tap water should be boiled, filtered or sterilized some other way before using. Milk is generally pasteurized and safe for drinking. Meat, fish and vegetables should be well-cooked. Also, be careful and sensible, when eating street food.
August 22, 2016 12:00 am 3 Comments