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23 Turkey travel advice – a useful guide to Turkey

Personal tips for having a great holiday in Turkey

Situated between Europe and Asia, and pampered with loads of natural beauties, Turkey is one of the most visited countries. It is gorgeous, safe and budget-friendly. Having a deep historical background, today’s Turkey has, just like every country, good and less good things on its side. After a 9-day trip to this oriental paradise, I’d like to share with you some of my practical Turkey travel advice to know what to expect if you plan a tour.

I visited Turkey with my partner and loved every minute of the journey. We had a trip that incorporated the tourist side and major objectives on the one side, while the other side showed the authentic Turkish self. It had its haggles, scams and delays, together with astounding beauty of the landscape and immense hospitality. So, let me share with you slices of my Turkish adventure as a lesson for your upcoming Turkish trip!

Istanbul by night
Istanbul by night
Istanbul tiles are a Turkish feature
Happiness and Turkish tiles

Travel to Turkey! An amazing country with fabulous Istanbul, breath-taking landscape and very welcoming people! Turkey is stunning, safe and affordable.

Taste Turkey! Kebap, Turkish delights, tea, coffee or tobacco are all trademarks of the flavours that bind Ottomans to modern Turkey.

Feel the Turkish energy! Get lost in the bazaar, notice the content smile of a Turkish old man on the street or just observe life around you in mighty Turkey! Any will do. And travel around as much as possible to absorb and understand their lifestyle!

I gathered my Turkey travel advice under three categories to make things easier. First, you have the very basics about visa, currency or voltage, next come the general Turkey travel advice on dress code, safety and personal experiences. The final category talks about driving hints, rent a car, and some taxi tips.


The very basics
General Turkey travel advice
Car ride/taxi tips/rent a car

The very basics

1. Check for visa!

First things first, check if you need a visa for Turkey. Most EU citizens are fine with their passport if they travel under 90 days (within a 180-day time period). American, Canadian and Australian citizens will need to apply for an e-visa. The process is very simple and can be done via internet. Same way, the visa is good for stays up to 90 days. 

Suleymaniye Mosque is an important visiting spot
Suleymaniye Mosque, Istanbul

2. Turkish money and payments

The Turkish currency is the Turkish Lira (TL). It is not a strong currency. At the time of our visit (September 2022), 1 TL was worth 0.055 euro, and 0.054 USD. There are several exchange offices in the country. We exchanged money in Istanbul and the best exchange rate was in the Grand Bazaar. On the contrary, when we exchanged in Cappadocia, the rate was much lower. Here, the travel agencies act as exchange offices.

In most places, we could pay by card, but it is good to have cash, especially for the bazaar and small things.

3. Voltage and adapter

 The standard voltage is 220 V, i.e. the classic European one. However, if you come from other parts of the world, consider bringing an adapter with you (not to waste time looking), or you can purchase one on the premises.

Cappadocia at sunset
Cappadocia at sunset

4. English is not common in Turkey

Some major Turkey travel advice is to start learning some Turkish as English is not widely spoken. And when I say this, I do not mean Turkish countryside. Proud of their origins and language, I rarely encountered anyone during our trip who could say two words in English. Literally. (The only exception is Cappadocia).

So, make sure you learn some basic words and download Turkish on Google translate for offline use.  You can do this by opening the app, select the language and download it.

I personally felt the language barrier from the very beginning. When we got to our Istanbul hotel, the receptionist couldn’t speak English at all. So, our communication was through Google translate. God bless technology!

The only language that could help (besides Turkish) is Russian. Whenever we wanted to communicate in English, the natural reply came a ty govorish’ po russki? I hope it’s correct, I used Google translate.

5. Wifi experience

I read on other blogs that wifi in Turkey really sucks. At the time of our visit (September 2022), I can say hand on my heart that Turkish wifi is ok. Not the best, but ok. I turned my mobile data off and used messaging apps for phone calls. And yep, they worked. Internet is generally available free in any hotel, while at restaurants, it can be limited and sometimes you have to introduce your personal data to connect for half an hour.

Turkish saleswoman
Turkish saleswoman
Love Valley in Cappadocia is part of Turkey travel advice
Love Valley, Cappadocia

General Turkey travel advice

6. Is there a dress code in Turkey?

Although a Muslim country, Turkey is more occidental than other neighbouring countries in this regard. You will see both ladies dressed from top to bottom in black, wearing a hijab, and modern Western-style women. My Turkey travel advice is that you can dress according to your whim, of course respecting some common-sense rules.

In the mosque, women have to cover their hair, shoulders and legs, while men should not enter with shorts. At the entrance, there are usually scarfs in case you need one. You are only allowed to enter barefoot in the mosque (there are shelves for the shoes). Turkish religion is very strict about not touching the carpet that covers the mosque with shoes.

Dress code
Dress code for the mosque

7. Turkey is a country of contrasts

Turkish contrasts are observable under many facets.  There’s striking luxury and poverty, expensive cars and jalopies that seem to disintegrate, huge glass skyscrapers and buildings close to falling apart ….

One good example is our accommodation in Istanbul….

We reserved it on Booking. It was a regular hotel room. As we arrived by car, we approached the street from behind. The neighbourhood looked absolutely shocking! It was a slum!!! All around, there were dilapidated houses and the area looked dangerous. On the inside, however, the hotel looked just like in the pics.

In case you wonder, the front buildings that covered the slum-looking houses looked totally decent. The contrast between the main buildings and our street houses was hundreds of years apart. By the way, the hotel was in Fatih neighbourhood.

8. Turkey is a safe country

I already told you about the slum where we stayed (point 7). At the beginning we felt reluctant about the neighbourhood that we considered shady, but we always arrived late at night and never had a feeling of creepy. Moreover, we saw single women on the streets even at 1 a.m. downtown and this convinced me once more that Turkey is a safe country.

We also left our car at a parking four full days with bags inside the trunk and we found everything as we had left.

Turkey is about luxury
Luxury and
and poverty
… poverty

9. Best season to visit

Turkey is an all-season country. My Turkey travel advice is that visiting it depends on the region. Turkey has a Mediterranean and temperate climate with hot summers and mild winters. Generally speaking, best months are April-May and September-October. The high tourist season is between June and August, so the prices will be higher, and expect swelteringly hot weather.

If you plan a visit to intoxicating Istanbul, spring and autumn are the best choices to enjoy Istanbul’s attractions. The seaside months are the classic summer ones for the Aegean and Black Sea (June-late August). To squeeze the most of Cappadocia, a visit there comes best in spring or fall. Situated close to a mountain area, winters are harsh and summers full of blazing sunshine. Not being on water, Pamukkale also has a tropical climate. In summer, temperatures can get disturbingly high, so plan a spring or autumn trip to fully enjoy these travertine wonders!

10. Is Turkey affordable?

Yes, it is. With some exceptions. Turkey is generally a budget option. The entrances to museums or the food are low-cost compared to western Europe. Transportation is also totally affordable, especially trains or taxis. However, prices can go up in very touristic areas, such as Cappadocia, where a one-hour balloon flight ranges between 200-250 euro/person.
Here are some prices:
Dinner/lunch for 1 person: between 3 – 20 euro. For 3 euro you get a starter, while for 20 you eat like a king, wine included. For around 10 euro, you get a regular meal. Pay attention! Prices can vary a lot from place to place. There are restaurant chains run by the state (such as Beltur in Istanbul) where food is not only very cheap, but also tasty, while tourist places are also affordable, but more expensive.
Museum entrance/tourist objectives: between 3 – 20 euro. If you spend around 2-3 weeks in Turkey, it is worth purchasing Turkey Museumpass for 55 euro to visit lots of important objectives all over Turkey.
Mosque entrance is generally free of charge
Domestic flights: between 20-50 euro (if purchased ahead)

Fabulous restaurant in Istanbul
One state restaurant that looks amazing and has delicious food

11. Turkish hospitality

In Turkey it is impolite to turn down an offer. If you go to someone’s place and they offer you something to eat and drink, accept!

But the order is not random for the host. If you take a bite first, they will bring more food considering that you are hungry, but also shy to admit.

 12. …and punctuality

Turkey travel advice says: Do not expect Swiss punctuality! One step in our trip through Turkey was a night bus from Izmir to Cappadocia. We had been in the bus depot for quite some time and managed to find the platform for our bus. Not the bus, though… There were three minutes only until the scheduled time and we started fretting around asking people whether we were at the right otogar (we couldn’t see the name anywhere and basically no one spoke English). I rushed to the desk of the bus company to ask for clarifications, when the lady suggested me to calm down.

The bus was a little late, but we were happy we got out well of this looong tangle with the ride (point 22) and bus. Eventually, the bus was totally ok, although the company had many bad reviews.

13. Improve your bargaining skills!

Bargaining is the key to happiness in Turkey. And a must. You can negotiate everything in Turkey.

Watch out! Prices are not written on products, not even in shops or supermarkets. You have to ask!

It is considered normal (and is expected) to bargain the price of the products. You should start at a considerably lower price, so that after negotiation you buy the intended item at around half the initial price. Happy bargaining!

Turkey travel advice: bargain!
Tea and spices in the Spice Bazaar

14. Grand Bazaar and free tasting tips

Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar is on every Istanbul visitor’s list. But be careful, due to the incredibly high number of tourists, the Bazaar isn’t exactly the cheapest option. Also, shops that offer free tasting and testing option (coffee, Turkish delights, cosmetic products) are the most expensive ones we’ve come across.

15. Turkish are good negotiators

Turkish people have negotiation in their blood. So, they will always ask you the country of origin and surprise you with a few words in your language. Then, they will try to sell you something and when they sense that you are committed to buying, even tempt you with an apple tea. Delicious, by the way!

16. The hammam is not exactly a massage

At least, when our amazing Turkish guide recommended us a hammam, we looked at each other and we instantly knew that we would live the hammam experience. I thought this was going to be a relaxing touch in the middle of the day. Don’t get me wrong, it was great, just unexpected!

We went to a single sex hammam (ladies and gents in different buildings) where we started off with something like a steam bath for around 15 minutes. During this time, you splash yourself with cool water. Next, followed the peeling, scrubbing and finally the foam massage (a must do!). You shed skin and feel reinvigorated.

And totally energized from the water bucket poured onto your head!

Turkey travel advice: try the hamam experience!
The hamam experience;

17. What to eat in Turkey?

Just as Turkey creates addiction through its unique Oriental spirit, so does its food. The whole country is an open-air spice market mirrored in their hundreds of dishes and many, many sweets…. This is some Turkish travel advice to eat traditional: try the çorba soup, dolma or sarma (stuffed vegetables or leaves – very similar to the Romanian sarmale). And kebap. Of course, you are in Kebabistan! In many places you’ll see the içli köfte (covered meatballs) and the famous streetfood called kokoreç which is grilled lamb intestines.
On the sweet side there’s the künefe, baklava, lokum and hundreds of Turkish delight versions, flavours and colours. Don’t forget the Turkish coffee or the yummy apple tea!

18. If you hear the word yok, run!

This is of course a bit of an exaggeration, but there’s also the real side to it. Being Romanian, it was easy to understand the meaning, as we have a similar word. Yok means no or without.

Let me make myself clear. We arrived by car to the Bulgarian-Turkish border and we were instantly pulled aside together with tens (that soon turned into hundreds) of other cars. When we asked the reason, there was one answer: Yok system, yok internet. It cost us 3 hours.

Turkish food
A glimpse into Turkish food

Car ride/taxi tips/rent a car

19. Being a pedestrian in Turkey

I remember having heard that driving in Turkey is an adventure. It is. But not only for drivers. For pedestrians as well. You as a passer-by, know that at the crosswalk you get priority. But not in Turkey. I don’t know the reason behind this behaviour, but if you, as a foreigner, give priority to passers-by, some Turkish driver may even honk as a sign of protest. So, wherever you walk, make sure to look in all directions to avoid cars, buses or trams.

20. Traffic lights warning

I believe in Turkey traffic lights are optional. I saw with my own eyes drivers passing on red. First, I thought, it was a mishap, but when it kept repeating, I understood it was a Turkish feature. However, I wouldn’t recommend it, even if you rent a car and drive in Turkey.

Hagia Sophia is amazing at day and night
Hagia Sophia Mosque at night

21. Turkish roads are very good

Most highways have three lanes and one emergency lane, while express roads usually have two lanes for each direction. But be aware of Turkish overtaking style on highways. Normally, the first lane is for lower speed, and if you plan to overtake, you switch to lane two. Well, in Turkey, things are rather opposite. Overtaking happens on any lane, and sometimes the first lane is the fastest.

22. Taxi scams

Lots of Turkey travel advice talk about the country’s reputation for taxi scams. It is said that Turkish drivers will try to cheat you either by taking a longer route (that’s why you should have offline maps and check) or by messing around with the taxi meter (and switch the regular cost for a higher price). If you have the possibility, you should order a taxi online through Uber or BiTaksi and avoid surprises.

Personally, we had a crazy experience with the Turkish taxi mafia. We had just returned the rented car to Izmir airport and had to reach the otogar (bus depot) to take the bus. We knew that the distance was long and we had limited time on our sleeve. So, we decide on the spot to check the taxi price. The first driver says 200TL, I accept instantly, but he suddenly vanishes without a trace. All the other drivers swear the price is 270 TL, as if committed to some secret group. And yes, they were. To the taxi drivers’ group. We even checked with the newly arrived taxi drivers, but there was no way to hear a different price.

Suddenly we see the head of drivers, an old guy with cowboy boots whose only English words were fixed price. Needless to say, it was a taxi meter free ride. Pumped up with adrenalin already and the desire of not giving them satisfaction, we decide to teach Turkish drivers a lesson and take the train instead for some stops.

We finished in a Turkish taxi after all, but with a price negotiated by some inhabitants. The taxi cost 50 TL (for half the way).

Turkish delights and sweets
Baklava and other Turkish sweets

23. Renting a car in Turkey is affordable

Despite the fact that we travelled by car all the way from Romania, we had domestic flights there and rented a car to move around easier. We paid for two days 50 euro and in return got a Fiat Aegea, the basic car of any rent a car fleet. Without being an amazing car, it did the job and took us places!

I hope my Turkey travel advice did not diminish your desire of travelling to Turkey. On the contrary! I expect that you can learn from our incidents and adventures to plan a wonderful holiday in this exciting country called Turkey!

Have you already been to Turkey?  Did you enjoy your visit there? Or maybe you discovered some interesting places worth sharing with other travellers? I am really looking forward to your additional tips.

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