Information & Facts
Turkey is an action-packed destination with plenty to see and do for the adventurous visitor. The largest city, Istanbul, features some unique and world-class sights such as the Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace, not to mention the shopping paradise of the Grand Bazaar, the largest and oldest covered market in the world.
Further afield you can find the ancient attractions of Ephesus, Troy and Augustus' Temple. Turkey is a year-round destination although at its hottest during the peak summer month of July and August (don't forget the sun block!).
Getting around the country is a simple of matter of hoping on a short-haul flight or scheduled bus service while in Istanbul you can negotiate the services of a taxi driver.
In Turkey, business associates are addressed by their first names. If the associate is male, then his name is followed by 'bey', and 'hanim' is used for females. A formal, conservative dress code is observed in Turkey, and women should be careful to dress particularly conservatively. Gifts are common and are usually something the associate would use in business such as a pen or other office stationary. Business hours throughout Turkey are generally 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday with an hour taken over lunch.
The Aegean and Mediterranean coasts have very hot and dry summers, and wet, mild winters when the coastal towns more or less shut down between October and April. Winter in Istanbul and Cappadocia can be very cold with a dusting of snow. The peak tourist season is during high summer, roughly between July and September. From June the mosquitoes can be a problem. Spring and autumn are the best times to visit, as the climate is still hot, but not unbearable. Eastern Turkey should be visited during summer as roads and mountain passes may close due to winter ice and snow.
The international country dialling code for Turkey is +90. The outgoing code is 00, followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0044 for the United Kingdom). City/area codes are in use, e.g. Istanbul Asya (Asia side) is (0)216 and Istanbul Avrupa (Europe side) is (0)212. GSM 900 and 1800 networks cover most of the country. Internet cafes are available in the main towns and resorts.
Religious customs should be respected, particularly during the month of Ramadan when eating, drinking and smoking during daylight hours should be discreet as it is forbidden by the Muslim culture. Dress modestly when visiting mosques or religious shrines. Do not take photographs of or near military and official institutions and always ask permission when taking photographs of people. There is a smoking ban on all forms of public transport and in outdoor venues (including stadiums and playgrounds). By July 2009 this will include cafes, bars and restaurants as well.
Travellers to Turkey do not have to pay duty on the following items: 200 cigarettes, or 50 cigars, or 200g tobacco. Alcohol allowance includes 1 litre or 700ml bottle of wine or spirits. Other allowances include 5 bottles perfume up to 120ml each; gifts to the value of dm500, tea and coffee for personal consumption, jewellery and guns for sporting purposes. Tape recorders, record players and transistor radios have to be declared on arrival. Restricted items include playing cards limited to one pack.
220 volts AC, 50Hz. The European two-pin plug is standard.
There are no vaccination requirements, although a typhoid vaccine is recommended for all travellers, unless coming for a short period and only eating in major hotels and restaurants (e.g. business travellers or cruise ship passengers). There is a risk of malaria in the south-eastern part of the country, but not in the main tourist areas in the west and south-west of the country, although mosquitoes can still be an irritation in summer. Most tap water in the larger towns and cities has been chlorinated, but bottled water is still recommended for drinking. Food from street vendors should be treated with caution. Medical facilities and standard of health care are not high in state hospitals and private health insurance is recommended. Modern facilities exist in private hospitals in Ankara and Istanbul.
Turkish is the official language, but English is widely understood in the main tourist areas.
The official currency is the New Turkish Lira (TRY), which was introduced on 1 January 2005, whereby six zeros were dropped from the TL and the sub-unit New Kurush was created. Currency can be exchanged at banks, exchange booths, post offices, airports and ferry ports; banks have the worst rates and highest commissions, but will exchange lesser known foreign currencies. Banks open mainly Monday to Friday, but some are open daily in tourist areas. ATMs are widely available in major cities and tourist areas, but Turkish ATM keypads usually do not have letters of the alphabet on their keys. Most bank branches have ATMs which accept Cirrus and Plus. Major credit cards are widely accepted; the most popular are Visa or MasterCard, but American Express is accepted in many of the more expensive places. Travellers cheques can be exchanged at some banks and currency exchange offices, but are not as welcome as cash or credit cards. US dollars or Euros are preferred. Some pensions and hotels in the most popular destinations accept US dollars as payment.
All passports must be valid for at least the period of stay. All travellers to Turkey are required to hold return or onward tickets, documents for the next destination and sufficient funds for the period of their stay. Entry may be refused to those of unkempt appearance. Visas on entry incur a fee of around US$20 and must be paid for in cash. Passengers without a clean appearance and unable to show sufficient funds for the duration of their intended stay in Turkey may be refused entry. It is highly recommended that passports have at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.
Due to the current situation in neighbouring Iraq, travellers are advised to be cautious and check with their embassy for a safety update before departing for Turkey.. There is a significant threat from terrorism in Turkey and there have been a number of terrorist incidents, including small explosions, around the country, including in Istanbul and the capital, Ankara. Explosions on the Aegean Coast and the Mediterranean have killed and injured many people, including foreign tourists. Kurdish militant groups, as well as international terrorist groups, are currently active in Turkey and further attacks against the tourism industry in particular are likely. The Turkish economy is heavily reliant on tourism, which Kurdish separatists have repeatedly threatened to target. There are continuing incidents of local terrorism in Eastern Turkey, particularly the south east. Visitors should avoid any public demonstrations. Street crime is relatively low although visitors should guard their valuables at all times. A number of sexual assaults have been reported in coastal tourist areas. Many parts of Turkey lie on a major seismic fault line and are subject to earthquakes and tremors; several fairly recent earthquakes have shaken eastern Turkey, the southwest and southeast.
Tipping is a way of life in Turkey and it is customary to give some small change for most services, or a small percent of the bill. In bigger hotels and restaurants if a service charge is not added to the bill, it is customary to tip between 10 and 15%. For taxi fares it is enough to round up the bill. Attendants at Turkish baths expect to share about 15% of the total bill if service has been good.