Difference between revisions of "Turkey"
Revision as of 13:13, 21 April 2007
Turkey (Türkiye)  is located on the Mediterranean, in the Anatolian region of West Asia, with a small section in Mediterranean Europe separated by the Turkish Straits (Bosphorus, Sea of Marmara, and Dardanelles). With the the Black Sea to the north and the Aegean Sea in the west and Mediterranean Sea to the southwest, Turkey is surrounded by Bulgaria and Greece to the west, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia to the northeast, Syria, Iraq and Iran to the southeast.
There is evidence that the bed of the Black Sea was once an inhabited plain, before it was flooded in prehistoric times by rising sea levels. The biblical flood may be an account of this event. Mount Ağrı, at 5,165 m, is the country's highest point and the legendary landing place of Noah's Ark, lies in the mountains on the far eastern edge of the country.
Turkey was created in 1923 from the Turkish remnants of the Ottoman Empire. Soon thereafter the country instituted secular laws to replace traditional religious fiats. In 1945 Turkey joined the UN, and in 1952 it became a member of NATO.
The most important holiday in Turkey is the fasting month of Ramadan, known in Turkish as Ramazan.
Before you visit Turkey you should check E-Consulate website whether you need visa and the fee for it.
Citizens of the following countries need visas, and can get a sticker-type entry visa at the point of entry into Turkey, valid for three months, for a fee:
Valid for one month:
Valid for two months:
More information can be found at the website of the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Turkey's primary international gateway by air is Istanbul's Ataturk International Airport . Ankara's Esenboğa Airport handles a comparatively limited selection of international flights, and there are also direct charters to Mediterranean resort hot spots like Antalya in the peak summer and winter seasons. In 2005 customs at Istanbul international airport was rearranged to the effect that one has to go through customs and "enter the country" there rather than first travel to a regional destination and pass customs there. Luggage will generally travel to the final destination without further ado, but on occasion one may have to point it out to be sure it will be transported on. The information given by flight attendants in the incoming flight may not be adequate so until the procedure is changed (it is supposed to be only temporary) it is wise to inquire on Istanbul airport. Since one must pass security again for the onward inland flight it may be advisable to hurry and not spend too much time in transit.
Sabiha Gökçen Airport (SAW )
Of special interest to those traveling on low-cost carriers, this airport is situated some 50km east of Istanbul's Taksim Square. Airlines servicing this airport include EasyJet , Germanwings , Condor , THY (Turkish Airlines) and many more. Very interesting is the possibility to catch a plane from Emirate's budget carrier Air Arabia to Sharjah (United Arab Emirates) and from there to India for a very competitive price. All those low-cost options though, entail departure and arrival times in the middle of the night.
From Istanbul International airport, you can catch the light rail, which will take you directly to the Otogar (bus station) or to numerous stops within Istanbul. It is possible to be at the Otogar within less than one hour after landing. The light rail costs 1.30 YTL.
From SAW there are Havaş coaches departing regularly to Levent (where you can catch the metro to Taksim) for about 7-10 TRY. If you arrive in the middle of the night, you can move to the departure hall after passing customs and rest on the very comfortable seats. You will even find coin-operated Japanese massage chairs. Then, at about 4:00 am (but better ask to be sure) the first Havaş bus will take you to town.
You can still travel from Europe to Turkey by train, although these days this is more of historical or perhaps even romantic interest than fast or practical. The famed Orient Express from London now travels no further than Vienna, but you can take the daily TransBalkan from Budapest (Hungary) via Bucharest (Romania), a two-night journey with a scheduled 3-hour stop in Bucharest. 1st/2nd class sleepers and couchettes are available, but the train lacks a restaurant car so stock up on supplies. From/to Greek stations there are two daily services, from Istanbul to Pythion every morning and from Istanbul to Thessaloniki every night. There are also daily trains to Istanbul from Sofia (Bulgaria).
Turkey is in Zone G of Inter Rail along with Greece, Italy and Slovenia.
From Central Europe getting to Turkey is not too difficult. In any case you'll need your International Insurance Card (Green Card). Pay attention to "TR" not being canceled and be sure your insurance is valid for the Asian part of Turkey, too. Otherwise you will have to buy Turkish car insurance.
From Bucharest there is a daily bus to Istanbul at 16.00 for 125 Lei. There is also a daily bus from Sofia, and from there you can get connections to the major cities of Europe. Another possibility is the bus from Athens in Greece via Thessaloniki. You may also find smaller bus companies offering connections to other countries in the Balkans.
Many people arrive in Bodrum on one of the hydro-foils or ferries that run from most of the close Greek islands into the port. A fairly pretty way to arrive. While many of the lines that originate and terminate in Istanbul have recently been discontinued (due to bankruptcy), there are still summer departures direct to Eastern Italy.
Other main towns on the Aegean coast have ferry connections with the nearest Greek islands as well. Trabzon, a major city on the eastern Black Sea coast has a regular line from/to Sochi on the Russian Black Sea coast. Mersin, Taşucu, Anamur and Alanya on the Mediterranean coast has ferry links with either Famagusta (with Mersin) or Kyrenia (with others) in Northern Cyprus.
Major cities are served by airlines as well, with reasonable prices, beating the bus travel experience especially over longer distances. Tickets can be conveniently bought at the Istanbul domestic terminal and local ticket offices of Turkish Airlines , Onur Air , Fly Air , Pegasus Airlines and Atlasjet among others . Many of the large cities have daily connections to the traffic hubs Ankara and Istanbul, others will have flights on specific days only. Upon arrival at regional airports there will often be a connecting Havas bus, which is much, much cheaper than taking a taxi. They may wait for half an hour, but will be available after the arrival of major flights. In some spots a whole fleet of minibusses will be waiting for an important flight, they will head out for cities in the region. For instance, flying to Agri in the East a connecting minibus will head for Dogubeyazit within twenty,thirty minutes or so, so you don't have to travel into Agri first, then wait for a Dogybeyazit bus. Do ask for such easy connections upon arrival!
Turkey has a good long-distance bus network with air-conditioned buses, reserved seats and generally good service quality, at least with the big operators. There are now a few firms providing luxury buses with 1st class seats and service. Standard buses, however, have seats narrower than in economy class on airplanes. Buses are often crowded, and smoking is prohibited except by the driver. Cell-phone use is also restricted on many buses.
Bus travel is convenient in Turkey. Go to the Otogar in any of the major cities and you can find a bus to almost any destination within half an hour, or a couple of hours at the most. Buses are staffed by good drivers, and a number of assistants. During the ride you will be offered free drinks, a bite or two, and stops will be made every two hours and a half or so at well-stocked road restaurants. The further East you travel, the less frequent buses will be, but even places as far as Dogubeyazit or Van will have regular services to many places hundreds of kilometers away. Only the smallest towns do not have a bus straight to Istanbul or Izmir at least once every two days.
Finding the right bus quickly does require some help and thus some trust, but be careful. Scammers will be waiting for you, and some may assist you in buying a ticket to a bus that won't depart in the next two hours. Sometimes there simply is no other bus, but on other occassions you will be sitting there while other buses with the same destination start well ahead. If you have some time to spare: check the departure (and arrival) times of other companies, that may save you time overall. Still, if you indicate you really want to leave NOW (use phrases like "hemen" or "shimdy", or "adjelem var" - I am in a hurry ), people will realize you are in hurry, and off you go on the next bus departing for your destination.
If you have several operators to choose from, ask for the number of seats in the buses you compare. Roughly, a larger capacity implies a greater comfort (all bus-seats have approximately the same leg-room, but larger 48-seat buses are certainly more comfortable than a 15-seat Dolmus, which may be considered a 'bus' by the company selling the seat). Also, the bus company with the largest sign is usually the one with the most buses and routes. If possible, ask other travellers you meet about their experiences with different operators: even big operators have different standards of service, and even with the same operator the standards may vary from region to region.
Don't be surprised if halfway down to some strange and far-off destination you are put out of the bus (your luggage will often be already standing next to it) and transferred to another. The other bus will "buy" you, and will bring you to the destination. This may even happen for 'direct' or 'non-stop' tickets.
Sometimes long-haul bus lines will leave you stranded on some ring-road around a city, rather than bringing you to the centre. That can be annoying. Inquire ahead (and hope they don't lie). On the other hand, many companies will have "servis aracı" or service vehicles to the centre, when the Otogar is on the periphery of a city, as they nowadays often are. In some cities these service vehicles are used by many companies combined, and a fleet of them, to different parts of the metropolis, will be waiting. The company may also choose to combine the passengers of multiple buses; meaning that you may have to wait until another bus or two arrives before departing. Keep your ticket ready as proof you were on a bus (though most of these services are run on good faith). In some cities (including Ankara, discluding Istanbul), the municipality have prohibited the use of service buses due to their effect on traffic. In that case, you might have to take a public bus or metro to get to your destination. One should probably avoid using taxis (at least departing from the Otogar) since they usually tend to abuse their monopolic position by refusing to go to closer destinations, behaving rudely towards the passenger, charging on the night tariff, etc. If you have to take a taxi, it is usually suggested that you do it from outside the bus terminal.
Seating within buses is partly directed by the "koltuk numarası" or seat number on your ticket, partly by the ritualistic seating of women next to women, couples together and so forth. So don't be too annoyed if you are required to give up your seat. In general, as a foreigner, you will have the better seat much of the time.
One hint: it often is easiest to take a seat in the back, whatever the number of your koltuk, and not be bothered for much of the ride. This is particularly true if you travel alone, and want to keep it that way. Although the last row may be reserved for the driver-off-duty, who wants to sleep. And remember: many buses pick up short-track fare along the ride, and park them in the last two or three rows. Also keep in mind that the back of the bus may be more noisy compared to the front, since that is where the engine is located. If you have a bicycle it will be transported free of extra charge. In most buses it fits in the luggage area of the bus- Make sure you have the tools to fold your bike as small as possible (height matters most)
Offering considerably cheap, but slower travel compared with the bus, TCDD (Turkish Republic State Railways) operate passenger trains all over the country. However, as Turkey has fewer than 8500 km of rail network in the total, many cities and tourist spots are out of rail coverage.
Istanbul-Ankara and Istanbul-Edirne lines are the only lines that are electrified, so on the rest of the lines diesel trains run. The services from Istanbul to the East change their locomotives at Ankara station, and services to the South change their locomotives at Enveriye station, the remote one of two stations in Eskişehir (located about two-thirds distance to Ankara from Istanbul). No steam locomotives run on Turkish railways regularly, except occasional ceremonies.
Istanbul-Ankara rail line is the busiest and the most ridden one. There are several daily trains on this line, and a ride takes between 6.5 to more than 10 hours, depending on the train one takes and the delays, which are quite frequent. From Istanbul’s Haydarpasa station on the Asiatic side, one can find a direct train to almost all cities and towns in Asian Turkey served by a rail line, exceptions being Izmir, Balıkesir, Manisa, Zonguldak and Samsun.
TCDD also offers two “train+bus” lines in summer months. One of these is Istanbul-Antalya, and the other is Ankara-Akçay (on the northern Aegean shore). In this kind of travel, for example one buys a ticket for Antalya at Haydarpasa station, rides the train until the transfer station (Dinar in this case), and takes the bus awaiting there for passengers to Antalya. Bus fee is included in the train ticket price, no additional payment is made in the bus. Train+bus travel takes a little more time than completely bus travel but it is almost half in expense.
Other major cities or tourist spots that can be reached by rail from Istanbul directly are Edirne (from Sirkeci station on the European side, not Haydarpasa), Eskişehir, Denizli (near Pamukkale), Konya, Adana, Kayseri (where Cappadocia is a few hours bus ride away), Gaziantep, Diyarbakır, Erzurum (a few minutes away from Palandöken ski centre), Kars, and Tatvan on the shore of Lake Van.
If you have determined to reach to Izmir from Istanbul only on rail, you should first catch a train to Ankara (or to further east), then transfer in Eskişehir station to one of the trains operating between Ankara and Izmir (you will need another ticket unless you have a pass like Interrail ticket). From there on, you can catch the regional train to Selçuk, where Roman city of Ephesos and Virgin Mary's House, which is a declared pilgrimage destination for Catholics, are a few kilometers away. So is Şirince, a cute village famous for the wines it produce. Also, Kuşadası is only half an hour bus ride away from Selçuk.
1st and 2nd class tickets are available, while some trains are consisted of only 1st class cars. 1st class usually means a pullman car (which has large leg-rooms between the seats, and most of which has air-conditioners nowadays), and 2nd class usually means compartment having 6 or far worse 8 seats. 8-seated compartments are not widespread, still ask before in order to avoid having a ticket for one. Also, 2nd class tickets do not have seat numbers written on them, so you should rush into the train to find a suitable empty seat.
Many trains have couchettes and sleeping cars, however even some of the night trains lack one, so ask before choosing your departure.
Although none of the regional trains –which operate between nearby cities- have a dining car, most long-distance trains have one. However, dining cars of the trains heading for eastern Turkey may have a limited menu and beverage list or there might be no dining car at all due to the low interest of the passengers of these lines. Have some supplies, especially if you are going to take one of the services to the East, but don’t worry if you don’t have any time to get anything. In the stations where the train stops for 15 minutes or more, you will find a kiosk or a buffet to buy some snacks and drinks. You can also buy some snacks –or even fresh fruits during spring and summertime- from vendors “jumping” into the cars in smaller stations as well. Dining cars are closed between 00:30 and 06:30 in all trains except Fatih Express, the daily night train between Istanbul and Ankara, the dining car of which is open until 01:30-02:00.
All cars have lavatories, although they may not be always so clean or have toilet paper.
Smoking is generally allowed on the first cars, so avoid buying a ticket for this car if you are not a smoker or buy one for this car if you would like to smoke during your journey. You may be asked “smoking or non-smoking” in the ticket window, if there are still empty seats at the both parts, but probably only in Turkish. (Sigara içilmeyen=non-smoking, write this on a paper and show it to the official in doubt)
Inter Rail and Balkan flexipass tickets are valid in all trains in Turkey (except international trains operating between Turkish and Iranian/Syrian stations), but holders of these tickets may have to get a seat number before ride, free of charge, especially in the trains that are consisted of only 1st class cars. TCDD also offers Tren Tur pass cards which lets its holder a month of free rail travel on any Turkish train (Again, Tren Tur is not accepted in international trains operating between Turkish and Iranian/Syrian stations and the international train operating between Istanbul and Thessaloniki) . Tren Tur card is considerably cheaper than one-zone Interrail tickets, but be sure to get a seat number in the stations before you get into a train that is consisted of only 1st class cars.
TCDD offers 20% discounted tickets for students. On board the trains, discounted ticket holders are usually asked for a valid student ID card during the ticket check. If the holder of a discounted ticket fails to show a student ID card, then he/she is punished with a penalty to pay the full price+20% more for his/her journey.
Train tickets can be bought online, at the station of departure (however, you can also buy your ticket for an Anatolian destination at the Sirkeci station, the main station of Istanbul on the European side) or from the automatic ticket machines which are rarely located at the main stations of the big cities. A reservation is recommended during summer, on Fridays and Sundays, and before domestic religious feasts, when a one-week break is common and trains get really crowded. For reservation and timetables, see http://www.tcdd.gov.tr/
By rental car
You may rent a car to get around Turkey from an international or local car rental agent. If you are traveling by plane you may find car rental desks in arrival terminals of all airports such as IST Ataturk Airport, Istanbul.
It is illegal to use a mobile phone while driving. Maximum permitted amount of alcohol in blood for drivers is 0.05 grams per litre (g/1000 mL), that is roughly equal to two cups (a cup=500 ml) of beer or two glasses (a wine glass=330 ml) of wine. The use of seat belts both at the front and back line is obligatory.
Turkish signboards are almost identical to the ones used in Europe, with very insignificant differences. The place names written on green background lead to motorways (which you should pay a toll, unless it is a ring road around or within a city); on blue background means other highways; on white background means rural roads (or a road inside a city under the responsibility of city councils); and on brown background indicates the road leads to a historical place, an antique city, a place of tourist interest or a city out of Turkey (these signboards used to be on yellow background till a few years ago, so still there is a chance of un-replaced yellow signboards existing here and there). Also keep in mind that these signboards are not always standardized; for instance, some of the blue ones may be leading into the rural roads.
As Turkey uses the metric system, all distances on the signboards are in kilometers, unless otherwise stated (such as meters, but never in miles). See car rentals http://turkiyerehberi.gen.tr/index.php?cat=14&subcat=119
The dolmuş (or Minibüs as called in Istanbul) is a small bus (sometimes car) that will ride near-fixed routes. The ride may be from the periphery of a major city to the centre or within a city, but may also take three to four hours from one city to the next, when the route is not commercial for large busses. They sometimes make a detour to bring some old folks home or collect some extra heavy luggage. You will find them in cities as well as in inter-city traffic. The name derives from “dolmak”, the verb for “to fill”, as they used not to start the journey without a decent number of passengers. They usually leave when they are full, but sometimes start at fixed hours, whatever the number. All during their journey people will get in and out (shout “Inecek var” – “someone to get off” – to have it stop if you’re in). The driver tends to be named “kaptan” (captain), and some behave accordingly. The fare is collected all through the ride. In some by a specially appointed passenger who will get a reduction, in others by a steward, who may get off halfway down the journey, to pick up a dolmuş of the same company heading back, and mostly by the driver himself. If the driver collects himself, people hand money on from the back rows to the front, getting change back by the same route. On some stretches tickets are sold in advance, and things can get complicated if some of the passengers bought a ticket and others just sat inside waiting – for maybe half an hour - but without a ticket.
The concept of dolmuş in Istanbul is somehow different than the rest of Turkey. The vehicles are different, they do not take any standing passengers, they do not tend to take passengers along the way, they depart immediately when they are full, and many of them operate 24 hours a day.
Hizli ferries are fast (50-60 kilometres/hour) catamaran-type ferryboats that connect for instance Istanbul to the other side of the Marmara Sea. They can cut travel time dramatically. Again for instance leaving from the Yeni Kapi jetty in Istanbul (just a bit South-West of the Blue Mosque) you can be at the Bursa Otogar in two hours, with less than an hour for the actual boat ride to Yalova. Similar services are operated to connect several parts of Istanbul with the Asian side, or places farther up the Bosporus. And this type of fast ferry is increasingly seen all over the country wherever there is enough water.
There are also ferry connections between Istanbul and Izmir and between Istanbul and Trabzon in the eastern Black Sea region, ships operating on the latter line also stop at all of the significant cities along the Turkish Black Sea coast. However both of these lines are unfortunately operating only in summer months.
All inhabited Turkish islands have at least one daily cruise to the nearest mainland city or town during summer. But as winter conditions at the seas can go harsh, the frequency of voyages drop significantly due to the bad weather.
Perhaps one of the best cruising grounds in the world, Turkey offers thousands of years of history, culture and civilization set against a stunning mountainous backdrop. The coastline is a mixture of wide gulfs, peaceful coves, shady beaches, uninhabited islands, small villages and bustling towns. Many of these locations are still only accessible by boat. Rare in the Mediterranean, one can still find some seclusion on a private charter in Turkey. In fact, Turkey offers more coastline than any other Mediterranean country. The best way to see Turkey is from your own private yacht on your own schedule. Turkey offers some of the most exquisite yachts in the world known as gulets.
Special lanes devoted to bicycles are virtually non-existent, except a few quite short routes –which are built mainly for sport, not transportation- along coastal avenues or parks in the big cities like Istanbul or Izmir. Terrain of the country is mostly hilly, another factor which makes long-distance cycling in Turkey more difficult. If it is the case that you have already made up your mind and give cycling a try in your Turkey trip, always stay as much on the right side of the roads as possible; avoid riding a bicycle out of cities or lightened roads at night, do not be surprised by the drivers horning at you, and do not enter the motorways, it is forbidden. You could better prefer rural roads with much less traffic density, but then there is the problem of freely roaming sheepdogs, which can sometimes be quite dangerous. Rural roads also have much much less signboards than the highways, which turns them into a labyrinth, in which it is easy to get lost even for non-local Turkish people, without a detailed map.
Air can be pumped into tyres at any petrol station without a charge. Bicycle repair-shops are rare in cities and cannot be easily found, motorcycle repair shops can be tried alternatively (however, they are very reluctant to repair a bicycle if they are busy with their customers who have motorcycles).
In Istanbul’s Princess’ Islands, renting a bike is an amusing and cheaper alternative to hiring a horse-drawn carriage. On these islands well-paved roads are shared only by horse-drawn carriages, bicycles and public service vehicles (like ambulances, police vans, school buses, garbage trucks etc).
Almost every driver has an idea about what universal hitchhiking sign (“thumb”) means. Don’t use any other sign which may be equivalent of a signal meaning a danger. Waiting for someone to take you doesn’t generally exceed half an hour. Best hitchhiking spots are the crossroads with traffic lights, where ring-roads around a city and the road coming from the city center intersect. Don’t be so away from the traffic lights so drivers would be slow enough to see you and stop to take you; but be away enough from the traffic lights for a safe standing beside the road. Don’t try to hitchhike on motorways, no one will be slow enough to stop, it is also illegal to enter the motorways as a pedestrian. Don’t start to hitchhike until you are out of a city as cars may head for different parts of the city, not your destination, and if not in hurry, try to avoid hitchhiking after night falls, especially if you are a lone female traveller.
Although the drivers are taking you just to talk a word or two during their long, alone journey, always watch out and avoid sleeping.
On some occasions, you may not be able to find someone going directly to where your destination is, so don’t refuse anyone stopped to take you –refusing someone stopped to take you is impolite-, unless he/she is going to a few kilometres away, and if he/she would go to a road that doesn’t arrive at your destination in a coming fork. You may have to change several cars even on a 100-km course, changing in each town after town.
Not many, but some drivers –especially van drivers- may ask for money (“fee”) from you, refuse and tell them that if you would have money to waste, then you would be on a bus, not standing beside a road.
Turkey has two signed long-distance walking routes, one of them is the famous Lycian Way, between Fethiye and Antalya, the other one is the St. Paul’s Way, between Antalya and Yalvaç up to the north, in the Turkish Lakes District. Both are about 500 km, and signed with painted stones and signboards. Since Lycian Way is much older, it has more facilities for shopping and accommodiation in the villages situated along or near its route.
Eastern Black Sea region covers very beautiful quite long trekking routes between the greenest of green plateaus well above the clouds as well, and some tourism agencies in the main cities of Turkey are offering guided trekking tours –including the transportation- in this region.
Inside the cities, there are white-, or rarely yellow-painted pedestrian crossings (zebra crossing) on the main streets and avenues, which are normally pedestrian-priority spots. However, for many drivers, they are nothing more than ornamental drawings on the road pavements, so it is better to cross the streets at where traffic lights are. Still, be sure all the cars stopped, because it is not unusual to see the drivers still not stopping in the first few seconds after the light turns to red for vehicles. As a better option, on wide streets, there are also pedestrian overpasses and underground pedestrian passages available. In narrow main streets during rush hour, you can cross the street anywhere and anytime, since cars will be in a stop-go-stop-go manner because of heavy traffic. Also in narrow streets inside the residential hoods, you need not to worry about keeping on the sidewalk, you can walk well in the middle of the road, only to step aside when a car is coming.
The sole official language of Turkey is Turkish. Turkish is an Altaic language and its closest living relatives are other Turkic languages, which are spoken in eastern Europe; southwestern, central and northern Asia. Turkish also has some resemblances to Hungarian, Finnish, Mongolian, and Korean with varying degrees. Because Turkish is an agglutinative language, native speakers of Indo-European languages generally find it difficult to learn. Since 1928, Turkish is written in an alphabet based on the Latin one, with the additions of ç/Ç, ğ/Ğ, ı/I, i/İ, ö/Ö, ş/Ş and ü/Ü, and with the exclusions of Q, W and X.
Kurdish is also spoken by an estimated 7-10% of the population. Several other languages exist, like Laz in the North-East (also spoken in adjacent Georgia), and in general near borders people will often be speaking the language at the other side too, like Arabic in the South-East.
Thanks to migration, even in rural areas most villages will have at least somebody who has worked in Germany and can thus speak German. The same goes for other West-European languages like Dutch (often mistakenly called "Flemish" there) or French. English is also increasingly popular among the younger generation. The "Universities" that train pupils for a job in tourism pour out thousands of youngsters who want to practice their knowledge on the tourist, with varying degrees of fluency. Language universities produce students that nowadays are pretty good at their chosen language. The older generations of "English" teachers can be pathetically bad.
On January 1, 2005, Turkey adopted the New Turkish Lira (Yeni Türk Lirası or YTL, currency code TRY), at a rate of 1 new lira to 1,000,000 old lira. 1 New Turkish Lira is divided into 100 new kuruşes (yeni kuruş), which is abbreviated by ykr or simply kr.
Banknote nominations are in 1, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 liras, whereas coin nominations are in 1, 5, 10, 25, 50 kuruşes and 1 lira.
1 Euro = 1.8550 new lira (as of January 11, 2007)
US$1 = 1.4340 new lira (as of January 11, 2007)
What to buy?
Apart from classical tourist souvenirs like postcards and trinkets, here are a few of what you can bring back home from Turkey.
Turkish cuisine combines Mediterranean, Caucasian, and Arabic influences, and is extremely rich. Beef is the most important meat (lamb is also common but pork is very hard to find although not illegal), and eggplant, onion, lentil, bean, tomato, garlic, and cucumber are the primary vegetables. An abundance of spices is also used. The main staples are rice (pilav), bulgur wheat and bread, and dishes are typically cooked in vegetable oil or sometimes butter.
A full Turkish meal starts with a soup, often lentil soup (mercimek çorbasi), and a set of meze appetizers featuring olives, cheese, pickles and a wide variety of small dishes. Meze can easily be made into a full meal, especially if they are consumed along with rakı. The main course is usually meat: a common dish type and Turkey's best known culinary export is kebab (kebap), grilled meat in various forms including the famous döner kebap (meat shaved from a giant rotating spit) and şişkebab (skewered meat), and a lot more others. Köfte (meatball) is a variation on the theme.
Vegetarian restaurants are not common, and can be found only in very central parts of big cities and some of the tourist spots. However, every good restaurant offers vegetable dishes, and some of the restaurants offering traditional “ev yemeği” (“home food”) have olive-oil specialities which are vegetarian in content. A vegetarian would be very happy in the Aegean region, where all kinds of wild herbs are eaten as main meals, either cooked or raw, dressed with olive oil. But a vegetarian would have real difficulty in searching for food especially in Southeastern region, where a dish without meat is not considered a dish. At such a place, supermarkets may help with their shelves full of canned vegetables, or even canned cooked olive-oil courses and fresh fruits. If you are a vegetarian and going to visit rural areas of Southeastern region, better take your canned food with you, as there will be no supermarkets to rescue you.
Some Turkish desserts are modeled on the sweet and nutty Arabic kind: famous dishes include baklava, a layered pastry of finely ground nuts and phyllo dough soaked in honey and spices, and Turkish Delight (lokum), a gummy confection of rosewater and sugar. There are also many more kinds of desserts prepared using milk predominantly, such as kazandibi, keşkül, muhallebi, sütlaç, tavuk göğsü, güllaç etc.
Turkish Breakfast, tend to comprise of cay (tea), bread, olives, feta cheese, tomato, cucumber and occasionally spreads such as honey and jam. This can become very monotonous after a while. A nice alternative to try (should you have the option) is Menemen a Turkish variation on scrambled eggs/omelet. Capsicum (Red Bell Pepper), onion, garlic and tomato are all combined with eggs. The meal is traditional cooked (and served) in a clay bowl. Try adding a little chili to spice it up and make sure to use lots of bread as well for a filling hot breakfast.
Ayran is a popular drink of water and yoghurt not unlike the Finnish/Russian buttermilk or Indian lassi, but always served without sugar (and, in fact, typically with a little salt added). A version loved by the locals köpüklü ayran is a delicacy if you're travelling by bus over the Toros (Taurus) Mountains. Ask for yayık ayranı or köpüklü ayran.
Turkish coffee (kahve), served in tiny cups, is strong and tasty, just be careful not to drink the slugdy grounds at the bottom of the cup. It is much different than the so called Turkish coffees sold abroad. Sade kahve is served black, while as şekerli, orta şekerli and çok şekerli will get you a little, some or a lot of sugar in your cup.
Instant coffees, cappuccinos and espressos are gaining more popularity day by day, and can be found with many different flavours.
Tea (çay) is also very popular in the country. Be careful, if your tea is prepared by locals, it can be much stronger than you're used to. Although it is not native-typical and a rather touristic feature, you have to taste the special apple tea (elma çayı) or island tea (adaçayı) ( sage )of Turkey!
Boza is a traditional cold, thick drink that originates from Central Asia. It is fermented bulgur with sugar and water additions. Vefa Bozacisi is the most known and traditional producer of boza in Istanbul. In Ankara, you get excellent Boza from Akman Boza Salonu in the old city in Ulus. Boza can also be found on the shelves of many supermarkets, especially in winter, packaged in 1-litre PET bottles. However these bottled bozas lack the sourness and consistency of traditional boza, they are sweeter and less dense.
Sahlep is another traditional hot drink, made from milk, orchid root and sugar, typically decorated with cinnamon. It is mostly preferred in winter and can be found in cafes and patisseries (pastane). You can also find instant sahlep in many supermarkets sold with the name Hazır Sahlep.
International brands of colas, sodas and fruit-flavoured sodas are readily available and much consumed alongside some local brands. Please note, in Turkish, soda means mineral water, whereas what is called as soda in English is gazoz or sade gazoz in Turkish.
While the significant proportion of the Turks are Muslims, alcoholic beverages are legal, widely available, and thoroughly enjoyed by the locals. The local firewater of choice is rakı, an anise-flavoured liquor double distilled from fermented grape skin. It is usually mixed with water and drunk with another glass of iced water to accompany as a duble. Rakı is a national drink which Turks like to make foreigners taste. Make sure to try it but don't overindulge as it is very potent! Remember not to mix it with anything else. There is a wide selection of different types in supermarkets. Mey, and Efe Rakı are two of the biggest producers. Only the connaisseurs know which type is the best. Yeni Rakı which is a decent variety has the wıdest distribution and consumption.
As for Turkish wine, the wines are as good as the local grape variaties. Kalecik Karası from Ankara, Karasakız from Bozcaada, Öküzgözü from Elazığ, Boğazkere from Diyarbakır are some of the most well-known varieties. The biggest winemakers are Kavaklıdere, Doluca, Sevilen, and Kayra with many good local vinyards especially in the Western part of the country. In addition liquory fruit wines of Şirince in İzmir are well worth tasting. One specific sweet red wine to try while you're there is Talay Kuntra.
Accommodation in Turkey varies from a 7-star hotel (the only 7-star hotel in the world apart from Burj al Arab in Dubai, UAE is in Antalya) to a simple tent pitched in a vast plateau. So the prices hugely vary as well.
All major cities and tourist spots have 5-star hotels, many of them are owned by international hotel chains like Hilton, Sheraton, Ritz-Carlton, Conrad to name a few. Many of them are concrete blocs, however some, especially the ones out of cities, are bungalows with private gardens and private swimming pools.
It is possible to rent a whole house with two rooms, a kitchen, a bathroom, and necessary furnitures such as beds, chairs, a table, a cooker, pots, pans, usually a refrigerator and sometimes even a TV. Four or more people can easily fit in these houses which are called apart hotels and can be found mainly in coastal towns of Marmara and Northern Aegean regions, which are more frequented by Turkish families rather than foreigners. They are generally flats in a low-story apartment building. They can be rented for as cheap as 25 YTL daily (not per person, this is the daily price for the whole house!), depending on location, season and the duration of your stay (the longer you stay, the cheaper you pay daily).
Youth hostels are not widespread, there are a few in Istanbul, mainly around Sultanahmet Square where Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque are, and still fewer are recognized by International Youth Hostel Federation (IYHF). However, pensions (pansiyon) provide cheaper accommodation than hotels, replacing the need for hostels for low-cost accommodation, regardless of their visitors’ age. Please note, pansiyon is the word in Turkish which is also used for small hotels with no star rankings, so somewhere with this name does not automatically mean it must be very cheap (expect up to 50 YTL daily per each person). B&Bs are also generally covered by the word pansiyon, as most of them present breakfast (not always included in the fee, so ask before deciding whether or not to stay there).
Olympos to the southwest of Antalya is known for its pensions welcoming visitors in the wooden tree-houses or in wooden communal sleeping halls.
Recently, Bugday Association started a project named TaTuTa (acronym from the first syllables of Tarım-Turizm-Takas: Agriculture-Tourism-Barter [of knowledge]), which connects farmers practicing organic/ecological agriculture and individuals having an interest at organic agriculture. The farmers participating in TaTuTa share a room of their houses (or a building in the farm) with the visitors without charge, and the visitors help them in their garden work in return. For more about TaTuTa, see http://www.bugday.org/tatuta/index.php?lang=EN
There are many private estates dotting the whole coastline of Turkey, which the owner rents its property for campers. These campsites, which are called kamping in Turkish, have basic facilities such as tap water, toilets, tree shade (this is especially important in dry and hot summers of the western and southern coasts) and some provide electricity to every tent via individual wires. Pitching a tent inside the cities and towns apart from campsites is not always approved, so you should always ask the local administrator (village chief muhtar and/or gendarme jandarma in villages, municipalities belediye and/or the local police polis in towns) if there is a suitable place near the location for you to pitch your tent. Pitching a tent in the forest without permission is OK, unless the area is under protection as a national park, a bioreserve, a wildlife refuge, a natural heritage or because of some other environmental concern. Whether it is an area under protection or not, setting fire in forests apart from the designated fireplaces in recreational (read “picnic”) areas is forbidden anyway.
Caravan/trailer parks cannot be found as much as they used to be; only a few remain from the 70s. The most known one is the one in Ataköy, near the Atatürk International Airport in Istanbul. However, caravan riders can stay overnight in numerous resting areas along the highways and motorways, or virtually in any place which seems to be suitable. Filling the water tanks and discharging wastewater effluent seems to matter most.
Work as an English teacher is reasonably easy to stumble upon, especially now with the media-promulgated fear of all things middle-eastern keeping native speakers away, and Turkey's clamoring to get into the EU requiring them.
Being that import-export is huge in Turkey, there are also many opportunities outside of teaching, though these are often much more difficult to find and require some legwork.
You need to have a work permit to work in Turkey. The control over illegal workers have grown stricter in the past five years with the consequence of deportation, so take the work permit issue seriously.
However, if you own your own company in Turkey you are allowed to "manage" it without having a work permit. Setting up what is know as an FDI (foreign direct investment) company is relatively straightforward, takes a few days and costs around 2300 ytl (April 07). You don't need a Turkish partner, the company can be 100% foreign owned and required a minimum of two people as share holders. Running costs for a company average about 2500 ytl per year for a small to medium enterprise, less for an inactive company.
Owning a company allows you to be treated as Turkish in respect of purchasing real estate and bypasses the need for military permission and allows you to complete a sale in one day if required.
Dial 155 for police, from any telephone without a charge. However, in rural areas there is not police coverage, so dial 156 in such a place for gendarme, a military unit for rural security.
Though slightly off topic be advised to carry passport or other means of identification at all times. One may not be requested to show them for ages, then all of a sudden a minibus is checked by the traffic police (or the military, particularly in Eastern Turkey), or one runs into an officer of the law with time on his hand, and one must show papers. Hotels may request you to hand your passport in until you paid the bill, which puts you into an awkward situation. Referring to the police always made them hand the passport back, once the registration procedure was finalized. Showing a personal visiting card, one or two credit cards or knowing the address of a respectable hotel may solve the no-papers situation, but any self-respecting officer will tell you that you are in the wrong, and will be sorry next time. If treated politely however police and military can be quite friendly and even offer rides to the next city (no joke intended).
Dial 112 from any telephone, anywhere, free of charge for an ambulance.
Although Turks are very tolerant and friendly towards the tourists; expressions and attitudes insulting, defaming or making light of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the Turkish flag, the Turkish customs and traditions, and the Turkish Republic are considered offensive, taken seriously and are mostly regulated under the penal code.
Turkey is a mostly Muslim country, and although you will see varying degrees of Islamic practice in Turkey, it is rude to insult or mock some of its traditions. In regard to the Call to Prayer, which is read 5 times a day from the speakers of the numerous Mosques throughout Turkey. Do not mock or mimick the recordings, as Turks are extremely proud and sensitive of their heritage and culture, and will be very offended.
Certain gestures, common in the western world, are considered rude expressions in this culture. People tend to be tolerant if they can see you are a foreigner. They know you are probably doing it unconsciously, but if you take the time to keep these in mind, you won’t have any misunderstandings. Sticking your thumb up (as if to say “Right!”) is rude; you may use your forefinger instead (as if saying “Number one!”). Making an ‘O’ with your thumb and forefinger (as if to say “OK!”) is rude because you are making the gesture for a hole. Avoid clicking your tongue. Some people do this unconsciously at the beginning of a sentence. It is a gesture of dismissal. Crossing your arms when talking to someone may be seen as rude. Finally, don’t stand with your hands resting on your hips. It is a gesture of aggression. People will think they have done something to offend you and rush to apologize or make amends.
If you are invited into a Turkish house, remember to put off your shoes just outside or immediately inside the door. However, a little but an increasing number of Turks abandon this custom, so it is best to see whether your host puts his/her shoes on or off inside the house.
Because of religious traditions, all women are required to wear head scarves and not to wear super-miniskirts upon entering a mosque as well as an Orthodox church. The same goes for the tombs of Islamic saints, too, if the tomb is not named “museum” officially. If you don’t have a shawl or a scarve to put on your head, you can borrow one at the entrance of many mosques. However wearing-a-scarve rule is somewhat relaxed recently, especially in big mosques of Istanbul in which seeing a tourist is not a rarity. On such mosques, no one is warned about their clothes, or because of their lack of head scarves. Even if you’d have to wear a head scarve, no need to worry about how head scarves can be weared properly, just put it onto the crown of your head (you may wrap it under your chin or behind your neck, lest it slip), that will be excessively adequate.
Also, men used to be required to wear trousers, not shorts, upon entering a mosque, though no one cares about this nowadays (at least in big cities).
During the prayer time, worshippers choose to line in the front rows of the mosques, at such a time stay behind and try not to be noisy. During the friday noon prayer, which is the most attended, you might be asked to leave the mosque, don’t take it personal, it is because the mosque will be very crowded, there just won’t be enough room for both the worshippers and the sightseers. You will be able to enter back as soon as worshippers are out of the gate.
All shoes should be removed before entering any mosque. There are shoes desks inside the mosques, though you can choose to hold them in your hand (a plastic bag which would be used only for this purpose would help) during your visit. Some mosques have safeboxes with a lock instead of shoes desks.
Dial 112 for an ambulance in anywhere, from any telephone, without a charge. In case of a fire, dial 110; for police, call 155. However, in rural areas there is not a police coverage, so dial 156 for gendarme, a military unit for rural security. All these numbers are free of charge and can be called from a telephone booth without inserting a calling card, or any phone including cell phones.
You can find telephone booths on streets, post-offices and almost any public building. Phone cards are available in two types: Magnetic cards (which are becoming obsolete) and newer cards with a chip on them. You can also use your credit card on the phones operating with chipped-cards, although it may now always work. Cards are available in 30, 60 or 120 units and can be obtained at post offices, newspaper and tobacco kiosks. All phones in the booths have Turkish and English instructions and menues, many also have German and French in addition. There are also telephones available in private kiosks where you pay cash after your call. These telephones are more expensive than the ones at the booths.
It is estimated that approximately 96% of the population of Turkey lives within the coverage areas of Turkey’s three cell phone line providers. Line providers from most countries have roaming agreements with one or more of these companies.
Telephone area codes for some cities and their towns are: 212-Istanbul European side; 216-Istanbul Asian side, and the Princess’ Islands; 232-Izmir, Çeşme, Foça; 256-Aydin, Kuşadası; 252-Mugla, Bodrum, Marmaris, Fethiye; 242-Antalya, Kas, Kemer, Alanya; 312-Ankara; 384-Nevsehir, Most of Cappadocia (though a few well-known Cappadocian towns which are parts of the province of Aksaray and have 382 as their area code); 286-Çanakkale, Gallipoli; 224-Bursa, Uludag; 258-Denizli, Pamukkale; 332-Konya. Dial 0 prior to telephone code for intercity calls.
Numbers starting with 0800 are pay-free, whereas the ones starting with 0900 are high-fee services. 7-digit numbers starting with 444 (mainly used by companies) are charged as local calls wherever they are dialed in Turkey.
Dial 00 prior to country code for international calls. International country code of Turkey is 90.
Post offices are recognizable by their yellow-black “PTT” signs. Letters and cards should be taken to a post office since the postboxes on the streets are rare. Nevertheless, Turkish Post (PTT) prints some beautiful stamps. Sending international letters to most countries now cost only 0.80 YTL (about 0.50 Euros). Main post offices in cities are open between 08:30 and 20:30 (08:30 pm), whereas post offices in towns and smaller post offices in cities are usually open between 08:30 and 17:30 (05:30 pm).
Poste restante letters should be sent to an address in the format of: official full name of the addressee (because the receiver will be asked for an ID card, passport or anything that can proof he/she is the receiver)+POSTRESTANT+name of the quarter/hood/district if in a city where there are more than one post office or name of the town where the post office is+postal code (if known, not obligatory)+the name of the province which the quarter/town of the post office is within. The receiver should pay 0.60 YTL (fee of a domestic letter) to take his/her letter.
“Internet-cafés” or “net-cafés” are available even in small towns. Most, if not all, have good DSL connections, and hourly price for connection is about more or less 1.50 YTL. Most, if not all, of these internet-cafés also have cd-writers which are avaible for anyone who makes an additional payment. Free wireless connections are available at some airports, hotels and restaurants/cafés (especially in big cities).