Knowing how to plan for your trip and what to expect makes for more anticipation and less anxiety. Before you go, below are some useful tips for traveling in Turkey:
1. Before you go: Before traveling to Turkey, make sure your passport is valid for a minimum of six months beyond your stay. A visa is required for US citizens, which can be obtained on arrival at the airport or border post for a fee. This tourist visa allows a stay for up to three months in Turkey. The fee must be paid for in hard currency cash; euros, Japanese yen, UK pounds, or US dollars are acceptable.
2. When to go: The best months to visit Turkey are between May – October. If you are visiting in July or August, it is wise to bring a sun hat and sunscreen to protect against the blazing sun. Sunscreen is expensive in Turkey, so it is a good idea t o bring it along. If you are visiting in the winter, you will need warm clothes as the temperatures may go as low as 5F especially in the central eastern parts of Turkey.
3. What to pack: Clothes in Turkey are both inexpensive and fashionable. Therefore, pack lightly, as you can buy clothes there. Take along flat shoes for walking as the sidewalks are often not only uneven, but also broken with unexpected holes. Take along some shoes for the water as many beaches are rocky. Most basic supplies are inexpensive in Turkey, but sunscreen is not – so bring that with you.
4. Dressing in Turkey: When visiting mosques and religious sites you will need to remove your shoes upon entering. Dress needs to be modest for both men and women. Women are required to cover their heads with a scarf. In addition, men and women are required to wear clothes that cover their legs and shoulders. Silence is required inside the mosques and most mosques are closed to visits during prayer times.
Avoid beachwear while visiting places other than the beach. While Turkey is a secular culture, in cities it is important to dress like one dresses in a city in the USA.
5. Food in Turkey: Drink only bottled water while in Turkey. Though tap water can be drunk, even the Turks drink only bottled water.
To experience real Turkish food, find restaurants off the main tourist areas. Find restaurants where food and prices are local. Try Raki while eating mezze, small appetizers. Keep track of what you ordered and notice the prices so you will han no surprise when you get the bill. Eat in tiny places, fancy restaurants and huge places – the food is superb!
6. Shopping In Turkey: There are no fixed prices in Turkey. In small shops and in markets, bargaining is part of Turkish culture. Before you make a purchase, try to get the prices down as low as possible. In most cases, just leave the shop or vendor and pretend to walk away. You will probably be invited back to the shop by the vendor, asking what your best offer is. Then, feel free to declare your own price. Bargaining margins start at 10% and can easily go up to 60%.
7. Visiting museums and other sights: Most museums are closed at least one day a week. If you are traveling independently, check the dates and times of museum openings. Archeological sites can be visited every day of the week from 9 am to 5pm, in the summer. In the winter, it is a good idea to check these times as well.
8. Getting Around: An inexpensive transportation system in Turkey is a dolmus, which is a cross between a bus and a taxi. The dolmus has a predefined route – you can get on at certain locations, but you can get off anywhere. It usually will cost about 50 cents and the driver won’t take a tip.
9. Tipping: In Turkey it is common to leave a 10% tip for good service at restaurants, to guides and to taxi drivers.
10. Public restrooms: Finding public restrooms in Turkey can be a problem. Although hotels have improved standards, small restaurants will sometimes have “holes’ as toilets. On the other hand, all mosques have public restrooms, or “Tuvalet”. In Turkish, “Bay is the word for men and “Bayan” for women.