15 Useful Turkey Travel Tips for first-timers.

Turkey may confuse travellers in many aspects. Is it Asian or European? Islamic or Christian? Is the capital city Ankara or Istanbul? The most heard rulers of Turkey are the Ottomans. But it was part of the Greek empire, the Persian empire, and finally, it fell to Rome. When Rome made Christianity the official religion, Turkey (especially Istanbul ) was majorly Christian and now Islamic.

The Ottomans were defeated during World war, so it was part of multiple European countries like Germany, France, and Britain. Ultimately it became a Republic in the 1930s. The complexity and layers of its culture date back to historical times. So it is a kichdi of various ethnicities, heritage and cultures.

Hagia Sophia – Church – mosque- museum- mosque

So here are your essential Turkey travel tips for a fun and hassle-free trip.

Index –

  1. Currency
  2. Using debit and Credit Card
  3. Cost of living for Tourists
  4. Cell Phone Network and Wifi
  5. Type of Power sockets
  6. Public Hygiene and Toilets
  7. Roads and Transport
  8. APPS to be downloaded
  9. Food and Beverages
  10. Alcohol and Smoking
  11. People and Language
  12. Safety & Scams in Turkey
  13. What to see in Turkey and when
  14. Tipping Culture.
  15. Bonus tip – why is it mandatory to haggle everywhere in Turkey?

Is Turkey lira or Euro?

tram lines in the middle of Istanbul street

The Turkish Lira is their official currency.

Witty Turkey Travel tips on money -Can I use Euro in Turkey?

Bringing Euros for currency exchange is best as many restaurants in big cities like Istanbul accept Euros as payment. Airport kiosks are good for exchange, but the rates aren’t great. But definitely don’t recommend exchanging it at downtown markets and Grand bazars.

What credit cards can I use in Turkey?

Mosy International bank Credit and debit cards work perfectly in hotels & restaurants. But carry plenty of cash while going to the countryside as you won’t find many ATMs, especially in Cappadocia. The shopkeepers either deny cash payment or charge you extra for payment by card. Pamukkale and Denzil drivers preferred money over the card payment.

How much does a tourist spend in Turkey?

We had a misassumption about Turkey being cheaper than Greece because of their currency’s value difference. Work out your budget well in advance to avoid getting shocked like us later. Though the Turkish Lira’s value is lower than Euros, restaurant cost remains almost similar to Greece’s. But Public transport is cheaper than in Greece.

For one person, it roughly cost us 70EUROS/DAY, including three times food at budget cafes and mostly Simit, Entry fees to monuments, transportation by local bus and trams. EXCLUDING international flights, Domestic flights, Airbnb accommodation AND SHOPPING.

Indian woman traveller standing in the alley of Grand Bazar holding multiple shopping bags

Turkey Travel tips on shopping – You never know how Turkey allures you with its bazar charm!

If you are a shopaholic or have a slight trait of it in your DNA, you must add extra to your budget. We didn’t know that Istanbul Grand Bazar was that tempting. So we entered it once, got mesmerised, came out, sat on the bench to calculate how much could we shop for and went inside.

What is the best network in Turkey?

We bought two Vodafone SIM cards at the airport. The internet speed and coverage were good even in remote places of Cappadocia. The wifi speed was good in all the BnBs.

What plug adapter do I need for Turkey?

The type of plugs and sockets found in Turkey are Type C or Type F (like in Europe). So Indians need to carry Travel adapters.

Is the country Turkey clean?

Istanbul streets with garbage bin spilling out

Our host Ali in Istanbul told us Turks are obsessed with cleaning their houses. And Turks take a long time in the shower. Is that the reason why Turkish Hamams are famous?

Coming back to the streets. Istanbul streets where tourists roam around are spotless. Side alleys were a bit shabby, with garbage bins spilling over. Cappadocia and Pamukkale were cleaner than Istanbul. When we went to remote areas in Cappadocia, it was a delight to see plastic-free sites. 

Clean paved streets of Fatih with French style houses

Turkey Travel tips on pretty cats –

Street cats are everywhere. Turks love cats, and dogs are rare! While Ali talked to us about navigating in older Istanbul, he said, “Don’t pet stray Cats to avoid allergies and infection caused by them.”

Does Turkey have squat toilets?

All hotels and BnBs we stayed at had EWC with jet spray along with toilet paper. But public toilets in most places had squat toilets. Using public toilets isn’t as expensive as Netherlands or Belgium. We paid 2 Lira at a bus stand toilet during our bus journey between Cappadocia to Pamukkale.

Does Turkey have good public transport?

Men on horse wearing cowboy outfit at Cappadocia town centre

CAPPADOCIA – LAND OF BEAUTIFUL HORSES. ( NOT THE DAILY MODE OF TRANSPORT, THOUGH )

Out of all the countries we have visited by 2022, Turkey’s public transport was the easiest to access. Taking shuttle buses from the airports to the town was super convenient and saved a lot of money instead of a private taxi. Instant Booking for trains and night buses during the non-tourist season is effortless. So use Public transport as much as possible. Whether a tram in Istanbul or a night bus between two cities, it is super efficient and saves a big chunk of your pocket.

Mornings atIstanbul with empty streets

The printed maps show you the tram stations precisely. Don’t forget to buy the Metro/Tram card at specific stations as they aren’t available at every station

Airports – Istanbul alone got three international airports! Izmir and Antalya are the other busy international airports. Turkish Airlines flights connect significant tourist towns and cities. 

Can you sail from Turkey to Greece?

Cruising is famous among Luxury travellers. The famous ones are Greece -Turkey and expensive. You can consider Ferries to travel from Istanbul/ Izmir or other beach towns. In Istanbul, you can take a Bosphorous cruise and other cruises to visit nearby islands. But personally, I don’t recommend cruise travelling as you end up travelling with tourists more than the locals.

What is the best way to get around Turkey?

Roads of Cappadocia with mountains in the background

Turkey Travel tips on using public transport – Don’t rent a car!

Public Buses- We Traveled by night bus from Cappadocia-Pamukkale. With well-maintained roads and clean buses, the journey was very comfortable. The buses give multiple breaks to use the washrooms. At the breaks, the bus manager comes pushing a trolley of snacks and coffee. This was the first and last time I ever saw such a thing on the bus! Prebooking is not usually necessary during non-tourist season.

Trams and Metro – Istanbul is well connected with trams. Make sure to buy the Tram card prior. These cards are not available at all stations. Unaware of this, we were at the tram station near Galata tower. Fortunately, a local Turk helped us get to Sultan Ahmet square from Galata tower with his card.

Can you rent cars/Motorcycles in Turkey?

Blue Vintage car for rent in cappadocia

Fancy driving a vintage car in Cappadocia?

Yes! More than cars, we prefer and recommend bikes or cycles. Rent bicycles in Istanbul, and scooters in Cappadocia, Izmir. Pamukkale doesn’t require you to hire any vehicle unless you are travelling to Ephesus.  Carry your Original Driving licence along with two or three copies of it to rent the vehicles. 

Must-Have Apps For your Turkey Travel

None of the social media apps was banned in 2018. So we used WhatsApp for making calls quickly. But keep an eye on this; Turkey is famous for banning apps and websites. You can book hotels through Booking.com from a foreign country, but you can’t access either the app or the website of Booking.com when you are in Turkey, but Air BnB works perfectly. Uber was not working in Istanbul in 2018. Useful apps are –

  • iTaksi – Local taxi service in Istanbul
  •  İstanbulkart – To upload money to your public transport card in Istanbul
  • Grand bazar – to navigate yourself through the maze of 61 streets and 4000+ shops in Istanbul; (You don’t get network inside the bazar, this app is your captain there)
  • Yandex and Google maps for navigating – Especially in the mountains of Cappadocia.

How good is Turkish food?

Other than India, Turkey is the next best country to get variety in both – Non-veg and Veg is Turkey. The best Non-veg dish is, of course, Kebabs. The best veg snacks are -Kumpir. While I hogged on Donner Kebab, Sahana had a pot of Veg Kebab.

Turkey Travel tips on food – Turks have sweet tooth! Their tea is sugary and some deserts like Baklawa are sickly sweet. So you must ask for a small taster bite before buying these.

Various shaped and flavoured turkish delights stacked on a shelf of Istanbul bakery

What is a traditional Turkish drink?

Typical slim waist turkish tea cup with tea inside

Turkish tea and the cups in which they serve are beautiful. They offer tea almost at every shop outside Grand Bazar when you go shopping. They are not obsessed with tea-like Egyptians, but you can find tea vendors with metal kettles and plastic cups in significant tourist spots. I found the Tea Mania less in Cappadocia and Pamukkale compared to Istanbul.

What does Turkish coffee taste like?

While many travellers recommend Turkish coffee, we both did not like it! It was too thick and sweet. It is similar to the Cardamom coffee we had in Jordan, but the coffee’s sweetness and texture were not made for us. Turkey oranges are super fresh. You get carts squeezing oranges for a fresh juice at many places.

Highly decorated white ceramic cup with turkish coffee

Can you smoke in the street in Turkey?

It was surprising to see both men and women in Turkey smoking in public. But hookah was restricted to indoors only. Recently I read the news about Turkey banning smoking in public to avoid the spread of COVID.

Is it legal to buy alcohol in Turkey?

Yet again, confusing thing. As an Islamic country, you expect not to get alcohol here. But you can buy them in shops. We happened to see foreigners wrapping their beer bottles with brown wrappers to hide the label to drink in public places! Though there is no official moral policing in Turkey, these things may get you in trouble.

Alcohol is not forbidden but not served in street cafes So drinking alcohol in sidewalk cafes is not a scene in Turkish cities.

Is Turkey a hospitable country?

Many German descendant Turks speak German fluently, like our BnB host Ali in Istanbul

98% of Turkish are Muslims, but don’t be surprised to see them having Jesus statues in their homes. Smiling at strangers by saying hello, hi, and “good morning” might make you awkward because you probably won’t get a smile back! I don’t say they are rude, but they are less friendly than many other Middle Eastern countries we have been to. I can’t label Turks as racists, but we browns aren’t their favourite for sure. We were welcomed wholeheartedly at a few places. And treated like an unwanted guest by others. 

Turks selling simit in front of Blue mosque in Istanbul

Are Turkish people friendly?

  • The hotel owner at Cappadocia was very rude and taunted us that we should not have booked his hotel room.
  • But, Ali at Istanbul BnB served me a hot cup of tea and dinner after I fell sick. He even insisted on taking us to his family doctor. 
  • The Green tour bus organiser tried to make us tip them forcefully. When we offered less, he was annoyed and uttered something in Turkish.
  • A Shopkeeper at Cappadocia from whom we bought 3 Euro worth of souvenirs came running to us to return the Euros we had given, mistaking it for Liras. 
  • A Shoe Polisher scammed us in Istanbul when we tried to help him, but another Turk helped us get to the tram with his Tram Card a few minutes later.

There are always all kinds of people everywhere. With its mesmerising landscape and beautiful architecture, these things are too little not to like Turkey but must be aware of.

What language is mostly spoken in Turkey?

Turkey Travel tips on their language – You can read it as a non-Turk, but can’t pronounce it.

The national language is Turkish. The alphabets are Latin alphabet, similar to English with different syllables. It is like you can read it but can’t pronounce it. The pronunciation of the Turkish language is tricky. They use “t” in place of “d” For example –

  • Ahmed – Ahmet
  • Hagia Sophia – Aya Sofya
  • Kebab – Kebap
  • Cappadocia – Kapadokya

What language is mostly spoken in Turkey?

The Turkish language is nowhere similar to Arabic or Urdu. You can talk to shopkeepers at Grand Bazaar in English, but not everywhere. Cappadocia and Pamukkale understood what we said and replied in Turkish mixed with a few English words. It is neither too challenging nor too easy to converse in English. More than English, you can find German and French-speaking Turks in Istanbul. 

Is Turkey safe for travellers?

Indian traveller jumping in the air between two ancient roman columns at Hierapolis

Is it safe to travel to Turkey politically?

If you are following the media regularly, Turkey is infamous after 2019. The recent outbreak of war with Armenia, converting Hagia Sophia from a museum into a Mosque, and converting multiple Armenian churches to mosques are the latest infamous truths about Turkey as of 2020. The Global Peace Index stands in 150TH position.

Back in 2018, when we went, Turkey was not this infamous. I feel things were better in terms of its political and religious conflicts with other nations in 2018. So keep a close eye on what is happening before you book tickets.

What should I be careful of in Turkey?

Avoid border areas of Syria, Iraq and Armenia. I don’t mean to label Turkey as unsafe as we didn’t face any threats.

Is Turkey safe for tourists i?

Turkish man doing his dondurma ice cream tricks on an indian traveller

We walked in the remote streets of Istanbul while we missed the route going to Galata tower. The lane was filled with Hardware and sanitary shops. We saw no women, no tourists in that dingy area. We were totally in the “out of context” situation. The local shopowners there clearly understood that we were lost. One of them approached and helped us to get to the Galata tower.

We drove through the empty roads of Cappadocia with a paper map and poor data searching for fairy chimneys and caves. Few of the streets are explored by tourists often, while the roads we travelled were super empty. At Pamukkale, we walked back from the restaurant to our BnB late in the night. To save money on a night’s stay, we slept for six hours in Sabya Gochen airport while going to Amsterdam from Pamukkale. It was all safe and comfortable.

NO MAN’S LAND IN CAPPADOCIA. WE DIDN’T COME ACROSS ANY HUMANS FOR AT LEAST 3KM!

Tourist Scams in Turkey

Shockingly, out of all the countries we have visited till 2022, Turkey is the one who threw the highest scammers at us.! We managed to escape most of them.

Beware of shoe Polisher Scam.

Turks, especially in Istanbul, we observed that men prefer the old-school way of getting their shoes polished on the streets. So you find many boot polishers by the sidewalks.

We saw the polish brush falling off a shoe polisher’s bag near Galata tower while he was walking in front of us. He picked it up after we called and told him. His friend, who joined him later on the way, dropped the brush. Unaware of the trap we were getting into, we again called them. This time they picked the brush and came running to us to say thank you. Immediately they bent down and began polishing my loafers and Sahana’s flipflops! We kept asking them to leave us. We had to move aside forcibly to lose their grip on our foot at one point. They asked for 10 Liars (which is 170 INR back then) for their unwanted service. We ended up giving them 5 Lira and escaped!

Indian woman traveller walking in Karakoy street full of European style buildings

Do you see that Flipflops? They polished it forcibly!

The next scam is by shop owners pretending to be tourists or friendly locals.

 At 8 am, we were one of the very few visitors in front of Hagia Sophia. While we were trying to click a selfie, a gentleman sitting beside the fountain voluntarily came up to us smilingly and said, “I will take your photo.” Later, talking gently, he managed to convince us to visit his Carpet shop. He was gentle yet firm on not leaving us without a visit to his shop even after telling him that we don’t own that kind of money to buy expensive Carpets. Inevitably we had to go to his shop and lost 45 minutes there. So when a stranger approaches you, it may not be just the help they offer. It is because they want something from you.

The picture was taken by that Stubborn shopkeeper.

The other scams you should be cautious about are -the older women asking for money to go to the hospital who will use your money to grab a kebab or cigarettes later—selling fake Sultanete gems at Grand Bazar, fake carpets, overpriced lamps, fake belly dancer show, taxi and bike rentals scam in Cappadocia. If you trust your host, ask him to book the cab instead of you catching a random taxi driver.

Turkish woman in Burqa with a kid by the sidewalk

Beware of fake Visa agencies!

Travel tips for getting Turkey Visa – There are 100s of bogus websites that pretend to get your Turkey Visa. Apply via their MFA website if you are eligible. Or get it via Ivisa.com without any hassles.

What to see in Turkey

White traventines cascadeing at Pamukkale

Do you remember the song “Tu Jaane Na” and wonder where it was filmed? – It is Pamukkale!

When to see– April to May and September to October are the best time to visit Turkey with a very balanced temperature. June to September gets super hot, making it very uncomfortable to stroll in the cities. Pamukkale remains hot most of the year, while Cappadocia is cold even in the summer. 

What should you not miss in Turkey?

Of course Istanbul! It is a melting pot of culture and history, plus it caters to the modern-day successfully with its old-world charm. Our host Ali says you need a week to explore Istanbul.

Ancient roman theatre ruins of Hierapolis

Turkey is home to many Roman ruins like Ephesus, Pergamon and Xanthos. This one is at Hierapolis.

But Turkey is definitely more than Istanbul. Cappadocia is amazingly unique with its weird rock formations and underground cities. Pamukkale is the place of the white travertines. Many ancient pre-historic village settlements like Catal Huyuk in Konya province, Izmir and Oludeniz for beach vacations, Ephesus for Roman ruins, Mardan near Syria border for cliffside villages, Anatolia for cotton fields and many more.

Turkey Travel tips on skiing!

I was shocked to know that there are 41 Ski resorts in Turkey, So plan wisely depending on the season. I really wish we travelled to Turkey for 15 days at least so that we could see some off-beaten places too.

Tipping culture in Turkey

Not expected in restaurants, hotels and taxis. But some may force you. Don’t hesitate to take the loose change after paying the bills.

Bonus tip -Do Turkish people like to negotiate?

Bargaining is a part of Turk’s daily life. Haggle for your price everywhere possible. THESE LAMPS ARE THE MOST ATTRACTIVE THING IN GRAND BAZAARS. YOU MUST BARGAIN TO HALF OF THE PRICE SELLER ASKS FOR

Beautiful collection of typical turkish glass lamps

Which of these Turkey Travel Tips are most useful? Let us know in the comment section below.

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