Turkey Travel Tips
Banks are generally open Monday-Friday 08:30-12:00 and 13:30-17:00. Some banks in tourist areas are open every day. Most business are closed on Sundays. Many museums close on Mondays.
The New Turkish Lira was introduced on 1 January, 2005. The old Turkish Lira (TL) was withdrawn from circulation on 1 January, 2006. It is now only possible to exchange old Turkish Lira for New Turkish Lira at the Central Bank until 31 December, 2015. 1 YTL= 1,000,000 TL.
New notes are in denominations of TRY100, 50, 20, 10, 5 and 1. Coins are in denominations of TRY1 and 50, 25, 10, 5 and 1 New Kuruº (Ykr).
Cash can usually be exchanged commission-free in exchange offices, banks or hotels. US dollars and euros are the easiest currencies to exchange. Many banks and exchange offices will also exchange UK pounds, Japanese yen. It may be difficult to exchange Australian or Canadian currencies except at banks and offices in major cities.
Traveller's checks can only be exchanged in banks. To avoid additional exchange rate charges, traveller's checks should be issued in Pounds Sterling or US Dollars.
ATMs are available in most areas and will dispense Turkish lira to Visa, MasterCard, Cirrus, Maestro and Euro card holders. Nearly all machines offer instructions in English, French, German and Turkish. You can usually draw out about US$250 per day and the exchange rate tends to be good.
American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard and Visa are widely accepted, although American Express is less often accepted (e.g., Turkish Airlines does not accept American Express). You can also get cash advances on credit cards. Check with your credit or debit card company for details of merchant acceptability and other services which may be available.
There are no restrictions on the import of local or foreign currency, though visitors bringing in a large amount of foreign currency should declare it, and have it specified in their passport upon arrival to avoid difficulties on departure. No more than the equivalent of US$5000 in local or foreign currency may be exported. It must be shown that this has been obtained from authorized banks.
Travellers planning to exchange currency back before leaving Turkey, or making a major purchase which may need to be declared to customs, must retain transaction receipts to prove that the currency was legally exchanged.
The following goods may be imported into Turkey without incurring customs duty tax: 200 cigarettes and 50 cigars or 200g of tobacco and 200 cigarette papers or 50g of chewing tobacco or 200g of pipe tobacco or 200g of snuff tobacco*(see note below); five bottles (1 litre) or seven bottles (700ml) of wine and/or spirits; reasonable amounts of coffee and tea; five bottles (up to 120ml each) of perfume; gifts up to a value of 255.65 Euros (or equivalent); electronic articles up to a value of 255.65 Euros (or equivalent).
A further 400 cigarettes, 100 cigars and 500g of pipe tobacco may be imported if purchased on arrival at a duty free shop. Very specific amounts and categories of personal belongings may be imported duty free, according to a list available from the Turkish Embassy, Financial and Customs Counselor’s Office.
Narcotics, sharp implements, weapons and more than one set of playing cards may not be brought into Turkey.
The export of souvenirs such as carpets is subject to customs regulations regarding age and value. It is strictly illegal to export antiquities more than a century old. The export of certain antiques is forbidden, according to a list available from the Turkish Embassy, Finance and Customs Counselor’s Office.
European plug with two circular metal pins. Power surges are not uncommon. If using your own laptop, it’s a good idea to bring a surge protector from home.
In general, Turkey is a pretty healthy country to travel in, although many people will experience the odd day of stomach upset. It’s wise to stick to bottled water and take the usual precautions over food and hygiene, especially in the heat of July and August (i.e. make sure any meat or fish is thoroughly cooked and served hot). It is best to avoid shellfish such as muscles, oysters and clams as they may not be fresh. Milk is pasteurized.
No vaccinations are required to enter Turkey. However, you may want to receive or update your inoculations for tetanus, hepatitis, polio and typhoid before travelling to Turkey. Speak with your General Practitioner if you have any concerns. There is no malaria risk in the main tourist areas in the west and southwest of the country. Potential malaria risk (exclusively in the benign vivax form) exists from May to the end of October in the Ukorova/Amikova areas and in southeast Anatolia, Adana and Antalya (Side).
Healthcare is expensive and not widespread so it is highly advised that you have travel insurance which will cover the cost of all medical aid. A great number of Turkish doctors and dentists speak a foreign language, particularly at major hospitals.
Turkey has well-stocked pharmacies, however you should not risk running out of anything that you depend on. Bring an adequate supply as well as the generic brand name and a legible prescription or letter from your doctor to show that you use the medication legally.
The Turkish Language.
The official language, Turkish, is the first language spoken by 90% of the 63m population. Minority languages include Kurdish, spoken by 6% of the population. Arabic is spoken by 1.2% of the Turkish population; most of those speakers are bilingual Arabic and Turkish speakers. Other minority languages include Circassian, spoken by more than 0.09% throughout the country, Greek, Armenian and Judezmo, a Romance language spoken by Jews. Translation may be necessary when dealing with officialdom in the country.
Although Turkey is one of the safest countries in the region, theft and robbery seem to be on the rise. Take the necessary precautions such as wearing a money-belt under your clothing, being aware of pick-pockets in markets and other crowded places (especially Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar), and keeping a watchful eye on anyone suspicious lurking near ATM machines.
If you are travelling alone, be cautious of strangers in pairs or trios who try to befriend you and offer you a drink or snack. Drugging and robbery is not uncommon. To discern from honest Turkish hospitality and sinister motives, suggest that you want to take their picture as a souvenir and see how they react. You could also site an allergy as a reason for not accepting a drink or snack. If they accuse you of insulting their generosity, go to a police station or bank or somewhere with a security officer without delay.
As a result of Turkey’s traditional gender segregation, men tend to assume that any woman walking alone is open to harassment. Yet this unwanted attention will not usually lead to serious assault. Provided you dress and behave modestly, most men will treat you with kindness. Wearing a wedding ring can be helpful, as does wearing dark sunglasses to avoid eye contact. Some men may mistake your passing smile as an open flirtation.
Restaurants will usually have separate “family rooms” set aside for women to dine in social comfort. Look for the wordaile(family) as in aile salonu (family room) and take your meal there. In a society where women rarely drink, overindulging in alcohol is highly inadvisable.
When taking a taxi, women should not sit in the front passenger seat. If travelling by bus, should not sit next to a man. Women are often assigned seats at the front of the bus. If no one shows you where to sit, avoid sitting in the back of the bus. If any harassment occurs, always make a lot of noise as to attract attention and embarrass the harasser.
Shaking hands is the normal form of greeting. Pointing your finger at someone, turning the sole of your shoe towards anyone and blowing your nose is considered very rude. If you must blow your nose in public, especially restaurants, turn or leave the room and blow quietly. Only pick your teeth with a hand shielding your mouth. Public affection with the opposite sex is frowned upon.
Hospitality is very important and visitors should respect Islamic customs. Informal wear is acceptable, but beachwear should be confined to the beach or poolside. Smoking is widely accepted, but prohibited in cinemas, theatres, city buses and dolmuses (shared taxis).
Turks indicate ‘yes’ (evet) by nodding their head forward and down. To say ‘no’ (hahyur), the head is nodded up and back, lifting the eyebrows at the same time, or just raising the eyebrows. Turks may also make a ‘tsk’ sound to indicate ‘no’. By contrast, shaking your head from side to side means ‘I don’t understand’. ‘Thank you’ is expressed by raising a hand to the heart, sometimes accompanied by a slight nod of the head.
In big cities it is acceptable to take photographs at will. However, in more rural areas, it is best to ask permission first, especially if you want to photograph women who are wearing headscarves.
Tax and Tipping:
Turkey has a value added tax, known as KDV, added to or included in the price of most items and services. Most establishment display a sign saying “Fiyatlarimizda KDV Dahildir” (KDV is included in our prices). It is rare for KDV to be added to your bill separately, and you should be suspicious if it is. Some hotels and shops discount the price if you agree to forego the official receipt.
In theory, tourists can reclaim the KDV paid on larger purchases such as carpets and leather garments, etc. Not all shops participate in the scheme, so you can ask if you can get a special KDV refund receipt. This receipt is supposed to be able to be converted into cash at a bank in the airport’s international departure lounge, or at another point of exit from Turkey.
An average tip at the average restaurant is about 10%. Some more expensive restaurants and hotels automatically include a 10-15% service charge in the bill. Tips are not expected in cheaper hotels or very cheap local-style restaurants. Hotel porters should be tipped about 2% of the room price.
Taxi drivers appreciate it if you round up the metered fare, however dolmus taxi drivers (shared taxis with fixed rates for set stops) never expect a tip. In Turkish baths (hamams) you should add a small tip to the set fee.
Country Code: 90
Daylight Savings time starts on the last Sunday in March and ends on the last Sunday in September.
A passport valid for a minimum of six months beyond your stay is required by all. You will also be asked to provide proof that you have either a return ticket or funds to cover a return ticket.
Nationals of Australia, Austria, Canada, Greece, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Portugal, Spain, the UK and the USA do require a visa; this is obtainable on arrival at the airport or border post for a variable fee depending on your nationality. This tourist visa allows a stay for up to three months in Turkey. This fee must be paid for in hard currency cash; euros, Japanese yen, UK pounds, or US dollars are acceptable.
Nationals of the following countries do not need a visa to visit Turkey if staying no more than three months: Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland.
All other nationals should contact the Turkish Embassy for current visa regulations.
Visa regulations can always change. Therefore it is wise for all nationalities to check with your travel agent or the Turkish Embassy before departing.
Turkish Embassy website: www.turkishembassy.org