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Travel to Turkey tips: advice for having the best experience

by Pilar Dujan | August 7, 2023
Library of Celsus, Ephesus, Anatolia, Turkey

Turkey is a unique country filled with history. Shared between Asia and Europe, it’s a wonderful travel destination with many things to see and do.

Here you will find the best Turkey tips to make your trip to Turkey as good as can be. 

But, to be able to enter the country, chances are you’re going to need a Turkey visa. There are other Turkey entry requirements: discover them all to avoid any inconveniences at the border.

Are vaccines required to travel to Turkey?

There are no compulsory vaccines to be able to travel to Turkey. Some regular recommended vaccines are: Chickenpox (Varicella), Diphtheria-Tetanus-Pertussis, Flu (influenza), Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR), Polio, Shingles, Hepatitis A and B, Rabies and Typhoid. 

Do you need a SIM card for Turkey?

It depends on where you’re traveling from. If you live in Europe, your network provider could include roaming in Turkey, in which case you won’t need a new SIM card.

If you visit Turkey from a non-European country and you need to buy a SIM card, there are three options available: you could buy one from Vodafone, Turkcell or Turk Telekom. 

Turkcell is the best option. It has the biggest network, the fastest internet speed and the most coverage in remote areas. 

You can buy your SIM card at the airport (not recommended), online or on official stores (the best choice). You will need to bring your passport with you: they will use it to register the visitor line to your name.

Be aware of the fact that prices you see online may be quite different in person due to inflation. You should be prepared to spend more than you thought, although it will be an amount close to $30.

Pamukkale, Turkey

What is the currency of Turkey?

The official currency used is the Turkey Lira (TRY). Due to its proximity to other European countries, and to its reliance on tourism, most big cities allow you to pay in Euros or American dollars.

You can withdraw money from ATMs and pay with credit or debit cards in most places. If you are going to change currency in the country, it is best to do so at a bank or bureau of change which can be found at all of the international airports.

Try to always carry with you a coin for 1 lira: you will need it to use the public bathrooms.

Is tipping mandatory in Turkey?

Although it’s not mandatory, it’s common practice. Since you probably won’t be allowed to add it to your credit card payment, you should always have some bills in the country’s currency to pay the servers directly. Don’t tip in foreign coins: they are harder to exchange.

For restaurants, a common tip amount is 10/15% of the total bill. For other interactions, like at hotels or at the train station, $1-$2 per day or bag is common.

How to travel around Turkey

If you want to know how to travel in Turkey, specifically in the biggest cities, walking is the best choice. But there are other options:

  • Taxis. They are everywhere and work just like in any major city. Just make sure you know the price or that the meter is on to avoid overcharging. 
  • Subway. It’s available in cities like Istanbul or Ankara. If you’re traveling in Istanbul, get the Istanbulkart to access all public transport. 
  • Buses and dolmuş. Standard city buses require pre-paid tickets and scheduled boarding. The dolmuş are small buses with their own routes. You can get off at any point. They are also cheaper than buses.
  • Car rental. You just need to be 21 years old or older and have an international driving license with more than a year left of validity. The Turkish road infrastructure is in great shape so this option, although more expensive, is very good.
  • Long-distance buses. Ideal for traveling from one major city to another. You can travel in more “luxurious” buses for less than $4.

Turkish lamps

What to do in Turkey

A trip to Turkey would likely start in Istanbul, the country’s most populated city. There are many things to do in Istanbul, like visiting Hagia Sophia, the Sultan Ahmet Mosque or shopping for carpets at the Grand Bazaar

Although Istanbul is the biggest one, there are many cities in Turkey that are worth the visit. For example, Ankara, Turkey’s capital, or Izmir for those looking to have fun at the beach.

But exploring nature is another key part of Turkey tourist attractions. A trip to this beautiful country would not be complete without visiting the Pamukkale natural pools or the Valley of the Doves in Cappadocia. One of the most well-known travel tips for Turkey is that everyone should do a hot air balloon ride over this unique region.

Turkey travel tips: what to pack

There are many beautiful mosques in Turkey. Women should always travel with a scarf or shawl to cover their head if they wish to visit a place of worship. Since they also need to cover their legs at these establishments, packing a long dress or skirt will be a good idea.

If you travel from outside of Europe, you will need a travel adapter. Turkey uses 220 Volt European 2 pin plugs. And even if you’re traveling from another European country, having a travel adapter in your bag will always be of help. 

No matter where you’re going, it’s extremely important to be protected from the sun. Pack a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen. Insect repellent will also be an asset.

Comfortable shoes for walking are a must, but you can also bring dressier shoes if you plan on going out at night. 

Winters in Turkey can get quite cold. If you’re traveling in that season, you’re going to need a warm jacket and probably some wool socks.

Turkey is a very modern country in spite of its strong Islamic culture. If you forgot to pack something, you will have no trouble replacing it at a market or shopping center. In fact, it may even be cheaper than buying it in your home country!

Haggling in Turkey tips

Haggling or bargaining is a key element of shopping in a Turkish market. It’s something one simply must do, even if it’s not your preferred activity.

One of the best Turkey tips is to visit a few markets and shops before starting your bargain. You will get a better idea of the price you could get. Also, don’t be overly enthusiastic about a specific product: ask for more prices at the same time, you’re less likely to be the victim of overpricing.

If you buy more than one product, get a discount. And our last advice for haggling in Turkey is to always pay in cash the agreed price. Remember: you’re not obligated to buy! If you don’t like the price the owner is giving, you’re free to walk away.

Kastamonu Castle, Turkey

When is the best time to visit Turkey?

The best time to visit Turkey is between May and October. If you travel within those months, you’ll avoid the cold winter and you will get a chance to enjoy Turkey’s beautiful coastal region. 

July is the hottest month of the year and February, the coldest. 

Security in Turkey travel tips

Even though it’s a much visited country, Turkey shares its borders with difficult regions, so it’s okay to wonder: “is Turkey safe?”. Yes, it is safe. However, it’s always good to know some safety advice to avoid issues.

Be cautious in the tourist areas of Istanbul (Taksim, Osmanbey, Haciosman, Yenikapi) and in public transport, especially the underground, as pickpockets are frequent. Avoid large concentrations of people.

Tourists should avoid the border conflicts in the east and southeast of the country, particularly around the borders with Syria and Iraq

There is seismic risk in the area, so it is advisable to follow different protocols and remain calm if there is an earthquake. 

Additional Turkey travel tips

  • Turkish food is undoubtedly one of its strongest assets. Culinary delights include the well-known döner and the Lokum, a typical Turkish dessert.
  • Taking photographs of military objects/areas is a crime. If you see a sign that says “Fotograf yapmak yasak!”, it means that you’re not allowed to take photos.