Major archeological sites are generally open daily from 8.30am to 6.30pm in summer, but the exact times are listed in the Guide. Winter opeming hours are generally shorter. Some smaller archeological sites are only guarded during the day and left unfenced, permitting (in theory) a free wander around in the evening though, in the wake of antiquities theft this could feasibly result in you being picked up by the jandarma. Others are staffed until dark by a solitary warden, who may have enough English to give you a guided tour, for which he will probably expect a tip.
Don’t pay entrance fees unless the wardens can produce a ticket, and keep it with you for the duration of your visit and even afterwards, as some sites (eg, Patara and Olympos) straddle the route to a good beach and the ticket is valid for a week (sparing you repayment if you re-cross the area).
Except near major cities where sea water is often polluted, Turkish beaches are safe to swim at, though be prepared for occasional mountains of rubbish piled at the back of the beach. Tar can also be a problem on south-coast beaches facing Mediterranean shipping lanes; if you get tar on your feet scrub it off with olive oil rather than chemical solvents. All beaches are free in theory, though luxury compounds straddling routes to the sand will control access in various ways. Never pay a fee for a beach-lounger or umbrella unless the seller provides you with a ticket.
Turkey is no longer the cheap destination it was, with prices in the heavily touristed areas comparable to many places in Europe. Exercise a little restraint, however, be prepared to live life at least occasionally at the local level (many Turks somehow survive on 600TL a month) and you can still enjoy a great-value trip here.
Stay in a “treehouse” or backpackers’ inn, eat in local workers’ cafés or restaurants, travel around by train or bus, avoid alcohol and the most expensive sites and you could get by on 50–60TL (£20–25/$35–40) a day. If that doesn’t sound like much fun, double that and you could stay in a modest hotel, see the sights and have a beer or two with your evening meal. Equally, a night out on the town in İstanbul or one of the flasher coastal resorts could easily set you back over 100TL (£40/$70), and if you intend seeing a lot of what is a very big country transport costs could be a considerable drain on your budget (though travellers often mitigate this by taking overnight buses and thus save on accommodation).
The more expensive tourist sites such as Ephesus, the Tokapı Palace and Aya Sofya are a hefty 20TL (£8/$13.50), but there are many more sites varying between 3TL and 15TL. Unfortunately since the introduction of the Müze Kart (Museum Card) scheme, which gives Turkish citizens admission to all state-run museums for a mere 20TL per annum, there are no longer any discounts for students who are not Turkish citizens – even for those in the country on an exchange programme.
Crime and personal safety
Turkey’s crime rate remains lower than most of Europe and North America, although pickpocketing and purse-snatching are becoming more common in İstanbul and other major cities. Violent street crime is fortunately rare. Keep your wits about you and an eye on your belongings just as you would anywhere else, and make sure your passport is secure at all times, and you shouldn’t have any problems. Except for well-known “red-light” districts, and some eastern towns, female travellers are probably safer on their own than in other European countries.
As well as the usual warnings on drugs, note that exporting antiquities is illegal. It is also an offence to insult Atatürk or Turkey which can carry result in a prison sentence. Never deface, degrade, or tear up currency or the flag; drunkenness will likely be considered an aggravating, not a mitigating, factor. Also, do not take photographs near the numerous, well-marked military zones.
The police, army and gendarmerie
Turkey’s police service is split into several groups. The blue-uniformed Polis are the everyday security force in cities and towns with populations over 2000; the white-capped Trafik Polis (traffic police) are a branch of this service. İstanbul and several other large towns have a rapid-response squad of red-and-black-uniformed motorbike police known as the yunus (dolphin) polis; they are generally courteous and helpful to tourists and may speak some English. In the towns you’re also likely to see the Belediye Zabitası, the navy-clad market police, who patrol the markets and bazaars to ensure that tradesmen aren’t ripping off customers, but who seem to ignore the huge number of shops selling pirated DVDs and the like – approach them directly if you have reason for complaint. You’re unlikely to come across plain-clothes police unless you wander off the beaten track in the ethnically Kurdish southeast.
In most rural areas, law enforcement is in the hands of the jandarma or gendarmerie, a division of the regular army charged with law-enforcement duties. Gendarmes, despite their military affiliation, are often kitted out not in fatigues but well-tailored gear, modelled on the French uniform, to make them appear less threatening; most of them are conscripts who will be courteous and helpful if approached.
Security and restricted areas
There is a noticeable security presence in the Kurdish-dominated southeast of the country (chapters 11 and 12 of the Guide), with attacks on Turkish security forces by the PKK (Kurdish Workers Party) continuing, albeit sporadically, at the time of writing. Security is tightest along the Iraqi and Iranian borders, particularly south of Hakkari and around Siirt, in the mountains south of Lake Van and in the rural hinterland of Diyarbakır. Although checkpoints on main roads are being slowly phased out, you may be stopped if you attempt to travel to off-the-beaten track sites and/or villages, and your presence may attract the attention of the jandarma (and quite possibly the plain-clothes secret police, who generally stand out a mile from the locals). This may involve, at most, a rather tedious, though polite, interrogation. Lone males especially may find themselves suspected of being journalists with Kurdish/Armenian sympathies. Avoid talking politics with anyone unless you are absolutely sure you can trust them and, if you are questioned, keep calm, smile a lot, and emphasize wherever possible that you are a turist (tourist). Of more concern to the average visitor are the violent pro-Kurdish street demonstrations which break out from time to time in southeastern cities such as Diyarbakır and Van. For more information on the Kurdish problem.
Turkey operates on 220 volts, 50 Hz. Most European appliances should work so long as you have an adaptor for European-style two-pin plugs. American appliances will need a transformer as well as an adaptor.
Ninety-day tourist visas (available at ports of entry for a fee) are issued to citizens of the UK (£10), Ireland (€10), the US (US$20), Canada (Can$60) and Australia (Aus$20). South Africans are granted 30 days only. New Zealanders currently do not require a visa. Tourist visas are valid for multiple entries into Turkey – if you leave on a day-trip, to Greece or Bulgaria say, you should not have to pay for a new visa on your return. Everyone, regardless of nationality, should have at least six months validity on their passport.
Once inside the country, you can extend your visa once only, for a further three months, by applying to the Foreigners’ Department (Yabancı Bürosu) of the Security Division (Emniyet Müdürlüğü) in any provincial capital. Do this well before your time expires, as it may take several weeks to process. Generally its easier to nip across the border to a Greek island, Bulgaria or Northern Cyprus every three months and re-enter Turkey to obtain a new three-month stamp. For the latest information on visas check with the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs at w www.mfa.gov.tr.
Turkish embassies and consulates abroad
Australia 60 Mugga Way, Red Hill, Canberra ACT 2603 t 02/6295 0227.
Canada 197 Wurtemburg St, Ottawa, ON K1N 8L9 t 613/789-4044.
Ireland 11 Clyde Rd, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4 t 01/668 5240.
New Zealand 15–17 Murphy St, Level 8, Wellington t 04/472 1290.
South Africa 1067 Church St, Hatfield 0181, Pretoria t 012/342-5063.
UK 43 Belgrave Square, London SW1X 8PA t 020/7393 0202.
US 2525 Masschusetts Ave NW, Washington, DC 20008 t 202/612-6700.
Customs and border inspections
As Turkey is not yet an EU member, duty-free limits – and sales – for alcohol and tobacco are still prevalent. Limits are posted clearly at İstanbul’s airports, and apply for all frontiers.
Few people get stopped departing Turkey, but the guards may be on the lookout for antiquities and fossils. Penalties for trying to smuggle these out include long jail sentences, plus a large fine. What actually constitutes an antiquity is rather vague, but it’s best not to take any chances.
It is essential to take out an insurance policy before travelling to cover against illness or injury, as well as theft or loss. Some all-risks homeowners’ or renters’ insurance policies may cover your possessions when overseas, and many private medical schemes (such as BUPA and WPA) offer coverage extensions for abroad.
Rough Guides offers its own insurance policy, detailed in the box below. Most policies exclude so-called dangerous sports unless an extra premium is paid: in Turkey this can mean scuba-diving, whitewater rafting, paragliding, windsurfing and trekking, though probably not kayaking or jeep safaris. Travel agents and package operators may require travel insurance when you book a holiday – you’re not obliged to take theirs, though you have to sign a declaration saying that you already have another policy. Similarly, many no-frills airlines make a tidy sum from selling you unnecessary insurance at the time of ticket booking – beware, and opt out.
Many hotels, pensions and even hostels in tourist areas have internet access – often both terminals and wi-fi signal, as do an ever-increasing number of cafés. In more remote places in the interior, and the east of the country, only the more expensive hotels have wi-fi. Rates in internet cafés tend to be 2TL per hour. The Turkish-character keyboard you’ll probably be faced with may cause some confusion. The “@” sign is made by simultaneously pressing the “ALT” and “q” keys. More frustrating is the the dotless “ı” (confusingly enough found right where you’ll be expecting the conventional “i”) – the Western “i” is located second key from right, middle row.
Post offices are easily spotted by their bold black-on-yellow PTT (Posta, Telegraf, Telefon) signs. Stamps are only available from the PTT, whose website (w www.ptt.gov.tr) has a (not necessarily up-to-date) English-language listing of services and prices. Post offices are generally open Mon–Fri 8.30am–5.30pm and until noon on Saturday. Airmail (uçakla) rates to Europe are 0.90TL for postcards, 1TL for letters up to 20g, 19TL for 2kg, the maximum weight for letters. Delivery to Europe or North America can take seven to ten days. A pricier express (acele) service is also available, which cuts delivery times to the EU to about three days. When sending airmail, it’s best to give your stamped letter/card to the clerk behind the counter, who will ensure it gets put in the right place; otherwise, place it in the relevant slot if one is available (yurtdışı for abroad; yurtiçi for elsewhere in Turkey).
Maps of Turkey are notoriously poor quality owing to the lack of survey-based cartography. The best foreign-produced touring maps, accurately showing many smaller villages, are those published by Kartographischer Verlag Reinhard Ryborsch (1:500,000; Frankfurt, Germany), which cover the entire country in seven maps. They are sporadically available online, but both original and pirated versions are sold at better bookshops in İstanbul, Ankara and big resorts. Reasonable second choices, easier to obtain, include Insight Turkey West (1:800,000), easy to read and with up-to-date motorway tracings, and Reise Know-How’s 1:700 000 Mediterranean Coast and Cyprus, which despite the title covers the entire southern and western third of the country with passable accuracy.
In terms of Turkish-produced touring maps, the 1:400,000 atlas produced by Atlas magazine is highly accurate if sadly difficult to read owing to murky printing – but still a useful 20TL investment. The best regional touring maps are Sabri Aydal’s 1:250,000 products for Cappadocia, Lycia, Pamphylia and Pisidia, available from local bookshops and museums.
İstanbul, Ankara, Antalya, Bursa and İzmir (as well as overseas) tourist offices stock reasonable, free city street plans, although the İstanbul one is restricted to the centre and lacks detail. Sketch plans from provincial tourist offices vary widely in quality.
Amongst Turkish-produced city maps, Keskin Colour’s 1:8,500 “İstanbul Street Plan” is clear and accurate, though misses out most of the Asian side of the city. The most detailed A–Z-style atlas for the European side, ideal for out-of-the-way monuments, is Mepmedya’s 1:7500 “İstanbul Avrupa Yakası”, though it’s pricey (50TL) and heavy; İki Nokta’s “Sokak Sokak Avrupa” is the alternative. All these are sold in town and (Mepmedya excepted) far cheaper than anything produced abroad.
Turkey’s currency is the Türk Lirası or TL for short, subdivided into 100 kuruş. At the time of writing the exchange rate was around 2.10TL to the euro, 2.40TL to the pound and 1.5TL to the US dollar. As recently as 2004 hyperinflation meant that millions of lira were needed to purchase the smallest everyday item. In 2005 the government introduced the Yeni Türk Lirası (New Turkish Lira), abbreviated as YTL, and knocked all the zeroes off. In January 2009, it was the turn of the “Y” to go, and the currency reverted to its old name. Despite the changes, many Turks still talk in millions, which can be confusing when you are asked “bir milyon” or one million lira for a glass of tea. Coins are in denominations of 5, 10, 25 and 50 kuruş, as well as 1 lira, whilst notes come in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 and 200 lira.
Rates for foreign currency are always better inside Turkey, so try not to buy much lira at home. Conversely, don’t leave Turkey with unspent lira, as you won’t get a decent exchange rate for them outside the country. It’s wise to bring a fair wad of hard currency with you (euros are best, though dollars and sterling are often accepted), as you can often use it to pay directly for souvenirs or accommodation (prices for both are frequently quoted in euros). Travellers’ cheques are, frankly, not worth the bother as exchange offices (see Changing money) and some banks refuse them, whilst those that do accept them charge a hefty commission on transactions and the bureaucracy is tedious.
The best exchange rate is usually given by state-owned banks (try Ziraat Bankası or Halk Bankası), but queues can be long. Döviz, or exchange houses, are common in Turkey’s cities and resorts. They buy and sell foreign currency of most sorts instantly, and have the convenience of long opening hours (usually 9/10am–8/10pm) and short or nonexistent queues. Some, however, charge commission (though they usually waive it if you make a fuss, as locals never pay it), and the rate given is not as high as in the banks.
Remember to keep all foreign-exchange slips with you until departure, if only to prove the value of purchases made in case of queries by customs.
Credit/debit cards and ATMs
Credit cards are now widely used in hotels, shops, restaurants, travel agencies and entertainment venues and with no commission (though many hotels and shops offer discounts for cash rather than credit-card payments). Don’t expect, however, to use your card in basic eating-places or small corner shops. Swipe readers plus chip-and-PIN protocol are now the norm in most of Turkey – if you don’t know your PIN, you probably won’t be able to use it.
The simplest way to get hold of money in Turkey is to use the widespread ATM network. Most bank ATMs will accept any debit cards that are part of the Cirrus, Maestro or Visa/Plus systems. Screen prompts are given in English on request. You can also normally get cash advances (in TL only) at any bank displaying the appropriate sign. It’s safest to use ATMs attached to banks during normal working hours so help can be summoned if your card is eaten (not uncommon). Turkish ATMs sometimes “time out” without disgorging cash, whilst your home bank may still debit your account – leaving you to argue the toss with them. ATM fraud is rife in Turkey – make sure you are not overlooked when keying in your PIN.
You can also use Visa or MasterCard to get cash from ATMs, though American Express holders are currently restricted to those of Akbank and Vakıf.
Opening hours and public holidays
Office workers keep conventional Monday to Friday 9am to 6pm schedules, with a full lunch hour; civil servants (including tourist offices and museum staff) in theory work 8.30am to 5.30pm, but in practice hours can be much more erratic – don’t expect to get official business attended to the same day after 2.30pm. Most state banks are open Monday to Friday, 8.30am to noon and 1.30 to 5pm. Private banks such as Garanti Bankası and Köç operate throughout the day.
Ordinary shops, including large department stores and mall outlets, are open continuously from 8.30 or 9am until 7 or 8pm (sometimes even later in many major cities and resorts). Craftsmen and bazaar stallholders often work from 9am to 8 or 9pm, Monday to Saturday, with only short breaks for meals, tea or prayers. Even on Sunday the tradesmen’s area may not be completely shut down – though don’t count on this.
Museums are generally open from 8.30 or 9am until 5.30 or 6pm, except Mondays, though for some smaller museums you may have to find the bekçi (caretaker) and ask him to open up (archeological sites for). All tourist sites and museums are closed on the mornings of public holidays, while İstanbul’s palaces usually shut on Mondays and Thursdays.
Secular public holidays are generally marked by processions of schoolchildren or the military, or by some demonstration of national strength and dignity, such as a sports display. Banks and government offices will normally be closed on these days (exceptions given below). for religious holidays.
Jan 1 Yılbaşı – New Year’s Day.
April 23 Ulusal Egemenlik ve Çocuk Bayramı – Independence Day, celebrating the first meeting of the new Republican parliament in Ankara, and Children’s Day.
May 19 Gençlik ve Spor Günü – Youth and Sports Day, also Atatürk’s birthday.
May 29 İstanbul’s capture by Mehmet the Conqueror in 1453 (İstanbul only).
July 1 Denizcilik Günü – Navy Day (banks and offices open).
Aug 26 Silahlı Kuvvetler Günü – Armed Forces Day (banks and offices open).
Aug 30 Zafer Bayramı – Celebration of the Turkish victory over the Greek forces at Dumlupınar in 1922.
Sept 9 Kurtuluş Günü – Liberation Day, with parades and speeches marking the end of the Independence War (İzmir only).
Oct 29 Cumhuriyet Bayramı – commemorates the proclamation of the Republic by Atatürk in 1923.
Nov 10 Anniversary of Atatürk’s death in 1938. Observed at 9.05am (the time of his demise), when the whole country stops whatever it’s doing and maintains a respectful silence for a minute. It’s worth being on a Bosphorus ferry then, when all the engines are turned off, and the boats drift and sound their foghorns mournfully.
Most fixed-line telecom services are provided by TT (Türk Telekom); its website (w www.turktelekom.com.tr) has an English-language page listing all services and tariffs. The best place to make phone calls is from either a PTT (post office) or a TT (Türk Telekom) centre. Inside, or just adjacent, there is usually a row of card (köntürlü or smartkart) call boxes (TTs are blue-and-turquoise), and/or a kontürlü (metered, clerk-attended) phone, the latter sometimes in a closed booth. Public phones are to be found in squares and parks, outside many public buildings and at train stations and ferry terminals. The standard Turkish phone replies are the Frenchified Allo or the more local Buyurun (literally, “Avail yourself/at your service”).
“Smart” phonecards are available from PTT or TT centres; when using these wait for the number of units remaining to appear on the screen before dialling and be aware that you will have little warning of being cut off. They are bought in units of 50 (3.75TL), 100 (7.50TL), 200 (15TL) and 350 (19TL). A steadily increasing number of phones have also been adapted to accept foreign credit cards. Metered booths inside PTTs or TTs, or at street kiosks or shops (look for signs reading kontürlü telefon bulunur) work out more expensive than cards, but are certainly far cheaper than hotels, and also tend to be quieter (plus you won’t be cut off). Their disadvantage is that you can’t see the meter ticking over, and instances of overcharging are not unknown.
Overseas call rates are 0.25TL per minute to Europe or North America. Try not to make anything other than local calls from a hotel room – there’s usually a minimum 100 percent surcharge on phonecard rates. For extended chat overseas, it’s best to buy an international phonecard. Best is the Alocard, available from PTT branches and usable in public phones. Reveal the 12-digit pin by scratching; then call the domestic access number, followed by the destination number. Rates are very low – for example, a 10TL card allows 2hrs chat to the UK. The cards can also be used for domestic calls, giving 140 minutes of calling time.
Turkey uses a system of eleven-digit phone numbers nationwide, consisting of four-digit area or mobile-provider codes (all starting with “0”) plus a seven-digit subscriber number. To call a number in Turkey from overseas, dial your country’s international access code, then 90 for Turkey, then the area or mobile code minus the initial zero, and finally the subscriber number. To call home from Turkey, dial t 00 followed by the relevant international dialling code, then the area code (without the initial zero if there is one) then the number.
Most European mobile phones will connect on arrival with one of the three Turkish networks: Turkcell (best coverage), Avea and Vodafone; US mobiles will not work here. If you’re staying longer than a week and intend calling home (or within Turkey) frequently, it may be worth purchasing a local SIM card and pay-as-you-go package. These are available from shops advertising kontürlü SIM cards. Typically, calls cost 0.9TL/min to Europe and North America, while an SMS message to the UK costs around 0.3TL. Unfortunately foreign phones using Turkish SIMs may be detected after two or three weeks and the number blocked. It’s theoretically possible to re-register your phone and unblock it, but this doesn’t always work. Travellers here for a substantial period may find it worthwhile buying a cheap Turkish secondhand mobile (60TL is standard for a bottom-of-the-range Nokia).
Turkey is two hours ahead of GMT in winter; as in Europe, daylight saving is observed between March and October – clocks change at 2am of the last Sunday in each month.
Most Turkish towns of any size will have a Turizm Danışma Bürosu or tourist office of some sort, often lodged inside the Belediye (city hall) in the smaller places. However, outside the larger cities and obvious tourist destinations there’s often little hard information to be had, and world-weary staff may dismiss you with a selection of useless brochures. Lists of accommodation are sometimes kept at the busier offices; personnel, however, will generally not make bookings. On the other hand, staff in out-of-the-way places can be embarrassingly helpful. It’s best to have a specific question – about bus schedules, festival ticket availability or museum opening hours – although in remote regions there is no guarantee that there will be anyone who can speak English.
Tourist offices generally adhere to a standard opening schedule of 8.30am to 12.30pm and 1.30 to 5.30pm, Monday to Friday. Between May and September in big-name resorts and large cities, these hours extend well into the evening and through much of the weekend. In winter, by contrast, many tourist offices in out-of-the-way spots will be shut most of the time.
Turkish information offices abroad
Overseas Turkish tourist offices (often the embassy’s Information Office) will provide a few very basic maps and glossy brochures. For more information check w www.goturkey.com.
UK 29–30 St James’s St, London SW1A 1HB t 020/78397778, w www.gototurkey.co.uk.
US 821 United Nations Plaza, New York, NY 10017 t 212/687-2194; 2525 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington, DC 20008 t 202/612-6800; 5055 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 850, Los Angeles CA 90036 t 323/937-8066, w www.tourismturkey.org.
w www.biletix.com An online booking service for arts, cultural, music and sports events (mainly in İstanbul and Ankara), in both English and Turkish.
w www.goturkey.com Turkey’s official tourist information site.
w www.mymerhaba.com Intended for long-term residents, and strongest on İstanbul, but nonetheless an authoritative, wide-ranging site with news of upcoming events and ticket-booking functions.
w www.trekkinginturkey.com Well researched information on major trekking areas and long-distance routes, with links to relevant outdoor-activity-type sites.
w www.turkeycentral.com Useful information portal with links to huge range of sites from scuba-diving operators to estate agents.
w www.turkeytravelplanner.com This somewhat American-orientated site has loads of practical tips for journey planning, and also many links to vetted service providers.Read More
KDV: Turkish VAT
KDV: Turkish VAT
The Turkish variety of VAT (Katma Değer Vergisi or KDV), ranging from 8 to 23 percent depending on the commodity, is included in the price of virtually all goods and services (except car rental, where the eighteeen-percent figure is usually quoted separately). Look for the notice Fiyatlarımız KDV Dahildir (VAT included in our prices) if you think someone’s trying to do you for it twice. There’s a VAT refund scheme for large souvenir purchases made by those living outside Turkey, but it’s such a rigmarole to get that it’s probably not worth pursuing; if you insist, ask the shop to provide a KDV İade Özel Fatura (Special VAT Refund Invoice), assuming that it participates – very few do, and they tend to be the most expensive shops.