Simply turning up and finding a bed for the night is generally not a problem in Turkey, except in high season at the busier coastal resorts and larger cities such as İstanbul. Many places have internet booking services so you can reserve a room ahead if you want to be sure. Despite Turkey’s buoyant economy, prices remain good value by most Western European standards, though İstanbul can be very expensive. In most of the larger coastal resorts, the big cities and well-touristed inland areas such as Cappadocia, a wide range of accommodation is available, from humble pansiyons (guesthouses) to five-star hotels. In relatively untouristed towns of the interior, however, there’s often little choice between fleapits or four-star luxury.
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Rooms are generally on the small side by European standards, with dim lighting and rarely enough power points. In the newer, three- to five-star establishments single rooms generally go for just over half the price of a double, since proprietors are well used to lone (male) business travellers. Rooms with en-suite bathrooms generally cost about 25 percent more than unplumbed ones; triples are also usually available, costing about thirty percent more than a double.
To avoid noise, pick a room away from main thoroughfares and/or an adjacent mosque. You won’t cause offence by asking to see another room, and never agree on a price for a room without seeing it first. Though break-ins aren’t the norm in Turkey, security should be at least a token consideration.
Hot water (sıcak su) is not always reliable, even in starred hotels, as the solar-powered systems ubiquitous in coastal resorts struggle to cope with demand – check to see if there’s an electric back-up. Plumbers quite frequently pipe the taps up the wrong way round, so check that the tap that should be hot is not the cold! Bathtubs and sinks seldom have plugs, so bring a universal plug from home. Especially on the south and southwest coast, air conditioning (a/c) is found in most accommodation, even pansiyons, though some charge extra for this as electricity prices are so high. Double beds for couples are becoming more popular; the magic words are Fransiz yatak (“French” bed). Incidentally, in some conservative rural areas, hotel management may refuse to let a heterosexual couple share a room unless there is documentary evidence that they are married. A law exists to this effect, so it’s no use arguing the toss.
Touts can be a nuisance in places on the backpacker trail (for example Cappadocia, Selçuk and Eğirdir), greeting weary travellers off the long-distance bus with offers of accommodation. It’s best to ignore them and use the recommendations in this guide. If you do decide to check out the accommodation offered by a tout, make sure it’s up to standard before accepting – there will be plenty more choice available.
Lift/elevator buttons can be a source of potential confusion. “Ç” stands for “call”, a lit-up “K” means the car is already on your floor; an illuminated “M” means “in use”; “Z” stands for ground floor; and “A” means the mezzanine floor.
Turkish hotels are graded on a scale of one to five stars by the Ministry of Tourism; there is also a lower tier of unstarred establishments rated by municipalities. At the four- and five-star establishments expect to pay from €110–180 at the lower end of the scale to €200–500 for restored palaces or very upmarket boutique hotels. Two- or three-star outfits (€50–90) are more basic; no tubs in bathrooms and more spartan breakfasts, though in resort areas they may have a small pool, terrace and bar. The walk-in price of three-star and up hotels is always much higher than if it is pre-booked, but if the hotel is slack you may be able to negotiate a much better deal.
Boutique hotels are popping up all over the place, especially in restored old mansions in such places as Amasya, Cappadocia, Gaziantep, İstanbul, Mardin, Safranbolu and Urfa. However, the term is overused to market any accommodation that has been done up in a minimalist or modernist style, and prices vary widely accordingly.
The unrated hotels licensed by municipalities can be virtually as good as the lower end of the one-star class, and most have en-suite bathrooms, televisions and phones (€35–45). Others though, at the very bottom end of the market, will have a basin in the room but shared showers and (squat) toilet down the hall, with prices ranging between €20 and €30. Most solo female travellers will feel uncomfortable in unstarred and even many one- and two-star hotels, especially in less touristed parts of the interior.
Pansiyons and apartments
Often the most pleasant places to stay are pansiyons (pensions), small guesthouses common in touristy areas. These usually have en-suite facilities, and many feature common gardens or terraces where breakfast (usually, but not always, included in the price) is served. Rooms tend to be spartan but clean, furnished in one-star hotel mode and always with two sheets (çarşafs) on the bed. Hot water is always available, though with solar-powered systems not always when you want it. Many have air conditioning, often for a supplement.
Particularly when it comes to family-run pensions, you may well find that the proprietor has links with similar establishments in other towns; often he/she will offer to call ahead to arrange both a stay and a transfer from the otogar for you. This informal network is a good way of avoiding the hassle with touts and a late-night search for a comfy bed.
Self-catering apartments are widespread in coastal resorts, and are mostly pitched at vacationing Turks or foreigners arriving on pre-arranged packages. Some are available to walk-in trade – local tourist offices maintain lists. Apart from the weekly price the major (negotiable) outlay will be for the large gas bottle feeding the stove. Ensure, too, that kitchens are equipped well enough to make them truly self-catering.
Hostels, lodges and treehouses
While there are only a handful of internationally affiliated, foreigner-pitched hostels in the country, this gap has been amply filled by backpackers’ hostels, found most notably in İstanbul, Çanakkale, Selçuk, Köyceğiz and Fethiye. Often 1970s pansiyons that have been adapted to feature multi-bedded rooms, laundry and internet facilities, self-catering kitchen, tours and lively bars, they can be fair value – costs vary €10–18 per head in a large dorm, considerably more for a double room.
In recent years, a large number of trekkers’ lodges have sprung up in the foothills of the Kaçkar mountains, especially on the south slope, and along the Lycian Way. These generally offer a choice between communal sleeping on mattresses arrayed on a wooden terrace, or more enclosed double to quadruple rooms without en-suite facilities – strangely, cooking facilities may often also be absent. Costs are generally comparable to the backpackers’ hostels, though some are far more expensive.
So-called “treehouses”, usually just elevated shacks, are found principally on the southwest coast between Antalya and Fethiye. Some have dorm rooms while an increasing number are designed for two people and have doors, windows, electricity, air conditioning and, rarely, en-suite facilities.
In areas frequently visited by independent travellers, pansiyons and hostels with gardens will often allow camping. Charges run from a couple of euros to €7 per head in a well-appointed site at a major resort; you may also be charged to park your vehicle. The most appealing campsites are those run by the Ministry of Forestry, open April to October inclusive; look for brown wooden signs with yellow lettering. Twenty of them are sited in shady groves at strategic locations (mostly coastal) across the west of the country, and they make an ideal choice if you have your own transport, especially a combi-van or car and caravan.
Camping rough is not illegal, but hardly anybody does it except when trekking in the mountains, and, since you can expect a visit from curious police or even nosier villagers, it’s not really a choice for those who like privacy.