This list of the best tips for traveling to Turkey will help you prepare for your holiday to an incredible country. Spanning the divide of Europe and Asia, Turkey is a veritable melting pot of culture, tradition, and society. It’s the sort of place you can’t help but fall in love with as soon as you step off the plane.
There are heaps of beautiful places to visit, from the otherworldly landscapes of Cappadocia and Pamukkale, to the throbbing ancient metropolis of Istanbul. You could easily spend a few months in Turkey and still not have scratched the surface, but even if you only have a week, you can still pack in a lot of the top sights.
For the full immersive experience, begin your trip by flying with a Turkish airline. You never know, you may even get served treats like Turkish Delight as your inflight snack!
If you’re thinking of travelling to Turkey, here are a few things that will help you plan your trip and get you on your way.
1. Best time to visit
The best time to travel to Turkey is spring and autumn, when the weather is more pleasant and you can avoid the hottest and coldest months. It does, however, get rather hot in July and August, when temperatures can exceed 40 degrees which some people might find a little too much. However, if your trip includes the beaches of the Mediterranean coast, this can actually be a great time to travel to Turkey.
In case you can only travel in summer, try to do your sightseeing during the mornings and later afternoons when the temperatures are still pleasant.
After going through an unstable time with demonstrations, coup attempts and terrorist attacks, Turkey has once again achieved high tourism quotas and conveyed a sense of security. It must be taken into account that tourism is one of the greatest sources of income for the country and the government dedicates many resources and efforts to ensure the safety of tourists.
Whenever we talk about security, we must bear in mind that zero risk when traveling to Turkey or any country in the world does not exist, and normally this feeling of insecurity is given by specific news from the media, which does not reflect the general situation of the country.
Crime isn’t very common against tourists due to the high penalties it entails, although it is necessary to watch out for small scams, especially in taxis, and keep an eye on your bag if you’re visiting the busy markets.
As with any country in the world, it’s always advisable to check the government guidelines about visiting before you book your tickets.
3. Entry requirements
For all nationalities consult the page of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of your country, to have all the information on entering Turkey.
As an extra and although it is not mandatory, one of the best tips for traveling to Turkey is to always carry one or more copies of the passport on paper and another in electronic form, just in case you lose your original document.
4. Vaccines and travel insurance
Vaccinations are not required to visit Turkey, although it is recommended that you make an appointment at an International Vaccination Centre for advice, as some inoculations are a good idea wherever you’re travelling in the world.
In cities there are quality pharmacies, hospitals and private clinics, which have agreements with insurers. To avoid the high cost of any operation or treatment, it is advisable to have travel insurance.
In addition to travel insurance, you should follow a series of precautions such as drinking bottled water, wearing sunscreen, and sticking to cooked food.
5. Where to begin the trip
Most trips in Turkey start at the arrivals hall of Istanbul Atatürk International Airport, which has direct flights to major cities around the world.
Another option is to catch a layover flight to Antalya, from where you have easy access to the southern beaches, or Kayseri, if you want to start your trip by visiting Cappadocia.
Many travellers begin their adventures in Turkey by spending between 2 and 4 days in Istanbul to enjoy some of the culture, architecture, and acclimatise to the country’s way of life.
6. Money exchange
To get Turkish Lira (one euro is roughly equivalent to 6 Lira) the best option is to withdraw money at ATMs, rather than choosing exchange houses or banks. It’s best to carry a card that doesn’t charge commission for withdrawing money, and these can be acquired quite easily online before your trip. Alternatively, you can exchange money at the airport, although expect commission rates to be much higher than in the city.
It is also important to always carry small coins in your wallet, for the usual tips in restaurants and hotels.
7. Connecting to the internet
Most people will need to connect to the internet during their stay, for work, leisure, or just to check emails. There are a couple of options to choose from:
- Buy a SIM card at the airport.
- Buy a roaming SIM card before you leave home, and get internet from the moment you land.
8. Independent or packaged travel
Turkey is a country that can be explored on your own, by renting a car or using public transport such as the bus and train.
The tourist route that is usually done through the country is circular and lasts approximately 15 days, starting in Istanbul and ending in Cappadocia. Some routes such as the return from Cappadocia to Istanbul can be done by night bus or internal flight.
A car, meanwhile, gives you freedom to stop where and when you want, without having to depend on taxis to get to certain tourist spots, with all the associated haggling involved. However, driving in a foreign country can be a stressful experience if you’re not used to it, so it really depends on the individual.
The advantage of travelling to Turkey on an organised tour, is that travel agencies can often achieve better prices on quality hotels than a private individual. It takes all the hassle out of the trip too, so you can just sit back and relax. A great option is to fly to Istanbul on your own and book in advance some of the tours most recommended by travellers.
9. Places to visit
The list of places to visit in Turkey is endless, especially in the area closest to Europe and the Mediterranean coast.
If you start the trip to Turkey in Istanbul, do not miss two of the most impressive mosques in the world, such as the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia. You should also visit the bustling Grand Bazaar and take a cruise on the Bosphorus.
After completing the list of things to see and do in Istanbul, you can head to Pergamum, an ancient Greek city which is situated around 6 hours by car. It’s pretty spectacular so you won’t regret visiting. Or, spend some time hiking the Lycian Way in Fethiye, enjoying the green valleys full of butterflies along the route.
Another popular spot with Instagrammers is Pamukkale, where vivid blue pools of water cascade down a mountainside creating quite an incredible sight. You can take a dip in the hot springs, and take photos to your heart’s content.
History buffs should stop at Ephesus, one of the most dramatic ancient UNESCO sites in Turkey. There are temples, amphitheatres, and colonnaded streets to explore as you travel back to Roman times.
10. A special mention for Cappadocia
Traveling to Turkey and not visiting Cappadocia is almost inexcusable. This lunar landscape, located in the centre of the country and declared a World Heritage Site. It is considered one of the best natural wonders in the world where you can enjoy strange rock formations that formed over millions of years by erosion. The most famous are the strange fairy chimneys which are dotted across the valleys and plains.
One of the most incredible experiences in Cappadocia is to book a sunrise balloon ride, for stunning views down over the peaks and valleys, as well as the other balloons rising all around you. The early start is definitely worth it!
To get to Cappadocia, if you don’t have a car, you can take a night bus from Antalya which takes about 9 hours, or from the Istanbul bus station, in Esenler, which takes more than 12 hours.
A faster and more comfortable way to go from Istanbul to Cappadocia is to catch a flight to one of the nearest airports such as Nevsehir to Kayseyri, and from there you can go to Goreme, the gateway to this wonderland.
More tips for traveling to Turkey
Other top tips for traveling to Turkey are:
- Once you’ve had your fill of kebabs, don’t forget to try Turkish coffee, baklava sweets, meze, dolma or midye dolma – all authentic delights of Turkish gastronomy.
- In restaurants it is customary to tip 10% to thank the waiting staff.
- The official language is Turkish, but many people in hotels and tourist attractions can communicate well in English.
- To enter mosques, women must wear appropriate clothing and a headscarf.
- If you need to take a taxi, it is best to opt for the yellow ones and negotiate a fixed price before they put the meter on and lengthen the route.
- Haggle for each item you want to buy and browse various stalls before deciding on one, especially in Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar.