5 Things to Know Before Traveling to Turkey

From do’s and don’ts, to what to wear, to making sure you have enough cash, Istanbul local Lisa shares her tips for travel to Turkey.


Photo © Getty Images/skaman306

Turkey's wealth of historical sites, diverse landscapes, adventure activities, rich culture and delicious food make it an extremely rewarding place to explore. Before you set off to see the mosques in Istanbul, landscapes of Cappadocia, and ancient ruins of Ephesus, here are five handy tips to make the most of your visit to Turkey.

1. Are Turkish people friendly?

Yes! Turkish people are incredibly friendly, love to help, and are very inquisitive. They often ask questions such as “How old are you?” or “How much money do you earn?” that can feel invasive, and staring is common. On a 10-hour bus ride, the headscarf-wearing village woman next to me gazed unblinkingly at my blue eyes the for the entire trip.

Anything marking you as different – skin color, hair, clothing – makes you an object of fascination, especially outside urban areas. I try to respond with good grace because Turks have a genuine desire to know about foreign life, but you don’t have to answer or engage more than feels comfortable.

2. A few Turkish words and phrases go a long way

Outside the tourist areas, even in big cities, not many people speak English, so having some Turkish language basics is really useful. If you receive an invitation to a local family home for Turkish coffee or tea, knowing even a few words is much appreciated. However, some unscrupulous people take advantage of that friendly nature.

Understanding Turkish non-verbal communication is essential, particularly when it comes to saying no. Turkish hospitality means you’re offered more food and drink than you want. To stop the flow, simply put your hand on your heart as you say no. If you’re being pressured to buy something or give money and saying no hasn’t worked, tilt your head up and back while making a brisk tsk sound with your tongue. It might feel rude to do so, but it works.

3. Currency, costs, tipping, and bargaining

Travel with a mixture of cash (in small denominations), an ATM card, and a credit card. Travelers’ checks are no longer common. US Dollars and Euro are the easiest currencies to convert and change offices offer the best rates. There are many ATMs throughout Turkey but check with your own bank beforehand about overseas withdrawal fees. Always carry cash on you, in case you can’t find a machine that accepts your card.

Good service is the norm in Turkey but wait staff don’t earn much, so tipping is welcomed; 10-15% is usual in upmarket restaurants, but I always leave something at small, family-run neighborhood places too. Round up the fare for taxi drivers or add an extra US $1-2 (8.40-16.80tl) if they help with your bags. Note: Turkish lira is quite volatile at the time of this writing, so this currency conversion is approximate. 

Always check prices – on menus before ordering, and the bill or taxi meter before paying – and query any discrepancies. Some negotiation is usual in carpet shops, so first learn the price and currency they’re quoting. It’s perfectly all right to ask for a better price. If that fails, stand up and say you’re running out of time before checking one last time if that’s the very best they can do. The main thing is to buy something because you love it. My house is full of carpets I’ve bought in Turkey. Looking at them still makes me smile, while the memory of what I paid is long forgotten.

4. Know how to dress appropriately

Turkey’s population is 99% Muslim, so religious beliefs influence a lot of the daily behavior and customs you’re likely to experience, be it in cosmopolitan centers or traditional rural communities. This doesn’t mean women traveling in Turkey have to cover from head to toe, but being aware of proper etiquette and dressing modestly helps you avoid unwanted attention.

A scarf is the perfect multi-purpose go-to. You can drape it around your shoulders if you’re feeling a bit exposed, or when the temperature drops. Use it to cover your hair when you want to enter a mosque and keep a bag handy in your purse to carry your shoes – you’ll have to take them off to enter.

5. Traditional Turkish toilets

While most Turkish hotels, museums, and restaurants have western-style toilets, you'll frequently encounter squat toilets on your travels. I prefer them because they’re often cleaner. The floor of the stalls is sometimes wet but don’t worry, it’s just clean water that’s been splashed around. They have a tap with running water (bidet) installed next to the squat area as Turks generally use water instead of paper, so remember to keep a packet of tissues in your bag. Hand sanitizer is a good idea, too.

If you’re wearing long pants, you might want to roll up the cuffs, and wearing jumpsuits is not advised. After you back into the stall, remove any objects from your pockets before you squat – likewise sunglasses perched on your head or hooked over your shirt front. If you forget, good luck retrieving them.

The majority of public toilets in Turkey charge a small fee so it’s wise to carry change. Most mosques have toilets (some of them free), so you’ll never be caught short.

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  • Gillian said

    I agree with the covering up. Everywhere. It's important to be modest and realize that what is okay at home is not okay here. It's about respect. And it's not that hard.

  • Luke Ford said

    I would also learn a few Kurdish words, especially if you're heading towards the South-East. You'll be amazed at the doors this opens with the large population of Kurdish people in the country.

  • Natalie said

    A lot of nationalities can gain automatic visas at the airport which is a lot less stressful and cheaper then applying for them before hand.<br><br>I would add to brush up on your haggling techniques before hand, if not be prepared to pay over the top prices.

  • virginia said

    I loved Turkey so much after travelling here for a few weeks that I moved here to live and now teach English at a language school in Istanbul.<br><br>I totally agree with the point on language. Before coming as a tourist I learned some Turkish using an online program and I think this was one of the best things I could have done. It completely changed the way the locals treated me, particularly outside Istanbul. I highly recommend this to people who want to travel around the country.<br><br>As a women the major things I wish I had known before coming to Turkey are not mentioned - namely how to interact with the men and as a subset of this, how to deal with shopkeepers. As a tourist you will mainly meet men. In tourist areas you must be prepared to deal with a fair bit of hassle. I have had my own experiences and also observed over and over western women who enjoy the banter as they would at home and are then shocked when the approach becomes quite aggressively sexual. Turkey is a relatively modern secular society but you can not expect to behave with men as you would at home. What we see as friendly....<br><br>Similarly with the shopkeepers, if you don't want to be hassled, walk on and don't engage. Do what the Turks do, ignore them. Initally I just couldn't do this, it just felt so rude to ignore someone talking to me, but now its normal. Of course its up to you as a traveller. If you want to be pulled into conversation go for it. The Turks are really charming and it can be all part of the experience. But if its not what you want, don't be afraid to ignore them.<br><br>All this said I love the place, and I love chatting with the locals, its just you must understand how to behave. Most visitors worry about being conservative in dress, but in my view its much more important to monitor your behaviour.<br><br>The other points the author makes I don't think you should worry about - for most western nationals getting a visa at the airport is straightforward (although check your country). As for currency if you don't want to (or can't) bring Turkish Lira, get Euros. USD I found pretty useless. And any major curreny can be obtained from a ATM. <br><br>But enjoy!

  • Russell Cunning said

    Good advice!! Just a word on the visa situation: I've been to Turkey three times since 2009. For most people a 3 month multiple entry visa is available at the border on arrival - it's $20 US for citizens of most countries. For a full list of countries and the requirements, see the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs page at http://www.mfa.gov.tr/visa-information-for-foreigners.en.mfa<br><br>I love the Turks - most are really friendly and hospitable. It does pay to learn a few words like Hello, Please and Thank-you. I had no trouble using US Dollars, although Euros are more widely accepted. Even the local supermarket changed $100 for me - and the rate was almost the same as at a bank. <br><br>

  • Well heeled traveller said

    I travelled to Turkey on a few occassions and have to say it is one of my favourite places on the planet. The people are incredibly friendly; kind hearted and genuine, the food is some of the best in the world and the shopping is outstanding.<br><br>My tips for travelling to Turkey include the following:<br><br>Girls - cover up your shoulders and don't wear tiny shorts/skirts. it is not respectful in many parts of the country.<br><br>Consider it the final stop - the shopping is incredibly amazing and you will want to purchase. Shops in the marketplace are open until midnight, so no need to waste daytime hours in the bazaar.<br><br>Treat yourself to a turkish bath - divinely amazing.<br><br><br><br>Buy a bottle of spirits at a nightclub - all pitch in and get a bottle, it will be much cheaper.<br><br>Have fun.<br>

  • Emma said

    This website is fantastic!
    I love Turkey, I have been there several times and enjoyed it.
    There food is amazing!!!

  • ferhat said

    infact as a young turkish man I have to be honest..this country worth to see..with everything
    ..we are much more different than your imagination..with culture,people,life style,food,scenery..etc..etc..understood that while I was living at Manchester..along three years..dont miss it..

  • chris60 said

    Turkey is amazing but all travelers need to be careful as the country is potentially dangerous. Ask a local and listen. Why else would strong men be checking behind their backs as they walk along the footpath? The people are generally warm and friendly but be aware of being scammed and harassed as a tourist. I loved the diversity and the eerie feeling of having slipped back in time. When I visited Istanbul I was initially shocked by the absence of women in the streets and the arrival of security with Tommy guns when the men streamed into the major mosques. Even if covered up, modest and avoiding eye contact, women can be harassed and misunderstood as aloof and arrogant if you are merely avoiding being seen as easy prey. Friendliness can create problems and that helpful man may well have different intentions than you anticipated. As a solo female tourist at times I felt like Dorothy in the Land of Oz when groups of men hissed at me or I watched the way they ogled passing blondes and then gagged as if they wanted to vomit. After being asked by a group of young Turkish men if Australians ate dog I realised there might be a few misconceptions among the locals. Mind you, the majority of people were genuinely helpful, kind and generous but I wish there had been more local women around to make me feel safer. As a woman, sometimes it feels easier to interact with women than men, especially if your sights on culture not romance. I was shocked by the open sexual propositioning and the assumption that Western women wanted sex. Guess that times have changed and I've been left in the ark.

  • Janine M. said

    East is east ... the problem is that the West could perhaps do with following, watching and learning a little, at least, from the 'east' .. then perhaps the whole of 'western' culture would change slightly - see what is written in the 'Le Ménagier de Paris' concerning the way in which women, it was seen at least by one gentleman, should comport themselves - even in the 'west', in medieaval times!

  • JedMakTra said

    Hi everybody

    I lived in Turkey 12 years. so i have to much experience about Turkish people and locations. especially in europe media groups; they are reporting very wrong news. you can be sure you will be safe in Turkey. If you dont disturb anyone , you will fell like in your country. if you have limited time for visiting, 1st you re unlucky. because f every city every town different foods, different history, different people types etc.....
    travelling location for short times;

    historical vacations.
    1st istanbul
    2nd izmir
    3th. nevsehir
    and all south cities.

    sea and hot sands

    if you want to relax
    sea and green lands

    Ordu and all Black sea cities.

    you can be sure if you join Turkey vacations you will be happy for these days.

    best Regads to all

  • leo said

    ok so I'm traveling to Iraq 01/25/2017 I was told by the Turkish airlines I don't have to have a visa to go through turkey to get to Iraq 1st lie. we get to turkey after 45min of trying to exit finally I'm standing in front the passport agent and he says "NO VIZA NO PASS" lie Number 2. you can leave your passport with them if your staying the night in turkey till the plane is ready, any ways we didn't even know the plane was delayed for additional 24 hour they knew but wont tell me and here is the reason behind it they want you to spend money visa $30 hotel $150 transportation $20 can I just say it already "thieves" oh by the way we get to the Turkish airline after the passport agent another 30 min of walking and guess what he gives me the bad news oh by the way your plane won't take off until the 27th of January 2017 with out even thinking I asked why why why why because he said their is snow, guess what lie number is that "3" has arrived lol ok will go along with it we get to the 4 star hotel heat wont work, called the desk asked for someone to come out he said he will send someone 4 hours later no one showed up they did after we went to breakfast so I had to call again of course aftrer I got to the room the worker said talk tot the front desk to get you another room. oh by the way this is all they speak is broken English. now its 5pm and no new room and freezing inside the hotel. we go out to the market 40 lira to the downtown area no problem coming back to the hotel different story guess what he wont drop us off at the hotel he drop us around the corner and he been increasing the fair every time he changes gears our trip coming back to 80 lira and it took less time on the way back then going in. I paid him his 40 lira and he tells me no I said we have to go to the hotel because I don't have anymore money on me he grabs me by my jacket and hit me that's twice he does that. now I'm not just pissed off 3 guys has stopped on the street to hold me back from kicking his ass I wish Turkish people know why no one treat them good because they are horrible people

  • Marwa said

    I already cover my hair so no problem here. I was actually a bit worried because Turkey is often described as a secular country and I read horror stories (which may not all be true) that happened under Mustapha Kamal's followers a long time ago.
    After reading on scams in Turkey, I was planning to buy nothing. But now that you say there is so much to get, I don't know.
    I am myself a mix of East, South, and West so I hope I will be smart and I won't stand out too much as a gullible foreigner.

  • Jasmin Karim said

    Looking forward to discover,the wonderful turkey and also bit scared about the situation women's face alone.

  • Bulum kula said

    Are you sure you want to visit a dictatorship?

  • adam said

    I agree with what you say, it is true that Turkey is a country with amazing and diverse landscapes, people, cuisine, history, art and boundless adventure opportunities. By the way after Turkey there are destinations that you can try to go next is Bali. When you are in Bali choose Theapartmentscanggu.com for your comfortable rest

  • Irfan said

    Hello friends,

    i want to travel to Trukey for a week can any one help to plan, where to stay and how many days i need to visit, i need complete plan.


  • Jacqueline said

    I will soon be embarking on a solo trip to Turkey. I will mostly visit places of interest in and around Istanbul, Izmir and Ankara. Am headed there towards the end of February 2018 and, want to find out whether it is safe for an (African) lady to travel alone? I've been learning a bit of Turkish and mainly the basics but have also been watching some of the appealing subtitled content on both Netflix and YouTube, just to improve my vocabulary. Are there any keen English speakers in Istanbul that I could linkup with, just to make the experience worthwhile? I am Namibian lady, African. My favourite pastimes are literary, food, film and music festivals. My travels are inspired by books I've read and documentaries / movies that I have seen.

  • pablo perezj said

    I agree with the things explained in this article, the most important tip for anyone who seeks sightseeing without complications with travel logistics is this page http://www.turkey-airport.com
    With that site I was able to travel quietly with my family

  • judy angel said

    Is it safe to go to turkey in June?????

  • Urban gal said

    I am planning to visit Turkey around next week. What’s the weather be like end of March/ beginning of April. A light cardigan will do or I need to pack layers? Would really appreciate if someone can enlighten me in terms of prices for mid range budget (other than flight and hotel). What are the best souvenirs and their prices

  • Retno said

    Turkish man I met in historical site asked me to buy him an unrefundable plane ticket to visit me. I refused because I thought this was a scam. He said sorry & told me that wasn't a scam. He still contacts me until now, eventhough I told him that there will be no money involved in this, ever (I also told him that asking me for a plane ticket makes him look really bad). He said that's fine & he wants me to go to Turkey to meet him again ASAP & that he will take care of my needs (food & lodging) there. Should I go & meet him? Is he a scam?

  • Retno said

    To clarify a bit:
    We only met for a short time then we talked via whatsapp (but not everyday) for a month. After that he asked me to buy him tickets to my country in south east asia.

    He doesnt work in hospitality industry.

  • States Girl said

    A friend of mine visited Istanbul two months ago. On leaving the airport he got a ride in a taxi. Ended up the driver was a bandit and took everything he had on him. Passport, wallet, clothes, everything. Then he beat him with a board and he ended up in the hospital for weeks. Just beware

  • Duygu said

    Damn... Reading some comments gave me a headache. I am a 26 year old Turkish woman, I am an atheist and have never had trouble saying it out loud, never ever covered my hair my entire life, I live with my boyfriend, been wearing bikinis to take a swim and drinking since forever and I have been surrounded with likeminded people my whole life. Of course there is crime, of course there are conservative people especially in rural areas, but those have always been and will always be wherever there are humans. Chill out, use your common sense and you will find many things to enjoy around here.

    Additionally, regarding to one of the comments above: Mustafa Kemal Ataturk was the founder of Turkish republic and he was a quite openminded and visionary person. A leader, I believe, any citizen would like to have, a leader we wish we had these days.

    Come along, seriously, we don't bite. Most of us are awesome people and we can hate the rest together :)

  • Duygu said

    Judy, on 24th June we have an election and I would advise against visiting here around that time. We are expecting protests and everything, we will have a lot going on and it will get tenser as the date approaches. Plus our economy is about to collapse really hard, I say wait a little longer so with same budget you will be able to enjoy a silent and beautiful country for a lot longer.

  • turkey travel said

    I am a person who travels all around Turkey. Turkey is a country in the middle of Europe, Asia and Africa. There are lots of cultures and wonderful monuments in Turkey. Turkey is the most beautiful country with its sun, sea and winter www.turkeyholidaystravel.com

  • Zeeshan said

    I visited Turkey for hair transplant and my Trip was a nightmare. In general people are rude and harass you for no reason. It started for me right at the airport. I had Evisa and US passport. The person at the entry asksd me for my birth certificate and I'm like I didn't know I need that to enter a country I thought visa and passport is good enough. They took me to interrogation room and claimed there is person with same name who is in their criminal list. When he showed me list name was same but DOB was different. I had to call my wife to fax my birth certificate to get out of that room as they insisted they will take me to police station and court without any real evidence. I asked for US embassy and they refused. Finally one guy authorized me to make call to US to my wife so I can get birth certificare faxed. Once I got out I spent a day there and once I came back to hotel the Fri t desk stopped me in elevator and asked for key while my brother told him he is in same hotel as him. On street people push you and all in all my experience was horrible. One more thing immigration officer asked me for my Religion? I would say stay away from this country.

  • Tajayb said

    I came on this website because I wanted some insight on this country and fun things to do. But instead I see a large amount of people bashing the country because they believe they were scammed. It’s giving me a serious headache. First of all that is ignorance to think that way. You have to remember, much like Jamaica where I am originally from, Turkish people need to make money so that they can look after their family. Yes marketers may change prices if they realise you are a tourist you have to use your brain and negotiate with them. At the end of the day everyone has to make a living. As you can see from the exchange rate of TL to British pounds the economy isn’t that grate so don’t be shocked and stop acting like spoil children because you felt you have been over charged when really if you convert the money back to pounds or dollars you still haven’t payed a fraction of what you would in the US or UK.

  • Sue young said

    Get a grip. Turkey is as easy going and not so exotic as any where else. Be safe in the same way as in UK, respect others as in UK, get over the need to make a bit of a travel into a big adventure and dinner party conversation. It's moved on since Midnight Express.

  • Naz said

    It never has been like Midnight Express anyway... Just the foreigner media makes always really bad and unreal news about the country since the history....

    When you break down the prejudices, you will really enjoy the country. There is good food, friendly people, landscape and history..

    And lastly, yes Turkey is culturally a mix of West and East which means everybody (secular or conservative) respects each other. So you can be anyone! No one is going to kill you beacuse you are the opposite. At least I’ve never seen one example as a Turkish.

  • Cathu said

    Hiya - I know this is probably a silly question but I got my evisa back in May for a weeks travel , then I used it again for two weeks holiday in July .
    I’m going back again next week for a fortnite and someone has told me that I need to get a new one as it only covers one stay up to 90 days and though it’s date is still valid it doesn’t cover me for going back for a third time ?
    Can anybody advise me if this is correct?
    Many thanks

  • Domian said

    I visited Turkey last summer. I was great country. Istanbul, Cappadocia, muğla are really beautiful. But, to find free internet could be challenging and local people dont know English very much. I rented a portable Wifi from Rent and Connect. Its cost is aproximetly 5 Euro per day.

  • Hollie said

    I’m just reading some of the comments, I’m a female travelling stopping at alanya for a week, has anyone been this area and is it safe do a solo female traveler. Also has anyone traveled there in February if so what is the weather and stops here like is ther many tourist at this time? Thanks in advance

  • PINAR said

    Turkey is safe! Turkey is home to fairy chimneys and hot air balloons, Roman history and kebabs, a world wonder and 16 UNESCO World Heritage sites! In 2017 Turkey will also host many international travel conferences, as it aims to draw more visitors to this historic country.

  • David said

    Please I want to come to turkey but my challenge is possibility of getting work easily and accommodation. Please I need reply, really need a place to stay

  • Yamalo said

    good show. well elaborated post. i was reading another post on almost the same subject https://www.livetravelturkey.com it is related to the someone personal experiences living and traveling Turkey.

  • Katie said

    Zeeshan is the only one telling the truth about travel in Turkey it’s very dangerous and as he said people are very opposed to foreigners. And although Istanbul is beautiful it simply isn’t worth the problems.

  • whitsundays.tours said

    hi there thanks for the information

  • Anna said

    I travelled to Turkey - istanbul and cappadoccia. I travelled with my son who i now believe buffered me from did the experience of groppy creepy men. They assumed he may be my chaperone or partner. I did experience some street vendor invading my space despite me telling him to keep away. I was alone buying and haggling for a suitcase while my son had gone to get something at a different stall, however when he arrived the vendor suddenly changed composure and quit what he was doing. My interactions with taxi men, tour guides and hotel staff was positive. They were very friendly and chatty. While doing the big tour bus, i got to speak to an african student who was currently living and studying in istanbul. His story about the experience of african students in Istanbul was not a positive one im afraid. I concluded that it was different visiting as a tourist for a week as opposed to living there. According to him, majority turkish people are very consertive muslims even though the nation strives to potray a modern westerlike image. I recall being asked a few times where i am from and what my religion was quite a few times. My take is i wouldnt be comfortable travelling as a solo woman and definately do educate yourself about their culture and respect it. Turkey is a muslim country. I was never attacked, mugged nor dupped by anyone. I may have been overcharged for some taxi or hotel but that can happen if you dont do your homework-they are just trying to make a living. Good luck with your travels.
    From a Black female african woman.

  • Masimba said

    What an educative guide though there is one more area f concern that has not be covered that is the internet sector when travelling to Istanbul. Am planning to travel to Istanbul for the 2019 Super Cup finals and I need a reliable internet. I have had companies like rent n connect though the last time I used Skyroam and it was really terrible.

  • Calz said

    Thank you for the great tips I really enjoyed reading this article
    I’m planing a trip to turkey with my family soon and just by reading this it felt as if i actually was there. One more issue that yiou had not addressed is the internet connectivity. Am planning to place an order for the Pocket WiFi with rent n connect let me know of this is the right choice or if there are more options on this that are better.

  • Farhan Zafar Khan said

    Great work there, very informative.

  • javier perez said

    Turkey sounds to me a very fascinating city. Thanks for the article it will help me bit to know what all things to do when I am planning. Getting an e Visa sounds great to me, so I don't have to visit any offices, it takes away all the hassle.

  • David said

    I can see turkey is a nice place to be
    I will some day.

  • Paul said

    I have been to different parts of Turkey but I love going to icmeler very friendly thay ask you to go into there shop you say no thanks they don't bother you great people great pl

  • Elena Ricciardi said

    I have been living in Istanbul for 5 years now, didn't have much of a probem with walking around in tiny shorts or bikinis on the beach. There are way more secular and liberal Turkish people than average European-US citizen knows of. I don't feel any different than Roma in Istanbul which is my hometown until the ezan reminds me. :) Shorts, cleavages to sum up revealing clothing are very common and fine here except for very undeveloped/unsafe neighbourhoods and also mosques. But these exist in many countries around the world, so avoid them (the unsafe neighbourhoods not the beautiful mosques!) and you'll be just fine. Beautiful country, definitely worth the visit. In my case, worth to settle in. Fethiye(Uzumlu and Kayakoy villages in particular for fine wine tastings), Kas, Rize, Cappadocia, Mardin are must see's.

  • Tim Scottious said

    Oh how I could go back and travel to Turkey again! There's so many places I haven't been to!

  • ADNAN TUNC said

    Your article made me feel a little shocked. You tell to visitors what to wear? Really?
    Turkey is a TURKISH country with a secular constitution. It's NOT a Middle East / Arabic country.
    Actually this should be the core subject of your article.
    What women wear is their personal choices and this should not be a part of an article about a country which is the 6th most visited in the world.
    You can see women wearing bikinis or mini skirts in Turkey. If they wanna wear long dresses, well it's also their choices. We are talking about Turkey, not about primitive tribes.
    Turkey is a modern country and should be much well understood!

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