Introduction to Turkey
The European country of Turkey is located to the northeast of the Mediterranean Sea. It is bordered by the Black Sea to the north and the Aegean Sea to the west. Turkey’s surface area is slightly bigger than that of Texas.
In 1964, Turkey became an associate member of the European Community. Over the past decade, it has taken action to strengthen its democracy and economy. Turkey began membership talks with the European Union in 2005. Accession negotiations are expected to take approximately 10 years. The population of Turkey is approximately 74.8 million. The capital city is Ankara and the largest and most populated city is Istanbul. Islam is the country’s major religion and Turkish is the official language.
Passports & Visas
Passports are required to enter and leave Turkey. Visas are not required for US citizens for visits of less than 90 days. For longer visits, contact the nearest Turkish embassy.
Obtaining a US passport
The US Government Website is where to start.
For local Consulates, look under Consulates on the Website
Provides consular assistance to U.S. citizens
Turkey Tourist Information
Culture and History
A Brief History of Turkey
Currency and Money
Turkey uses the Turkish Lira as its currency.
For today’s exchange rate click here
Driving in Turkey
The motor vehicle accident rate in Turkey is among the highest in the world, therefore it is important to drive defensively and to avoid driving at night. Turks drive on the right side of the road.
Electricity in Turkey
Turkish electricity is 220 V AC at 50 Hz. A typical European two-pin adapter will fit most Turkish sockets.
Ambulance (public): 112
Etiquette in Turkey
Turkey is a Muslim country. As such, many Islamic customs are integrated into society and practiced on a day-to-day basis. It is important for tourists to dress and behave modestly. Women should cover their shoulders and arms and keep skirt lengths below the knee. Men should also keep their shoulders covered and wear pants instead of shorts when out in public. If visiting a mosque, women must cover their head, shoulders, arms and legs, taking care not to show ankles or feet.
During the month of Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn until dusk. Moreover, devout Muslims do not drink alcohol. Out of respect for this practice, tourists should avoid excessive drinking and associated obnoxious behaviors. If invited to a Turkish person’s home, it is polite to bring a small gift, candy or pastries.
Public Hours in Turkey
Banks and government offices are open from 8.00 to 2:00 pm Monday – Thursday, Fridays until 1:30, and are closed on Saturday and Sunday.
Though Turkey is quite safe and has one of the lowest crime rates in the European Union, larger cities (such as Ankara, Istanbul and Izmir) have experienced an increase in crime during recent years. Violent crime is rare, but small theft and car theft have been on the rise. Be on the lookout for pick-pockets who tend to frequent train stations and touristy areas.
Turkey is in the Eastern European Time Zone. Eastern European Standard Time (EET) is 2 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT+2).
Tipping in Turkey
Tipping in Turkey is not necessary. However, if you receive exceptional service and do want to leave a tip, 5% to 10% is appropriate for inexpensive establishments and 10% to 15% in luxury restaurants.
Tips are typically not given to cab drivers. Rounding up on the tab is sufficient.
Weather in Turkey
In general, the Turkish climate is rather temperate. Turkey experiences hot, dry summers with mild, wet winters. The weather tends to be harsher in the interior than on the coast.
Winters (from mid-November to the end of February) tend to be cool (in the 40-50s). The likelihood of rain is higher in January and February. Summers (from May to September) are hot and dry with temperatures ranging from the 70s to the 90s.
Getting Around in Turkey
Most travelers to Turkey arrive by air, which is typically the least expensive and fastest way to get there. Most international flights arrive at the Atatürk International Airport (IST), about 14 miles from Istanbul.
Boats and Ferries
Most people travel between the Greek Isles and Turkey by boat. Ferries depart from six Greek islands to ten ports in Turkey. The busiest and largest Turkish ports are Bodrum, Marmaris, Kusadasi and Cesme. The most frequent departures from Greece to Turkey are from the ports of Rhodes, Kos, Samos and Chios.
For comprehensive information on water travel in Turkey, see Turkey travel planner
All of the major cities in Turkey are connected by the Turkish State Railway. Turkish trains are considered safe and reliable and a good alternative to driving in the country. There are high-speed trains from Istanbul and Ankara.
Many major international car rental companies are in Istanbul, Antalya, Izmir, Ankara, Dalaman, Bodrum, Marmaris, Fethiye, Gocek, Kayseri, Cappadocia, Urgup, Adana, Gaziantep, Denizli, Van, Diyarbakir, and Trabzon. Typically, drivers must be over the age of 21 to rent a car.
Taxis are prevalent in all Turkish cities. The typical Turkish taxi is a compact five-seat car which can seat two passengers comfortably, three passengers if needed (though it is a bit tight), and four passengers (with one sitting in the front seat) if the driver is amenable to this. Drivers will willingly take you from city to city in a Taxi. If this is the case, it is best to agree on a fixed rate before leaving.
No permit is required to carry medication in your luggage. However, you should pack your medication in its original containers and/or have your doctor’s prescription with you. Customs officials will have to be satisfied that you are not importing more than would be necessary for your personal use, taking into account the drug type and length of stay (for no more than three months).
Lodging in Turkey
Turkey offers every type of lodging from couch-surfing, to hostels and agritourism to 5-Star resorts.
Main Sights in Turkey
Some of the main sites in Istanbul are The Topkapi Palace, the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sofia—all architectural marvels from the Ottoman Empire. The popular spice market and jewelry market are the perfect places to do some souvenir shopping before enjoying a lunch of fresh fish at a riverfront restaurant along the Bosporus. Turkey has a romantic and historical past that you can see in Cappadocia, Izmir and Ankara
Public Holidays in Turkey
1 Jan New Year’s Day.
23 Apr National Sovereignty and Children’s Day
1 May May Day Public Holiday (Istanbul only)
19 May Commemoration of Atatürk and Youth and Sports Day
30 Aug Victory Day
28 Oct – 29 Oct (28th is a half-day) Republic Day
Telephones in Turkey
The pay phones in Turkey only accept phone cards or credit cards, not cash or coin. You can get a phone card from gas stations and many stores including money exchangers.
The International country calling code of Turkey is +90
Turkey City Area Telephone Codes
Istanbul (Asian Side) +90 216
Istanbul (Europe Side) +90 212
Ankara +90 312
Izmir +90 232
Antalya +90 242
Bursa +90 224
Izmir +90 232
Izmit +90 262
To call the United States from turkey, dial 00 1 followed by the area code and phone number.
Returning to the US
Value Added Tax (VAT or IVA) Refund Information
The VAT in Greece is approximately 18%. It is possible to get this returned to you at the airport at the end of your trip. For any major purchase, make sure you have a receipt and ask the retailer for a VAT form.
If you are a U.S. or Canadian resident, you may qualify for a personal exemption which allows you to bring goods of a certain value into the country without paying customs duties, excise taxes, or Value Added Tax.