Visiting Turkey – Tips and Advice


General advice and tip on travelling in Turkey

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The bus is still in Turkey the main form of transportation. Every town, every area in Turkey can be reached from the bus station, the *otogar*. Otogar is a word combination, (“Oto” means car, “Gar” comes from the French word Gare for station). Go there and you’ll find all bus companies – tickets can be obtained right here. A confusing picture sometimes as there are so many agencies – so do decide on a serious company. And specially in summertime do book in time.

All buses have good comfort and air conditioning and a stop on the way for having a meal is always arranged

The Dolmus (dolmush) is typically Turkish and can be found everywhere. These are mainly minibuses traveling relatively short distances. A dolmus usually waits and starts in the bus station () until it is full and then leaves. You can board a dolmus anywhere on its route by signaling it to stop for you. Similarly you can get off at a convenient point anywhere along the route. The destination of the dolmus is posted in the windscreen. This kind of public transport is cheap and efficient and works very well all over Turkey.

Money Matters
Turkish currency is the Lira (TL) and the inflation rate still is very high (between 70 and 80%.) So prices in this country change quickly. Don’t change at home, change in Turkey! The rate is a lot better here. Unless you’ve just won the lottery! Check your money and receipt before leaving the bank Get used to the color and denomination of the Turkish Lira (TL) before going out to spend them. Spread them out somewhere and have a good look (and a small gloat at the millions!). Calculate an exchange rate to fit each note, and round up or down so you can remember it. E.g.: 1,000,000TL (1 Million) is about half a pound – something like that. When you buy something, make sure you understand how many TL are needed, shopkeepers often write the sum down to avoid confusion, and count your notes out carefully. Anyhow many of the restaurant owners or shop keepers are used to western currencies.

National holidays
Official holidays are:
January 1st – New Year’s Day
April 23rd – Children’s Day
May 19th – Day of youth and sport
MIA 27th – Day of constitution
August 30th Victory Day.
October 29th Republic Day

Religious holidays
In Islam there are two big religious festivals. During the fasting time (Ramadan or Ramadan), Muslims are forbidden to eat, drink, smoke or have sexual intercourse between sunrise and sunset. Armada marks God’s revelation of the Koran, Islam’s holy book to the Prophet Mohammed. This 4 weeks fasting time is followed by the Sugar Fete (Seker Bayrami), when people visit each other and offering sweets.

About two months later Kurban Bayrami is celebrated – ‘The Festival of Sacrifice’, which is Turkey’s longest religious and also secular holiday. This festival commemorates Abraham’s near sacrifice of his son Isaac (Koran Rura 37).

Following Islamic tradition, several million rams are sacrificed in Turkey every year. Every devout household who can effort it buys one. After morning prayers on the first day of the festival the sheep is killed, skinned and butchered for a feast later in the day. A sizable portion of the meat is given to the poor, and the skin is given to a charity organisation, which raises funds by selling the skins to leather factories.

The following days are spent visiting family and close friends, with Turks frequently traveling long distances to be with their families for the holiday. This means that all forms of public transport are fully booked, roads are very busy and accommodation of all types in the resorts will be scarce and expensive.

The roads all over Turkey have improved and are much better now then a couple of years ago.The time is over – when roads where classified in *dusty* and *non-dusty* roads. But to get good and detailed maps is still a problem here – not everywhere available. That pump stations sell a variety of maps, as you are used too, don’t expect that here. You better buy them at home.

Your first impression of traffic in Turkey will be shocking: queue jumping and honking cars, specially taxis who are not bothered about traffic lights and over taking in most impossible places. Pedestrians appear to have suicidal tendencies. Bikes and motor-bikes without light and opposite the One-Way street – that’s absolute normal.

Statistics show that Turkey has the highest record of road accidents. The average driver drives without any consideration to other road users. Their primary weapon is their horn.

Rent a car – self drive
Coming to Turkey by plane and then rent a car is for sure a perfect way to spent your holidays. But prices compare to European countries or US are high. Be careful and drive the defensive way in Turkey.

To find public toilets in Turkey is still a problem. Although the hotels have improved their standards, in little restaurants you will be shocked once in a while. A Tip: All mosques have public toilets (in Turkish “Tuvalet”). “Bay” is man; “Bayan” means lady.

The service on bills is not specially indicated in hotels or restaurants, you should calculate 5 to 10%. In some of the existing travel guides the amount of 15% is recommended – (living here) this we found to high. Of course as for every service, tipping is expected and the salaries are very low in Turkey, so many people are dependent on this sort of extra income. If the car is standing nicely washed and polished in front of the hotel next morning – an English pound or two dollars would be just nice. In general – like everywhere all over the world: the right tipping can open doors – so it does in Turkey.

Drinking water
Water from the tap is mainly water for use, like for washing, you should not drink it. To have drinking water -we recommend the mineral water in those plastic bottles.This water has an outstandingly good quality all over Turkey.