Turkey Tour & Travel Guide – Part 1, The Basics

In this first part we will cover for you the following points:

  • Why visit Turkey
  • Useful tips for visitors such as visas, language, currency, etc
  • Weather in Turkey
  • A brief history of Turkey

In additional parts to follow, so be sure to refer back to our blog frequently, we will also be providing you with:

  • PART 2 : Regions of Turkey and the main areas to explore in each
  • PART 3 : What to do & see in Turkey : In Depth Main Historical, Cultural & Natural Attractins
  • PART 4 : Turkish Cuisine (what to eat & “foodie excursions”)
  • PART 5 : Traditions & Interesting Turkish Folklore heroes & stories
  • PART 6 : What to do & see in Turkey : Lesser Visited Routes & Sights

Why visit Turkey?

Turkey is one of the top ten travel destinations, welcoming more than 30 million visitors each year. It is a country that has something for everyone to enjoy:

  • Cosmopolitan cities, the most famous of which are Istanbul and Izmir
  • Beautiful coastlines along the Aegean, Mediterranean & Black Sea regions with numerous watersports and yachting (guleting) opportunities
  • An incredible number of archaeological sites & museums
  • Pictureques towns & quaint villages
  • Lakes, mountain ranges & plateaus
  • World famous Turkish Cuisine
  • World famous Turkish hospitality
  • Hot air ballooning, paraglyding, hiking, mountaineering, skiing, white water rafting, kayaking, bicycling, quad biking and horse riding are some of the adventure activities on offer
  • Shop till you drop, besides the more traditional venues such as the Grand Bazaar, there are many modern shopping malls and centers offering local & international designer brands.
  • A great hopping off point to do a combination of Turkey & Greece or Turkey & Jordan or Turkey & Egypt or Israel.
  • Historically & culturally rich, Turkey can be visited time and time again, there is too much to explore in just one visit. A significant number of our clients have expressed their desire to definitely return and enjoy more of what Turkey has to offer them, after having a great first experience. If you wish to read about some of their experiences you can take a look on TripAdvisor.

Useful Turkey Travel Tips for Visitors

Is travel in Turkey safe : Yes, Turkey is a safe country in which to travel, with Interpol ranking it as one of the safest destinations in the Europe region. Turks are friendly and enjoy welcoming foreign visitors to explore & share in their country’s cultural & historical heritage. You only really need to practice the normal personal safety measures that you would living in your own country, such as keep your passport & valuables safely on your person, don’t go strolling down dark unknown alleys very late at night, and the like.

Do I need a Visa for Turkey :  Turkey now has in place an E-Visa system for all travellers. The E-Visa can easily be obtained online through the Official Turkish E-Visa Website

It takes only a few minutes to complete the application form, after which your Turkish E-visa is emailed to you to print out and bring with you, to be shown when going through passport control. For restricted nationalities, additional formalities/prerequisites might apply, these are noted on the 3rd page (when relevant) of the application process.

What Currency does Turkey use + Can I use ATM’s & Credit Cards in Turkey : The local currency is the Turkish Lira (TL). You can exchange Euro or US$ to TL once in Turkey, through local exchange offices that are prolific in main touristic areas. Avoid exchanging large amounts at the airports, as they offer the least favorable exchange rates. You can also withdraw local currency from ATM’s using your debit card or credit card and the majority of ATM’s have an English language menu option. Mastercard and Visa credit cards are also widely accepted throughout Turkey. Euro & US$ are also accepted by most restaurants and stores in touristic areas.

What is the Language in Turkey : The official language is Turkish. English is also taught, so in most areas of Turkey, especially in the main tourist areas, you should have no problem communicating. Restaurants generally have English versions of their menus. Information boards & pamphlets at historical sites & museums are usually in both Turkey & English (sometimes also in German, French, Spanish & Italian).

Is it Safe to Drink the Water in Turkey : Water from the tap is safe for bathing and brushing your teeth, however for drinking water we highly recommend that you stick with bottled spring water which is cheap and plentiful. Always a great idea to have a bottle of water (at least 500ml) in your day bag when out exploring, especially in the hotter months of June through September.

What should I Wear in Turkey (Dress code) : Clean, neat and comfortable are the norm. Reliable & comfortable walking shoes are a MUST as you will be covering quite a bit of uneven terrain at points. Turkey is fashionable, especially in the larger cities, with locals wearing clothing similar to that found in most European-Western countries.  Avoid short-shorts or anything over revealing, which could result in curiosity / unwelcome attention. For visits of religious sites such as mosques and churches, all persons need to cover at least their shoulders, elbows and knees (no shorts) – for ladies you also need to cover your hair. Wear socks to walk on the carpets in their interiors. For dinners out, smart casual / tidy informal is suitable, though you will need a dress or jacket for more upscale restaurants.  During Summer months, lightweight cottons and linens recommended. During Winter wrap up warmly in woollen gear, coats and waterproof jackets or an umbrella due to rain & snow.

Electricity in Turkey : For any device(s) that you bring with you that will require charging, please note that Turkey operates on 220 volts (50Hz) and uses the 2-round pin European-style plug that fits into a recessed wall socket. If required, please purchase a plug adaptor / current adaptor BEFORE you travel.

Mobile Phones in Turkey + SIM cards + Mobile WIFI : Many international operators provide coverage in Turkey or you could alternatively purchase a SIM card from one of the local operators such as Turkcell (the largest operator), Avea & Vodafone. Each offers SIM packages for travellers that usually include internet, calls, messaging and Whatsapp. Each local operator has outlets in the international arrivals section of Istanbul Airport.  You could also rent Mobile Wifi from companies such as “alldaywifi” or similar who offer delivery of the device within Turkey (to your first hotel and collect it from your last hotel).

Children in Turkey : Children are very important to Turkish people, and in general, both the Turkish people and Turkey have a welcoming, relaxed approach to children and will go out of their way to be accommodating and helpful. Formula milk and nappies are easily available, although if you want a specific brand, then it is probably best to bring it with you. UHT milk is widely available in small cartons, with a straw, which is useful for toddlers and older children. It is perfectly normal for even very young children to eat out in the evening with their parents. Children’s car seats are still seen as a luxury item in Turkey but most tour operators and car hire companies will be able to provide them for you on request … you should not assume that this will automatically be the case.

Prescribed Medication & Drugs : If you have any medications which you need to bring on holiday with you, you will to carry with you also a doctor’s note and/or a copy of your prescription. Please bring your medications in their original packaging. Turkey has very strict laws against the use, possession or trafficking of illegal drugs.

Medical Treatment & Hospitals : Foreign visitors will need to pay for any medical treatment which they receive while in Turkey. Therefore it is advised to take out medical insurance before travelling.

Turkish hospitals on the whole offer low cost but world class medical care services. Pharmacies in most areas will have trained pharmacists who are able to offer advice on minor illnesses.  Turkey has a network of more than 1200 public and private hospitals.

National & Religious Holidays in Turkey :  Over national & religious holidays, banks and government offices are closed. Shops and businesses in touristic areas will be open, especially during peak months May through October. Those further away from touristic areas are generally closed.

  • 01 January – New Year’s Day
  • 23 April – National Sovereignty and Children’s Day
  • 01 May – Labour Day
  • 19 May – Commemoration of Ataturk, Youth and Sports Day
  • 30 August – Victory Day
  • 29 October – Republic Day
  • Ramadan Festival – Religious Holiday
  • Feast of Sacrifice – Religious Holiday

Religious holidays-festivals change according to the lunar calendar therefore fall on different dates each year in Turkey. Over these main two religious holidays, a number of historical sights & museums in Istanbul may close, either only for the first day or for the duration (such as the Grand Bazaar which is closed for the duration).

Weather / Seasons in Turkey

  • SPRING : April-May
  • SUMMER : June-September
  • AUTUMN : October-November
  • WINTER : December-March

During Spring & Autumn the days are sunny with a chance of rain, cool day time temperatures with mild chilly evenings. It is recommended to have a warm windbreaker/jacket handy to use as needed.

The hottest months of the Summer season are July & August. Clothing of breathable fabrics (such as cotton) highly recommended and definately pack sunglasses, sunhats & sunscreen. No issues with rain, unless travelling in the Black Sea Coastal region.

During Winter season you will need to snuggle up in warm woolen clothing and bring an umbrella and/or waterproof jacket for protection from rain, as well as snow in some areas. Areas such as Antalya on the Mediterranean coast are warmer, however increasing colder at higher elevations.

Turkey Weather Charts / Graphs below are covering the most popular areas of Touring in Turkey.

Izmir Kusadasi Weather
Izmir, Kusadasi
Istanbul Weather Chart
Istanbul Weather
South Eastern Turkey
Antalya Bodrum Marmaris
Black Sea

History of Turkey – In Brief

Turkey’s history of human habitation goes back some 25.000 years. A great number of civilizations which include the Hittites, Hellens, Romans, Byzantines, Seljuks, Ottomans and others, rose and fell here, leaving behind them a wealth of historical sites. By the end of the World War I, the Ottoman Empire was occupied by the Allies and the Ottoman government left defeated. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, a popular young General in the Ottoman army, emerged as the leader to take Turkey forward into a new era. During the War of Independence (1919-1923), Mustafa Kemal was elected President of the Turkish Grand National Assembly. He successfully negotiated the Lausanne Peace Treaty which set Turkey’s national borders and recognized Turkey’s right of sovereignty. The Turkish Republic was proclaimed on 29 October 1923.

23000 BC : Cave at Karain, north of Antalya, inhabited by humans, oldest known evidence of habitation in Anatolia

6500 BC : A Neolithic city is established at Catalhoyuk in Central Anatolia, the world’s first known settlement.

5000 BC : Stone and Copper Age. People have already been living in Anatolia for 20,000 years.

2600 BC – 1900 BC : The Proto-Hittite Empire flourishes in Central Anatolia and the Southeast.

1900 BC – 1300 BC : Hittite Empire flourishes, battles Egypt. Patriarch Abraham dwelling in Harran, near Sanliurfa.

1300 BC – 1260 BC : The Trojan Wars described by Homer in the Iliad.

900 BC – 800 BC : Rise of Phrygian, Lydian and Carian cultures.

725 BC : King Midas rules the Phrygians from his capital of Gordion (near modern day Ankara).

561 BC – 546 BC : Croesus rules the Lydians until his defeat by the Persian Empire.

353 BC : Death of Mausolus, ruler of the Hectamonid clan, who built his famous tomb at Halicarnassus.

334 BC : Alexander the Great crosses the Dardanelles from Macedonia and sweeps across Asia Minor.

279 BC : Celts invade and establish the kingdom of Galatia near Ankara.

250 BC : Rise of the Kingdom of Pergamon as an Anatolian power.

129 BC : Anatolia becomes the Roman Province of Asia, with its capital at Ephesus.

64 BC – 38 BC : Antiochus I rules the Commagene Kingdom and builds a temple at the summit of Mount Nemrut.

56 AD : St.Paul stays in the city of Ephesus and writes his famous Epistles.

330 AD : Constantine chooses the minor town of Byzantium as the capital of the Holy Roman Empire, rebuilding it in the image of Rome and renaming it Constantinople.

537 AD : Inauguration of Hagia Sophia church in Istanbul by the Emperor Justinian.

570 AD – 622 AD : Birth of Muhammed. Revelation of the Kur’an. Muhammed’s hejira from Mecca to Medina.

1037 – 1109 : Turkish Empire of the Great Seljuks in Iran.

1071 – 1243 : Seljuk Sultanate of Rum, an offshoot of the Great Seljuk Empire, established in Anatolia with its capital in Konya. Mystic poet and philosopher Jelaleddin Rumi, called Mevlana, takes up residence in Konya, writes his great works, and inspires the founding of the Whirling Dervish Sufi order.

1299 : The Ottoman state is formed by Osman Bey from whom it takes its Turkish name Osmanli.

1453 : Fatih Sultan Mehmet conquers Istanbul, bringing the Byzantine age to an end, and renames it Istanbul.

1520 – 1566 : Reign of Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent, the great age of the Ottoman Empire. The sultan rules most of North Africa, most of Eastern Europe and all of the Middle East.

1571 : Ottomans conquer Cyprus.

1914 : Ottoman Empire enters the First World War on the side of the Germans.

1923 : Mustafa Kemal Ataturk founds the Republic of Turkey.

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