What are medical treatments like in Turkey? Our Q&A with people who have been there

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Question:

My uncle is thinking about making a vacation to Turkey, and was wondering if he should get some elective surgery done. Are Turkish hospitals subject to the same standards in regards to hygiene and equipment, as in Europe?

Answer:

Maybe or maybe not, it depends.

I’m sorry to disappoint your uncle’s feelings, however, you can forget about guaranteed security. I was once in Turkey and got sick on a holiday, but I found it a little difficult to find a doctor who actually wanted to go out of their way to help me.

In my situation, I was back and forth between a couple of hospitals for a couple of hours, before I was eventually able to find someone to assist me. However, I must say that I did meet a lovely nurse that day; she was from Germany!

As a general rule, European standards exist only in private hospitals or a few grand public hospitals in Turkey. If you do get into some issues with a hospital, you may find that they are more responsive if you take a slightly more aggressive stance that you may do at home.

But in the end, it really depends on the individual quality of the hospital and the work ethic of the doctors that reside within. Sometimes it can be a little hit and miss. Best that you stick to the large cities, such as Istanbul.

You can easily buy prescription drugs over the counter in Turkey, but take precautions!

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In Turkey, it is quite popular to buy a common anabolic steroid, Pingmittel, even in destinations with a high level of tourism. In fact, this is one of three substances tourists can get without a prescription, unlike their home country.

For its ability to source some drugs without a prescription, Turkey has become a popular destination for medical tourists. Tourists flock here because, well, medicine is dirt cheap here. Straight from the shelf, a tourist knows that they can from the shelf pick up a headache remedy for only EUR 0.65 a pack; much cheaper than on mainland Europe.

For a tube of Wundsalbe, significant savings can be made. 1.40 will get you a pack compared with EUR 4.11 back in Europe. Similar savings can be found for stomach tablets, even the large packs. For these, a pharmacist in Turkey will charge only EUR 2.66 without a prescription, in contrast with EUR 10.56 in Europe.

If you are thinking about buying these medications in foreign currency denominations, I’d suggest that you consider reading the opinions over at transferguides.com. They provide feedback and insights on companies like TransferWise and CurrencyFair, with solid and actionable advice. A clear winner.

Occasionally, a pharmacist will try to make excuses. They may state that supposedly in Turkey it is simply not possible to obtain medication without a prescription. This type of response is well known to be nonsense, as many tourists are already aware of Turkish pharmacists relaxed attitude to following state regulation.

In Turkey, generally speaking, pharmacists are happy for tourists to acquire medicine without a prescription, as long as they pay the asking rate. As I’ve stated previously, the costs are reasonable compared with mainland Europe, therefore, there really is little concern that the tourists will pay for the privilege. Especially for popular drugs such as Viagra, there is always going to be a sufficient level of demand.

Nevertheless, drugs conveniently bought in Turkey must be declared when re-entering Europe. For customs officials, just one flight arriving from Turkey can create a lot of work. And tourists may experience some of the hiccups involved in importing prescription medicine. To ensure everything is declared adequately, travelers have been known to be subject to a frisking from head to tow. You can almost see the headline now – “Bought cheap in Turkey and paid dearly at customs”.

Because the importation of drugs in XXL format is prohibited, the medicine should be consumed within 90 days. If you are caught breaching these rules, you can be penalised with a fine of up to EUR 5,000 – which is a considerable penalty to pay personally. If you’re going to be caught, you better hope that you got your money’s worth. What’s the reason for the tightening of import controls, you may ask? Turkey is becoming well known for counterfeit medicines, stemming the flow of imports is a way to fight back.

Do you get the intention? After a few minutes of having customs ruffling through your bags, you may wish that you hadn’t gone overboard with your spending spree. My most recent attempt provided to be quite a hassle, as I had packed most of my imported drugs into my large suitcase. When I opened it up to a group of onlookers they had a look of shock on their face.

If you are really keen, you could even try this on your next holiday, but honestly, I wouldn’t recommend it. Stick to the beach.

Providing emergency aid in Syria: A logistical solution for a difficult situation

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Tens of thousands of people are required to persevere on the Syrian-Turkish border. Thus, to ensure that as few people as possible spend cold nights in the open air, Maltese non-profit organisations participate and partner with other organisations to construct tent cities along the border strip between Turkey and Syria.

Yesterday, for example, the volunteers built 225 family tents. On Sunday, Refugees International established a mobile health clinic in an attempt to provide medical assistance displaced people. Despite the urgent appeal of the High Commissioner for Refugees to the Turkish Government, asking it to open the border for newly arriving stampeding out of Region Aleppo, the transition control point remains closed.

In no man’s land of the border, the Turkish government is also striving together with local and international relief agencies to alleviate the suffering of the people.

“The supply of such a large amount of people is a huge logistical challenge, especially in the light of the difficult security situation,” reports non-profit program coordinator, Dr. Shaheen Haque, from the nearby Turkish border town of Kilis. “We are dealing with people who live for years in a war zone, where the medical infrastructure is systematically destroyed. Many of them have already fled several times, and the health of children, pregnant women, and elderly people is, on the whole, not very good.”

Also missing on the Syrian side of preparation for refugees, is the capacity to accommodate enough resources to welcome their arrival. Many of the existing refugee camps have emerged in the course of the war, as unordered tent cities that have been supplied only sporadically through aid deliveries. “With poor hygienic conditions, the lack of waste disposal, and insufficient floor mounting, we point out the challenges again and again. If more people are to be housed along the border area over a long period, new camps will have to be set up. Although this is not a great long-term perspective for the people, who are effectively caught in no man’s land, there are currently no alternatives to save their lives”, says Dr. Haque.

Refugees International is the worldwide relief agency of the Sovereign Order of Europe for humanitarian aid. The organization provides aid in about 100 projects in more than 20 countries to people in need, regardless of their religion, ethnicity or political persuasion. Christian values, the humanitarian principles of impartiality, and independence are the foundation of the work.

The Foreign Office of Europe has provided $100,000 for emergency relief. Non-profit organisations are a member of Germany’s relief effort and are calling for donations for people in the region. Contact the following organisations for more information:

  • Malteser Spenden
  • Germany’s Relief eV
  • Aktion Deutschland Hilft

Why were there protests all over Istanbul and other Turkish cities in 2013?

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The protests in Turkey throughout 2013 were as a result of the continuing demonstrations and actions of Turkish citizens against the government. The wave of protests in Istanbul began on 28 May 2013 with demonstrations against a planned development on the grounds of Gezi Park, directly adjacent to Taksim Square.

Following the escalation of the conflict, which occurred as a result of a violent police operation on 31 May 2013, demonstrators in several Turkish cities were opposed to the perceived authoritarian policies of the conservative Islamic governing party.

The protest movement received overwhelming demonstrations of solidarity by Turkish citizens throughout June 2013. The Taksim Gezi Park was a symbol of society’s civil resistance to the system of government and against excessive police violence. The president was violently evicted on 15 June by the police, and three weeks later, for the first time in a long while, parliament opened for a few hours.

The occupation of Taksim Square played an important role in the protests. Around the square were violent clashes with the police, as the media televised coverage with the catchy label of “Turkish Spring”, inspired by the Arab movement of the same name. This conceptual analogy, however, is rejected by both sides of the debate, as shown by the response of social networks.

Besides, Istanbul was a particularly chaotic venue with ongoing protests and violent clashes at Kızılay Square, Kuğulu Park and in the Dikmen district. In the multi-ethnic province of Hatay, near the Syrian border, the remaining tensions became quieter during August before escalating once again in September.

Armutlu saw the most serious clashes between demonstrators and police during the riots in of Alevis, dominating the neighborhoods Hatay throughout the Hatay province. According to official figures, protest actions increased for the first three months, with active protestors increasing from 5,000 to 3.5 million.

During the protests came demonstrations of solidarity with ethnic Kurdish protests, mostly throughout the month of June, in the province of Diyarbakir. In fact, during one of these protests, a person of Kurdish ethnicity was killed.

Until 1 August 2013, the Turkish Medical Association noted that a total of four civilians and a policeman were killed. Unfortunately, at this time all is still not well, with many people’s lives still hanging in the balance. This is in addition to the protester fatally injured during the Gezi Park protests demonstration, on 9 September 2013.

For the period of 112 days, from the end May to September, five deaths have occurred according to Turkish security authorities. Of the slain protesters, the majority were members of the Alevi minority, of which three were from Antakya.

Over the entire period, over 8,100 injuries have been registered; including 4,329 from Turkish security agencies and 697 police officers. Of the approximately 5,000 people who have been arrested, according to Turkish security authorities, nearly 80 percent have been Alevis.

How do medical services function in Turkey for EU citizens?

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For those who become ill during their stay in Turkey, the treatment processes and billing practices vary on where you come from and what your citizenship is. Generally speaking, patients are divided into the following categories:

  1. Patients from the states of the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland, i.e. those who carry a European Health Insurance Card
  2. Patients from countries with bilateral agreements
  3. Patients who cannot present a proper Proof of Claim

Patients from the states of the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland

With the introduction of the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC, for “European Health Insurance Card”) on 1 July 2004, access to medical treatment has become much easier for many medically insured patients abroad.

If a patient who is insured in other EEA countries or Switzerland, in the practice, they can present their European Health Insurance Card or a “certificate” as a provisional replacement for the European Health Insurance Card (Provisional Replacement Certificate PEB) as a Proof of Claim prior to treatment. This may apply to people who are staying temporarily in Germany, and whose primary purpose of stay is not medical treatment related; e.g. for tourists, students, and expatriates.

The following countries of the European Union form the so-called European Economic Area, and take part in the process:

Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Great Britain, Ireland, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Austria, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Sweden, Switzerland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Czech Republic, Hungary, Cyprus (Greece).

Eligible patients are entitled to all services, provided that they can prove that their stay is medically necessary. That is, their treatment requires urgent care, such as a viral infection or broken arm, but also illnesses which are chronic or have arisen suddenly from early detection. In these cases, the further treatment of the disease is possible, if this was not the purpose of entry into Turkey.

Patients from countries with bilateral agreements

A person who resides in a country with a bilateral agreement on social security shall be entitled to treatment for sickness or maternity-related causes, by the state’s health facilities. The following countries have bilateral agreements: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Israel, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Turkey, Tunisia.

The scope of services available to the citizens of these countries is significantly more limited than for patients from EEA countries or Switzerland. For persons who are temporary residents of Europe, the services may be provided only if the patient’s condition makes medical treatment immediately required, i.e. it is not realistic to delay the treatment the person’s return to their home state.

When not immediately necessary, benefits as are as follows:

  • Screening for early detection of diseases – except in children who were born during the temporary stay in Europe
  • Medical advice on issues of birth control, including the necessary investigation and regulation of conception
  • Medical services in a non-illegal abortion

People who have already been diagnosed with a disease, prior to entry into Turkey, can only claim medical attention if their foreign carrier has authorized this.

Patients who cannot present the proper Proof of Claim

Where a person does not hold a valid European Health Insurance
Card, or substitute certificate and proof of identity, or a settlement bill before requiring treatment, you are still entitled to, and medical services are obliged to treat you, under an allowance provided by the government.

What is the deal with Pharmacies in Turkish cities?

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Pharmacies, dentists, and ophthalmologists

In larger Turkish cities you have the same choice of doctors, as in most other European countries; although their quality can vary greatly.

Pharmacies (eczane) exist to satisfy the end customer in Turkey, but they are perhaps a little different to those in your home country. On the one hand, you can source medications that require a prescription, in the other, many large pharmacies also provide vaccinations and other basic medical care.

In general, you should have no trouble in Turkey with obtaining the desired drug. Even if your pharmacist does not have what you need in stock, they will be able to order it for you – even from abroad.

While pharmacies are open 24 hours for the most part in major cities, pharmacies can be found in smaller towns, on call (nöbetçi eczane), which are available 24 hours. A sign on the door of the pharmacy indicates whether this is available. Smaller towns and villages have probably only one such pharmacist.

Prescription drugs in Turkey

People in Turkey love medicine. It can happen that you get three or four different prescriptions in a single visit to the doctor. In some cases, you can even get a prescription before your ailment is diagnosed.

This is partly due to the confidence that the Turks put in drugs. Secondly, the Turkish pharmaceutical companies are known to offer doctors money to drive the sale of medications. Underpaid local doctors are particularly prone to this approach. Although regional doctors are qualified, be wary. Instead, engage with foreign doctors to have them prescribe an adequate drug.

Dentists

Most Turkish Dentists (diş hekimi) are well trained, but some – especially the cheaper ones – seem to have acquired their knowledge exclusively by observation. To avoid poor and especially painful treatment, seek a qualified dentist. The dental treatment is already cheaper than in many other countries. A list of English dentists can be found on the website of the US Embassy.

Ophthalmologists

Many travelers who go on “medical vacations” travel to Turkey to be treated by an ophthalmologist. Turkey has a very good reputation in terms of laser treatment. In fact, there are many Turkish ophthalmologists (gözlükçü) that actually train doctors in this field worldwide.

Pharmacies

Pharmacies can be found in Turkey on every corner. They are recognizable by a green cross and the inscription “Eczane”. The employee standard is high and they are typically well trained. Unlike other industries, the professionals are here actually professionals and are subject to very strict supervision. In Turkish pharmacies, besides prescription drugs, you can get other common drugstore items such as diapers, tampons, and sanitary napkins.

Especially in the areas affected by tourism, you can often find an employee who speaks German or English. Most medications that are only available on prescription in Germany, are also handled the same in Turkey – although the handling is more “easy”. Even rare drugs can be purchased quite quickly.

Even women who have forgotten their pill at home can be helped, as a prescription is not necessary. However, do not be too surprised if the “pill” is carefully wrapped in colorful, opaque paper.

Drugs are considerably cheaper in Turkey than in Germany. Before stocking up with prescription drugs for your return trip home, I suggest becoming familiar with European and Germany import regulations. Read more about this at your local government office.

Think carefully before buying medical drugs abroad

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Aspirin for 60 cents, birth control pills for $1.60 – in holiday countries drugs are often cheaper than at home and can be sold without a prescription. Many travelers use the opportunity to increase their medicine cabinet stocks. However, aside from this possibly being illegal, it can also be quite dangerous.

When it comes to bargain hunting for drugs, Turkey is one of the most popular destinations. I think there is hardly anyone among us who does not bring some remedies home from a quick trip abroad. In Europe, medicines can be expensive and it may not be possible to source many things without a prescription. Travel websites and forums even provide price lists with the most popular drugs from the Turkish region. Aspirin, for example, can be picked up for as little as 60 cents a pack, and birth control pills from 1.60 euros.

Even if the offer seems tempting, buying drugs abroad entails risk, even if some tourists can justify disregarding this. Many well-known doctors have displayed their frustration in the lack of awareness prevailing at times. Some have been dealing with the issue of counterfeit drugs for a long time now, and have warned of not buying drugs on the street whilst abroad.

Office hours: The ingredients from A to Z

The risk of being cheated is relatively high. Often ineffective imitations are offered to unsuspecting tourists. It may sound a little harsh, but it has been said that the easiest way to get pregnant is to buy the pill of the street. Counterfeiting of the important ingredients in Viagra, however, have been rumored to contain the real drug – sometimes in an overdose supply, which could be fatal in extreme cases.

Although purchasing drugs at the pharmacy is far safer, tourists should consider, specifically in non-EU countries, only buying from businesses that are officially approved to sell the goods they are offering. This is due to not everything looking like pharmacy, actually being the real deal.

Similar Name, dangerous mix

In fact, foreign agents are available by prescription in the EU, partly sold without prescription – even including antibiotics. However, this should not lead to relying on self-medication.

Pack medication only for own use

Also for security reasons, tourists are allowed to bring some drugs for travel needs from abroad. This includes medicines for more than three months, which are intended for their own consumption. For men, however, a box of pills in the luggage certainly not a requirement.

Completely prohibited items include agents which are regarded as doping substances or are fake. Morphine containing analgesics covered by the Narcotics Act – anyone who wishes to take them on trips will require a certificate from the doctor. Critical souvenirs are also agents of traditional Chinese medicine, they may contain ingredients of rare plants or animals. Many of these agents may be imported only with papers outlining special conservation reasons, while some others do not.

The penalties for abusing these laws can include monetary fines and even prison. If someone is caught with counterfeit drugs, the forthcoming investigation can be severe. Therefore, it is advised that travelers urgently become informed on customs import conditions . Violations of the law do not necessarily need to be deliberate, as some breaches are quite simply the result of unscrupulous behavior, coupled with ignorance.

The ultimate “need to know” list for travelling in Turkey

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Pharmacies

In Turkish pharmacies are called “Eczane” and you can recognize them from the red and white signs. The drugs sold are predominantly western pharmaceutical brands, which are either manufactured internationally or imported under license.

Medical care

With Turkish doctors, you are in good hands. Medical education in
Turkey corresponds with European standards. Many physicians have studied in Europe and speak a foreign language. In the tourist centers, you may even find hospitals and medical practices with German-speaking physicians.

Population

Turkey currently has a population of 70.45 million people. The population is constantly growing. 50% of the population are under 25 years old, and only 10% are over 65 years. The population density has a strong East-West divide in densely populated cities – such as Istanbul and Izmir – and other sparse land occupations on the Anatolian east.

Shopping & Souvenirs

Among the most popular local souvenirs in Turkey are handmade carpets or hand-woven kilims, pottery, copper, brass or pewter and Onyx. Conveniently, you can also purchase high-quality leather goods, shoes, fabrics, and textiles. Like everywhere else, you should compare prices before buying. Except in department stores and supermarkets, the price may also be negotiable.

Immigration Information for European nationals

For a stay of less than three months, no visa is required. European citizens need a valid passport or valid identity card for entry. Children need a child ID card with photo. For entry with an identity card, you must get an entry stamp on a separate sheet. If choosing to access the country with this special award, be sure to hold onto the correct documents and surrender it to customs upon departure, otherwise, you may be faced with a fine. Citizens of other countries should inquire at their local embassy or consulate.

Electricity

The voltage is the same as in Europe. Adapter for sockets are also not required.

Eat, Drink

The Turkish cuisine is among the best in the world, and its diversity is owed to the multiethnic state of the Ottoman Empire. Even today, nomadic, Arab and Greek influences can be detected. Traditionally, a lot of vegetables are eaten.

Turkish cuisine especially well known for its varied and tasty appetizers. These consist of various purees (e.g. from chickpeas, eggplant or sesame), diverse, sometimes spicy yogurt creams, and oil fried or pickled vegetables (e.g. zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes). As a starter, a mixed salad or vegetable soup (e.g. red lentil or tomato soup) is often eaten.

Numerous options are available for day-to-day meals; for example, bread filled with herbs, cheese or minced and fried in oil. Popular main dishes include various grilled meats, braised together on skewers or with vegetables. Lamb is the most eaten meat variety, but also beef and poultry. Pork is typically taboo.

These meats are often served with rice, ground beef and currants stuffed vegetable (e.g. grape leaves, peppers, tomatoes), seasoned with dill and often served cold. Seafood there are on the coast or in special restaurants in the mountains. Desserts are usually very sweet and made with nuts and honey syrup.

Summertime, especially, gives way to fruit such as melons, plums, apricots, and cherries. The Turkish national drink is tea; either served black, or apple varieties are also popular. Dinner also Raki is drunk, anisette, the diluted with water resulting in a milky-white liquid. The most widespread Bier variety is Efes which famous red and white wines are Villa Doluca and Cankaya.

Public holidays

The most important non-religious holidays are:

  • 1 January, April 23 (Independence Day / Children’s Day)
  • May 19 (Day of Youth and Sports / Atatürk Remembrance Day)
  • August 30 (Victory celebration) and 29 October (Republic Day)

The main Islamic holidays

The Sugar Festival at the end of Ramadan, and the Feast of Sacrifice, are the main Islamic holidays. These holidays are obeyed by all public institutions, so banks and most stores are closed. During the month of Ramadan, tourists encounter comparatively few restrictions. Smoking and eating in public should be avoided in view of the fasting person, however. Unlike other Islamic countries, Sunday is the weekly day of rest in Turkey.

Flora Fauna

Due to varying climatic conditions, the vegetation and wildlife in Turkey is different regionally. Mediterranean vegetation, such as maquis flora, palms, olive trees, cork oaks and eucalyptus plantations can be found in the European part of Turkey, western Anatolia and in the coastal regions. The Taurus Mountains are largely forested with black pine, cedar, oak, and juniper. The Central Anatolian plateau is a treeless area, sparsely vegetated, and sometimes even semi-desert.

Various species of birds such as storks, geese, partridges, quails, pigeons and raptors such as eagles, vultures, kites, and buzzards, call Turkey home. For birdwatchers, there are interesting bird sanctuaries. The stock of wild animals, however, are severely depleted. Wolves, foxes, wild cats, hyenas, jackals, deer, bears, martens and mountain goats can only be found in the most remote areas.

Photographing & films

Military installations and their surroundings must not be photographed. Museums may demand a fee. If you want to photograph people, it’s best to ask for their permission.

Money & currency

Since 2005, Turkey has a new currency, the Yeni Türk Lirasi (YTL). For the import of foreign or local currency, any amount greater that the equivalent of US$ 5,000 must be declared to authorities.

A high inflation rate in Turkey has lead to permanent devaluation of the local currency. Therefore, it is recommended that you only withdrawal small amounts of money as you need it, as not to lose too much purchasing power.

Traveler’s checks are available from many banks, hotels, and shops. Popular international credit cards are also accepted by most hotel chains, shops and international car rental companies. In big cities, you can withdraw cash from an ATM with your credit or debit card.

Geography

97% of the Republic of Turkey, approximately 779 452 sq km, is located on the Asian continent, and only 3% of the European continent. It is bordered on the west by Greece and the Aegean Sea, and Bulgaria; to the east by Iran, in the south to Syria, Iraq and the Mediterranean and on the north by the Black Sea, on the northeast by Georgia and Armenia. The coastline of Turkey is about 8,000 km long. The Asian part of Turkey – Anatolia – is cut to the south by the Pontic Mountains of Taurus and in the north, which meets in the east of the country.

Vaccinations

There are no vaccinations required, however, tetanus and polio protection is recommended. Further information can be obtained the health department or your GP.

Dress

In summer, light summer clothes will satisfy for the day, while for the evenings or for air-conditioned rooms, light woolen clothes should be considered. In winter, warm clothes are suggested for higher regions. In hotels and restaurants is desirable to dress appropriately at mealtimes.

When driving in rural surroundings, avoid wearing sloppy clothing such as shorts or tops dispense with spaghetti straps. When visiting mosques, you must take off your shoes, women must cover the upper arms and do not adorn short skirts. They should also cover their heads.

Climate

Due to the different geographical areas, the climate in Turkey is not uniform. The Turkish Riviera has a subtropical climate with hot, humid summers (average temperature 30° C) and mild winters (average temperature 12-15° C), while rain falls mainly in the winter months. The climate on the Aegean coast is similar in the summer, but not quite as hot when there are cooling breezes in the afternoon.

In Istanbul, the Marmara Sea and the Black Sea coast has a temperate climate with average temperatures in summer 28 to 30° C and cool, wet winters, where it certainly can snow even once. The climate in central and eastern Anatolia is characterized by a continental climate with very hot summers (40° C) and very cold winters (down to minus 28° C), where sometimes there is more than three months of snow.

VAT refund

In stores that are affiliated with the Global Refund system (shown by the Tax-Free Shopping logo) travelers can get a VAT refund from their purchases, which in Turkey is a whopping 18%. The cost of goods must exceed YTL 118, and they must be carried out within three months of purchase. When shopping the buyer will receive a voucher, a Tax Refund Cheque, which is presented and stamped together with the goods and the passport or identity card when leaving the customs.

This check can either be paid in cash at a cash Refund station or be returned to an office of Global Refund after returning home. In the latter instance, the passenger will receive a personal check at his home address or a credit on his credit card account.

Rental car

In the big cities and the tourist places, are branches many international car rental providers. A driver must be at least 21 years old and at least one year licensed for category B vehicles. Usually, a deposit is required at the time of pick up.

In Turkey, there are traffic dangers that you should pay attention to:

  • Avoid night driving, if possible, because barriers are poorly or not marked.
  • In mountainous terrain, it is recommended to honk before blind spots and tight bends to warn oncoming vehicles
  • Wear a seat belt
  • The speed limit in towns is 50 km/h, outside built-up areas it is 90 km/h
  • The alcohol limit is 0.0%
  • Take out accident insurance

Opening times

The opening times for various services are as follows:

  • Banks: Monday to Friday 8:30 to 12:00 and 13:30 to 17:00.
  • Shops: Mon to Sat 9:00 to 19:00 (Thu to 22.00), on weekdays to 21h, partially opened grocery stores on Sundays.
  • Main post offices: Mon to Sat 8.00-24.00 pm, Sun 9:00 to 19:00, smaller post offices Monday to Friday 9:00 to 12:00 and 13:00 to 17:30.

Post

Airmail shipments to Central and Northern Europe will need at least four days to arrive.

Religions

99 percent of the population belongs to Islam, the majority of it in the moderate Sunni direction. In the southeast of the country has large numbers of Shiites. However, Islam is not the state religion since the founding of the Republic. A minority of the population includes Christians and Jews.

Safety

Thefts and robberies are extremely rare in Turkey. You should be careful, however, so do not recklessly display expensive personal items such as jewellery. It is best to place valuables in the hotel safe. The police wear blue uniforms and are responsible for monitoring traffic violations and minor offenses. In smaller settlements, you may not find any police stations, but instead the “Jandarma”, a military unit which handles typical police functions.

Sunscreen

Because of the strong sunlight, you should generously apply a good quality sunscreen.

Sports

On the beaches of the major tourist centers, outdoor equipment such as surfboards, sailboats, catamarans, canoes and jet skis can be hired. Nearly all ball sports are available. Diving is also possible in the Turkish Riviera, and in the southern Aegean. Skiing is from late November to early April, for example, on Uludag in Bursa possible.

Languages

The official language is Turkish. In eastern Anatolia and Kurdish is spoken. Minorities still speak Arabic, Greek and Armenian. Staff and sales and service personnel in tourist areas often also has German, English, French or Russian language skills.

Phone & Mobile

The country code of Turkey is +90. For most public phones you can use telephone cards are available at post offices and in most newsagents. Some phones also still work with telephone coins, the so-called “chips”. Almost all post offices and hotels, you can also send faxes. Mobile roaming contracts with providers in Turkey are available through D1, Vodafone, E-Plus and O2. Find out the best option for your purposes before leaving on your holiday.

Tips

In restaurants, bill gratuities are not included, so an additional tip of 10-15% appropriate. Taxi drivers expect a generous rounding up of the fare amount.

Drinking water

Tap water is not drinkable.

Means of transport

A dense route network of national and private bus companies connects most places. A “dolmus” is a collective taxi that runs on shorter distances. The Turkish State Railways has a rail network of 8,000 km; the trains are considered as slow and unpunctual. The only exception is the “mavi tren” (Blue train) from Istanbul to Ankara.

Insurance

There is a social security agreement between the EU and Turkey. The international medical card is valid only in hospitals and doctors that the Social Security Association (Sosyal Sigortarlar Kurumu) are connected.

Elsewhere treatments are required to be paid privately and the costs of a branch of social security association to be confirmed, so that the health insurance costs are reimbursed according to the rules currently applicable. Therefore, we recommend that you take out travel insurance.

Time shift

Central European Time (CET) plus 1 hour, Central European Summer Time (CEST) plus 1 hour.

So, tell me something about Turkey…

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Turkey is a republic in Western Asia and Southeastern Europe. A unitary state is since its inception in 1923, secular and Kemalist following the First World War, and before that a successor state of the Ottoman Empire. The country’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, initiated a modernization of Turkey by social and legal reforms along the lines of various European national states.

Ethnicities

The ethnic composition of the population in Turkey is not often determined accurately. In fact, in its official census, ethnicity is not recorded at all. However, by analyzing the population’s native and second languages, you can see that many minority communities have declined dramatically due to Turkish assimilation policies. In addition, for centuries various ethnic groups have mixed, so pinpointing that exact reason is had to define.

The information collected on ethnic groups vary greatly, depending on which sources are used. According to general consensus, the Turkish population is broken into the following ethnic groups: 70-77% Turks, 14-18% Kurds, 4% Zaza, 2% Circassians, 2% Bosniaks , 1.5% Arabs, 1% Albanians, 1% Hydrolases, 0.1% Georgians and several other ethnic groups and nationalities like Armenians, Hemshin people, Bulgarians, Pomaks, Syrians, Chechens, Greeks, Pontier, Jews and Romas.

Languages

The national and official language of Turkey is Turkish, which is spoken by more than 80% of the population as a native language, and as a second language by another 10-15%. Turkish is by far the most important language in today’s Turkey, and sits alongside Turkish Sign Language as the co-official Turkish language since 2005.

In addition to Turkish, there are about twenty languages from five different language families that are spoken today by non-Turkish ethnicities and minorities. In this sense, Turkey is a multiethnic state. The most important of these languages are

  • Kurmanji or Northern Kurdish with about 14 million speakers
  • Zazaisch with 1.2-2 million speakers
  • Arabic with about 1 million speakers
  • Azerbaijani 550,000 speakers
  • Kabardian or East Circassian with 550,000 speakers
  • Bulgarian with 300,000 speakers
  • Adyghe or West Circassian with nearly 300,000 speakers
  • Western Armenian and Homschezi with 70,000 speakers

Religions

According to official statistics, about 99% of the Turkish population are Muslim. Of these, approximately 80% are Sunni, 15-20% Alevis and 1-2% Alawites . Additionally, there are 0.2% Christians (125,000) and 0.04% Jews (23,000) living in Turkey. Even a small number of Yazidis and Dönme lives here. At the beginning of the 20th century, however, about 20% of the population were Christians – especially Armenians and Greeks – and the Jewish population exceeded more than 120,000.

Population Development and Migration

Since the founding of the Republic in 1923, Turkey’s population grew rapidly. In 1927 Turkey was home to nearly 14 million people. In 2003 there were just under 70 million. In 2014 there were 77.7 million. Turkey is also a country subject to emigration and immigration. During the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, millions of Turks left their country as migrant workers and political refugees, destined for Belgium, France, Sweden, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria and Germany.

Emigrants from the Balkans, Middle East, Greece, Iran, Central Asia, the Crimea came after the fall of the Iron Curtain. In 2009, about 4,600 people from Germany chose Turkey as their new adopted country, to make a total of 155,000 German emigrants. In addition to the climate and beautiful landscapes, the low-cost of living and relatively low bureaucratic obstacles are popular factors in moving to the region. On the other hand, many minorities from Turkey have chosen to leave, including Syrians, Alevis, Armenians, Assyrians, Greeks, Kurds, Jews, Yazidis and Zaza.

Social situation

The State provides basic health care, which is available to all citizens. In 2007 there were 1.23 doctors per 1,000 inhabitants. The life expectancy for men in Turkey is 70.18 years, and for women 75.18 years. The welfare indicator according to the Human Development Index in 2014 ranked Turkey as number 69 of 187 rated countries; ranking it among the countries which have high human development.

In comparison, Germany, a country with very high human development, is ranked 6th place, with the aggregate average of the entire EU being 33. According to a study by Credit Suisse in 2014, Turkey has a Gini coefficient of 0.84 and is thus is considered a country with a high degree of wealth inequality. The injustice of skewed wealth increased in the years 2002 to 2014, with the proportion of the top one percent of wealth capturing 54.3% of all assets, up from 39.4%.