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

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.

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