So you’re going to Turkey? The melting pot of Eastern European and Western Asian cultures (with a bunch of ancient Greek, Persian, Ottoman and more thrown into the mix) is what makes Turkey truly unique and it’s a must for any travel bucket list. From the food and architecture to markets and the beaches, here is everything you need to know before going to Turkey.
Visas for Turkey
When you go to Turkey, or more accurately the Republic of Turkey, you’ll need a visa (unless you’re a resident). You can apply online for an e-visa (here) and it’s SO easy. Prices are in USD and the cost varies depending on where you’re from. For example, EU, UK and Schengen passport holders will be charged $20 USD and Australians $60 USD (this may change, so always be sure to double check).
Talk money to me
In Turkey, they use the Turkish Lira. You can easily swap Euros at the airport for Lira or withdraw cash from an ATM. Exchange rates vary (obviously) but 10 Lira is around 1 Euro.
Turkey is quite cheap and an average budget for food in a day will vary between 100 Lira – 200 Lira (depending on if you’re eating out). There are a lot of cheap eats if you’re on a tight budget, from kebabs to freshly baked pretzels, and ice creams are usually only 5 Lira! Beers in the supermarket cost 10-15 Lira, and cocktails at a bar can cost 35-50 Lira.
Turkish is similar to a lot of Arabic languages and may be hard to master if you’re from an English-speaking background, but we always recommend you learn a few of these basics before heading to any new country:
Hello – Merhaba
My name is… – Benim adim…
Please – Lütfen (loot-fen)
Thank you – Teşekkür ederim (tesh-ek-kur ed-er-im)
Goodbye – Güle güle (goo-lay goo-lay)
Where is…? – Nerede…? (ner-ed-de)
Beer – Bira
Best places to go in Turkey
Istanbul – the only city in the world that’s split over two continents. Istanbul is incredible, historic and thriving. Must-sees in this city are the Hagia Sofia and Blue Mosque. Please note the latter has a strict dress code (Women should cover their arms, legs and hair, and opt for loose-fitting clothes; men should cover their legs and avoid singlets and vests) and is not open to the public during prayer, which takes place multiple times per day.
Troy – the ancient site that has a story still infamous today. Unravel the truth and see what remains of the ‘Wooden Horse’.
Gallipoli – a poignant and important place for Australia and New Zealand, see the memorial to the ANZACs and pay tribute to the heroes.
Pamukkale – you’ve seen the pictures of the blue and white mineral-rich, thermal, salt terraces, but it’s even better in real life.
Kusadasi – beautiful beaches meet ancient ruins in this stunning resort town that Marc Antony and Cleopatra used to hang out in.
Bodrum – medieval castles, an ancient wonder, beaches and pumping nightlife, there’s nothing Bodrum doesn’t have!
Marmaris – a coastal city nestled amongst turquoise waters, Marmaris has a great nightlife and plenty of shopping.
Cappadocia – it’s quite far inland and a bit of a trek to get to, but Cappadocia is the scene of the famous cone-shaped rock formations and hot air balloons. Add it to your bucket list immediately.
Cleopatra Island – words can’t describe how beautiful this island is. The sand on the island comes from Egypt and it’s wall-to-wall crystal water and stunning ruins.
What to pack in your suitcase for Turkey
Do check the weather! Turkey is a HUGE continent and the weather varies greatly. Personal story time: I once went to Turkey for a ‘summer’ holiday and forgot the country is split across two continents, with some of its landmass sitting below the equator. I got snowed on in Istanbul, then later in the trip near the coast, it was all sunshine and hot breezes. 100% check the weather apps for each location you plan on visiting and pack accordingly. If you’re only heading out on the Turkish Sailing trip during the warmer months, you won’t need any jackets though, don’t worry.
One question we get a lot is about modest dressing. Turkey is not like other Muslim countries and you are not expected to cover up unless going to a religious site (like the Blue Mosque we mentioned above). On the streets, we’d say dress appropriately (no midriff) but you can wear shorts and singlets. On the coast, it’s even more relaxed, although you will still see people wear jeans on a night out despite the heat.
Important safety stuff
Can you drink the water in Turkey? Nope. Sorry guys, but it’s bottled water only in these parts, or you can bring your own filter water bottle (just make sure it provides adequate water filtration before relying on it).
We’ve covered modest dress above but it’s also worth mentioning that you’ll hear the Call to Prayer at various points in the day near mosques, just as you would in any other Muslim country around the world. Turkish people are very relaxed and allow everyone to express their religion and beliefs so there’s no need to worry on that front as long as you are respectful.
Don’t carry too much cash in Turkey. You won’t need to because everything is so cheap, but locals won’t be carrying large sums and you don’t want to present yourself as a target. It’s a good rule to have in any country, to be honest.
Living like a local
If you want to live like a local, then be prepared for late nights. Turkish people generally stay up very late and like most of Europe, locals won’t start hitting the nightclubs until midnight (at the earliest), staying up until 4-5am.
Another local custom that may confuse you is the Hammam Turkish Baths. Turkish baths are traditionally places of public bathing and are associated with the culture of the Ottoman Empire. In short, Turkish Hammams are traditional spas where you’ll be washed, scrubbed, and massaged (depending on where you go). You may have heard that you have to go naked at a Hammam, but that’s not necessarily true and if you’re not comfortable, then you don’t have to. Many of the baths you’ll find in the bigger cities cater to Western customers and you will leave your bathing suit on. They are generally divided into genders, so if you’re travelling with a partner, be sure to mention this and they may give you a certain time to come back when it’s empty and you can relax together.
In Turkey, locals go with the flow. Live like they do and take it easy in the afternoons with afternoon tea, maybe a shisha if you feel like it, and a nap for the truly daring.
To reach true local status though, try some Raki, their local alcoholic spirit. It’s aniseed flavour (AKA liquorice) and quite strong, but a kind local will show you how it’s done.