Five Things First Time Travellers To Turkey Should Know
- Public bathrooms aren't free. Keep some small change on you to pay the TRY 1 fee especially in the more touristy areas. It's also useful to keep some toilet paper in your bag as most bathrooms won't have any.
- The official currency for Turkey is the Turkish Lira. Avoid changing currencies at the airport; you'll get a better rate of exchange in the city centre. Or withdraw cash straight from the ATM when you arrive.
- Cover up when visiting religious buildings. Turkey is an Islamic country and is quite liberal with its dress laws. But if you are visiting mosques, cover up your knees and shoulders and bring a scarf to wear over your head.
- Buy the Istanbulkart. If you're visiting this city, the easiest and cheapest way to get around is with its robust public transport system. The Istanbulkart lets you use the bus, metro, ferry and cable cars. All you need to do is top it up as you go.
- Tipping is expected in Turkey. As a rule of thumb tip 10% in restaurants, bars and cafes. The only exception is taxi drivers, where you just round up the cab fares.
Best Time To Visit Turkey
The best time to visit Turkey is during the spring. From March to May, the summer heat has yet to arrive, and reasonable room rates can still be found. In April you can also attend the annual International Tulip Festival, which is without a doubt the prettiest time to visit the country.
Turkey's high season is from June to August. Expect long lines outside the top attractions, hot and humid weather and expensive hotel rates. But despite this, it's one of the best times to explore the country's coastal attractions. If you're near Istanbul, visit the Princes' Islands, or head down to the Mediterranean and visit the seaside town of Alacati.
If you're travelling on a budget, book your holiday during Turkey's winter months. From December to March, you'll find the cheapest flights and hotels as well as much shorter lines outside the main attractions.
You will need to pack warm clothes and an umbrella, but if you can handle the cold, it will be worth it. The cold weather is also the best time to enjoy a traditional Turkish bath and try the winter beverages.
Istanbul is the largest city in Turkey and was once the capital of the Ottoman and Byzantine Empires. Stretching across a strait that connects Europe and Asia, it's the only city in the world that sits across two continents.
Istanbul is known for its impressive architecture, historical sites, nightlife and shopping. Its most famous attractions include the Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace.
Located in the Anatolia region, Ankara is the capital city of Turkey. It's a major transportation hub and a gateway to exploring other destinations in Turkey.
While it's not as popular as Istanbul, it still has a lot to offer the intrepid traveller. Admire the city's beautiful architecture, wander through its lush parks and escape the crowds that haunt its sister city.
The city of Antalya offers something for everyone. Located on the banks of the Turkish Riviera, it's full of historical sites, gorgeous beaches and interesting museums.
Spend your days exploring the Old Quarter. It's home to Ottoman mansions, art galleries and a stone-clad clock tower. Or if you're a beach bum, relax on Turkey's beautiful Turquoise Coast.
Konya is one of the oldest cities in the world. Once the capital city during the reign of the Seljuk Dynasty, it's full of ancient relics and a vibrant culture.
Konya is also the birthplace of the Mevlevi Order, otherwise known as the Whirling Dervishes.
Its highlights include the Alaeddin Mosque, the ruins of the Seljuk Palace and the Mevlana Museum.
Top Attractions in Turkey
Hagia Sophia is one of Istanbul's most iconic attractions. Originally a basilica in the 6th century, the building became a mosque after The Ottomans conquered Constantinople.
Towering over the city at 56 metres, Hagia Sophia was the largest enclosed space in the world for more than 1000 years.
Today, it's a museum that attracts thousands of visitors each year. If you're interested in learning more about the history of the building, go on a private tour. Official guides are frequently found outside Hagia Sofia and won't break the bank.
If you can, avoid visiting the building on a Friday. The Blue Mosque is closed until 2:30 p.m., and as a result, it's much busier than usual.
Ephesus is one of the most complete Roman cities in the Mediterranean. It's full of marble-columned roads, crumbling ruins and massive monuments.
History buffs will love exploring the site and experience what life must have been like during the heyday of the Roman Empire.
As Ephesus covers a large area, it's best to plan your visit. Do your research and find out which ruins you want to see the most. Otherwise, you'll find yourself rushing through the different sites.
If you want to avoid the crowds, arrive as early as possible or in the mid-afternoon. This will help you get ahead of the tour buses and appreciate the ruins in relative peace.
Located in the centre of Turkey, Cappadocia is known as the land of fairy chimneys. The rock formations attract thousands of visitors who take to the skies in hot air balloons to explore its unusual landscape from above.
Besides its swooping rock valleys, there's a bevy of other things to see in Cappadocia. The area is home to rock-cut churches of the Byzantine Era, an underground city and the Goreme open-air museum.
And if you're feeling particularly adventurous, you can even camp out in one of the many nearby caves.
Pamukkale is one of the most famous natural wonders in Turkey. Located in the south-west of the country, it's a cliffside full of hot springs that has turned white from mineral water running up from the ground.
Its unusual beauty has attracted people for thousands of years including the ancient Greeks. Nearby, you'll find the ruins of Hierapolis, a Greek city built on top of the hot springs by the kings of Pergamon.
Visit in the late afternoon to watch the sunset and don't forget to pack your slip slopes as normal shoes aren't allowed. Tickets cost TRY 25 for access to the pools or TRY 30 if you want to see the ancient city as well.
Built in the 15th century, the sultans of the Ottoman Empire ruled from the Topkapi Palace until the 19th century.
Inside the vast complex, you'll find some of the best examples of Islamic art, opulent courtyards and richly decorated rooms.
The highlights of the palace are the infamous Harem; the large Palace Kitchens; the sultan's private rooms and the Imperial Council Chamber.
Due to the sheer size of the site, you'll need at least half a day to explore it without rushing from one room to the next. Pack a light lunch and enjoy it in the surrounding public gardens that were once only open to the Royal Court.
Major International Airports in Turkey
- Istanbul Atatürk Airport
- Sabiha Gokcen International Airport
- Antalya Airport
- Esenboga International Airport
- Adnan Menderes Airport