Getting ready for a trip to Turkey and not sure what you need to pack or organise to make sure you have a great trip? Well read on to get our Top 10 Turkey Travel Tips
1. Plan your mobile communications – many visitors arrive in Turkey expecting they can simply buy a Turkish sim card and then easily use their phone. This is not necessarily true. While Turkish sim cards will work in most phones for a limited time, it is not so reliable if being able to communicate with folks back home is critical. Foreign phones need to be registered with the government and tax paid if they are going to be used long term in Turkey with a Turkish sim card. Phones that have not been registered will cut out after some time – generally 3 or 4 weeks. The process of registration is not something most tourists would want or need to go through, and so we recommend buying an international sim card before you leave home so that you can receive and make calls and SMS messages.
2. Be prepared for tipping – tips are an important part of income for tourism workers, particularly if they are working in a seasonal job where their summer earnings need to carry them through the winter. At a restaurant, 10% of the total of the bill is a polite minimum. Some restaurants levy a 10% service charge (this is unusual), but generally does not make its way to staff in the form of a tip. In hotels, it is good to give bellboys around 2TL for carrying your bags to the room.
3. Make respectful wardrobe choices – Turkey is a very modern Muslim country, and as you stroll around Istanbul you will be surprised at how cosmopolitan it is. However, dressing modestly is respectful, especially outside Istanbul and resort towns. Outside of a tourist resort area, it’s a good thing for women to wear clothes that cover their arms and shoulders, and try to ensure that hemlines are on or below the knee. Men should keep their shoulders covered when out in public, and long shorts or trousers are good. When visiting a mosque, women should cover their head, shoulders, arms and legs.
Most mosques will provide scarves for women to cover their hair, but if you prefer your own, then we recommend keeping a pashmina in your handbag – good for covering hair at mosques and useful if dining outdoors on a cooler night. Men should wear a long sleeved shirt and wear long trousers.
4. Don’t forget to pack a few power adaptors! You’ll need the two pronged round variety (European) – generally to bring a few is a good idea.
5. Think about whether you might need a universal sink plug – most hotels in Turkey do not have sink plugs, and so if you think you need to fill the bathroom sink for washing your smalls or for shaving then you would be well advised to bring a universal sink plug with you.
6. Measure before you go – Thinking of buying a Turkish carpet? Then don’t forget to measure up the floor space where your new purchase will go before you leave home. Turkish handmade rugs are beautiful, and many a great deal can be had in Turkey. However, we have seen many a visitor’s planned purchase derailed because they forgot to measure up before they left home and they haven’t left a spare house key with a friend or family member who can go and measure up in their absence.
7. Take care of your tootsies – many visitors who come from countries with sandy beaches often get a shock at many of the rocky beaches in Turkey – while the rocks are generally smooth and round, they can be unpleasant to walk on for sensitive feet used to being in shoes all day. Many of our guests comment that they wish they had packed some water shoes – these are the booty-like slip ons made out of wetsuit material (often used for water aerobics). If you plan on spending a lot of time at the beach during your trip then consider whether you might need to pack a pair.
8. Don’t forget your e-visa – In early 2014 Turkey moved to the e-visa system, which replaced the former sticker visa on arrival system that was in place. Visit http://www.evisa.gov.tr to get your e-visa before you depart.
9. Start hoarding 1TL coins as soon as you arrive – many public toilets in Turkey cost 1TL for entry, and also drinking bottled water is the norm (a small bottle costs 50 kurus (cents) and a large (1L) bottle costs 1TL-1.50TL. Try to pay the bathroom attendant or buy a bottle of water with a note, and you may be met with a raised eyebrow, and so a good stash of 1TL coins is going to make your transactions much faster.
10. Rethink your traveller’s cheques – while we are all for safety, often traveller’s cheques are not worth the hassle. It is harder and harder to find places to cash them, and they can wind up being a big source of worry rather than making your trip run smoothly. Consider travelling with a debit credit card, and be prepared to withdraw cash. And it is a good idea to have a backup card that you keep away from your daily use card, in case of emergency. While it is good to pay for large items such as carpets or leather with a credit card, you will have better bargaining power for other items with cash. Many prices in tourist areas are quoted in Euro, even though Euro is not the official currency. So make sure you have an idea what 1 Euro equals in your own currency. You will get a better exchange rate if you change your currency to Turkish Lira once in Turkey, or through using ATMs, but it is a good idea to buy a small amount of TL before you leave home, just to make sure you have enough to get you from the airport to your hotel if you are catching a taxi and for dinner the first night so that you don’t have the pressure of trying to find an ATM as soon as you arrive.