Turkey General Information
The majority of Turks are Muslim however there is a small Christian minority. Turkey is a secular state which guarantees complete freedom of worship to non-Muslims.
Turkish is the offical language. Kurdish, Arabic, Armenian, Greek is also spoken.
Area (sq. km):
780,580 square meters
All of Turkey is on Eastern European time, two hours ahead of London and Coordinated Universal Time (GMT/UTC), 7 hours ahead of New York, 10 hours ahead of Los Angeles. Turkish clocks are turned ahead one hour at 1 am on the last Sunday in March, and turned back one hour at 2 am on the last Sunday in September for daylight saving (summer) time.
When To Travel
Spring (April & May) and Autumn (September & October) are the best months for visiting Turkey. Before May and after mid - October there is likely to be snow falls and before mid June and after August less mosquitos. From mid-June until early September is the main Turkish school holidays, so the Turkish Coast is very crowded, and therefore best avoided. July and August (mid Summer) are very hot inland and in Cappadocia, walks are best done in the early or later parts of the day.
Like Syria, Turkey enjoys warm summers and cold winters. Being a large country there is no ‘average’ climatic condition and there are considerable variations between Istanbul, Cappadocia and the coastal regions. Generally speaking, the best time for travel is between March and October. In Central Anatolia (Cappadocia) there is a considerable variation between day and nighttime temperatures, with summer peaking at around 25°C. The climate is similar in Istanbul, which enjoys warm weather from April to September, with midsummer averages around 23°C. Around Izmir and Ephesus the climate is warmer still, with average summertime temperatures occasionally exceeding 30°C.
Useful Travel Facts
Atatürk International Airport (IST) at Yesilyurt, 23 km (14 miles) west of Sultanahmet Square, is the busiest of Turkey's major airports.
Country code: 90. IDD is widely available. The outgoing international code is: 00. There is an extensive internal telephone network, but often an interpreter will be needed for more remote areas. To phone from PTT telephone booths, which are found in all areas, telephone cards and tokens are used. Local, inter-city and international calls can be made from all PTT offices. Mobile phones work across most of the country.
220 volts AC, 50Hz. Two pin plugs are used throughout Turkey.
The style of Turkish food owes some of its origins from the nomadic lifestyle of the people of this region during the reign of the Sultans. Even today the evening meal is often the evenings entertainment. Mezze, the equivalent of the western 'starter', consists of a huge selection of tasty dishes served individually in the centre of the table which include vegetables, meat, chicken and seafood all prepared in uniquely different ways. It is customary for everyone to sample a taste from every dish, which often consist of the same vegetable prepared in a number of very different ways. There are for example over 100 ways to prepare Aubergines alone. Eating in a traditional Turkish restaurant is never a hurried affair, and people tend to take their time. The transition from mezzes to the main course is not always obvious. The arrival of skewers of succulent lamb or chicken, supplemented by tasty rice dishes has to be anticipated at the mezze stage in order to avoid overdoing the first course. Deserts are very sweet (similar to Greek desserts) complement the predominantly savoury aspect of Turkish food.
On Geckos tours we use a combination of local buses, trains and private mini-buses. Be sure to take ear plugs if you're a light sleeper and eye masks for the trains!
Antiques are found all over Turkey, but the best antique shops are undoubtedly in Istanbul. It's illegal to buy, sell, possess or--especially--export from Turkey antiquities (usually defined as carpets, coins, icons, colored tiles and ceramics, paintings, statues and sculptures, metal objects, etc.) more than one or two centuries old.
Apparel Turkey produces a lot of wool and cotton, and manufactures a lot of clothing from it. Quality varies from poor to excellent. You'll see many knock-offs (fake goods) bearing famous brands, names and logos.
Books, Maps & Prints (Old) Istanbul has the best places to shop.
Brass & Copper are attractive, decorative, useful and relatively inexpensive, but don't use copper items for cooking or serving unless the surfaces that contact food are completely covered in bright, silver-colored tin.
Carpets and kilims were part of Turkish nomadic households a thousand years before the Turks settled in Anatolia and lived in houses instead of tents and yurts. Beautiful handmade carpets are sold everywhere in Turkey. A relatively new seccade (prayer rug, 1 meter [or yard] by 2 meters [or yards]) in a traditional style might sell for US$150 to US$600, depending on its quality, materials, rarity and condition.
Turkey has been famous for excellent faience (colored tilework) since the 16th century, when the kilns of Iznik turned out some of the most beautiful work ever made. The classic Iznik pieces are now classified as antiquities and may not be exported, but the master potters of Kütahya are still making excellent plates, bowls, cups, tiles and other items in the traditional way. They're sold all over Turkey for prices from a few US dollars to several hundred, depending on the item and its quality.
Turkey is a good place to look for big, bold, old necklaces, brooches, clasps, belts and other items, as well as finer, more delicate modern work. Istanbul's Grand Bazaar is good, as is the Egyptian (Spice) Market, but shops and bazaars in other towns will have interesting selections as well. When buying silver or gold, be sure to look for the maker's hallmark stamped into an inconspicuous part of the piece, certifying that it is genuine. Pewter and nickel-silver are sometimes passed off as sterling silver, though not by reputable dealers.
A kilim is a woven mat. Unlike a carpet, it has no nap. The bold designs and earthy colors so valued in kilims are a Turkish hallmark. A few decades ago kilims were seen as inferior to carpets, and were much cheaper, but today the bold, forthright kilim designs and colors are valued, and priced appropriately. Shop around for what you like, and compare prices.
Apparel Istanbul is the center of the Leather trade, but all cities have shops soft leather and suede coats, jackets, skirts, dresses, vests, hats, gloves, handbags, wallets and many other items.
Bursa has been the center of Turkey's silk trade for centuries. Silkworms are raised on mulberry leaves in nearby regions and brought to Bursa's Koza Han (Silk Cocoon Caravanserai) each May to be auctioned. The fine silk thread is unwound and woven into scarves, shawls, blouses and other items which are sold in Bursa's Covered Market and other shops and markets throughout Turkey.
Wood, Inlaid Items such as boxes, chess and backgammon boards, etc. make attractive and relatively inexpensive souvenirs. Look carefull to make sure you're really buying inlaid wood. Surprisingly accurate decals are sometimes used to give the look of inlay without all that work of cutting and fitting.
Australians, Americans, British and Canadians require a visa for Turkey. New Zealanders do not currently require a visa for Turkey. For all other nationalities, please reconfirm your visa requirements with your travel agent of the nearest Turkish Consulate or Embassy.
From 10 April 2014, the following applies:
Visas are no longer available on arrival; an e-visa must be obtained before you go. Please go to https://www.evisa.gov.tr/en/ for all the information you need to obtain an e-visa.
Useful Words & Phrases
If You Were Me and Lived in... Turkey - Carole P Roman
T is for Turkey - Nilufer Topaloglu Pyper