Turkey which officially changed its name to Türkiye (pronounced Tur -kee-aa) is a dream destination.  Whether you’re on the hunt for an exotic adventure or a history buff searching for ancient ruins and remains of the Ottoman Empire, there is something for everyone in this fascinating country.  With that being said, there are a few Turkey travel tips to know before you start packing your bags.

In this article, I’ll go over 21 things to know before going to Turkey that will ensure a safe and enjoyable trip.  Plus at the end of the post, I’ll link any useful guides that will aid you in planning the best trip possible.

For the purpose of this article I will continue to call Türkiye, Turkey as that’s how most still refer to the country as and how this post will get found on google.

Turkey Travels

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  1. Credit Cards are widely accepted.
  2. ATM’s
  3. The okay sign 👌 is offensive and means f* you.
  4. People greet each other with kissing twice on the cheek.
  5. Tea is a sign of hospitality.
  6. Remove your shoes before entering a home.
  7. Pack a Universal Adapter
  8. You will probably need a Visa before you can enter the country.
  9. Turkey does not have lay down seats for overnight buses which make for a miserable trip.
  10. Flights within Turkey are affordable and efficient.
  11. Book tickets for riding a hot air balloon in Cappadocia in advance.
  12. It cost to use the public restrooms.
  13. Renting a car is cheap and roads are well maintained and easy to drive on.
  14. Cappadocia is best explored with your own set of wheels.
  15. The food is delicious!
  16. Women must wear hijab’s on their heads when entering mosques.
  17. Budget – it’s extremely reasonable and cheap to travel Turkey.
  18. Purchase Travel insurance before you go
  19. Professional taxis always have meters running in the rear view mirror.
  20. Uber is available in Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir only.
  21. There’s more to turkey than Istanbul and Cappadocia.

Useful Apps for Turkey

Apps to Travel Turkey

I’d like to mention that the Turkish language is difficult to understand as a foreigner.  Not many people speak English so you’ll be relying on google translate a lot.  A few Turkish phrases go a long way.  These apps below will help you a lot as you travel through Turkey.

Google Translate: Translate English to Turkish.

BiTaksi: The Uber of  Turkey.

City Mapper Istanbul: An app to help you navigate public transportation in Istanbul.

Whatsapp:  Talk/text to friends and family anytime you are connected to the internet for free.

Metro Turizm: Bus company in Turkey that offers a handy app that translates into English and displays all routes, time schedules and allows you to buy tickets online.

Yemeksepeti: Food delivery app similar to Uber eats.

Trail Wallet: Easy to keep track on your expenses if you are traveling Turkey on a budget.

Turkey Travel Tips

Turkey Travel Tips

1. Credit Cards

Starting off with our first Turkey travel tip is that credit cards are widely accepted.  Turkey has become increasingly accepting of credit cards in the recent years.  Major credit cards such as Visa, Mastercard, Amex, JCB and Diners Club are widely accepted at most stores, restaurants and hotels throughout the country.

In the bigger cities of Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir we paid most things with credit cards and had no problems.  It is important to note that credit card companies also charge a foreign transaction fee when you use a credit card, which differs by company.

For the smaller towns however, we had a mix of paying with credit cards and cash.  Therefore it is important to carry some cash with you when traveling around Turkey.

For example we rented a car in Cappadocia and they only accepted cash for payment.  I’m not complaining though, that was a sweet deal and I was stoked to have to only pay cash.  There are plenty of ATM’s around which I will talk about in the next point.  All in all, the increased acceptance of credit cards in Turkey makes it easier and more convenient for travelers to make purchases while traveling the country.

The local Markets of Ankara
Ortahisar castle

2. ATM’s

ATM’s are always clustered together inside towns and cities.  In the United States, you can find an ATM everywhere…on the street, inside a gas station, etc.  In Turkey all the ATM’s can be found in the same place.  In larger cities there will be multiple clusters but this makes it easy to find an ATM.

ATM’s in Turkey can be accessed by most debit or credit cards.  Withdrawal limits are typically between 500 and 1000 Turkish Lira per day.  Again, this may vary depending on your issuing bank.

3. The okay sign 👌 is Offensive 

This Turkey travel tip is a pretty important one because if you didn’t realize, it might get your into some trouble.  The okay sign 👌, which has been universally accepted as a symbol of approval, is considered a sign on offense in Turkey and other countries in the region for that matter.

The sign in Turkey is now interpreted as a crude way of saying F*ck you.  This is because in Turkey the sign resembles an insult which is directed at the forehead,  As a result, it is important to be aware of this cultural difference of traveling to Turkey and to be careful and avoid using the sign in order to bypass any misunderstandings.

Turkish People getting married
two boys in Istanbul

4. People Greet Each Other with Kissing Twice on the Cheek

In Turkey, kissing twice on the cheek is a traditional way of greeting someone.  This is especially popular among family and friends, as it is viewed as a sign of respect, warmth and affection.  The kiss is not meant to be a romantic one, but rather it is a sign of respect and friendship.

Drinking Turkish tea in Istanbul

5. Tea is a Sign of Hospitality

Tea is a sign of hospitality in Turkey.  It is an essential part of the culture and is seen as an offering of friendship and respect.  To show hospitality in Turkey, it is customary to offer tea as soon as a person enters the home or office.  It is seen as a gesture of welcome and is often accompanied by other treats such as Turkish Delight or fresh fruit.

Tea itself is usually served in small, tulip-shaped glasses known as fincan and is brewed from loose black tea leaves.  It is sweetened with sugar cubes or a combination of sugar and honey.

We were offered tea many times upon entering hotels and stores.  In fact when we landed in Turkey, our first store we entered in Ankara when we were searching for a a hijab for me to wear (more on hijabs later in the post), the father of the family who ran the store offered us tea.  It was a great introduction to the Turkish culture and started our Turkey travels off on a high note.

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    6. Remove Your Shoes Before Entering a Home

    In Turkey, it is customary to remove your shoes before entering a home.  This is to ensure that dirt and debris is not tracked into the home.  This practice has been a part of the culture for centuries and is still widely practiced today.  This is also a common practice in Hawaii where I live when I’m not traveling the world.

    Horses and Guards at Topkapi Palace in Istanbul

    7. Pack a Universal Adaptor

    Okay so this Turkey travel tip only applies to us Americans (and various other countries) out there.  As a traveler not from Europe visiting Turkey, packing a Universal Adapter is an important part of your travel prep.

    You will need to ensure that you have the  right adaptors to charge your electronic devices in the country.  Turkey uses European-style two-pin plugs, with the electricity supply coming in at 220 volts.  This is different from the 110 volts you normally use in the United States.

    A universal adapter will enable you to use your devices in Turkey without having to purchase a less than par one outside of the country.  This is one of the best travel accessories for any jet setter as you never know when it will come in handy.

    I'm Jess Traveling in Pergamon outside of Izmir
    Uchisar Castle in Cappadocia, Turkey

    8. Turkey Travel Visa

    Top Turkey travel tips alert!  If you are from the United States, will need to obtain a visa before arriving in the country.  Most other nationalities can get a visa on arrival.  

    Visas can be obtained online, through the Turkish embassy or consulate.  Online visas are the quickest and most-effective way to obtain a visa.  Visas obtained online are only valid for stays of up to 90 days.

    I booked our trip to Turkey very last minute…like I was booking our flight to Turkey from London as I was sitting in the airport in Dallas waiting for my flight to Heathrow last minute.

    Thus when Joe and I had an 8 hour layover in London before boarding our flight to Ankara, I was applying for our Turkish e-visa.  I honestly didn’t think we were going to get the visas on time without having to pay a fortune.  I applied for our visas, took a 2 hour lounge nap and woke up to a glorious email saying we were approved.  Whew…Don’t stress out like me and apply for an e-visa at the last minute.

    Get your Turkey e-visa →

    9. Turkey DOES NOT have Lay Down Seats for Overnight Buses

    Okay so I had to learn this Turkey travel tip the hard way.  Turkey does not have lay down seats if you book an overnight bus!  Woof.  Traveling by bus overnight in Turkey can be a great way to save money.

    However, travelers should be aware that if they book a bus, they will not have the opportunity to recline the seat very far and lay down to rest.  Turkey does not have lay down seats, instead, you will have to make do with regular bus seats that recline only a few inches.

    This can make for a long, uncomfortable journey.  If you watch the video posted above, you’ll be able to see the pain and agony during our first and ONLY overnight bus trip from Cappadocia to Pamukkale.  

    Turkey has a train system and flights within the country are extremely affordable so if I were you, I’d look into other modes of transportation before committing to an overnight bus journey.  This brings us to our next Turkey travel advice.

    10. Flights within Turkey are Cheap and Efficient

    With its vast network of airports, domestic flights within Turkey are an efficient and affordable way to get around.  The airfare is generally quite low and the flight duration is usually short.

    Booking a ticket from let’s say Izmir to Istanbul is the best bang for your buck if you take into consideration time, money and comfotablitiy. Travelers can fly from Istanbul to popular cities like Izmir, Ankara and Antalya in under two hours.

    The airports in Turkey are also well-equipped with modern amenities and services.  I’m looking at you #LoungLife travelers.  With low fares, and convenient flight times, domestic flights within Turkey are an excellent way to explore the country.

    ✈️ Travel Tip:  If you have long layovers and fly often, investing in a Priority Pass will be a life savor.  With the Priority Pass you have access to over 1300 airport experiences worldwide. 

    The lounges are quiet, connected spaces to relax or work in, with pre-flight bites, drinks and other added perks that help keep you refreshed and revived.

    Cappadocia Balloon ride with I'm Jess Traveling
    Riding a hot air balloon in Turkey

    11. Book Tickets for your Hot Air Balloon Ride in Cappadocia in Advance

    Chances are if you are traveling to Turkey, you probably are planning a visit to the magical region of Cappadocia.  If this applies to you, do yourself a favor and book tickets for a hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia in advance.  This is a great way to ensure that you don’t miss out on the opportunity to experience this bucket list experience.

    Cappadocia is a popular tourist destination due to its stunning rocky landscape, fairy chimneys and underground cities.  A hot air balloon ride is the perfect way to take it all in.  Booking tickets in advance also will aid you in finding the best deals.  I wrote an entire post about everything you need to know about riding a hot air balloon in Cappadocia including tips which you can check out below.

    12. You Have to Pay to Use Public Restrooms

    Public bathrooms in Turkey can be found in most public places, such as train stations, shopping centers and parks.  However, there is usually a fee to use them.

    The fee is usually a few Turkish Liras, which is equivalent to a few cents in US dollars.  Although it may seem like a nuisance, the fee is necessary to ensure that the public bathrooms are kept clean and in good condition.  A small price to pay for a much needed service.

    Hierapolis theater in Pamukkale

    13. Renting a Car in Turkey

    Renting a car in Turkey offers a great way to explore the country’s many unique, beautiful and remote locations.  The cost of renting a car in Turkey is quite reasonable and you can find great deals on cars from reputable rental companies.  If you are in a small town, you can just ask your reception and things will probably work out for you.

    Roads in Turkey are generally well maintained and easy to drive on, making it a great option for those looking for an easy and safe way to explore the country.  The main roads are paved and maintained by the government, while smaller roads may be dirt or gravel but are still usually in good condition.

    In Turkey, you drive on the right side of the road as you would in the United States, but crossing intersections on highways felt a bit confusing.  If you are trying to cross the highway, you could accidentally get in the wrong lane of incoming traffic but I’m sure you’ll figure it out.

    Rent Your Car Now →

    Cave dwellings in Cappadocia

    14. Cappadocia is Best Explored with your Own Set of Wheels

    Just to piggyback off of the above Turkey travel advice, let me tell you that Cappadocia is best explored with your own set of wheels.  The unique rock formations and other attractions in Cappadocia are spread out over a vast area and unless you visit them on a scheduled tour, public transportation doesn’t work in this part of the country.

    Rent a car and explore the countryside of Cappadocia.  There are many hidden gems to discover while driving which you otherwise would not experience on a tour.  With your own set of wheels, you will be able to explore Cappadocia to your heart’s content.

    Street kebabs in istanbul<br>
    Simit in front of the Hagia Sofia

    15. The food is delicious!

    Let’s talk about the food.  Not only is it incredibly delicious, but it is also incredibly diverse.  From succulent kebabs to flavorful mezzos, Turkish cuisine is sure to please any palate.

    The flavors of the region are a mix of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern, with a hint of European influence.  The most popular dishes include manti (Turkish ravioli) and kofte (meatballs) as well as many different types of flatbreads.

    Let us not forget about the vegetarian options of imam bayidi (stuffed eggplant) and ezme (spicy tomato salad).  Alas, the desserts, such as baklava and kunefe.  Whatever you do, don’t miss out on the awesome food!

    Turkish women making pita
    The Blue Mosque in Istanbul

    16. Women’s (and Mens) Wardrobe When Entering Mosques

    Women must wear hijab’s on their heads before entering mosques as to demonstrate their respect for the sanctity of the mosque.  Hijab is an Arabic term for a head covering and is a form of modest dress.

    As part of the dress code, women must also keep their arms and legs covered.  The purpose of this dress code is to maintain a spiritual and respectful environment within the mosque.

    If you are not dressed appropriately before entering the mosque a hijab and wrap skirt will be provided for you.  At some mosques, these items cost money, at others, they are free to use.

    Men should also dress modestly when entering mosques and other religious sites, regardless of religion, this is part of the Turkish culture.

    I'm Jess Traveling in the Travertine Pools in Turkey
    Cappadocia, Turkey

    17. Turkey Travel Tips Budget

    One of the best Turkey travel tips to know before you visit is to have an idea of what you’ll be spending.  Turkey is a great destination for budget travelers.  It offers many attractions and experiences at an extremely reasonable price.  For instance, when I was exploring Istanbul all of its major tourist attractions were free.  This included the Spice Bazaar, the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sofia and the Grand Bazaar, just to name a few.

    Food is also extremely affordable.  Turkish tea will cost about .50 cents and a basic meal at a cafe will cost you less than $5.  Plus if you book a hotel with free breakfast, you’re in for a treat because Turkish breakfast is the best.

    Transportation as I mentioned earlier is also extremely affordable.  This includes renting a car, bus tickets, plane fares and taxi rides.  Accommodations will be your biggest expense.  Budget hotels will run you around $30-50 a night.  You can also splurge on hight end resorts for a fraction of the price compared to Western Europe or the United States.

    Where to stay in Cappadocia

    18. Travel Insurance

    I know you probably hear travel bloggers preaching about getting travel insurance before you go travel, but there’s a reason.  Travel insurance is an important part of planning any trip!

    It is an essential way to protect your finances and provide peace of mind while you are away from home.  Travel insurance can provide coverage for medical expenses, trip cancellation, lost or stolen luggage and even airfare to get you back home in case of an emergency.

    I had a friend who unfortunately broke her back snowboarding in Australia.  Fortunately for travel insurance, she was able to have her medical bills taken care of and flown back home to the United States with only having to pay the deductible out of pocket.  I use SafetyWing.  It includes medical and trip coverage even for my brief visits back home to Hawaii for up to 30 days.

    It’s a small price to pay for peace of mind when traveling in foreign territory.  Check them out and see if there’s a plan for you.

    Buy Travel Insurance →

    19. Taxis

    It’s nice to know before you jump in a cab that, professional taxis will always have meters running in the rear view mirror.  This is a great safety measure for both the driver and the customer, ensuring that the fare is fair and that you as the passenger is not overcharged for their journey.

    Customers know exactly how much they will be charged and peace of mind knowing that the driver is not trying to take advantage of you by inflating the fare.  A smoother journey for everyone involved.

    Public Tram in Istanbul

    20. Uber

    Now let’s talk about Uber.  Uber is available in Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir only.  I tired using Uber in Izmir and Ankara and had no luck.  I was able to use it in Istanbul and it was actually yellow taxi.  Meaning I used that app and got a ride but it was a yellow taxi that showed up.

    Uber wasn’t very convenient as I traveled Turkey but they have BiTaksi which is the local Uber of  Turkey.  Other than that I’d opt for public transportation in the bigger cities such as Istanbul and Ankara (both convenient, easy and affordable) and having your own car for the smaller towns.  Also taxis as I mentioned earlier are safe and reliable.

    I'm Jess Traveling in Ephesus Turkey
    Ephesus Turkey Travel Tip

    21. There’s more to Turkey than Istanbul and Cappadocia

    Alas, we’ve come to the end of our Turkey travel tips.  Turkey is often known for its vibrant cities, such as Istanbul and stunning landscapes of Cappadocia.  However, these two destinations are only a small part of Turkey’s beauty.

    Don’t get me wrong, Istanbul and Cappadocia are amazing destinations and were the highlights of my month long travels through Turkey.  I’m just saying, there is so much more to explore in Turkey.  From ancient ruins and beaches to picturesque villages and natural wanders, the country’s landscape is truly diverse.  Do yourself a favor and explore as much of the country as you can.

    Here are a few other highlights to visit in Turkey:

    • The Ancient City of Ephesus.
    • Coastal city of Antalya for its stunning beaches.
    • The Travertines of Pamukkale
    • Pergamon Acropolis
    • Monastery of Sumela – a monastery built into a side of a cliff.
    • Lake Van – Turkey’s largest lake.

    In conclusion, those are the best Turkey travel tips to prepare you for a trip of a lifetime.  Check out the guides below for more inspiration and trip planning for your trip to Turkey.

    Turkey Travel Tips

    📍Plan your Trip

    🗺 How long to travel Turkey?  2 Weeks to hit the highlights, 4 Weeks to really immerce yourself.

    🛂 Visas: Get your E-Visa

    ☔️ Best Time to Visit:  April, May, September and October are the best months to travel Turkey.

    💰 Average Daily Budget: Expect to pay 30-50 USD’s a day for basic accommodations, sit down meals at a cafe and entrance fees.

    ⛺️ Turkey accommodation Guides

    🪂 Highlights

    🧳 What to Pack: What to Pack for Türkiye

    🎥 Watch our Turkey Series on YouTube

    📧 Get on my Email list to see what I’m up to and all the best travel content!

     More Turkey Travel Guides ↓

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