In 2005, Turkey dropped six zeroes from its currency, thus making each post-2005 lira worth 1,000,000 pre-2005 lira (or so called "old lira"). During the transition period between 2005 and 2009, the currency was briefly called new lira (yeni lira) officially. Since Jan 1, 2009, a new series of banknotes and coins have been introduced and the currency is again simply called lira (officially Turkish Lira, Türk Lirası, locally abbreviated TL, ISO 4217 code: TRY; don't be confused if you see the currency abbreviated YTL, that was standing for yeni lira, just drop the Y and you'll be fine), which is divided into 100 kuruş (abbreviatedkr). Since Jan 1, 2010, neither pre-2005 nor pre-2009 banknotes and coins (those bearing yeni lira and yeni kuruş) are not legal tender, but can be exchanged at certain banks till Dec 31, 2010 (for coins) and Dec 31, 2019 (for banknotes).
Banknote nominations are in 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 and 200 lira, whereas coin nominations are in 1 (very rare in circulation), 5, 10, 25, 50 kuruşes and 1 lira.
There are legal exchange offices in all cities and almost any town. Banks also exchange money, but they are not worth the hassle as they are usually crowded and do not give better rates than exchange offices. You can see the rates office offers on the (usually electronic) boards located somewhere near its gate. Euro and American Dollars are the most useful currencies, but Pound Sterling (Bank of England notes only, not Scottish or Northern Irish notes), Swiss Francs, Japanese Yen, Saudi Riyals, and a number of other currencies are also not very hard to exchange. It is important to remember that most exchangers accept only banknotes, it can be very hard to exchange foreign coins. In some places, where there is a meaningful explanation for it, more uncommon currencies can also be exchanged, too, for example Australian Dollars may be exchanged in Çanakkale where grandchildren of Anzacs gather to commemorate their grandfathers every year, or in Kaş, which is located just across the Greek island of Kastelorizo , which in turn has a large diaspora in Australia. As a general rule, if a place attracts many visitors from a country, then it is usually possible to exchange that country’s currency there.
Tourism-oriented industries in tourism-oriented towns, as well as shops where big amounts of money change hands, like supermarkets, in most parts of the country, generally accept foreign currency (usually limited to Euro and American Dollars only), but the rates they accept the currency are usually a little lower than those of exchange offices. Ask first if they accept foreign currency.
€ 1 = 2.35 TL
US$ 1 = 1.71 TL
GB£ 1 = 2.82 TL
(all as of July 27, 2011)
Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted, American Express much less so. Starting from June 1, 2007 all credit card users (of those with a chip on them) have to enter their PIN codes when using the credit card. Older, magnetic card holders are exception to this, but remember that unlike some other places in Europe, salesclerk has the legal right to ask you a valid ID with a photo on to recognize that you are the owner of the card. ATMs are scattered throughout the cities, concentrated in central parts. It is possible to draw Turkish Lira (and rarely foreign currency) from these ATMs with your foreign card. Any major town has at least one ATM.
ATMs ask whether to provide instructions in English or in Turkish (and sometimes some other languages, too) as soon as you insert a foreign card (or a Turkish card which is not the operating bank’s own). When withdrawing money from ATMs, if the ATM in question does not belong to the bank that you already have an account in, they charge some percentage (generally 1%-one per cent) of what you withdraw from your account each time. This percentage is higher for advance withdrawing with your credit card.
No establishments require a commission surcharge when using a credit card.
A 10% of the total bill or simply rounding up to the next lira for smaller purchases is welcome, though this is not a custom to be strictly followed. Tipping ceremony is performed like this, especially in the restaurants and cafes: first you ask for the bill, the waiter/ress brings the bill inside a folder, and puts it on the table and goes away. You put the money into the folder (with the bill), and after a few minutes later waiter comes back to collect the folder. A few minutes more later, waiter comes again with the same folder in his/her hands and leaves it once more on the table. This time there is change in it. You leave the amount of change you think waiter deserves and close the folder. The waiter comes again last time a few minutes later to take it. If you think they don’t deserve any tip, walking out into the street without leaving anything is totally okay, and there is no need to feel ashamed. Some establishments charge an additional 10% on your bill that you have to pay, that is the “service charge”, and sometimes it is not declared to the customer until the bill shows up. There is obviously not a reason to leave any more tip in that kind of places. It’s also a bit odd to tip in self-service restaurants and cheap&dirty bars.
Taxi drivers usually tend to round up what the meter says to the next lira and give your change accordingly. So tipping is not necessary. If you insist on taking your exact change back, ask for para üstü? (pronounced something like “pah-rah oos-too”, which means “change”). Driver will be reluctant to give it at first, but you will succeed eventually.
Supermarket cashiers usually round up the total sum to the next 5 kuruş if you pay in cash (the exact sum is extracted when paid by a credit card though). This is not a kind of involuntary tip, as the 2-3-4 kuruşes don’t go into their pockets. It is simply because they are not adequately supplied with enough 1 kuruş coins as it is very rare in circulation. So don’t be surprised if the change given to you is short of a few kuruşes from what should be given to you according to what the electronic board of the till says. It is totally okay to pay the exact sum if you have enough number of 1 kuruş coins.
In Turkey, bargaining is a must. One can bargain everywhere that doesn’t look too luxurious: shops, hotels, bus company offices, and so on. During your bargaining, don’t look so impressed and interested, and be patient. Since foreigners (especially Western people) aren’t expected to be good at bargaining, sellers are quick to reject any bargaining attempt (or are at least quick to look like so), but be patient and wait, the price will fall! (Don’t forget, even if you are successful at your bargaining attempt, when you get your credit card out of your wallet, rather than cash, the agreed price may rise again, though probably to a lower level than the original one)
You can get a VAT refund (currently 18% or 23% on most items) if you are not a citizen or permanent resident of Turkey. Look for the blue “Tax-Free” sticker on the windowpane or entrance of the shops, these kind of shops are the only places you can get a VAT refund. Don’t forget to take the necessary papers from the shop that will enable you for a VAT reclaim when leaving Turkey.
Although Turkey is in a customs union with the European Union for some goods, unlike the situation in the EU, there is currently not an initiative to abolish duty-free shops in the airports.
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