Travel Tips for Turkey

Countries  »  Turkey  »  Travel Tips

Top Travel Tips for Turkey

Big cities in Turkey, especially Istanbul, are not immune to petty crime. Although petty crime is not especially directed towards tourists, by no means are they exceptions. Snatching, pickpocketing, and mugging are the most common kinds of petty crime. However, recently with the developing of a camera network which watches streets and squares –especially the central and crowded ones- 24-hour a day in Istanbul, the number of snatching and mugging incidents declined. Just like anywhere else, following common sense is recommended. (Please note that the following recommendations are for the big cities, and most small-to-mid size cities usually have no petty crime problems at all) Have your wallet and money in your front pockets instead of back pockets, backpack or shoulder bag.

You should drive defensively at all times and take every precaution while driving in Turkey. Drivers in Turkey routinely ignore traffic regulations, including driving through red lights and stop signs, and turning left from the far right lane; these driving practices cause frequent traffic accidents. Drivers should be aware of several particular driving practices prevalent in Turkey. Drivers who experience car troubles or accidents pull to the side of the road and turn on their emergency lights to warn other drivers, but many drivers place a large rock or a pile of rocks on the road about 10-15 meters behind their vehicles instead of turning on emergency lights. You may not use a cell phone while driving. It is strictly prohibited by law.

Don’t exhibit your camera or cellphone for too long if it is a new and/or expensive model (they know what to take away, no one will bother to steal a ten-year-old cell phone as it would pay very little). The same goes for your wallet, if it’s overflowing with money. Leave a wide berth and move away from the area quickly if you see two or more people begin to argue and fight as this may be a ruse to attract your attention while another person relieves you of your valuables. Be alert, this often happens very quickly. Watch your belongings in crowded places and on public transport, especially on trams and urban buses.

Avoid dark and desolate alleys at night. If you know you have to pass through such a place at night, don’t take excessive cash with you but instead deposit your cash into the safe-box at your hotel. Stay away from demonstrating crowds if the demonstration seems to be turning into an unpeaceful one. Also in resort towns, when going to beach, don’t take your camera or cell phone with you if there will be no one to take care of them while you are swimming. If you notice that your wallet has been stolen it is wise to check the nearest trash cans before reporting the loss to the police. It is often the case that thieves in Turkey will drop the wallet into the trash to avoid being caught in possession of the wallet and proven a thief. Obviously it is highly likely that your money will no longer be in it, but there is a chance that your credit cards and papers will be.

Things to See Whilst Travelling in Turkey

As a general rule, most museums and sites of ancient cities in Turkey are closed on Mondays, although there are numerous exceptions to this.

Ancient Ruins and Architectural Heritage

At the crossroads of civilizations, all parts of Turkey are full of a mindblowing number of ancient ruins.

Hittites , the first indigenous people that rose to found a state in Anatolia—although there is one certain Çatalhöyük preceding them, the earliest settlement ever found to the date in Turkey—left the proof of their existence at the ruins of Hattuşaş, their capital.

Ancient Greeks and closely following Romans left their mark mostly in Aegean and Mediterranean Regions, leaving behind the marble ruins of hundreds of cities, temples, and monuments. Some are largely restored to their former glory, such as Ephesus as well as numerous others along the Aegean coast which are on the checklist of most travellers to Turkey, along with some more obscure ones off the beaten path such as Aphrodisias near Denizli, and Aizonai.

In the meantime, some other indigenous peoples, such as Lycians, were carving beautiful tombs—many of which are fairly well preserved and can be seen all around Lycia—for their dearly departed ones onto the rocky hillsides.

Legendary Troy stands out as an example of different civilizations literally living on the top of each other. While what is visible today is clearly Hellenistic, the place has its roots as Hittite Wilusa, and later re-built many times over by Ancient Greeks.

Perhaps the most unique "architectural" heritage in the country, some of the Cappadocian cave houses and churches carved into "fairy chimneys" and underground cities (in a literal sense!) date back to early Christians hiding from persecution.

Successors of Romans, the Byzantines, broke new ground with more ambitious projects, culminating in grand Hagia Sophia of Istanbul, built in 537, and which had the distinction of being the largest cathedral in the world for almost a thousand years. Most of Byzantine heritage intact today is found in Marmara Region, especially in Istanbul, although a stray monastery or two dating back to the era can be found in almost any part of the country.

Seljuks , the first ever Turkic state to be founded in Asia Minor, built most of their monuments—which incorporates large majestic portals and heavily delicate stonework, reminiscent of some landmarks in parts of Asia—in major centres of the time in Eastern and Central Anatolia, especially in Konya, their capital.

Ottomans , who had considered themselves as a Balkan state until their demise, built most of their landmarks in Balkans and the natural extension of Balkans within today's Turkey— Marmara Region—just like the Byzantines, whom the Ottomans inspired to in so many ways. Most of the earlier Ottoman monuments were built in Bursa, which have little Byzantine and comperatively large Seljuk influences, and later, when the dynasty moved to Europe, in Edirne, some of the major landmarks of which exhibit some kind of "transitional" and fairly experimental style. It wasn't until the Fall of Constantinople that the Ottomans adopted Byzantine architecture almost full scale with some adjustments. However, the Ottoman imperial architecture possibly reached its zenith not in Istanbul, but in Edirne—in the form of Selimiye Mosque, a work of Sinan, the great Ottoman architecture of 16th century.

19th century brought back the Greek and Roman taste of architectural styles, so there was a huge explosion of neo-classical architecture, as much fashionable in Turkey as in the much of the rest of the world at that time. Galata side of Istanbul, Izmir (though unfortunately most of which was lost to the big fire of 1922), and numerous towns along the coasts, one most prominent and well preserved example being Ayvalık, quickly filled with elegant neo-classical buildings. At the same time, people in more inland locations were favouring pleasant, more traditional, and less pretentious half-timbered whitewashed houses, which form picturesque towns such as Safranbolu, Beypazarı, and Şirince in northern, central, and western part of the country respectively. It was also this time beautiful and impressive wooden mansions of Istanbul's seaside neighbourhoods and islands were built. Other contemporary trends of the era, such as Baroque and Rococo, didn't make much inroads in Turkey, although there were some experiments of combining them into Islamic architecture, as can be seen at Ortaköy Mosque on the banks of Bosphorus along with some others.

As the landscapes change the more east you go, so does the architectural heritage. The remote valleys and hilltops of Eastern Karadeniz and Eastern Anatolia are dotted with numerous medieval Georgian and Armenian churches and castles—some of which are nicely well preserved but not all were that lucky. Armenian cathedral on Akdamar Island of Lake Van and medieval Ani are two that lay somewhere on the midway between perfectly preserved and undergone total destruction, but both are absolutely must-sees if you've made your way that east. For a change, Southeastern Anatolia features more Middle East-influenced architecture, witharched courtyards and heavy usage of yellow stones with highly exquisite masonry. It's best seen in Urfa, and especially in Mardin and nearby Midyat.

Being on the crossroads of civilizations more often than not also means being the battleground of civilizations. So it's no wonder why so many castles and citadels dot the landscape, both in towns and countryside, and both on the coasts and inland. Most of the castles built during different stages of history are today main attractions of the towns they are standing on.

20th century wasn't kind on Turkish cities. Due to the pressure caused by high rates of immigration from rural to urban areas, many historical neighbourhoods in cities were knocked down in favour of soulless (and usually, drab ugly) apartment blocks, and outskirts of major cities transformed to shantytowns. There is not really much of a gem in the name of modern architecture in Turkey. Steel-and-glass skyscrapers, on the other hand, are now slowly and sparsely being erected in major cities, one example where they concentrate much as to form a skyline view being the business district of Istanbul, although hardly impressive compared with major metropolises around the world known for their skyscraper filled skylines.

Itineraries

  • A week in Southeastern Anatolia — a week in perhaps the most exotic part of the country, touching all major sights there
  • Along the Troad Coast — ancient legends intertwine with beautiful landscapes and the deep blue Aegean Sea
  • Lycian Way — walk along the remotest section of the country's Mediterranean coast, past ancient cities, forgotten hamlets, and balmy pine forests

Things to Do Whilst Travelling in Turkey

While Turkey is rightly renowned for its warm Mediterranean beaches, wintersports, especially skiing, is very much a possibility—and indeed a popular activity—in the mountainous interior of the country between October and April, with a guaranteed stable snowcover and constant below freezing temperatures between December and March. Some more eastern resorts have longer periods of snowcover.

Most popular wintersports resorts include Uludağ near Bursa, Kartepe near Izmit, Kartalkaya near Bolu, and Ilgaz near Kastamonu in the northwest of the country, Palandöken near Erzurum, and Sarıkamış near Kars in the northeast of the country, and Erciyes near Kayseri in the central part. Saklıkent near Antalya is touted to be one of the places where you can ski in the morning and swim in the warm waters of Mediterranean down the coast in Antalya in the afternoon, though snowcover period in Saklıkent is desperately short as not to let this happen every year.

The content on this page is available under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 license. It has been written by the users of WikiTravel and gapyear.com cannot not accept any responsibility for its accuracy. For any critical information you require, please be sure to check with the relevant embassy for the most up to date information before you travel.