22 Things to Know Before You Travel to Turkey

multicultural travel blogger

Merhaba, fellow travelers! If you’re planning to visit the beautiful country of Turkey, here are some important travel tips and advice on the top things to know before going to Turkey! Turkey is one of the world’s most visited countries, with 38 million visitors in 2018. And for good reason, travel to turkey is safe, fun, easy, and affordable. Due to the lack of updated information online, I went ahead and put together this travel blog guide to help others travel to Turkey. Hope you enjoy it & happy travels 😉

Traveling to Turkey soon? I have planned for you the perfect 10 Day Turkey Itinerary for First Time Travelers.


UPDATE: Turkey’s 2023 Earthquake & Travel Safety

The 2023 earthquake in Turkey occurred in the Aegean region, spanning from Adana to Diyarbakir. For context, that’s the same distance as Philadelphia to Boston. It has been one of the deadliest earthquakes in recent history, measured at a magnitude of 7.8 on the Richter scale. Numerous buildings and homes were destroyed, leaving many residents displaced and in need of assistance. President Erdogan has declared a state of emergency in the affected areas for 3 months.

In the aftermath of the earthquake, rescue and relief efforts have been ongoing. The exact extent of the damage and the number of casualties is still being assessed, with a death toll that has surpassed 33,000.

Safety: The location of the earthquake is hundreds of miles from the popular tourist places in Turkey, including Izmir and Istanbul. That likely means that none of the tourist places you’d visit have been physically affected. And even international flights are still operating to Istanbul, Turkey. But you should still take some precautions as there are still large aftershocks, according to the US Embassy. Avoid the areas that have been impacted!

Stay informed about the latest developments and monitor travel warnings and advice from both governments. Check with your airline, tour operators, and insurance providers to understand any restrictions or changes in plans.

How to help: You can donate to Turkey relief efforts at one of the below organizations.


Things to Know Before Traveling to Turkey

1. You Likely Need to Apply for a Visa to Enter Turkey — Yes, Even Americans.

Check Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs page to see what your country’s particular requirements are for entering Turkey. Americans can easily get their visa within 5 minutes of applying online here and paying $20. Since my first trip to Turkey was a surprise (missed my connecting flight), I applied for and received my Turkey visa while waiting in line to see the immigration officer.

Remember to print or do a screen capture of the bar code and the approval page and number because it’ll be an online link. You will not receive the approval information by email. 

The multi-entry visa lasts for up to 90 days. 

2. Wifi Can Be Spotty & Limited for Foreigners

Most wifi spots require a European or Turkish number to get the passcode to access the free wifi. This includes the Istanbul airport; a critical issue to be aware of since you may need to get your online visa when you land at the airport. The best way around this is to have an international phone plan, get a Turkish SIM card, or have a friend with a Turkish number who can spot you the passcodes to get online.

If you choose to buy a Turkish sim card, make sure to take a sim card ejector tool with you so you can remove your sim card tray to put in the sim card. If you have a new phone (approx 2020 onwards), it may support eSims so you could choose to get a Turkish eSim card instead of a physical sim card which makes things a lot easier. eSim cards are downloaded onto your phone, so you don’t have to worry about changing out your existing sim card.

Another option is to rent a portable WiFi, these can be ordered online for collection at your hotel or accomodation (someone must be available to take the delivery).

At hotels and Airbnbs, I found that the internet would drop constantly. It was frustrating when I had work to do but would have to grab my laptop and go restaurant hopping until I found a stable connection. So while the internet/wifi in Turkey usually works in most places, it’s often too slow and about 15% of my time in Turkey it would just stop working completely. 

3. Some Websites Are Banned in Turkey

  • Booking.com doesn’t allow you to book your stay in Turkey if you’re in Turkey. This made it really hard for a last-minute traveler like myself who couldn’t book her stay through the platform. 
  • Wikipedia is banned in Turkey. Here’s why. So get all your research in before you get there, or use the “cache” function on Google if it’s available for your particular search listing.
  • PayPal is inaccessible from Turkey. I had a hard time doing certain business transactions without access to my PayPal account. I definitely did not want to use a proxy to access PayPal in Turkey. BUT the good news was that I realized that if you have the PayPal mobile APPLICATION, you can access your account PayPal through that. 

4. Weather in Turkey

Of course, the weather depends on what part of Turkey you will be visiting. It’s a huge country spanning across two continents with diverse topography. Turkey’s weather ranges from a desert-dry climate to sizzling hot summers to cold snowy winters. Northeastern is generally colder, the center (close to/west of Cappadocia) is desert hot/cold, and the Mediterranean area including Istanbul has hot summers and mild winters. 

5.  Best Time to Visit Turkey

  • Summer can be extremely hot, hitting 100 F (38F), but still a lot of fun to go as long as you prepare adequately for the heat. Bring UV umbrellas like this one, sunscreen, and drink plenty of water. But there will be certain places, that feel unbearable between 12 PM and 5 PM in peak summertime, such as Ephesus and Cappadocia.
  • Winter can be cold with snow in certain parts. The tourism low season is November through March.
  • Springtime is gorgeous as everything is in full bloom, and it’s not yet as hot. (April & May).
  • Fall (September & October) is also a great time to go since it’s still warmer but with smaller crowds. The weather is temperate in most of Turkey around this time.

6. How to Dress in Turkey

Turkey is very diverse; in topography, politics, and culture. Therefore you may cross a woman in a little black dress and then turn the corner to find another woman with everything covered but her eyes. There are parts of Turkey that are more conservative like Kayseri, and others where it feels like you’re in Los Angeles (like Izmir). Even Istanbul itself has many distinct pockets. Its young and hipster Moda neighborhood is like Brooklyn. While its historic district, Sultanahmet, is bustling with museums, markets, and hundred years old architecture.

When deciding what to wear in Turkey, bring both conservative clothes for when you notice a change in culture and don’t want to stand out, and your more “summery” clothes for parts of Turkey where you feel more comfortable. 

7. Language & DIFFICULTIES Communicating 

English is NOT widely spoken in Turkey. Most people could not speak English. Pictionary + memorizing a few Turkish words are essential. Most could not even say “yes” or “no” in English. Some rolled their eyes and sighed when I asked if they spoke English. I found more French or German speakers in Istanbul than English speakers. Thus, I had to learn a ton of Turkish words to get by. If you have allergies, disabilities, or food limitations, learn how to say the essentials in Turkish for those things. Here we some important words to memorize.

8. Cost of Travel/Living in Turkey

Food ranges from $1 for street food to $5 for a plate at a cute restaurant… To $20 for a drink, appetizer, dessert, and main course at a very nice restaurant. Relative to “western” prices, this is VERY GOOD.

  • Flights = $20-$60 each way within the country.
  • Bla Bla Car = About $1/hour.
  • Public transportation = Starting at 15 cents (1 lira). Rarely more than $1 (4 lira) each way.
  • Museum Entrances = About $5-$10 USD (30 to 60 lira) for foreigners.
  • Organized Day Tours = Starting at $30 USD and up for a full day of fun + lunch.
  • Accommodation = This, of course, depends on what part of Turkey. But it starts at $10/night at hostels; $20/night at Airbnbs; $30/night at hotels.
  • IST airport to historic center = $15-20 USD (about 130 lira)

You could also purchase an Istanbul Welcome Card starting at $75 USD. The welcome card includes access to many popular museums, including Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, and a Bosphorus Cruise. You’ll also get 10 public transportation tickets that can be used on buses, trams, ferry, and the metro.

9. How to Get Around Turkey

dolmus turkey

It’s easy getting around Turkey. If you’re on a super budget but have lots of time on your hands you can take buses which are about $10-$20 each way. HOWEVER, if you book ahead of time, you can book flights for $20-$60 each way within Turkey. This is likely the best way to travel because you’ll save time and energy. Every traveler told me that their overnight bus experience was uncomfortable and they couldn’t sleep. So is $10-$30 worth losing hours and a good night’s sleep? You can also arrange airport shuttles with your hotel/homestay for about $12 USD each way.

Within cities, public transportation works efficiently. If you’d like to move between cities then you can take buses. There are even trains that runs through some parts of the country like the Dogu Express Train.

Taxis are another story which leads me to the next point…

10. Taking Taxis in Turkey & Does Uber Work in Turkey?

Taxis in Turkey are notorious for cheating and scamming. My first taxi experience was great. But I had to direct him on how to get to my hostel, and he missed a turn at the beginning. I think it was an honest mistake since the roads were windy. But sometimes they will pretend they got lost or don’t understand you, and won’t stop just to wrack up the meter. They will turn the meter off quickly, so you don’t see the final price. They can pretend not to have change, so always carry small bills for taxi rides. Always turn on your GPS, so they know that you know where you are going. 

Uber didn’t work when I first arrived in Istanbul in late May. But by mid-June, I had the option to call a metered taxi via Uber. This became my go-to method of using taxis in Istanbul. And then, they would enter the final meter number into the Uber app. So take a picture of the meter and let them see you taking that picture. It’s unfortunate that you have to take all these precautions, making it feel like an anxiety-inducing experience from start to finish… but better safe than sorry.

Also, remember NOT to pay Uber drivers cash. It’s already deducted from your Uber app via credit card. I paid the first two Ubers cash, and they knowingly took the money. One had the audacity to ask for MORE money, knowing that he was getting paid via Uber! Later I found out it was already paid for via my credit card. I complained to Uber and got my money back.

But I noticed more and more cab taxi drivers I ordered through Uber were nicer than non-Uber cab drivers, likely because they care about their star rating; which is one of the great things about Uber. One of the not-so-great things is that they take a huge commission which isn’t fair… But unfortunately, taxi scams are ubiquitous, and this felt like the best way to have some protection. 

Not-so-fun fact: I’ve read that a lot of cab drivers come from harder places in Turkey, have to pay a mafia guy some sort of “taxi rent” for the car, and thus are aggressively desperate to make money however they can. 

Important Turkish taxi words:

– Straight = düz (douz)
– Here = burası (burasou)
– Right = Sağ (Saou)
– Left = Sol (Soh)
– OK = tamman (tamman)
– Good = İyi (eiye)

11. Travel Adapter for Turkey

In Turkey, the power plug socket is F type, which is the general European outlet. The standard voltage is 220 V. I bought my adapter for about 10 liras ($1.50 USD), and it worked but uncomfortably. Electronic stores are more basic around Turkey and are usually just smaller shops for repairs. It took me a while to find a better converter for about $5. So I strongly suggest bringing your own from home, so you don’t end up wasting time trying to find one. I recommend this one or this one.

12. Is it Safe to Travel Through Turkey?

It’s embarrassing to think back on how apprehensive I felt about traveling to Turkey. After the news about the attacks for a few consecutive years, I feared there could be another attack at any moment. Which is silly, because there’s a gun attack where I’m from (USA), every day it seems. But I also thought that maybe it would be hard for a solo female traveler. And I wondered if I could be caught in the midst of something dangerous given some of the political tension (many hate their ultra-right-wing president the way many hate Trump in the USA). But when I got to Turkey… It immediately felt safer than NYC. Safer than much of Europe. I was shocked. And felt ashamed that I let media generalizations get the best of me the way they do to so many other countries (like the recent DR media frenzy).

In a full month of solo female traveling in Turkey, I didn’t get street harassed once. And all I did was walk and walk all around each city and town. I walked past groups of men, men’s clubs with their backgammon, schoolboys, cops, construction men, fearfully carrying the trauma of my NYC/LatAm background… anxiously anticipating a whistle or a comment… but to my relief, I got nothing. Maybe a glance at most. And this was while I was wearing all types of clothing ranging from loose pants to short-shorts. Of course, I also didn’t go out of my way to befriend strange men or joke with them or laugh with them. I always kept my conversations short with men (whether they were my waiter or hotel receptionist), but I also do this everywhere as a solo female traveler to be safe.

In summary, I never felt my life or belongings in danger. The only thing that made me fear for my life was the way the taxi drivers drive! But I think that’s everywhere in the world. So wear a seat belt.

13. Currency in Turkey

The currency in Turkey is the Turkish Lira, and in the past few years, there have been a lot of changes to its value. After some political/economic turmoil, the government cut the inflation zeros and pegged it 1:1 with the US dollar. However, this didn’t last long. And now it’s 18 liras to $1 US dollar! Wow! This is a huge value for your American (or European or British) buck. 

14. History, Politics & Religion in Turkey

Much of Turkey prides itself on its secular and progressive movements. At the same time, other parts of Turkish society want a more conservative culture and to integrate Islam more into everyday parts of life, including public institutions. For this topic, I strongly suggest reading up on Mustafa Ataturk. One of the most impactful and key historical figures of Turkey after the fall of the Ottoman Empire. You can also watch one of the many documentaries about him on YouTube. Scroll down to number 17 for other incredible book recommendations. 

15. Food in Turkey & Turkish Cuisine

Turkish food is largely influenced by Ottoman cuisine (Central Asian, Middle Eastern, Eastern European)… and of course, by the myriad cultures and conquerors that passed through its lands and silk road. Today, the major flavors/ingredients used are: red chili pepper, black pepper, mint, paprika, olive oil, cumin, and yogurt. 

One of the best ways to learn about Turkish food is to take a cooking class. I did one with Cookistan in Istanbul, and it was a HIGHLIGHT experience (pictured above). I learned about the historic origins of Turkish food, went shopping at markets and stores in a local Turkish neighborhood, and then we made some of the most epically delicious Turkish dishes. Plates that are traditionally cooked at home because they require more detail and time to do. I combined spices and flavors that I could have never imagined would produce such delicious meals. A cooking lesson in Turkey is a MUST cultural/foodie experience. 

If you don’t want to cook, you could also take part in a private guided food tour around Istanbul, where you’ll spend hours exploring some of the best places to eat in Istanbul whilst tasting many of the local dishes. You’ll also visit Misir Carsisi, which is one of the largest spice markets in Istanbul and is where locals have purchased their spices for hundreds of years.

Here are a few Turkish dishes you can NOT leave without trying. Write them down! Baklava, Dolma, Lokum (Turkish Delight), Kebap, Mercimek Koftesi, Corba soup, Kunefe, Turkish Coffee. 

16. Where to Go in Turkey? Top Places to Visit

If you’re planning your trip to Turkey, check out this helpful first-timers trip to Turkey itinerary. It includes the top places to visit, where to stay, and things to do in each place. Here are the most popular places to visit in Turkey:

  1. Istanbul
  2. Cappadocia is a must for first-time travelers to Turkey. Don’t miss out on an iconic hot air balloon ride like this one!
  3. Izmir (which includes day trips to Ephesus, Cesme/Alacati, and Pamukkale
  4. Antalya (including trips to the beach towns like Fethiye). A great way to explore Antalya is with this cable car, boat trip and waterfalls tour.
  5. Marmaris/Fethiye. Why not take a boat cruise along the Dalyan canal, enjoy a mud bath, and visit turtle beach?

17. Books to Read Before Traveling to Turkey

  1. A Turkish Awakening by Alev Scott – One of my favorite books and a great way to get a better sense of modern Turkish life and history.
  2. The Bastard of Istanbul by Elif Shafak – A story about two families coming together from Turkey and the United States and the search to connect with Turkish heritage/identity.
  3. Birds Without Wings by Louis de Bernieres – About the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the consequences of World War I and the forced migration of Christian Turks to Greece and Muslim Greeks to Turkey!
  4. A Strangeness in My Mind by Orhan Pamuk – Account of Istanbul in the 1900s by an Anatolian street hawker.
  5. Constantinople: City of the World’s Desire by Philip Mansel
  6. Istanbul: Memories and the City by Orhan Pamuk
  7. Atatürk: The Biography of the Founder of Modern Turkey by Andrew Mango

18. Solo Traveling Turkey

Solo travel in Turkey is easy. 

However, it’s one of the few countries where I: 1) Felt like it was so romantic I wish I had a loved one with me to share the incredible moments, but I was still happy as heck 2) Met fewer solo travelers compared to other countries 3) Got weirded-out-eyes from other travelers when I said I was solo traveling more than I did solo backpacking Africa.

But I can assure you, I felt good, happy, and fulfilled in Turkey as a solo traveler. And I did make some other tourist and Turkish friends along the way. However, compared to South East Asia or Western Europe, it’s less common to solo travel here.

Fun fact: A great way to link up with other travelers in Turkey is by staying in hostels. I LOVED this hostel in Istanbul so much that I extended my stay four times. They have a cute restaurant area where you can work with lots of natural lighting. And it’s located in a more hip/hidden gem part of the city.

19. Shopping Heaven

When I go back to Turkey, I’m packing an empty duffle bag just for shopping. Between the markets, bazaars, and artisan craft shops, your head may spin from the abundance of gorgeous and low-priced things to shop for: rugs, towels, jewelry, books, cooking ware, copper crafts, ceramics, paintings, pillowcases, special souvenirs, antiques! There’s something cool for everyone and at a bargain!

20. Istanbul is Magical

istanbul rooftops

Istanbul is bursting in culture, history, and things to do. You want to dedicate no fewer than 3 days to Istanbul. If you have more time, at least 5 days. I spent two weeks and still wanted to see more and more of it. There are various neighborhoods to visit both on the Asian and European sides. Highlight experiences from cooking lessons to museums to Hamman visits. And you’ll want to dedicate some time to SHOPPING. Have I mentioned that Turkey is shopping heaven?

Here is a beautifully written summary of Istanbul’s past and future to better contextualize your experience in this special city.

21. Where to Stay in Turkey?

beautiful hotel in cappadocia

There are hundreds and hundreds of gorgeous hotels, Airbnbs, and hostels to choose from throughout Turkey. And best of all? Many are relatively affordable! Here are my top recommendations per region:

Istanbul Hotels

  • Juliet Rooms & Kitchen ($)– This super cute hotel + hostel + restaurant offers delicious food, clean amenities, beautiful rooms, and is located on a gorgeous street in Moda (Eastern Istanbul).
  • MGallery Galata($$$$) – Gorgeous hotel, beautiful rooms, lovely restaurants, a full spa/Hamman downstairs and in a great location!
  • Four Seasons Sultanahmet ($$$$$) – Perfectly located in the heart of the city’s oldest district but in a tranquil street with a gorgeous patio restaurant.
  • Airbnb ($) – Consider staying with a local for a great price. This way you connect with a fellow Turk, get great (non-hotel) prices, and personalized assistance.

Cappadocia Hotels

  • Carus Hotel ($$) – A stunning cave hotel with a gorgeous restaurant and shop right below. This is a newer hotel so the prices are relatively low for now! This is also located a few steps from everything in town.
  • Mithra Cave Hotel ($$$) – One of the classic cave hotels to stay in. If you are a guest here, you can access the breakfast lookout of the balloons.
  • Museum Hotel ($$$$$) – Elegant and luxurious hotel reminiscent of a museum carved out of a tall rock cave.

Izmir Hotels

  • Graymark Hotel ($$) – I stayed here, and it was just perfect. Super affordable yet offers a top-quality stay in a perfect location.
  • Spil Suites ($$) – Miss cooking? Want your own place? Rent an entire apartment in downtown Izmir!
  • Renaissance Izmir ($$$$$) – a stunning and luxurious five-star hotel in the city center with state of the art amenities.

22. What to Pack for Turkey?

Traveling to Turkey doesn’t require many adjustments compared to other travel destinations around the world. But here are the things that I used the most:


Read more of my Turkey articles:


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42 thoughts on “22 Things to Know Before You Travel to Turkey

  1. Rhonda Albom says:

    Fantasitc and useful tips for anyone coming to Turkey. We only had a short visit. This seems really complete, and filled with useful information. I had no idea that wikipedia was banned, or some of the other things I read here.

  2. nancywill2017 says:

    I want to visit Turkey someday – it is really high on my list. This is some great stuff to help in the planning. Thanks!

  3. Sage Scott says:

    Really great list of very practical tips. I got to visit Istanbul several years ago and absolutely loved it!

  4. Shilpa says:

    Thank you for the detailed post. Please can you help me understand if there are food options available for vegetarians.

  5. Javier Perez says:

    I have been planning to visit turkey. I am really fascinated by their places and culture. Very informative content and pictures look really beautiful and worth visiting. Keep it up 🙂

  6. Patricia Taylor says:

    My daughter and I are planning a trip to Instanbul, Turkey. Thanks for the great tips. Now we won’t feel lost when we get there. We can’t wait!

  7. Skylar says:

    Where did you take the rooftop photos with the seagulls? I heard it is shut down now. I would love to go during my trip this year! Thank you.

  8. Ju says:

    Thanks for writing this but what about Covid testing while travelling within Turkey? Do you need PCR testing for every domestic flight you take?

    • Isabelle says:

      Hi there, great question! We have been reluctant to add Covid-related info for travel to Turkey due to how quickly it keeps changing! Yes, you need a negative PCR test (within 72 hours) to enter Turkey from abroad . And no, you don’t need one for domestic flights.

  9. Ada B says:

    Your blog is heaven, I’m so glad I came across it because your post about Turkey answered most if not all of my doubts and questions, I am planning my trip for March 2022 and I feel so ready and so excited to visit. I am a flight attendant and even tho I travel a lot for work I also do a lot of solo traveling and Turkey has been on my list for the longest time but like you said do to the media fear we get in the USA it had me doubting if to go. Thanks for all the amazing tips. your blog is my new obsession and love that you are Dominican just like me 🙂

    • Isabelle says:

      Omg otra viajera dominicana– que lindo!! Me alegro que vas a Turquia. Llevame contigo! 🙂 Disfrutalo mucho.

      Y gracias por las lindas palabras.

  10. Shannon says:

    By far the best breakdown I have read. Thank you so much for your time and tips. You have made my trip anxiety minimize. I love this so much!

  11. Veronique Jordan says:

    Thank you very much for all this information! You were traveling solo and carrying a very nice camera. Did you feel safe using it anywhere in Istanbul?

  12. Aakansha Goyal says:

    I am taking a one way flight to Istanbul and planning a stay of 30 days. Can you guide how should i plan my this solo trip and stay recommendations for a budget.

  13. Cindy says:

    Thank you so much for this article!!! We were waffling on whether or not to go to Turkey after we leave Athens, and I think this clinches it!

    • Isabelle says:

      Aww yay! Turkey is truly amazing. I’m so glad you’re going. I can’t wait to be back there very soon as well <3

  14. Dino says:

    Is it possible to travel to Turkey without a car? I’m on a little budget so I’m looking for ways to travel without renting a car in Turkey. Would it be possible to get to some out of the way places without one? Like to Oludeniz, Fethiye, etc? Thank you so much.

    • Isabelle says:

      Totally possible! You can take taxis, buses, and flights. If you book ahead of time, some flights can be as low as $25 ish dollars. Also look into Blablacar for Oludeniz and Fethiye. I saw some rides in that region but never got to try Blabla there.

  15. Zayzay says:

    According to various climate classifications, there are no deserts in Turkey. Cappadocia region is not desert, it’s dry continental climate with distinct 4 seasons (pretty cold and snowy winters) and farming is pretty developed. Lack of forest≠desert

  16. Veronika says:

    What a great article! We’re currently dreaming of going to Turkey again – we’ve been
    there before and we love, love love it! Here’s to a year with loads of travel plans and new experiences!

    – Veronika // RejsRejsRejs
    If you want even more tips for your trip to Turkey, you’re welcome to read
    our article on Turkey

  17. Shraddha says:

    Brilliant article. Helps so much!
    I have a dietary restriction with gluten. I can eat gluten-free and also do well with sour dough. Is it easy to get sour dough breads in Turkey? And what are they called? Anything you can share on this would help tremendously.
    Thank you.

  18. Vane says:

    Hi Isabelle,

    This trip looked absolutely amazing!! I am traveling to Turkey soon and was wondering if USD is widely accepted or if you recommend exchanging some to turkish, and if so how much for about 7-8 days?

    I’m also going to Izmir, do you recommend any shops/markets to buy gifts for family/friends? And any Turkish goods/treats you recommend taking back to the states that aren’t easily found in the US?

    Thank you, hope to hear from you. 🙂

  19. Jatin Kathiriya says:

    Amazing blog, enjoyed reading it every information! specifically detailed information which can not be gathered from the other youtube videos!

  20. Angel says:

    Looking for information about Turkey (Turkiye**) online and who would have thought I’d find a blog written by a fellow dominican? klk!! Thanks for the invaluable information you share.

  21. Syndi Tenhagen says:

    Thank You so much about the tips. We are going in Sept 2023 and I can’t wait to visit this magical place. Your information is really good. Thank you again
    Syndi

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