What you need to know before traveling to Turkey

Turkey, located between the Mediterranean Sea, the Black Sea and the Aegean Sea, is the link between Europe and Asia. Formed in 1923 out of parts of the former Ottoman Empire, Turkey is a mixture of eastern and western cultures, cuisines and influences. From the cosmopolitan city of Istanbul in the west to the rugged interior of the country to the historic ruins of Ephesus, Turkey offers a diverse array of things to see and do. Turkey tourism is a major industry. More than 39 million people visit Turkey each year, making it one of the 10 most popular travel destinations in the world.

  • Key facts
    Istanbul, the capital of Turkey, is the most popular tourist destination in the country. It's easy to see why. Istanbul is home to the Grand Bazaar, the Blue Mosque, a collection of royal Ottoman palaces and the Istanbul Archaeological Museum. However, this complex, historic and bustling metropolis isn't all there is to see in this fascinating country. Just a few of the other places you'll want to consider when you travel to Turkey include:

    • Ankara

    • Izmir

    • Cappadocia

    • Ephesus

    • Bodrum

    Turkish is the official language of Turkey. However, English is spoken frequently in the larger cities and a good percentage of the population knows at least a little German. Towards the eastern part of the country, Kurdish is also spoken.
    The official currency in Turkey is the Turkish lira.
    American dollars and euros are also frequently accepted, particularly in tourist areas.
  • Weather & when to go
    Spring and autumn are the best times to visit Turkey. The air is warm, but dry and the days are long. April is rainy and the height of the summer (July and August) can be humid and hot. Winters are generally chilly and rainy. Just a few of the average temperatures in Turkey include:

    • Istanbul -- 46/8 F/C, average high in January; 82/28 F/C, average high in July

    • Ankara -- -- 37/3 F/C, average high in January; 82/28 F/C, average high in July

    • Izmir -- 52/11 F/C, average high in January; 90/32 F/C, average high in July

    • Bursa -- 48/9 F/C, average high in January; 86/30 F/C, average high in July

  • Getting around
    Most people travel to Turkey via Istanbul Ataturk Airport, home to Turkish Airlines and the country's largest airport. Located 15 miles west of downtown Istanbul, this airport serves more than 56 million passengers each year and offers non-stop flights to cities in North America, Europe, Asia and beyond. Turkish State Railways offers rail service between Turkey's major cities and is a good way to get around the country. There's even high-speed service between Istanbul and Ankara. Istanbul, Izmir and Ankara all have effective, underground subway systems.
    Istanbul and other Mediterranean ports in Turkey are popular ports of call for cruise ships during the summer cruise season.
  • Know before you go
    One helpful thing to know when you visit Turkey is when the public holidays occur, since all government buildings and offices as well as most retailers and attractions are closed on Turkish public holidays. These include:

    • January 1 -- New Year's Day

    • April 23 -- National Sovereignty Day and Children's Day

    • May 1 -- Labour and Solidarity Day

    • May 19 -- Commemoration of Ataturk, Youth and Sports Day

    • August 30 --Victory Day

    • October 29 --Republic Day

    • Three days after the end of the Islamic month of Ramadan (June/July) -- Ramadan Feast

    • Four days at the end of the Islamic month of Dhu'l-Hijjah (fall) -- Sacrifice Feast

    To reach emergency services while traveling in Turkey, dial 112 for emergency medical services, 155 for the police and 110 for the fire department. In addition, United States citizens traveling in Turkey and faced with a life or death crisis can call the American embassy in Istanbul by dialing +90 212 335 9000.
    American, British, Australian and Canadian citizens need both a passport and a visa to enter Turkey as do citizens of most other countries. The exceptions are citizens of France, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Czech Republic, Italy, Hungary and Sweden. Citizens of these countries need only carry a valid passport.
  • Travel tips & recommendations

    • Lunch in Turkey is generally eaten between noon and 2:00 PM. Dinner can be eaten as early 6:00 PM or as late as 10:00 PM.

    • Turkish meals usually bring with small appetizer plates called mezes. Popular foods include simply grilled meats and seafood, kebabs, rice, bulgur, pastries made with honey, olives and yogurt.

    • Turkish coffee is served after the completion of the meal, not with dessert. Turkish coffee is thicker and stronger than American or European coffee and is usually served in small cups.

    • Turkish shops are open from 9:30 AM to 7:00 PM, Mondays through Saturdays. Most stores are closed on Sundays.

    • Things to shop for in Turkey include brass ware, hand-knotted rugs, alabaster and leather goods.

    • Islam is the primary religion in Turkey. Custom requires modesty in dress and actions. You won't want to wear short shorts or low-cut blouses here. When visiting mosques, women are required to cover their heads and arms.

    • It is best to avoid tap water and public fountains in Turkey. Bottled water is readily available.

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