About Turkey

Basic Facts

Official Name:

Republic of Turkey

Capital:

Ankara (NOT Istanbul)

Population: 74 million
Total Area: 779,450 sq. km
Official Language: Turkish
Minorities: Kurdish, Arabic and Greek
Religions: Muslim 98%, other 2%
Government: Multiparty democracy with Westminster system

Geography

Turkey is one of only a few countries in the world, which spans more than one continent. 3% of the country’s land mass (known as Thrace) lies in Europe while the remaining 97% (known as Anatolia) is in Asia. Turkey is bordered by the Black Sea to the north, the Aegean to the west, and the Mediterranean to the south. Its coastal regions are very fertile and often lush. Anatolia is dominated by two mountain ranges – the Pontic Mountains in the north and the Taurus Mountains in the south, separated by a high, semi-arid plateau. Eastern Turkey is very Rugged and mountainous.

Preparing To Go

Visas: While some nationalities do not require a visa to enter the Turkey, Australia, UK, USA, Canada and New Zealand passport holders need to obtain a visa to enter the country.

As of March 2014, the position regarding Turkish tourist visas is as follows.

A new E-Visa system is currently being implemented. It has been announced by the Turkish Ministry for Foreign Affairs that the transition to the new tourist E-visa system will be extended beyond April 10, 2014 to include the whole of the 2014 tourism season. This means that visitors can obtain an entry visa EITHER ‘on-arrival’ at a port of entryl (until the end of 2014) OR online from the Turkish Government site www.evisa.gov.tr. The visa obtained from this site is valid for tourism and trade purposes only.

Visa fee for both e-Visa and the ‘port entry’ visa is $60USD. There are third party sites that arrange e-Visas, but these are more expensive and take up to two weeks to come through. We do not recommend such third-party sites and strongly advise that people planning to visit Turkey get their e-Visas from the official above government site.

The ‘port of entry’ visa fee is payable on arrival and the e-Visa fee is paid when purchasing visa online. Online visa fee payment can be made by MasterCard and Visa credit/debit cards. As well as credit card purchases, other payment options are available such as purchase from approved airlines offices, group travel payments, other card options for on-line purchases, and visa purchase kiosks on arrival in Turkey.

Money: Except for a few meals, Ozturk Tours are all-inclusive. However, tour participants should allow at least AU$25 per person per day for drinks, incidental expenses and expenses of a personal nature. Naturally, this amount will be higher if you intend to purchase expensive gifts, participate in optional excursions, have wine with meals, etc.

Suggested methods of taking money are:

  • Australian Dollars, which can be exchanged with relative ease. Amount should be limited to $1000 per person for security reasons.
  • ATM withdrawals from your Australian account. You can withdraw the equivalent of $500 or more per day. This is a safe and convenient way of accessing your money. A fee about $5.00 is charged per withdrawal plus a percentage, depending on your financial institution.
  • Credit card (should be used for major purchases only)
  • Travellers cheques are not recommended as it is difficult to exchange in small centers and commission is charged at both ends.

Local Currency: Turkey’s monetary unit is Turkish Lira (abbreviated to TL). The approximate exchange rates for the TL as of March 2014 are as follows.

1 Australian Dollar = 2.00 TL
1 US Dollar = 2.25 TL
1 Euro = 3.11 TL
1 Pound Sterling = 3.72 TL

There is no restriction on the amount of foreign currency that a visitor may bring into Turkey, however, sums of US$10,000 or more should be declared on arrival.

Currency Exchange: Usual outlets for exchanging money are Change Offices (also known as DOVIZ), Banks and Post Offices. These can be found in all large and most small towns. The speed of service is much faster at a Change Office, and the rate of exchange usually better. If you do change money at a bank, be patient, service can be slow. It is often possible to exchange money (or travellers cheques) at hotels, but exchange rate is not as good as those at other outlets.

Working Out Your Budget

Below are some specific notes relevant to Ozturk Boutique Tours clients preparing to go to Turkey.

Drinks:
Tea, coffee and reconstituted fruit juices are provided with breakfast in most hotels. Drinking water is provided on the coach. All drinks at other times including bottled water are at your own expense. Approximate prices you can expect to pay for drinks bought in a shop in the street are:

1 litre bottled water AUS$1.00
300ml bottle of soft drink AUS$1.50
500ml bottle of beer AUS$3.00

Prices will undoubtedly be higher in hotels and in restaurants.

You should not drink the local tap water when travelling. Bottled water, carbonated soft drinks, fruit juices and beers are widely available throughout Turkey. The local beers – “Efes” & “Tuborg”- and some of the wines are quite palatable. In more up market hotels, imported beers and spirits are available, at a price. If you enjoy drinking spirits, we suggest you purchase your full quota at Duty Free.

Entrance Fees & Optional Excursions:

Our tours include entrance fees to all sites specified in your itinerary. On days free of planned activities, it is possible to organise special excursions or visits to additional sites and museums or sightseeing trips. Your tour leader/guide will be able to advise you of the possibilities in each area. Popular optional activities include a visit to a Turkish Bath (AUS$25 approx), city tours (AUS$30). In Cappadocia, you can go on an optional balloon flight. This is a highly enjoyable activity. The price is around AUS$220 for a 45 minute flight and AUS$300 for an hour long flight.

What to Bring

In the regions we visit, the temperature range is a comfortable 20 to 30 degrees C in May and September. (More on climate later). So, casual spring/summer clothing is all that is required. It is advisable to pack a jumper or warm coat just in case. Also sturdy walking shoes and sun hat are a must. A sun umbrella can be useful if strong sun bothers you. You should also bring sun cream and other personal toiletry items.

Local Transport

Taxis are the most effective method of local transport, and recommended for all journeys within a city. In Turkey, taxis are metered and rates are quite reasonable. Sharing a taxi with other group members can be quite a bargain. You should be aware that taxis and “AIRBUS” are the usual forms of transport to and from the Airport. Taxis do have meters. Make sure your driver uses his. Night-time fares between midnight and 6am are around 50% more than the daytime.

There is also a Tram/Metro combination from the Old City to the airport. At about AUS$3.00, this is very good value and convenient especially if you do not have much luggage. Take the Tram to Zeytinburne (last stop on the line) and change to Metro which then takes you all the way to the airport.

Weather

The climate in Turkey varies greatly according to the region and the time of year. On the Mediterranean & Aegean Coasts, the climate is pleasant for most of the year. Summer highs are around 35 degrees and in winter temperatures rarely drop below 8 degrees. In Central and South Eastern Anatolia, summer starts early and is pleasantly mild before building to a hot and dry peak period when temperatures can reach 40 degrees Celsius in July and August. Mid-winter is cold with a lot of snow and temperatures as low as minus 17 degrees. The Black Sea coast is generally mild, but wet. There is an annual rainfall of 225 cm. The summer is quite short and only really lasts from June to September. Even during these months there can be heavy rain.

Local Food and Drink

Food

The Turks, quite rightly, are very proud of their cuisine. If you have never eaten Turkish food before, you will probably be pleasantly surprised with the meals throughout your stay. Turkish food relies on meat as its main ingredient. Vegetarians however are also catered for. Turkish restaurants fall into two basic categories; restoran and lokanta. Most “restorans” offer a sort of a la carte menu, with foods on display that will be cooked to order. “Lokantas” on the other hand, have a selection of prepared dishes kept hot ready to serve. Lokantas are usually cheaper than restorans, and you will be able to eat your fill for a very reasonable price.

Here’s an idea of some of the more commonly found dishes. Snacks are easy to come by in the form of tost – a toasted sandwich usually filled with melted cheese, processed meat or tomato, and doner kebab, which is well known in the West. Those wanting a full meal will probably begin with a meze, a selection of cold or hot hor d’oevres. You will find a variety of dips, pickled vegetables, yoghurts and salads as well as borek – deep fried pasty filled with cheese or minced meat. Soups known as corba (pronounced ‘chorba’) are very tasty. The best two are mercimek (lentil), found almost everywhere, and yayla (yoghurt soup flavoured with mint). Your main meal will usually be centred around a meat dish. In most cases some form of kebab or kofte. This will usually be made from lamb, but can be chicken or sometimes beef. Never pork!

In western and central Turkey there is a wide selection of meats available; lamb cutlets, beefsteaks, chickens, while in the coastal regions you should try at least one fish dish. Main meals will be served with a small salad and either rice, chips or pasta. Other vegetables can be ordered and are often prepared in a sauce. Kuru Fasuliye is a delicious dish of white beans in a tomato sauce, whilst Taze Fasuliye is green beans in a stock-sauce. All meals are accompanied by one of two delicious types of bread – the unleavened variety known as Pide (pee-day) bread, or a European type which is rather light and crusty on the outside (similar to the French baguette). Another popular dish found throughout Turkey is Pide. This is basically a type of pizza, in which pide bread (described above) is covered with toppings of your choice; typically cheese, tomato, minced meat, egg, salami, etc. Those who can’t make up their mind can order “karasik” (ka-ra-shik) or mixed pide, which is everything! If you have the chance, try gozleme – this is real “village food”. Gozleme can best be described as a crepe filled with cheese, and sometimes vegetables such as potato or spinach.

Traditional Turkish deserts like baklava, kadayif revani or kemel pasa are sweet pastries. Fresh fruit and nuts are always available. Turkey produces watermelons, cherries, peaches, grapes, apples, pears, oranges, figs, hazelnuts, walnuts and pistachio nuts. You may be guided in you choice of fruit by what has just been harvested!

Drinks

The usual collection of soft drinks is to be found almost everywhere – Coke, lemonade, orangeade – but there are also a few that you might not have come across before. Ayran is a yoghurt based drink that varies in taste from one place to another. Most visitors are surprised to find that tea or Çay (chai) is the universal drink in Turkey rather than coffee. This is largely due to the fact that coffee is relatively expensive whilst tea has remained cheap – Turkey is a major tea producer. Having said that, those who like their coffee should try the traditional strong brew for which the Turks are famous (Turk Kahve). Despite the fact that 98% of the population is Muslim, alcohol is readily available in Turkey. The local beers Efes and Tuborg are good lager type beers. Raki is the local variant of Ouzo, not as sweet and equally potent. It is the Turkish drink and has a whole sub-culture attached to it. It should be drunk only after mixing with water, and consumed with meze or watermelon and good conversation. Wines vary considerably from region to region, but the larger producers offer some surprisingly good bottles – try Cankaya (white), Yakut (Red), or Doluca Antik (white & red available).

Shopping

Shopping in Turkey can be great fun; whether haggling for souvenirs in Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar or sorting through the food stalls in a local market. Some popular souvenirs are:

Carpets: Produced in some 60 different regions of Turkey, the beauty of the craftsmanship of hand made carpets is amazing and varied. It is generally accepted that the unique double knot makes Turkish carpets the best in the world. You need to exercise a fair amount of care if you intend to buy a carpet. Prices and quality vary considerably. The number of knots per square cm, the materials used, the type of dye, the age of the carpet and of course the size all have a bearing on the price. Be warned, the Turkish carpet industry has attracted some of the country’s best salesmen.

Kilims: Described simply, kilims are woven rugs and unlike carpets do not have a pile. Like carpets, Turkish Kilims originate from the nomadic peoples. Traditionally thought of as the poor cousin, Kilims are currently very much in fashion in the west, and some examples can be just as beautiful as carpets and just as expensive.

Leather: Leather goods are inexpensive in Turkey, though the leather is very soft and therefore not as durable as one might hope. Istanbul’s covered bazaar and the coastal towns like Kusadasi offer the widest selection of designs and prices.

Clothes: Textiles have always been a major industry in Turkey. Turkey is a major cotton producer and labour is not expensive. There are many imitations of popular brand names on sale, but there are also a number of Turkish fashion houses with growing reputations.

Onyx: Quarried mainly in Cappadocia, an immense variety of onyx ornaments can be found on sale throughout western Turkey. One of the more popular items is an onyx chess set.

Ceramics: The ceramics industry is dominated by plates made in similar styles to those popular throughout the Ottoman Empire. With more than its fair share of potters, Avanos in Cappadocia is generally considered to offer the widest selection to the buyer.

Suggested Reading

Guidebooks

Lonely Planet Guide – It is aimed more to independent travellers. “Facts about Turkey” at the beginning provides good background information about history, geography, climate, culture, etc, and is very useful.

The Rough Guide – similar to Lonely Planet Guide but with more in depth coverage of ancient and historical sights.

Insight Guide to Turkey – the essays at the beginning of this book are interesting.

The Blue Guide to Turkey (Michelin/Guide Bleu). This only covers Western and Central Turkey. It contains enough detail on historical sites to satisfy most people.

National Holidays

January 1 New Year’s Day
April 23 Children & Youth Day
May 1 Spring Day
May 19 Victory Day
October 29 Republic Day
November 10 Anniversary of Ataturk’s death

Useful Turkish Words and Phrases

Turkish is the national language of Turkey. In large towns and major tourist centres you will find English speakers among the hotel staff and in many shops. Many Turks also speak German. You will find that you will be able to pronounce most Turkish words by simply saying them as they are written. There are two letters, which have alternative pronunciations: -C generally pronounced as a J (as in jacket). Ç pronounced as “CH” (as in church) S pronounced S, S pronounced as “SH” (as in show)

English  Turkish  Comment
Hello  Merhaba   
Goodbye  Allahismarladik (Alah-asmar ladik) (said by person departing)
Goodbye Güle güle (goo-lay goo-lay) (said by the person remaining)
How are you? Nasilsiniz (na-sil-sin-iz)  
I’m well Iyi (ee), iyiyim  
Good Morning Günaydin (goon-ai-din)  
Good Evening Iyi aksamlar (ee-ak-sham-lar)  
Good Night Iyi geceler (ee-gej-eler)  
Excuse me  Bakarmisiniz (e.g. to get a waiter’s attention)
Please Lütfen (loot-fen)  
Thank You Tesekkür Ederim (te-shekkur eh-derim)  
Yes Evet (ev-et)  
No  Hayir (Hai-yer)  
Is there? Var mi?  
There is not Yok   
How Much? (price) Kaç Para? (catch para)  
Coffee Kahve (kah-vey) / Neskahve (instant)  
Tea  Çay (chai)  
Milk  Süt (suit)  
Sugar Seker (shekair)  
The bill  Hesap   
I don’t understand Anlamadim  

Numbers
          
1 Bir (beer) 20 Yirmi  (yeermi)
2 Iki  (ikki) 21 Yirmi bir . etc
3 Üc (ooch) 30 Otuz (otooz)
4 Dört (dirt) 31 Otuz bir . etc
5 Bes  (besh) 40 Kirk  
6 Alti  (alta) 41 Kirk bir  . etc
7 Yedi   50 Elli   
8 Sekiz   60 Altmis  (altmish)
9 Dokuz  (dokooz) 70 Yetmis  (yetmish)
10 On     80 Seksen   
11 On Bir   90 Doksan   
12 On Iki  . etc 100 Yüz  (yooz)
 
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testimonial

Janet NSW September 2013

"Dear Hamit,

I apologise for not getting in touch with you sooner to say thank you for what was a really great and memorable tour of Turkey. It really was a wonderful trip and a great holiday- so many memories of amazing sights. 

You and Damla (tour guide) introduced us to a special country from so many different angles. Coming back and thinking of the long history of human habitation and the archaeological record of this, the landforms and special landscapes and how the many communities responded to this and had to change over time, as well as the recent history of Turkey, its place in modern history, and its good fortune of having a leader such as Ataturk to modernise the society, makes me realise what a truly special place it is.

You have put together a fascinating tour covering so much in a relatively short time. I could easily have had another week. The hotels, meals, places we visited reflected your careful planning. We were lucky to be part of such a pleasant, easy going and adaptable group of friendly people also. Thank you for your help with small things and your attention to all our needs. 

Thank you very much."