Mini Travel Guide: Turkey

Looking for a travel guide to Turkey? Click through for Turkey travel tips from a local - what to do, where to go, and how to do it all safely, cheaply, and respectfully!
Looking for a travel guide to Turkey? Hankering to stroll markets, buy beautiful rugs, and eat your weight in kebab? You’re in the right place! I brought in Iris to share her Turkey travel tips, gleaned from four months of living there.

 The country has a lot to offer visitors culturally, geographically, culinarily and socially, including: Mediterranean beaches, Whirling Dervishes, ancient tombs, the birthplace of the Ottoman Empire, Hittite castles, intricate mosques and more.

People are friendly and genuinely pleased if you can speak a bit of Turkish. I lived in Turkey for four months as part of a study abroad experience.  I am by no means an expert or a local,but I hope I can give a decent introduction to this amazing place!

Looking for a travel guide to Turkey? Click through for Turkey travel tips from a local - what to do, where to go, and how to do it all safely, cheaply, and respectfully!

Must Go in Turkey

(I purposefully left out Istanbul here. It’s a wonderful place, but Turkey has so much more!)

Cappadocia, the land of ‘fairy chimneys’ and rock-cut churches, is a geographical marvel located in central Turkey. Make sure you see the Three Beauties and the Goreme Open Air Museum. A hot air balloon ride over the area wouldn’t be a bad idea, either.

You might want to take a trip to the southeast of Turkey, where the topography and climate are different. You can base yourself in Sanliurfa, but you’ll need to go a bit north and hire a tour company to take you up Mount Nemrut.
There you’ll see what remains of the large statues from a 1st century B.C. royal tomb, not to mention the amazing view. On your way up, you may be able to stop by the weaving school to see what the locals are up to.

Turkey is a great country to backpack and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention one of the great gathering places of the young traveler. Stay in cabins on stilts, nestled in orange groves…or stay at one of the more partying treehouse communities.

Walk five minutes to the Mediterranean coast, climb cliffs overlooking ancient ruins, eat figs from the forests below, see the flames of the chimaera come out of a rocky mountain, and afterward go to the dance bar with a roof open to the sky.

travel in turkey

Must Do in Turkey

Turkish Bathhouse (Hamam)

Typically the routine goes as follows: you undress, sit in a marble sauna for a bit, a woman exfoliates a bajillion layers of dead skin off your body and then you’re done. It makes your skin feel like new!
All hamams are gender-separated except for the really expensive ones in resort towns. Most are either partially or fully nude, although men’s hamams are generally never fully nude.

Shop for Turkish Carpets

Even a broke college kid in her early 20s can afford a beautiful flat-woven Turkish kilim and turn it into an instant family heirloom. Prices are cheaper outside of Istanbul but be sure to haggle a bit anyways. This is very much a haggling culture.

Looking for a travel guide to Turkey? Click through for Turkey travel tips from a local - what to do, where to go, and how to do it all safely, cheaply, and respectfully!

Must Eat in Turkey

Ayran

Ayran is a traditional salty, yogurt drink. You can purchase it pre-made at restaurants, or even add your own salt and water to a mixture from the super market.

Iskender Kebap

Europe is familiar with the fast food ‘kebab’, while America is familiar with the ‘shish kebab.’ There are so many other different ways to prepare this thinly-sliced, slow-cooked lamb.
Iskender kebap may be one of the fancier versions, with wide slices of lamb served with tomato sauce and yogurt (oh, the yogurt, soooo good). I could go on forever about the food.

Raki

97% of the country might be Muslim, but Turkey is a secular state and they have a ‘national’ alcoholic drink. Raki is an anise-flavored spirit much like Greece’s ouzzo. So if you don’t like black licorice, stay away. Maybe add a bit of water to dilute the intensity a pinch.

Looking for a travel guide to Turkey? Click through for Turkey travel tips from a local - what to do, where to go, and how to do it all safely, cheaply, and respectfully!

Cultural Tips for Turkey 

The headscarf issue is a touchy topic in Turkey. Women were not allowed to wear the hijab at public universities, government jobs, as teachers, etc. The rules have been changing recently, but as a visitor you should know that the only times you must wear a headscarf is when visiting a mosque.

I would dress more modestly when in more conservative regions such as the east or the south of Turkey (possibly in Konya, too), but there is no necessity to do so elsewhere.

traveling in turkey

Cheap travel tips for Turkey

A large portion of the population travels by bus and mini-bus. If you want to get around on the cheap, you should too.
The buses have bus-attendants who bring snacks up and down the aisles and if it’s an overnight bus trip you’ll get to stop at a neon-lit 24/7 bus stop selling candy and lentil soup. I miss that bus stop lentil soup!
Airbnb is more authentic and cheaper than a hotel. Here’s a private room in Cappadocia for $26 a night and here’s a 2-bedroom bungalow in Olympos for $47 a night! If you’ve never used Airbnb before, here’s a $40 credit towards your first booking.

Any Turkey travel tips to share?  Questions for Iris?

P.S. 7 travel tools I will not shut up about

Photos by Oziel GómezChris PopleBlaque X on Unsplash

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18 Comments

  1. Han

    I spent a week in Izmir. We went to Ephesus which was amazing. We also went to the market at Kusadasi – amazing as well – it's best to go in a group if you can because we found that some of the sellers can be a bit pushy.

    Reply
  2. Natalie

    Could not have put it better myself. Agree with the kebab as well. More tasty than top notch food in a fine restaurant.

    Reply
  3. Casey

    This is such a great round up of tips! My husband has been to Turkey, and I keep saying we need to go back sometime together–it sounds like such a beautiful country (not to mention being a bit of a foodie, the food makes my mouth water!).

    Reply
  4. Barb

    I just spent some time in Turkey and I agree with almost everything being said. I would like to add visiting Antalya. Such a beautiful place.

    Reply
  5. Branwen

    Those first three photos are just so beautiful. You've just added another destination on my fantasy world trip! I neeed to go.

    Reply
  6. Mandy

    Turkey is so high up my most desired vacation spots. This post is torture! 🙂

    Reply
  7. Maow

    Just wanna add a little tip if you spend some time in Istanbul as well: stay in the Taksim area and avoid accomodation around Sultanahmet! The historical attractions of that area can be reached super easily during the day anyway and the rest is all a big show built up for tourists (which also means everything is more expensive). Taksim is loved by locals and tourists alike and got better restaurants and a nightlife (nonexistent in Sultanahmet)!
    I lived in Turkey for 13 months, I went to school in Ankara for one year, travelled and worked in Sultanahmet for a couple of months. It's like my second home, i still go back every year 🙂

    Reply
  8. iris

    Han- I agree that Efes is amazing (the site of a former wonder of the world, the Virgin Mary's rumored home, and an entire town of Green ruins), but I think the pushy sellers are pretty standard across lots of country. In the end, if you don't *need* the item, you always have the upper hand 🙂

    Barb- I recommended visiting Olimpos in this guide, which happens to be a 2-hour dolmuş ride from Antalya, so that's the perfect situation in which to visit. Or, at least, that's what I did 😉

    Maow- I was based in Ankara (METU/ODTÜ) too, for my 4 months. Its central location was great for getting out and going places…plus, it forced me to learn Turkish.

    Reply
  9. teatheorist

    Turkey is one of my top five favorite countries so far, I think: Antalya was kind of my favorite city. Not too big, not too small…it's also where I spent the most time.
    I found that, past the (limited) conversational Turkish that I learned, I could frequently find someone who spoke German well if I needed to communicate without English. I'm not sure how widespread that is, just something that was a facet of my experience.
    You should lunch by a waterfall.
    Also, eat karnıyarık. It just needs to be said! 🙂

    Reply
  10. desha peacock

    I've been DREAMING of going to to Turkey, never been, I'm bookmarking this for sure, thanks!

    Reply
  11. Justyna

    I've been trying to sell the hubby on visiting Turkey for a long time. I think this little post will do it. And now I wanna go SO BAD! At what time of the year is it best to go?

    Reply
  12. Laura Elaine

    Turkey is one of the places my husband and I visited on our honeymoon and it was our standout favorite. We are poor and even we walked away with a beautiful rug! We visited Izmir, Kusadasi, Sirince and Ephesus – a great trip which included ancient ruins, a typical big town market and the beautiful countryside.

    One of my favorite local things was drinking apple tea there. A local showed us his favorite way to drink raki – poured in Turkish coffee! It was delicious, and takes the licorice edge off if you're not into that flavor.

    Reply
  13. Maow

    Iris, I know ODTU, it's a really good uni!! I was in highschool but i knew people studying there 🙂
    And yes, I agree that Ankara is perfect for both getting anywhere else in Turkey and learning the language…I think I only met one person able (or willing :P) to speak English in the streets the very first month I was there xD

    Reply
  14. iris

    Justyna – I'd say the summer is the high season for Turkey. But I was there late August-December and thought the weather was *perfect*.

    Laura Elaine- I'm also a big fan of the Turkish apple tea. A couple years back, Teavana was selling Turkish apple tea, not from a powder! Maybe they still offer it…

    Reply
  15. istanbul tours

    I went to Turkey for 2 nights and 3 days and ı made an arrangement with this company for a package tour and ı spent a good time in Istanbul. We visited the beauty places of this marvelous city. First day we went on a dinner cruise on Bosphorus and ı had a lot of fun with so many kinds of dance shows and good dinner too. I loved the mezzes. Second day we went on a tour and visited the Sultanahmet aria http://www.privatetoursinistanbul.com Every corner looks like a part of history. Hagia Sophia and Chora Church are very beautiful museums. The mosaics of these basilicas are very good protected. I was fascinated. I badly recommend you to go on a cruise on Bosphorus at night. Istanbul looks very different at night is shining. I had a very enjoyable Dinner cruise on Bosphorus accompanied by Turkish Shows. I will definitely visit again Turkey. Thank you for your services.

    Reply
  16. vietnam holidays

    Thank you for the great tips. As tourist we need to respect the cultural traditions of the natives so I guess i need to buy a headscarf when I visit Turkey.

    Reply
  17. phuket holidays

    Turkey will be my next destination. I have heard and read a lot about Turkey. The country looks like a very nice place. The rich culture makes it a very wonderful nation. I look forward to visiting this place soon.

    Reply
  18. flights to Manila

    I would love to visit Turkey as well. I am a bit curious of their cultures and beliefs. I've heard a lot of great reviews about Turkey. Istanbul seems very enticing as well.

    Reply

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