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Turkey has been charming visitors with its diverse landscapes, mouthwatering cuisine and heritage-rich cities such as Istanbul for centuries. Indeed, history is proudly flaunted around every corner in this remarkable nation. By car, visitors can tour the Aegean, Black Sea and Mediterranean beaches, wind their way through the remote eastern mountains or discover the unique cave houses of Cappadocia in comfort.
The well-maintained intercity toll ways offer a fast and smooth way to reach your next destination. The condition of toll-free highways varies, but mostly signage is good. Drivers should ensure they carry two warning triangles in case of breakdown.
Driving licences: UK drivers can drive here with a UK photo licence for up to 90 days. An International Driving Permit must accompany any licence that does not incorporate a photograph.
Which side does Turkey drive on?: the right
Motorways: 74mph (120kph)
Rural areas: 55mph (90kph) or 68mph (110kph)
Built-up areas: 31mph (50kph)
Alcohol limits: 0.05 per cent compared with the UK limit of 0.08 per cent; an alcohol level above this limit could result in severe penalties.
Driving age: 18 years.
Seatbelts: compulsory for all passengers, if fitted. A suitable child seat or restraint is necessary for children under three years, weighting less than 5.6 stone (36kgs) and under 4.9 feet (1.5m) tall.
Mobile phones and GPS: using a mobile phone while driving is prohibited unless used in conjunction with a hands-free kit. The use of GPS is allowed but English speakers may find identifying Turkish locations with GPS difficult.
Cost of fuel in Turkey: petrol is more expensive here than in the UK as it is heavily taxed.
Car hire and fuel payment: credit card payment is accepted at most petrol stations. UK card holders should notify their card supplier that they intend to use their card abroad prior to travel.
Insurance: third-party insurance is included with car hire but excess insurance is recommended.
Traffic and parking: most municipalities have strict, signed parking restrictions. Parking in the wrong place could result in an on-the-spot fine or the towing of your vehicle.
Trains run internationally to Turkey from Budapest (Hungary), Thessaloniki (Greece), Tehran (Iran), but are a slow way to arrive. Likewise, Turkey rail travel is slow, yet affordable and often cheaper than travelling by bus. The country’s rail network covers 11,000kms, but many locations of tourist interest are not on the track. For timetables and reservations, visit www.tcdd.gov.tr.
Turkey is known for its shared taxis known as dolmus. These minibuses mostly travel on fixed routes. While very cheap, they usually wait until they are full before setting off and stop to pick up and drop off passengers on the way. Regular taxis are also available and charge per kilometer according to a fixed pick-up rate of around £1 and then £0.55 every one kilometre (0.6 mile) travelled thereafter.
Long-distance buses which travel into Turkey from neighbouring countries usually terminate in Istanbul or other major cities. Bus travel within the country is comfortable, especially when travelling first class, and just about every destination is accessible by bus. Most cities operate inner-city bus services.
The port at Istanbul receives ferries and cruise ships from international locations such as Italy, while Bodrum’s port receives services from some of the Greek islands. Some cities, such as Istanbul, offer inner-city ferry as well as inter-city ferry links to other cities such as Izmir. The fare to cross from Istanbul’s European to Asian side is around £0.50. Many coastal areas and Turkish islands are best explored by ferry.
Most visitors start their Turkish explorations in Istanbul, the Marmara region’s largest and most historic city. Here, some of the country’s most famous architectural wonders lie, including the Topkapi Palace, the Hagia Sophia and the Sultanahmet Mosque (Blue Mosque).
To the south is Aegean Turkey, home to some of the nation’s busiest beach resorts such as Bodrum, the country’s third-largest city of Izmir, the world class Roman ruins of Ephesus and the travertines of Pamukkale.
Less popular with visitors but no less beautiful than Aegean Turkey, Black Sea Turkey takes its name after the body of water whose southern shore it hugs and is a fantastic region for hiking as well as beach hopping.
Central Anatolia is home to the national capital, Ankara, and the underground cities of Cappadocia, a key visitor draw. Mediterranean Turkey to its south offers further beaches, many within easy reach of Antalya.
The little visited east of the country, spanning Eastern Anatolia and Southeastern Anatolia, includes scenic desert and mountain landscapes.
- New Year's Day (1 January)
- Izmir European Jazz Festival (first half of March)
- International Ankara Film Festival (14-24 March)
- Alanya International Culture and Art Festival (last weekend in May)
- Istanbul International Music Festival (June/July)
- Ramadan (July/August)
Aegean and Mediterranean Turkey, where the country’s best beaches are situated, feature a Mediterranean climate with hot, sunny summers and mild, sometimes wet winters. The Marmara region, including Istanbul, has similar weather, while the Black Sea region, like the temperate UK, receives rain throughout the year and occasional snowfall in winter. The east experiences the country’s harshest weather and lowest winter temperatures.
Limit hiccups to your trip by reviewing these travel tips. Most visitors enjoy the beaches and historical sites without hassle, but care when driving and hiking should be taken. Everywhere visitors go, they will be greeted by hospitable locals eager to share their country’s culture and heritage.
Turkey contact numbers:
Country code (+90)
Emergency services – 112
British Embassy, Ankara - +90 312 455 3344
Irish Embassy, Ankara - +90 312 459 1000
American Embassy, Ankara - +90 312 455 5555
Canadian Embassy, Ankara - +90 312 409 2700
Turkey uses the Turkish lira (TL) as its official currency. The current currency, introduced in 2005, is a redenomination of the first Turkish lira, which is no longer in use. Currency exchange offices are widely available, while banks are also on hand to exchange money. Euro and US dollars are the easiest currencies to change and are accepted for payment in many shops country-wide. Local currency can also be obtained via ATMs with a credit card.
Health and safety
Petty crime can be a problem in the country’s large cities and popular beach resorts, but keeping a close eye on your belongings and not flashing valuables can help prevent visitors from becoming victims. The road accident rate in Turkey is higher than in the UK so drivers and pedestrians alike should exercise caution. Some areas of the east suffer from ethnic strife so it is advised to check conditions before travel. In rural areas, the local wildlife can present a low risk to hikers, while rabies is an issue country-wide.
The patriotic Turks are proud of their nation’s heritage, so visitors should be careful not to pass any comments on the country which could be taken as offensive. Visitors shouldn’t confuse the local body language for ‘no’, an upward nod, for ‘yes’. Standing close together here is commonplace, so visitors shouldn’t be surprised if locals don’t seem to respect their personal space on public transport. Enjoying all the food you are offered is a sure way to gain local friendship.
Visas for Turkey
Citizens of the UK can get a multiple-entry tourist visa, valid for three months, on arrival for a small fee. Citizens of France, Germany and Greece, among select other countries, can enter visa-free for stays of up to 90 days.
Electricity here operates at 220V, 50Hz. The European style plugs here feature two round prongs.
08:30 to 12:30 and 13:30 to 17:30, Monday to Friday
09:00 to 12:30 and 13:30 to 17:00, Monday to Friday
09:30 to 19:00, Monday to Saturday
Hello - Merhaba
Where are you from? – Nerelisin?/Nerelisiniz?
Good morning - Gunaydin
Good afternoon - Tunaydin
Good evening - Iyi aksamlar
Good night - Iyi geceler
Excuse me - Izninizle
How much is this? - Ne kadar?
Thank you - Tesekkur ederim