Ottoman houses in Eskisehir, Turkey

Ottoman style houses in Eskişehir. The city has mostly been rebuilt since the Turkish War of Independence (1919-1922) and today is a modern industrial centre.

Turkey Facts

Turkey is one of the world’s most popular travel destinations, welcoming more than 37 million visitors every year. Fairy Chimneys Travel has extensive knowledge of this fascinating nation and the allure of its many well (and lesser) known attractions.

This page includes details many people find helpful when planning their travel to Turkey. More information about this captivating destination is available on our FAQ page.

Facts & Figures

Area: 780,000 sq km (as big as NSW)
Highest Point: Mt Ararat (5165 m)
Capital: Ankara
Population:
  • approx 73 million
  • Istanbul 13 million
  • Ankara 4.5 million
  • Izmir 3.8 million
  • About one third of Turks are under 15 years old and less than 5% are over 65.
Language: Turkish,
English is studied as second language and 90% of people in the travel industry speak fluent English.
Religion: Secular State, however 98% of Turks are Sunni Muslim 2% are Orthodox, Catholic or Protestant Christians and Jews
Time: Turkish Standard Time is 2 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (AEST ‐8).
The clock moves forward one hour in summer (Apr‐Oct) to GMT +3.
Currency: Turkish Lira (YTL)
Today's AUD/YTL rate is 2.7868 but please check again just before you travel.
Weights and Measures: Metric.
Electricity: 220 volts AC. Two‐pronged round plug.

Geography

Turkey is a vast country of landscapes both diverse and spectacular. Uniquely positioned, both politically and geographically, between East and West the influences of surrounding neighbours make Turkey truly unique. Bordered by Greece and Bulgaria in the northwest, Iran, Armenia, Georgia to the east and Iraq and Syria to the southeast, the total size of Turkey is roughly equivalent to NSW.

Istanbul skyline, don't miss on your tour around Turkey

Turkey is positioned across two continents with 3% of its landmass in Europe and 97% in Asia. The two continents are divided by the straits of Bosphorus, the Sea of Marmara, and the Dardanelles in the northwest of the county. To the north lies the Black Sea, to the south the Mediterranean, and to the West the Aegean.

There is approximately 8,000 km of coastline, ranging from the thriving Mediterranean resorts with their temperate climate perfect for yachting and swimming. The mountainous Black sea coast is lush, green, mild and damp ‐ a spectacular place to hike and see Turkey’s natural wonders from dizzying heights. 80% of Turkey is 500m (1,640 ft) or more above sea level.

Climate

There are three main climatic zones in Turkey:

  • The Marmara (which includes Istanbul), Aegean and Mediterranean regions. These have a typical Mediterranean climate, with hot summers and mild winters. Temperatures rise the further south you go.
  • The Black Sea region
  • Enjoys warm summers, mild winters and relatively high rainfall throughout the year.
  • The Central and Eastern Anatolian regions (including Ankara) Has more extreme hot, dry summers and cold winters.

Average temperatures

Region JAN APR JUL OCT
Marmara (Istanbul) 7°C 16°C 28°C 19°C
Aegean (Izmir) 9°C 20°C 30°C 21°C
Mediterranean (Antalya) 11°C 22°C 32°C 23°C
Black Sea Region (Trabzon) 8°C 16°C 16°C 13°C
Central Anatolia (Cappadocia) 4°C 15°C 30°C 18°C
Eastern Anatolia (Erzurum) 9°C 6°C 20°C 12°C

Economy

Turkey is among the world's leading producers of agricultural products, textiles, motor vehicles,ships, transportation equipment, consumer electronics and home appliances.

A move towards a competitive free market (led by increasing privatisation) generated remarkable economic growth, averaging about 7% per annum between 2002 and 2005. Like the rest of the world, the economy was affected by the Global Financial Crisis, but the Turkish stock market has been one of the best performing over 2009 and 2010. Turkey has weathered the crisis, with not a single bank closing, due to tough regulations, and limited mortgage exposure.

Government

Turkey has a 550‐member Grand National Assembly and a multi‐party political system. This is largely democratic in nature, though changes can seem volatile from the outside. Turkey is a member of the United Nations, an associate member of the European Union and a member of the EU Customs Union, the OECD, the Council of Europe and NATO.

Planning Your Trip

Visas & Passports

Visa requirements for entering Turkey vary substantially according to nationality. All travellers need a passport valid for at least six months.

Citizens of New Zealand don't require a visa.

Citizens of Australia require a visa prior to arrival in Turkey. Guests should obtain a visa online, prior to travel, through the Turkish government website: https://www.evisa.gov.tr/en/

The current cost is 60USD or 45EUR. You will have a multiple‐entry tourist visa, valid for three months.

Mediterranean Coast, Turkey Customs

You are permitted to bring into the country up to 200 cigarettes (400 if bought in a Turkish duty‐free shop), 50 cigars, 200g pipe tobacco (500g if bought in Turkey), 75ml alcohol, 5L wine or spirits, 1kg of chocolate and 1.5kg of coffee. Possession of narcotics is treated as an extremely serious offence and penalties are harsh.

Exporting antiques

It is strictly forbidden to take antiques out of the country. Should you buy anything old or oldlooking, be sure to have it validated by the seller and obtain a clearance certificate from the Department of Antiquities. Reputable carpet dealers will be familiar with this procedure.

What to bring

Wardrobe

Clothing needs vary according to where in Turkey you will be visiting and the time of year. In the height of summer, light, cotton clothing for the Marmara, Aegean and Mediterranean areas is essential. Include a long loose cotton shirt to cover your arms and shoulders against the hottest sun, a shady hat and high‐factor sunscreen. This is essential for visiting archaeological sites, where there can be little or no shade.

For the Black Sea Region, you may need a light sweater in the evening (even in summer), a light waterproof jacket and water‐resistant footwear. Humidity is high. In Central and Eastern Anatolia, summer evenings can be cool.

Although Turkey is often regarded as hot all year around, winter travellers will soon discover that it has as much rain, snow and ice, like most of Europe. Parts of the country are very high and you should prepare for cooler climates. Especially in the north, tough water‐resistant footwear and a raincoat or jacket will prove invaluable.

Footwear

Comfortable, sturdy shoes are essential for walking on most of the historical and archaeological sites. Even the pavements on city streets can be uneven or cobbled.

Money Matters

You are permitted to bring up to US$5,000 of Turkish Lira into the country.

Banks & ATMs

Banks are plentiful in Turkey, but with the increasing number of ATMs, you can easily go your whole trip without entering one. There are 24‐hour cash dispensers, accepting credit cards and bank cards with PINs, on every street corner. The major bank, Isbank, has over 1,000 ATMs across over Turkey. Machines usually offer a choice of languages in which to conduct your transaction, and dispense Turkish Lira.

Travellers’ Cheques

These can be cashed at the foreign exchange desks of banks, and at post offices. But it is useful to bring a supply of foreign currency, either US dollars or Euros. To cash travellers’ cheques you will need your passport. As it can be costly and cumbersome to exchange travellers’ cheques, we do not recommend them.

Credit cards and Debit Cards

Most major cards, including Visa, Switch, Amex and Mastercard, are accepted by many shops, restaurants, hotels and petrol stations.

Foreign Exchange Offices

Doviz are usually the best places to make a straight exchange of foreign currency, almost always offering a better rate for cash than the banks. US Dollars and Euros can attract a better rate than less frequently traded currencies. These offices rarely accept travellers’ cheques.

Taxes

Taxes, chiefly GST (KDV in Turkish) are included in the prices of some goods and services at varying rates. You may notice them itemised separately on a bill or receipt.

Some stores offer GST‐free shopping for tourists living outside the European Union (look out for signs in the window).

Whirling Dervishes in Turkey

Religious Festivals

Witnessing a festival or holiday will give you an insight into the joyous and hospitable nature the Turkish people. Religious holidays are linked to the lunar calendar and move back 11 or 12 days each year. Secular festivals also move to coincide with weekends and precise dates can change annually. During these major holidays, shops and businesses are closed, though local shops will usually reopen on the second or third day.

Public Holidays
  • 1 January New Year’s Day
  • 23 April National Sovereignty and Children’s Day (folk dancing)
  • 19 May Ataturk’s Commemoration and Youth and Sports Day
  • 30 August Victory Day
  • 29 October Republic Day

Health & Safety

Health Matters

Turkey is a relatively safe country, as long as you are sensible. If you do fall ill, the standard of healthcare is not high, so medical travel insurance is essential. Most drugs are available without prescription from pharmacies.

Mosquitoes (non‐malarial) can be an annoyance in summer, so bring a good repellent. Burning coils, or plug‐in electrical anti‐bug devices that you use with a tablet, are available locally.

Security & Crime

Turkey has an enviably low crime record. This reflects Turkish society and its restricted access to guns, low incidence of drug use, respect for law and order, and close‐knit communities with enduring family ties.

Foreigners and tourists are regarded as guests, so are very well treated. In normal circumstances you can expect the police to be polite and helpful.

Tourist areas are regularly patrolled by special Turizm or Foreigners Police, who should do their best to help you and usually speak some English.

Turkish Baths (Hamam)

As a spectator sport, nothing surpasses a hamam. Be sure to visit one during your stay. Don’t be intimidated, if you’re lost the Turks will always help you out.

The rules are simple, based on the old Roman Baths or the Scandinavian Sauna. The sexes are usually segregated, either in different baths or by set hours for each. Nudity is not the norm, so wear swimming costume or ask for a sarong (pestemal). You will also be given a towel and wooden clogs (takunya). Change in the reception area. From here, you move through to a private side‐room to wash down before entering the central hot steam room. In the old baths, this is often a spectacular room with domes, arches, marble and tiles, at the centre of which is a large marble slab. You lie face down on this slab and are given an energetic face, foot and/or full‐body massage, or a scrub down with a camel‐hair glove.

Most five‐star hotels offer luxurious, modern hamams, but some more traditional bath houses are well worth a visit.

Shopping

Shopping in Turkey is a delightful and sometimes even educational experience! High‐fashion clothes can be purchased cheaply, as Turkey has a booming cotton industry and has become a cheap source of Western manufacture. Turkish leather is well known, but clothing and bags are usually higher quality than shoes.

Look carefully at the quality of what you are buying, as it can vary enormously. It is hard to find a good bargain in the tourist areas. Try to shop in the more out‐of‐the‐way villages and towns, where you will probably find better quality at a more reasonable price.

Where to Shop

Turkey offers many different shopping experiences, from glitzy to more gritty. For a unique insight into Turkey’s shopping culture, visit the local bazaar. The amazing Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, a veritable labyrinth of shops and workshops, sells every imaginable product.

Excellent local weekly street markets, which are ideal for buying Turkey’s wonderful fresh produce, if you are self‐catering. Flea markets can also be found there.

You can also find vast user‐friendly shopping centres, like American shopping malls, complete with parking, supermarket, cinemas, food courts and international designer labels.

What to Buy

Excellent textiles, clothing, carpets, pottery, metalwork, semi‐precious and precious stones and jewellery, leather and glass can be found in Turkey.

Carpets & Kilims

You can’t leave Turkey without buying a traditional Turkish carpet or kilim. A carpet is a hand‐made rug with a raised pile, a kilim is flat woven. They can be made from cotton, wool, silk or a mixture.

Designs and techniques are regional. You do not need to be an expert to buy a good carpet, but it helps. Within Turkey, certain places are carpet trading centres. The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul is a renowned carpet trading area, and Cappadocia in central Anatolia is another, as dealers travel there to buy and makers to sell.

Buying a carpet can rarely be done in a hurry, and can take half a day of tea drinking and discussions, enjoyed by both customer and dealer. If you are serious, it would be worth doing a little background reading beforehand. For detailed information, Fairy Chimneys Travel staff can give you expert information on Turkish carpets and Kilims.