Turkey is a country which owes a lot of heritage both to the middle-east and to Europe. Although Turkey is developing quickly the mysteries of the Orient and Arab influences are still very much in effect. In recent times Turkey has really opened up as a tourist destination with Westerners attracted by the bustling bazaars and the opportunity to haggle for Middle-eastern craft goods.
Turkey is generally a safe country to visit but there are some areas which have been unfortunately targeted by violence. Travellers have not been specifically targeted but foreign interests have been, so visitors are advised to remain aware of current events and keep a low profile. However, for the most part, Turkey is a rapidly developing country which provides an excellent tourist diversion.
- Currency: Turkish Lira (TL) Note that exchange receipts must be retained to prove that legally exchanged currency was used.
- Time Zone: GMT + 2
- Language: Turkish
- Telephone Services: Country code +90, International Access code 00
- Emergency Numbers: 112 Ambulance, 111 Fire, 155 Police
The summers are hot and dry as can be expected from the Mediterranean climate, winters are generally quite mild but can be wet. The eastern mountainous region of Turkey is much colder in winter and normally experiences heavy snow. The Southeast is the hottest area often reaching 45C (113F) in the summer, this region also experiences very mild and quite dry winters.
Things to see and do
Unlike most countries the main attraction is not its capital, Ankara, but rather the ancient city of Istanbul. The city sits on the Europe-Asia border with the Bosphorous Bridge connecting the European and Asian parts of the city. Istanbul has been regarded as a hub of civilisation in the Middle East for much of its some 3000 years of existence and as such has an impressive historical and cultural presence.
The Grand Bazaar is a must-see attraction; a labyrinth of tiny streets boasting a plethora of shops and street traders you will find some truly unique souvenirs. Of course, haggling is the norm here so be prepared for starting prices to be quite steep; with a little practice though you will soon be haggling your way to unique, often handmade, bargain souvenirs. You can also see the famed Aya Sofya once the greatest church in Christendom and the exquisite Blue Mosque amongst many other architectural triumphs.
Ankara, the capita,l while not as impressive as Istanbul is still a worthwhile stop on your tour of the region. The main draw is the Hisar, which is a hilltop Citadel from the Byzantine era which overlooks the city. Ankara was an important city during the Roman rule so there are a number of small Roman ruin dotted around the capital.
Many travellers also like to visit Ephesus, formerly Ionia, which has been inhabited by both the Greek and Roman Empires. Ephsus holds a significant number of well preserved ruins. Of primary importance is the Temple of Diana, one of the seven wonders of the Greek world and still an incredibly impressive sight. You could easily spend a day here exploring all of the various ruins that the city has to offer.
There are plenty of things to do off the beaten track as well in Turkey, for those interested in History there is the city of Troy which is central as the city of Ilium in Homer's Illiad. Excavations here have unearthed evidence of nine ancient cities on around this site dating as far back as 3000BC.
The rail network is run by Turkish Railways (TCDD) and fares are comparatively low. Tickets are generally purchased from the station and discounts are available for students. Some travel passes such as InterRail will allow you to travel on Turkish trains (for InterRail you need a pass which includes zone G) which can allow you to make Turkey just one stop on your backpacking tour. Also note that to qualify for an InterRail pass you must be a European resident.
The bus network in some ways is better than the rail network, competition between competing local private firms means that fares are very low and for most travel within Turkey the trains are not significantly faster. Tickets are normally purchased either at the bus station or on the bus itself. Generally buses will leave from a bus station in larger cities or from the town centre in smaller towns.
Recently Turkey has invested a lot of resources in improving it's hotel facilities. Most establishments are now regulated either nationally (Touristic) or by the local regional council. The Turkish hotel Association maintains lists and addresses of hotels which fall into the different categories. Youth Hostels are available in all major cities and information can be found at www.yucelthostel.com the Turkish Youth Hostel Association. Generally holders of an ITSC or International Youth Hostel Federation cards are given a discount. Some places will also grant reductions for students or teachers.
It is recommended that you receive inoculations for Polio and Typhoid before travelling to Turkey, these can be obtained from your local GP. Rabies has not been eradicated in Turkey so travellers should take precautions against being bitten by animals for the duration of their stay. Although there haven't been any outbreaks in recent years there is a history of Cholera in some areas so simple precautions are advised when eating and drinking. Healthcare is expensive and not as prevalent as in Western Europe so it is absolutely essential that you have travel insurance which will cover the cost of all medical aid.