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Turkey Country Information
Linking Europe and the Middle East, suspended between the new and the long-established, Turkey retains a disconcerted balance of both east and west, representing a cultural mix with many discrepancies and contradictions. Modern city boutiques and exotic bazaars clamour for customers, the weekly tolling of church bells interrupts the daily call of the muezzin, and Roman ruins and the beginnings of Christianity compete for attention with the history of the Ottoman Empire and modern secularity.

The different regions of Turkey offer an assortment of landscapes, activities and characters, and whether one is a history or archaeology enthusiast, a sun-worshipper, sailor, or city-lover keen on shopping, there is something on offer for everyone. Istanbul, with one part in Europe and the other in Oriental Asia, is a fascinating city with its frenzied market places, imperial residences and minarets, and sporting a lively ambience of contemporary art and musical entertainment. Cappadocia in Central Turkey offers an astounding landscape of eroded volcanic rock cones and fairy chimneys, remarkable subterranean cities and rock-hewn houses that merge harmoniously with the ochre-coloured landscape; while further south the 'Turquoise Coast' is a haven for boat cruises. One can enjoy a variety of water sports, sunbathe on golden sands, or explore the wonderful ancient cities of Troy and Ephesus on the shores of the Aegean Sea.

Most visitors concentrate on Western Turkey, with its picturesque seaside resorts along the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts, scenic and recreational attractions, well-preserved archaeological sites and fascinating museums that bring its rich history to life. Wherever one ventures in Turkey there is certain to be a warm welcome and traditional hospitality, making this a deeply satisfying corner of the world in which to travel.

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The Basics
Time: Local time is GMT +2 (GMT +3 from the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in October).

Electricity: 220 volts AC, 50Hz. The European two-pin plug is standard.

Money: The official currency is the New Turkish Lira (TRY), which was introduced on 1 January 2005, whereby six zeros were dropped from the TL and the sub-unit New Kurush was created. Currency can be exchanged at banks, exchange booths, post offices, airports and ferry ports; banks have the worst rates and highest commissions, but will exchange lesser known foreign currencies. Banks open mainly Monday to Friday, but some are open daily in tourist areas. ATMs are widely available in major cities and tourist areas, but Turkish ATM keypads usually do not have letters of the alphabet on their keys. Most bank branches have ATMs which accept Cirrus and Plus. Major credit cards are widely accepted; the most popular are Visa or MasterCard, but American Express is accepted in many of the more expensive places. Travellers cheques can be exchanged at some banks and currency exchange offices, but are not as welcome as cash or credit cards. US dollars or Euros are preferred. Some pensions and hotels in the most popular destinations accept US dollars as payment.

Language: Turkish is the official language, but English is widely understood in the main tourist areas.

Travel Health: There are no vaccination requirements, although a typhoid vaccine is recommended for all travellers, unless coming for a short period and only eating in major hotels and restaurants (e.g. business travellers or cruise ship passengers). There is a risk of malaria in the south-eastern part of the country, but not in the main tourist areas in the west and south-west of the country, although mosquitoes can still be an irritation in summer. Most tap water in the larger towns and cities has been chlorinated, but bottled water is still recommended for drinking. Food from street vendors should be treated with caution. Medical facilities and standard of health care are not high in state hospitals and private health insurance is recommended. Modern facilities exist in private hospitals in Ankara and Istanbul.

Tipping: Tipping is a way of life in Turkey and it is customary to give some small change for most services, or a small percent of the bill. In bigger hotels and restaurants if a service charge is not added to the bill, it is customary to tip between 10 and 15%. For taxi fares it is enough to round up the bill. Attendants at Turkish baths expect to share about 15% of the total bill if service has been good.

Safety Information: Due to the current situation in neighbouring Iraq, travellers are advised to be cautious and check with their embassy before departure for a current update on the situation. There is a significant threat from terrorism in Turkey and there have been a number of terrorist incidents, including small explosions, around the country, including in Istanbul and the capital, Ankara. Explosions on the Aegean Coast and the Mediterranean have killed and injured many people, including foreign tourists. Kurdish militant groups, as well as international terrorist groups, are currently active in Turkey and further attacks against the tourism industry in particular are likely. The Turkish economy is heavily reliant on tourism, which Kurdish separatists have repeatedly threatened to target. There are continuing incidents of local terrorism in Eastern Turkey, particularly the south east. Visitors should avoid any public demonstrations. Street crime is relatively low although visitors should guard their valuables at all times. A number of sexual assaults have been reported in coastal tourist areas. Many parts of Turkey lie on a major seismic fault line and are subject to earthquakes and tremors; several fairly recent earthquakes have shaken eastern Turkey, the southwest and southeast.

Local Customs: Religious customs should be respected, particularly during the month of Ramadan when eating, drinking and smoking during daylight hours should be discreet as it is forbidden by the Muslim culture. Dress modestly when visiting mosques or religious shrines. Do not take photographs of or near military and official institutions and always ask permission when taking photographs of people. There is a smoking ban on all forms of public transport and in outdoor venues (including stadiums and playgrounds). By July 2009 this will include cafes, bars and restaurants as well.

Business: In Turkey, business associates are addressed by their first names. If the associate is male, then his name is followed by 'bey', and 'hanim' is used for females. A formal, conservative dress code is observed in Turkey, and women should be careful to dress particularly conservatively. Gifts are common and are usually something the associate would use in business such as a pen or other office stationary. Business hours throughout Turkey are generally 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday with an hour taken over lunch.

Communications: The international country dialling code for Turkey is +90. The outgoing code is 00, followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0044 for the United Kingdom). City/area codes are in use, e.g. Istanbul Asya (Asia side) is (0)216 and Istanbul Avrupa (Europe side) is (0)212. GSM 900 and 1800 networks cover most of the country. Internet cafes are available in the main towns and resorts.

Duty Free: Travellers to Turkey do not have to pay duty on the following items: 200 cigarettes, or 50 cigars, or 200g tobacco, and 200 cigarette papers, or 50g chewing tobacco, or 200g pipe tobacco, or 200g snuff tobacco. Alcohol allowance includes 1 litre or 700ml bottle of wine or spirits. Other allowances include 5 bottles perfume up to 120ml each; gifts to the value of €255.65; electronic articles to the value of €255.65; tea and coffee for personal consumption; jewellery and guns for sporting purposes permitted by foreign travellers. Tape recorders, record players and transistor radios have to be declared on arrival. Restricted items include playing cards limited to one pack.

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Visa and Entry Information

  • Entry requirements for Americans: US passport holders must have a valid passport. A visa is required, which can be obtained from the point of entry, valid for three months and single entry only.
  • Entry requirements for UK nationals: UK passport holders must have a valid passport. British Citizens and British National (Overseas) residing in Hong Kong can obtain a multiple-entry visa on arrival for three months, but other passport holders must obtain a visa from an overseas Turkish mission prior to arrival.
  • Entry requirements for Canadians: Canadian passport holders must have a valid passport. A visa is required, which is valid for up to three months (multiple entry), and can be obtained from the point of entry.
  • Entry requirements for Australians: Australian passport holders must have a valid passport. A visa is required, which is valid for up to three months (multiple entry), and can be obtained from the point of entry.
  • Entry requirements for South Africans: South Africans must hold a valid passport. A visa is required which can be obtained on arrival for a period of one month (multiple entry). South Africans may be required to show they hold US$50 funds per day for the duration of their intended stay.
  • Entry requirements for New Zealanders: New Zealand nationals require a valid passport, but no visa is necessary for a stay of up to three months.
  • Entry requirements for Irish nationals: Irish nationals require a valid passport. A visa is required which can be obtained on arrival for a period of three months (multiple entry).

Passport/Visa Note: All passports must be valid for at least the period of stay. All travellers to Turkey are required to hold return or onward tickets, documents for the next destination and sufficient funds for the period of their stay. Entry may be refused to those of unkempt appearance. Visas on entry incur a fee of around US$20.

Weather and Climate Information
Turkey's climate is characterised by extremes, with temperatures varying greatly from season to season in the country's different regions. The Mediterranean and Aegean coasts of Turkey have very dry, hot summers, and the mild, though wet, winters occur between October and April, when the coastal towns tend to more or less shut down. Istanbul and Cappadocia can experience very cold winters, with light snow. High summer, usually between July and September, is the peak tourist season, though from June mosquitoes can be a problem. The best time to visit Turkey is usually between spring and autumn as the climate is still hot, but not unbearable. Eastern Turkey experiences bitterly cold winters, and so it is best that travellers wait until summer, because although hot, roads and mountain passes are less likely to be closed due to ice or snow.

In summer the weather in Istanbul is hot and humid, the temperature between June and September averaging 82°F (28°C). Summers are relatively dry, but rain does occur all year round. During winter it is cold, wet and often snowy. Snowfalls tend to be heavy, but temperatures rarely drop as low as freezing point. Istanbul also tends to be a windy city.

Summers are warm and dry and the winters are cold and snowy. The rainy season is spring, especially May.

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Turkey Attractions

  • Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmet Camii) - The Sultan Ahmet Camii, commonly known as the Blue Mosque, with its tiers of magnificent domes and six graceful minarets is one of the most striking and immediately distinguishable structures on the Istanbul’s skyline.
  • Topkapi Palace Museum - The Topkapi Sarayi, built by Mehmet the Conqueror as a Sultan's Palace, consists of a sprawling collection of buildings arranged around several interconnecting courtyards.
  • Covered Bazaar (Kapali Çarsi) -The oldest and biggest enclosed bazaar in the world, also known as the Grand Bazaar, is one of the most enticing and mesmerizing attractions in Istanbul.
  • Ephesus - Ephesus is the biggest and best-preserved ancient city in the country and is one of the world’s spectacular historical sites.
  • Ancient Troy - For about 3,000 years the fascinating story involving the destruction of the prosperous city of Troy in a long war fought over the legendary beauty, Helen, was thought to be fiction.
  • Temple of Augustus - The Roman Temple of Augustus was built by the Romans in the 2nd century AD, and contains the best-preserved copy of Emperor Augustus' last will and testament, inscribed on the vestibule walls.

Events in Turkey

  • International Istanbul Music Festival - One of the most prominent events on the city's cultural calendar and one of the foremost musical events in Europe, the International Istanbul Music Festival is a summer extravaganza of opera and ballet, as well as classical and traditional music.
  • Turkish F1 Grand Prix - One of the newer tracks added to the Formula One Season, Istanbul Park has been described as 'The greatest track ever built', by Bernie Ecclestone, CEO of the Formula One Administration.
  • Contemporary Istanbul - Every October artists from all across Turkey converge on the capital to showcase their latest creations in contemporary art.
  • Whirling Dervishes Festival - Each December a million visitors descend on the Mausoleum of Mevlana in Konya, where the ceremony of the Whirling Dervishes commemorates the great Sufic saint Mevlana in one of the world's greatest events.
  • The Bosphorus Swim - This annual event sees over a thousand swimmers navigate the 4.3 miles (7km) of the Bosphorus Straight between Kanlica and Cemil Topuzlu Park, essentially swimming from Asia to Europe.

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Turkey Airports

Istanbul Ataturk International Airport (IST)
Location: The airport is situated 15 miles (23km) west of Istanbul.
Time: GMT +2 (GMT +3 from the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in October).
Contacts: Tel: +90 212 465 5555.
Departure Tax: None.

Antalya International Airport (AYT)
Location: The airport is situated six miles (10km) from Antalya.
Time: GMT +2 (GMT +3 from the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in October).
Contacts: Tel: +90 (0)242 330 3600.
Departure Tax: None.

Izmir Adnan Menderes International Airport (ADB)
Location: The airport is located 11 miles (18km) from Izmir.
Time: GMT +2 (GMT +3 from the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in October).
Contacts: Tel: +90 (0)232 274 2626.
Departure Tax: None.

ATM Dalaman Airport (DLM)
Location: The airport is situated about four miles (6km) from Dalaman.
Time: GMT +2 (GMT +3 from the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in October).
Contacts: Tel: +90 (0)252 792 5555.
Departure Tax: None.

Esenboga International Airport (ESB)
Location: The airport is located northeast of Ankara, 17 miles (28km) from the city centre.
Time: GMT +2 (GMT +3 from March to October).
Contacts: Tel: +90 (0)312 590 4000.
Departure Tax: None.

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Driving Information

Drinking and driving:
If the level of alcohol in the bloodstream is 0.05 per cent or more, penalties are severe. For drivers of cars with caravans or trailers the alcohol level in the bloodstream is 0%.

Driving licence:
The minimum age at which a UK licence holder may drive a temporarily imported car and / or motorcycle 18. UK driving licence valid for 90 days; licences that do not incorporate a photograph must be accompanied by an
International Driving Permit.

On-the-spot. Vehicles may be towed away if causing an obstruction.

Leaded (96 octane), unleaded petrol (95 octane) and Diesel are available. LPG is available in large centres. Petrol in a can permitted (fireproof container). Credit cards accepted at many filling stations, check with your card issuer for usage in Turkey before travel.

Driving Distances:
Ankara to Istanbul - 450kms (4 hours / 30 minutes)
Ankara to Hattusas - 200 kms (2 hours / 35 minutes)
Istanbul to Bursa - 150 kms (2 hours / 30 minutes)
Please click here http://www.viamichelin.com/ for more driving distances

Dipped headlights should be used in poor daytime visibility, and after sunset in built up areas.

Wearing of crash helmets compulsory.

Motor Insurance:
Third party insurance compulsory. Foreign insurance e.g. UK insurance is recognised in the European part of Turkey, if the policy covers Turkey. Visiting motorists driving vehicles registered in the UK may use a valid Green Card when driving in Turkey. The green card must cover the whole of Turkey, i.e. both the European Part and the Asian part (Anatolia). Visiting motorists who are not in possession of a valid Green Card or who are not in
possession of a valid UK insurance policy (validated for the whole of Turkey) must take out short term insurance at the border or TTOK offices.

Passengers / Children in cars:
Child under 10 cannot travel as front seat passenger.

Seat belts:
Compulsory for front seat occupants to wear seat belts, if fitted. Compulsory for rear seat passengers to wear seat belts outside built up areas

Speed limits:
Standard legal limits, which may be varied by signs, for private vehicles without trailers. In built-up areas 31 mph (50 km/h), outside built-up areas 55 mph (90 km/h) for cars, 43mph (70km/h) for motorcycles; motorways 74mph
(120km/h) for cars and 49mph (80km/h) for motorcycles. Minimum speed on motorways: 24 mph (40 km/h). Speed limits are 10km/h less if the car has a trailer.

Compulsory equipment:

  • First aid kit
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Warning triangle – two required

Other rules / requirements:

The use of the horn is generally prohibited in towns between 2200 hours until sunrise.

The use of spiked tyres is prohibited.

It is recommended that winter tyres are used in snowy areas and snow chains are carried.

In the event of an accident it is compulsory for the police to be called and a report obtained.

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