Things to know before visiting Turkey
Published on: December 3rd, 2019
Last modified: July 28th, 2023
Turkey is somewhat of a mystery, and travellers often have concerns about what to wear, when to visit and whether Turkey is safe.
We’re here to alleviate your fears, and show you the real Turkey - a country that seamlessly blends Europe with Asia, history with modernity and culture with cosmopolitan cities.
Read on for our top 5 things to know before visiting Turkey.
What is there to do beyond Istanbul?
Anyone who visits Istanbul is sure to be delighted by the city’s portfolio of incredible portfolio of landmarks, sweeping views and grand bazaars. Turkey as a whole is an epicentre of culture though, and the opportunities for exploration go far beyond the cosmopolitan city of Istanbul. If you’re really looking to make the most of your Turkey vacation, take to the skies in one of Cappadocia’s many hot air balloons, explore ancient history in Ephesus or hop on a Turkish Riviera cruise from Bodrum.
What time of year should I visit?
As Turkey is such a vast country, the best time of year to visit depends largely on which region you’re hoping to explore. Istanbul and the European side of Turkey experience scorching hot summers and biting cold winters, so the best times to visit to avoid extremes are spring (from April to May) or autumn (from September to mid-November).
If you’re planning on visiting the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts, you’ve got the whole year to choose from. With a typically Mediterranean climate, the Turkish Riviera is a year-round getaway.
Further inland in Cappadocia, the climate becomes far more extreme. During July and August, temperatures can reach as high as 35°C and fall as low as -10°C from November to March. If your heart is set on experiencing a hot air balloon ride, head to Cappadocia between May and October when winds are low and temperatures pleasant.
What is the food like?
The local cuisine is one of the most memorable parts of any journey through Turkey. From ravioli equivalents to every kind of kebab you can think of, Turkish cuisine is definitely something to write home about. Some of our favourite must-try dishes include Iskender kebaps, kunefe and köfte. Although the majority of Turkish food involves some sort of meat, there are ways the local cuisine can be made vegetarian-friendly. A perennial on any Turkish menu is a spread of colourful mezze. Hummus, fava, aubergine dishes and feta cheese all take pride of place in traditional spreads, most often shared by friends and family in a wonderful convivial atmosphere.
Drinking tea and coffee is also somewhat of a national past-time, with offering tea in particular considered a sign of hospitality. When visiting a Turkish household, the homeowner will almost always offer you a freshly-brewed cup of tea as soon as you step foot in the door. Whether you’re a fan of tea or not, it’s customary to accept the drink so as not to offend your hosts. Turkish tea is famously strong, so it’s best enjoyed with the addition of a sugar cube or two.
When it comes to the stronger stuff, Turkish coffee is a way of life. Prepared using only the finest ground coffee beans and sipped out of decadent Turkish crockery, stopping for a coffee in Turkey is as much about the experience as it is about the taste. Once the coffee has been enjoyed, it’s thought the remaining grounds can be used for fortune-telling – different shapes point to different outcomes, with each cup of coffee telling a different fortune.
How should I dress?
Although Turkey has a majority Muslim population, its generally quite cosmopolitan. In big cities such as Istanbul and coastal resorts like Bodrum, the dress code is fairly similar to that across the rest of Europe. When you’re travelling to more rural areas or visiting religious sites, both women and men (but women especially) should dress more modestly. As a general rule, pack modest regular clothing and a couple of smarter items for the evening.
Is it safe?
Often seen as a fairly intrepid destination, many travellers wonder whether Turkey is safe or not. As with any other country, travellers should be street smart and take the same precautions as they would at home when out and about. Travel is inherently unpredictable though, and so chances are Turkey is no more dangerous than your home country. In fact, the locals are so welcoming that you’ll feel right as home as soon you arrive. If you’re sensible and embrace the local culture, visiting Turkey has the potential to be one of your greatest vacations yet.