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FAQs

This is the FAQs Page, click on the titles to see the answers

Is it safe?

At the start of September both the USA and UK updated their advice to travellers in Turkey, warning against anything but essential travel to the far southeastern area around Hakkari, Siirt and Şirnak. This is hardly prime tourist country anyway so should not affect many people. https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/turkey http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/tw/tw_turkey.html

Sadly, many southeastern towns within reach of the Syrian border are having to deal with a huge influx of refugees from the Syrian war and this has led to tensions especially in Antakya (Hatay). It would be very unwise to go near border towns such as Akçakale, Ceylanpınar or Reyhanlı where local people have been killed in spillage from the conflict on the other side of the border.

Elsewhere in the coountry a peace initiative with the Kurdish PKK is looking very shaky which means that it would be wise to keep an eye on the news.

Unfortunately the protests that broke out in İstanbul and other cities in June have restarted again this September with some of the worst trouble in the Kadıköy area of İstanbul and in the Kızılay district of Ankara. In general it would be wise to stay away from demonstrations anywhere in the country. The police have broken many up recently with tear gas and water cannons. Tear gas is especially dangerous to those with respiratory problems. 

How is it for women?

Generally speaking, Turkey is a very safe country for female travellers with very low incidents of serious sexual assault. On the other hand, many women have to put up with levels of attention, especially on the street, that they would not expect in their home countries and this can become very wearing/annoying.

Some women seem to suffer more than others and it's not always immediately obvious why this should be. The usual advice is to dress modestly to avoid attracting unwanted attention but although this is probably sensible it certainly doesn't guarantee a quiet life. Help yourself by taking advantage of "aile (family)" sections of restaurants where they're available and by taking up the offer of "bayan (female)" seats on public transport.

Unfortunately a lot of men see foreign women as an easy route to sex and/or money and visas for foreign countries. Being aware of this might help you avoid some misunderstandings.

In September two Japanese women walking in one of the Cappadocian valleys were attacked and one was stabbed to death. While this was an extremely atypical event it's worth reiterating that women should never walk alone in the valleys.

Is Turkey still cheap?

Turkey is no longer the bargain-basement travel destination it once was and travellers arriving from Syria often think it very expensive in comparison. That said, a lot depends on exchange rates and in 2011 these were working strongly in favour of visitors from Europe, the USA and Australia. 

Although the best hotels and restaurants are as expensive as anywhere in the world there are still plenty of cheaper options even in pricy Istanbul. Hostels and family-run pensions help keep accommodation costs down, and there is usually plenty of good, tasty street food available to keep dining costs to a minimum. 

Transport costs have risen steeply recently because of the cost of petrol. Although bus fares will still seem very reasonable to many visitors there are no cheap return fares. Taxi fares are now quite expensive unless you are travelling in a group. Internal air fares, on the other hand, are very reasonable especially if you book ahead and avoid peak periods including Turkish holidays. 

What should I wear?

On the whole Turks are fairly relaxed about what foreigners wear - after more than 30 years of tourism they are pretty unshockable. That said, most Turks appreciate it when we dress modestly, especially away from the coastal resorts and İstanbul. When visiting a private home it's polite to cover one's shoulders and knees, as one would when visiting a mosque. People usually take their shoes off before entering a house too. But few Turks expect a foreigner to wear a headscarf except when visiting a mosque.

If you plan to visit the trendy restaurants and nightclubs of İstanbul you might want to consider dressing up a bit,  if only to get past the bouncers. The Turks who frequent these places will usually be dressed to kill. 

Topless on the beaches? Preferably not. 

Will I be able to buy alcohol?

Although Turkey is an overwhelmingly Muslim country people tend to be fairly relaxed about alcohol especially in the resorts, İstanbul and Cappadocia. In these places you should have no trouble finding restaurants and bars that serve alcohol although in smaller inland towns and in the east it will be much harder. There are also a few notoriously conservative towns such as Konya where you should probably prepare yourself for a dry stay. 

The government levies hefty "sin" taxes on alcohol which means that a bottle of wine with a meal can make a huge difference to the price. 

Will I be able to find vegetarian food?

Yes. There are not many actual vegetarian restaurants even in İstanbul but Turkish cuisine makes much use of vegetables, particularly if you favour the sort of lokantas that have a choice of dishes available in trays rather than the kebab shops. A bit of care is needed since even things like lentil soup may have been made using a meat stock but there are even some street-food staples such as rice and chickpeas that will suit non-meat eaters.

Say "Hiç et yemiyorum (I don't eat any meat)" and hopefully you can avoid nasty suprises. 

Is it safe to drink the tap water?

In theory you can drink the tap water in most of the big cities and in Cappadocia. However, sometimes it has been so heavily treated that the taste is unpleasant. In the height of summer a lot of stomach upsets can probably be attributed to water so it's probably best to stick with the bottled stuff which is cheap and ubiquitous.

How much should I tip?

Tipping (başiş) is certainly not compulsory in Turkey but most waiters certainly appreciate it if you leave around 10% of the bill and hotels sometimes have a tip box for the staff. In taxis people usually round the fare on the meter up or down to the nearest whole lira. 

In hamams you should tip the person who washes you and the masseur around 10%. The same is increasingly the norm at the hairdressers. 

Will it be difficult to travel in Turkey during Ramazan (Ramadan)?

It depends where you plan to go. Probably fewer than half the population of İstanbul fast and life goes on there much as normal but with festivities in the evening which you will be able to join in. In the resorts life also goes on much as usual, as it does too in Cappadocia. However, in other parts of the country you might have trouble finding anywhere to eat during the day and may have to wait to eat until after the evening iftar rush is over. 

If possible you should try and avoid eating, drinking or smoking in front of people who are fasting although most Turks are far too polite to tell a foreigner off. Tempers can fray in the afternoons as people struggle to work in the heat without water or cigarettes. It's wise to try and avoid being on the roads around the iftar hour when people are rushing to get home to eat.

You may well be woken up by the Ramazan drummers who come round in the early hours of the morning to wake people up for sahur, the big breakfast that precedes the fast.

I don't speak any Turkish. Will it be a problem?

No. Turks are great linguists and no matter where you go there is almost guaranteed to be someone who can rustle up a few words of English, French or German. Of course everyone appreciates if you try to learn a few phrases in Turkish...

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