So the holiday season is once again upon us and since Turkey is one of the few countries that opened up their borders this summer, here are few tips you may want to read before you book that trip of a lifetime.
I had plenty of opportunities to come to Turkey as it’s a popular holiday destination and has been for a while now. With the abundance of beaches, crystal clear water, mountains, blue skies and sunshine all year round it’s easy to understand why.
Here are three reasons to make Turkey your bucket list destination:
-food! My mouth is watering just as I even mention it! Meat cooked and seasoned to perfection, plenty of fresh vegetables and variety of dishes depending which region you are visiting!
-landscape for everybody! You can go skiing in the morning and swimming in the sea later that afternoon! How amazing is that??? History buff? Plenty to see there too!
-value for money. Turkish lira offers you a great exchange ratio so you can have more fun for less!
Since I was already in Central Asia and wasn’t in a hurry to get to Europe, Turkey seemed like a perfect transition place. I wasn’t too happy when I found out I need to apply for a visa but the whole procedure takes less than an hour and you get your e-visa instantly upon successful application. Here is the link https://www.evisa.gov.tr/en/
Bear in mind that even tho the visa is valid for 180 days, as a British citizen you can only stay in the country for 90 days. It’s a multiple entry visa so you can exit and enter as you please. If you want to stay longer then you have to get an extension within the first month of your visit.
Local SIM card.
Turkey isn’t a member of Europe Union and roaming can be very expensive. Your best solution is getting a local SIM card which costs 100TL plus any packages. All you need is your visa and passport and visit a local phone store. Turkey has three major mobile operators: Turkcell, Vodafone and Turk Telekom.The main difference between them is price so chose which one suits you most. Yes,I strongly advise you to get a local SIM card especially if you planning on hiking in remote areas. Free WiFi isn’t widely accessible.
Make sure they will open the SIM card for you as a tourist and not a local. Otherwise your SIM card will expire after 30 days unless you will bring a residency proof. That exactly what happened to me so I had to revisit the shop and get it fixed.
Turkey has generally a good link of public transport made of buses, metro, mini vans. You will need a local travel card with prepaid value. Annoying part is that every region will have their own card: Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir, Antalya etc. So you will need a bigger wallet to be able to hold all those cards:) On the plus side they will look good in your scrap book.
There are plenty of online apps that you can use to track public transport. Like I mentioned before each region will have different transport providers so plan accordingly. Also some apps only work in Turkish language.
IMPORTANT: ALWAYS carry your passport or copy of your passport with the visa stamp. It’s very common to be stopped by a police or gandarmeria and get id. They can stop and checked the whole bus as well (happened 3 times to me). You can get fined if you don’t have relevant documents.
Taxis are also very popular in turkey and relatively cheap. You can usually find special buttons on trees or lamp post that are connected to local taxi dispatch. I found that very useful because I didn’t have to call and explain my location etc. English isn’t widely spoken in turkey.
Turkey has to be amongst the countries with largest number of pilots. Flights are super cheap between cities and much faster than coaches.
I find it really weird that there are no trains in the whole country.
Here are some useful links to help you plan your perfect excursion:
https://www.google.co.uk/amp/s/www.biletall.com/amp/otobus-firmalari/kamil-koc-bileti (great app since it also shows you plane tickets but frustrating to use without english option. Still worth checking the routes and options etc).
I used this app constantly whilst staying in Antalya region. It allows you to track the bus in real time so you don’t have to spend hours waiting at bus stops. You can also top up your card online.
Another excellent app but only if you are fluent in Turkish.
Due to the current situation Turkish government is using a mobile app to track passengers.
I couldn’t find it in Apple store and my friend suggested it may be because I don’t have Turkish SIM card.
This is what the app icon looks like:
I only hitchhiked in turkey once. I was hiking in a remote area and there was this massive dog that couldn’t stop barking at me and simply blocked my road. The first car didn’t even slowed down for me and it took 15 mins before there was another car coming. It was a massive lorry truck but the driver was super pleasant. Didn’t speak much English but understood that I was afraid of the dog. He gave me a lift to a safe spot where I could continue my hike. Quite often when I was walking by the road a car would stop and the driver would ask if I need help or a ride. Of course it was very sweet and made me feel welcome, but sometimes the driver didn’t understand I was perfectly ok and that’s what I found frustrating. My best advice: go with your gut and always be cautious. I had a guy offering me a lift in Cappadocia but it turns out he was just looking for tourist to sell ballon flights to so as soon as I said I’m not interested at this occasion, he literally stopped the car and told me to get out. One of my best interaction was in Fethiye when I was coming back from a hike and a brand new Merced’s passed me by. After few seconds I saw it slow down and reverse to where I was. I prepared myself the best I could:) the driver rolled down the window and in a broken English asked: do you want to walk or you need a ride? I simply said: thank you but I have an hour till my bus so I can walk. And after that he left. I loved it! Communication really is a key!
I was using Couchsurfing when I first arrived in turkey. Firstly because I wanted to save a bit of money and secondly I wanted to get that insider look into the country. Yeah…that did not go well at all. Turns out that most hosts use the app as a Tinder and they do expect you to sleep with them in return for free bed. Some are quite open about it, others are more sneaky. I have dozens of stories about my Couchsurfing experience but this isn’t the time nor place.
All I’m going to say is: always trust your gut. Check their references. Try to interact via WhatsApp beforehand etc.
I had a wonderful host in Ankara, Owz,and we are still in touch via WhatsApp. He has a vast knowledge about his country that he could fill at least 10 books with! And he also hosted like dozens travellers and simply loves interacting with people! If you ever in the capital I’m sure he will be more than pleased to grab a coffee with you or host you at his place.
I also had two nice hosts in Istanbul but Cappadocia and Antalya were a disaster.
During my 3 months visit I spent 2 of them staying at various Airbnbs. I found this option way cheaper than hotels and also I had the privacy and comfort I love. Hostels aren’t very popular in Turkey.
If you are using booking.com to book your stay in Turkey, you have to do it before entering the country since the site is blocked there.
Local currency is Turkish lira. Plenty of ATMs in big cities but harder to get cash in remote villages. Paying by card isn’t widely accepted so always carry cash with you and try to plan ahead.
I never once feared I may be mugged but that doesn’t mean I encourage you to flash your wealth.
Most locals never been abroad so you may want to “tone down” describing your travel experiences. I know it sounds dumb but it will save you in the long term.
Now I feel like I need to mention something about local men. Turkish men don’t have the best reputation in Europe and after 3 months in turkey I can understand where does the opinion come from. Turkey was the first place where I literally couldn’t use Couchsurfing to simply find people to hang out with. Even if I posted an open event for everybody as soon as a local guy joined, he would refuse to let anybody else in. And local men always asked the same question: are you by yourself?
They were literally like piranhas trying to cockblock each other.
I even got a warning message from Couchsurfing that they will remove my profile because too many users are blocking me. Why was I being blocked? Because I refused to meet up with a guy who came too strong aka I was being precautious. Cappadocia was amongst the worst places when it comes to interacting with locals. I feel like it’s a one giant mafia of local guys there who are just looking for naive tourist.
Now I don’t condemn all those people who travel and want to have fun. Go for it! However I would like there to be an option to opt out without being ostracised. And would be much simpler if Couchsurfing kind of had two options in their profiles.
Well I feel like I’ve given you an honest description of what to prepare for your trip. In my next post I will write about all the places I recommend to visit, all the hiking trails I’ve done and the delicious food I tried.