Practical Information

Work Hours
Banks are open weekdays from 8:30 am until noon or 12:30 pm, depending on the bank, and from 1:30 pm until 5.00 pm. However, there are some banks which continue to serve during lunch breaks.
 
Museums are generally open Tuesday through Sunday from 9:30 am until 5.00 pm or 5:30 pm and closed on Monday. Palaces are open the same hours but are closed on Thursdays. For specific information on museums, please visit our museums section.

Shops and bazaars are normally open Monday through Saturday from 9:30 am to 1.00 pm and from 2.00 pm to 7.00 pm, and closed all day on Sunday. But most stores in shopping malls and crowded streets are open seven days a week, including lunch breaks.

You can find restaurants or cafes open virtually at any time of the day or night.

Mail-Telephone Calls
Post offices are painted bright yellow and have PTT (Post, Telegraph, and Telephone) signs on the front. The central Post office is open Monday through Saturday from 8 am to 9 am, Sunday from 9 am to 7am. Smaller ones are open Monday through Friday between 8:30 am and 5.00 pm.

How do I make calls?
To make calls from your mobile phone in Turkey, please dial by following these guidelines.
To call another Turkcell subscriber: Dial 0, the network code, and then the seven-digit number; 0 53x xxx xxxx
To call a fixed line within Turkey: Dial 0, the tree-digit area code, and then the seven digit number; 0 xxx xxx xxxx.
To call another GSM operator in Turkey: Dial 0, the operator's three-digit network code and then the seven-digit number; 0 xxx xxxx
To call an international GSM number: Dial the international prefix + the country code the GSM Network code and then the mobile number.
To call an international fixed line: Dial the international prefix + the country code the area code and then the phone number.
To send an SMS to a domestic GSM subscriber: After writing your message dial 0 xxx xxx xxxx
To send an SMS to an international GSM number: After writing your message dial the international prefix + the country code the GSM network code and then the mobile number.

For more information please visit:
http://touristinfoonline.turkcell.com.tr/tl/faq_1.htm#2

Currency
As of 1 January 2009, the monetary unit in Turkey was changed back to Turkish Lira (TL), which comes in bank notes of 5.00 TL; 10.00 TL ; 20.00 TL; 50.00 TL; 100.00 TL and 200.00 TL. Smaller denominations will come in coins of 1.00 TL; 50 kr; 25 kr; 10 kr; 5 kr and 1 kr. "kr" stands for Kurush which represent the cents of TL.

In Turkey travelers' checks are rarely accepted. We recommend that you cash your travelers' checks at the banks.

ATMs
For years, the easiest way to get money away from home was to head to the friendly neighborhood ATM. Unfortunately; a recent innovation by U.S.-based banks has been to charge a commission of up to 5% on withdrawals in addition to the per-transaction fee of $3. On principle, I'll probably just carry around cash, but for those of you willing to succumb to endless, creative bank fees, all cities and major tourist destinations in Turkey have bank machines on the Cirrus (tel. 800/424-7787; www.mastercard.com) and PLUS (tel. 800/843-7587; www.visa.com) networks.

Among the most reliable of the local banks are Akbank, Türk Is Bankasi, Garanti Bankasi, Yapi Kredi Bankasi, and Ziraat Bankasi. Ask whether you need a new personal identification number (PIN), as most ATMs in Turkey accept numbered passwords only, and some limit their input to four digits. Also, be aware that the ATMs are often fickle or empty, so always carry around alternatives in the form of cash or traveler's checks for emergencies.

Credit Cards & Debit Cards
Private bank accounts are not the only method where banks have been creative with mining additional fees. Purchases on credit card accounts are now also subject to a percentage fee, usually around 5%. In an annoying twist, these very same credit cards offer some of the more competitive exchange rates. It's up to you to do the math, though. Nevertheless, it's highly recommended that you travel with at least one major credit card. You must have a credit card to rent a car, and hotels and airlines usually require a credit card imprint as a deposit against expenses. Debit cards are also a commonly acceptable form of payment in most establishments.

Traveler's Checks
In Turkey, as in many other European countries, local merchants are loath to accept traveler's checks, as banks charge large fees to cash them out. Banks tend to charge high commissions or hide the commission in higher rates, as do the exchange offices around town. Hotels are most amenable to exchanging your traveler's checks, but hotel exchange rates are notoriously unfavorable. The post office will probably be your best bet for exchanging them for cash.

You can buy traveler's checks at most banks. Most are offered in denominations of $20, $50, $100, $500, and sometimes $1,000. Generally, you'll pay a service charge ranging from 1% to 4%.

The most popular traveler's checks are offered by American Express (tel. 800/807-6233, 800/221-7282 for cardholders; this number accepts collect calls, offers service in several foreign languages, and exempts Amex gold and platinum cardholders from the 1% fee); Visa (tel. 800/732-1322; AAA members can obtain Visa checks for a $9.95 fee -- for checks up to $1,500 -- at most AAA offices or by calling tel. 866/339-3378), and MasterCard (tel. 800/223-9920).

Be sure to keep a copy of the traveler's checks serial numbers separate from your checks in the event that they are stolen or lost. You'll get a refund faster if you know the numbers.

Another option is the new prepaid traveler's check cards, reloadable cards that work much like debit cards but aren't linked to your checking account. The American Express Travelers Cheque Card, for example, requires a minimum deposit ($300), sets a maximum balance ($2,750), and has a one-time issuance fee of $14.95. You can withdraw money from an ATM ($2.50 per transaction, not including bank fees), and the funds can be purchased in dollars, euros, or pounds. If you lose the card, your available funds will be refunded within 24 hours.

Vat
The value-added tax (VAT or sales tax) here called KDV, is 18%. Hotels typically combine it with a service charge of 10% to 15%, and restaurants usually add a 15% service charge. Value-added tax is nearly always included in quoted prices. Certain shops are authorized to refund the tax (ask).

Health
No vaccination required. Tap water is safe to drink although highly chlorinated in the larger cities. So it is advisable to drink bottled water or mineral water. All kind of drugs can be found in pharmacies called “eczane” in Turkish.

Electricity
The standard is 220 volts, and outlets are compatible with the round European two-prong plug. Laptops are generally self-regulating, but check with your manufacturer before plugging in. You may be able to leave your hair dryer at home, as most hotel rooms come equipped with at least a weak one.

Safety & Security
The streets of Istanbul are considerably safer than their counterparts in the United States or Western Europe. Travelers should nevertheless take care of their valuables, as pickpockets, although not as common as in the U.S. or Europe, do operate in the major cities and tourist areas.

Standards
Weights and measurements: Metric System

Local Time
All of Turkey adheres to Eastern European Time (EET), which is Greenwich Mean Time +2. To make it easier: When it is noon in New York, it is 7pm in Istanbul. Daylight saving time, when clocks are set 1 hour ahead of standard time, is in effect as Eastern European Summer Time (EEST) from 1am on the second Sunday in March to 1am on the first Sunday in November.

Internet Access
Turkey is one of the most connected countries around. Most hotels (even the pensions) have wireless, and at the very least, there will be a computer for use by guests. Internet cafes are also plentiful.

Important Service Telephone Numbers
Traffic: 154
Police: 155
Gendarmerie: 156
Fire: 110
Emergency: 112
InternationalOperator: 118
Municipal Police: 153

Visas
For information about Turkish visas go to www.mfa.gov.tr  and click on "Consular Information." Or go to one of the following websites:

Citizens of Australia and New Zealand can obtain up-to-date visa information from the Embassy of the Turkish Republic Canberra, 6 Moonah Place, Yarralumla, ACT 2600 (tel. 02/6273-6592), or by checking www.turkishembassy.org.au.  British subjects can obtain up-to-date visa information by calling the Turkish Embassy (tel. 020/7393-0202) or by visiting the "Consulates and Visas" section of the Turkish Embassy London's website at. Canadians can obtain up-to-date visa information by calling the Turkish Embassy at 197 Wurtemburg St. Ottawa, ON (tel. 613/789-4044), or by logging on to the embassy website at www.turkishembassy.com. Citizens of the United States are served by one of five regional consulates. For residents of Maryland, Virginia, Washington, D.C., West Virginia, and The Bahamas: Turkish Embassy, 2525 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202/612-6700; fax 202/612-6744; Consular Section: tel. 202/612-6741; fax 202/319-1639; www.turkey.org). For residents of Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas: Turkish Consulate, 1990 Post Oak Blvd., Suite 1300, Houston, TX 77056 (tel. 713/622-5849; fax 713/623-6639). For residents of Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington State, Wyoming, and the Pacific Islands: Turkish Consulate, 6300 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 2010, Los Angeles, CA 90048 (tel. 323/655-8832; fax 323/655-8681; ). For residents of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin: Turkish Consulate, 360 Michigan Ave., Suite 1405, Chicago, IL 60601 (tel. 312/263-0644; fax 312/263-1449). For residents of Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont, and Puerto Rico: Turkish Consulate, 821 United Nations Plaza, New York, NY 10017 (tel. 212/949-0160; fax 212/983-1293).

An entry visa is required for citizens of the U.S. ($20 / 15€ for a single entry for stays up to 3 months), Canada (US$60 or 45€ on arrival valid for 90 days and multiple entries), the U.K. (£10 on entry; £50 in advance for multiple entries up to 3 months), and Australia (A$68 on arrival), while a valid passport is sufficient for citizens of New Zealand.

There is no need to acquire an entry visa prior to departure, because obtaining one on arrival is a no-brainer (go to the visa window next to and before clearing customs and fork over the required cash); besides, in many cases it will be more expensive if you apply for one in advance.

 

Changing Money
Change can be done in international airports, hotels, exchange offices (döviz bürosu have change at better rates), and banks opened every day from 9.30 am to 12.00 am and from 13.30 pm to 17.00 pm except on Saturdays and Sundays.
It is preferable to pay with a credit card (widely used in Turkey) for the purchase of items of value such as carpets, jewels... the invoices of which should be kept.

What to Bring Into Your Luggage
In summer, light cotton clothes will be worn during daytime. Light woolen garments can be needed at night in Istanbul, the Aegean and Mediterranean Costs. In Central and Eastern Anatolia and in the Black Sea region warmer garments are necessary at night. Raincoats and coats are necessary in other seasons. Good walking shoes, hat, sunglasses and sun creams are recommended. Film rolls, but in case of film shortage, all kind of films can be easily found. Film processing is cheap and of good quality.

Rules to Be Observed
Photography is not allowed in certain places such as frontier and military areas, docks, airports. Inside mosques it is possible to take pictures. During prayer time the visitor should be more discreet. Decent clothing is required, as well as a headscarf for the women (in most of the mosque).

Transportation

26 cities are served by Turkish Airlines (THY) domestic flights. Recently numerous alternative airlines carriers have come into the picture as well.

Because the rail network is not very developed in Turkey, instead there are a high number of luxurious scheduled bus services throughout the country.
Boats, sea buses and ferries operate some routes between the main ports.
Taxis with taximeter are widely used everywhere in the country. Night fare costs 50% more from 24.00 till 06.00.

In Istanbul, all kinds of transportation are used: yellow taximeter taxis, collective taxis (dolmus), buses, minibuses, trains, trams, a subway, a funicular, boats, sea buses and ferries.

Shopping
Handicraft is very reputed in Turkey where there is a wide range of high quality items. Prices are labeled but in the bazaars, bargaining is still practiced. As an elementary ritual of courtesy, you will be offered, by the shopkeeper, Turkish coffee or tea served in small traditional glasses.

The following items are the most prized and frequently purchased by foreign visitors:

  • Beautiful carpets and kilims.
  • Jewels and other golden and silver items, precious and semiprecious stones. The “Nazar Boncuk” is an eye made of a blue bead used to ward off evil influences from others. Generally referred to as “the evil eye”
  • Leather and suede have an exceptional smoothness both in quality and prices: coats, jackets, pants, shoes, bags, belts...
  • Materials and pieces of embroidery: silk, precious materials, garments embroidered with gold or silver threads, lace work, cotton fabrics, tablecloths, toweling...
  • Ceramics tiles and pottery: plates, bowls, jugs, vases, decorative wall tiles... all with beautiful patterns and colors. 
  • Copper items of yellow, red color or tinplated: trays, ewers, samovars, braseros, tumblers, cans, coffee mills...
  • Onyx; the quality of onyx depends on the color: brown-veined green onyx is the best. Lots of items are made with onyx: vases, plates, dishes, chess-boards and pieces, eggs, lamp bases.....
  • Meerschaum used for the making of beautifully carved pipes.
  • Copies of antiquities are sold in some museums.
  • “Turkish Delight” (Lokum), and also Spices and aromatic herbs that delight the eye and smell. 
  • Old books and Postcards, miniatures, items inlaid with mother-of-pearl or silver, narghiles, figures of Karagöz shadow-theatre made of translucent colored skins are among many other items which can be bought.
  • It is strictly forbidden to take antiquities out of Turkey.


Post Office
A yellow PTT sign indicates the post offices. Central post offices are opened from 08.00 till 24.00. Others are opened till 17.00. Phone cards must be purchased to use at public telephones.

The PTT (post office), hard to miss with its black and yellow signs, offers the usual postal services, in addition to selling tokens (jeton) and phone cards for the phone booths located in and around the post office and in most public places. Postcards cost 35¢ (20p) to Europe and 70¢ (35p) to all other continents. The PTT also has currency exchange and traveler's check services; in major tourist areas PTT kiosks are strategically located for emergency money needs. For express deliveries or shipping packages, the PTT operates an acele posta servisi (or APS), but for your own sense of security, you'd better stick with the old reliable UPS or DHL.

Newspapers & Magazines
The Turkish Daily News and the Turkish Press are Turkey's most widely circulated national English-language papers providing local, national, and international news. Both have websites (www.turkishdailynews.com and www.turkishpress.com). The Turkish newspapers, Zaman and Hürriyet, also have English-language websites (www.zaman.com and www.hurriyet.com.tr). In the larger cities, the International Herald Tribune, USA Today, and Britain's Financial Times are widely available, although they're generally light on local news. The Guide Istanbul is a good resource for events in town (free in most five-star hotels), with interesting features and essential local listings. Cornucopia is a more upscale English-language glossy featuring articles on Turkish art, history, and culture, while Turkish Airlines' Skylife and the airport's own Gate1 shouldn't be overlooked for monthly exhibits and performances as well as features on destination-related topics.

Smoking
A local saying goes something like this: "Eat like a Turk, smoke like a Turk," which roughly translates to "If you're a nonsmoker, tough luck." In theory, smoking is prohibited on public transportation, in movie theaters, in airports, and the like. But realizing the hardships of driving a bus, bus companies allow the drivers to smoke. This is a good time to work on tolerance, and remember to pack Visine and to sit upwind at outdoor cafes.

Telegraph, Telex & Fax
Most hotels have fax machines available for guest use (be sure to ask about the charge to use it). Many hotel rooms are even wired for guests' fax machines.

Tipping
Gratuities are a way of life in Turkey and are often expected for even the most minor service. Try to keep small notes handy and follow these guidelines: Give the bellhop 50 kurus to 1 TL (45¢-87¢/20p-40p) per bag; leave at least an additional 10% of the restaurant bill for your waiter; reward your tour guide with 5€ to 15€ ($15-$29/£7.15-£14) for a job well done; thank the captain of your gullet with about 50€; and give the attendant in the Turkish bath 3€ to 5€ ($4.35-$7.25/£2.15-£3.55) before the rubdown. Shows of appreciation are also expected from your chambermaid, your barber or hairdresser, and an usher who has shown you to your seat.

Toilets
There are two types of waste repositories in Turkey -- the traditional toilet and the Turkish toilet, that dreaded porcelain contraption in the floor. Traditional toilet bowls are equipped at the rear with a tube for running water operated by a faucet located on the wall to the right of the tank, allowing for quick cleanups after every use.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.