Things to Know Before Visiting Turkey

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Have you ever associated Santa Claus with Turkey? No? But you should have! According to the legend, this charming old grey-haired gentleman was born near Antalya, Turkey. Going back to ancient times, it was a part of the Turkish southeast coast that Mark Antony gave to Cleopatra as a wedding gift! If you visit Turkey, you will certainly understand why he didn’t choose another land!

Nowadays, Turkey is mainly known for the golden sandy beaches, blue sea, historical sites, long-brewed tea, and nightclubs. This country is a true heaven for active leisure enthusiasts and culture lovers wishing to explore the Islamic world. Whether you want to spend your holiday lounging on the beach or going on a tour to explore the rich culture or experience crazy nightlife, Turkey is a perfect destination for you! 

If you want to feel the authentic atmosphere of Turkey, you cannot skip Istanbul on your itinerary. Istanbul, the Turkish capital, the only city in the world to be stretched across two continents – Europe and Asia. 

Did you know that Istanbul originated the tradition of the annual Tulip Festival? Are you now confused a bit? You’ve probably thought that tulips are only the symbol of the Netherlands. Actually, the tulip trend started in Turkey with the sultan Suleiman whose palace was surrounded by countless numbers of these flowers. Now, it’s obvious why tea, the Turkish symbol, is served most often in small tulip-shaped glasses!

Things to know before visiting Turkey for the first time

When preparing for your Turkish trip, beyond buying a new swimsuit and high factor sunscreen, you should also get some knowledge of this country’s culture and customs so as not to experience the cultural shock. 

Keep on reading and prepare for your perfect Turkish trip!

Apply for your Turkey e-Visa at least 3 days ahead of the trip

Grab your valid passport and spare a few minutes to complete the application process for the Turkey e-Visa online. Since the processing time may take up to 72 hours, it’s crucial to apply in advance to get the entry permit delivered on time. Apply online on https://visa-for-turkey.com/ and get the Turkish e-Visa at your email box in the form of a PDF file!

Always keep cash in your pocket

Next on this list of things to know before visiting Turkey is to always make sure that you have some cash in your pocket. Credit cards are not readily accepted, especially in small towns of Turkey. However, they are widely accepted in major cities like Izmir, Istanbul, and Ankara. 

Keeping some cash in your pocket can save you from many difficulties because many facilities in Turkey accept cash only. For example, you will be required to pay by cash while taking a taxi. Keep a fair amount of change as well, which you can use for paying tips for waiters or public bathrooms, etc. 

Don’t be afraid of the free-roaming dogs and cats

You will see many street cats and dogs, and they can be found practically everywhere! They are part of the scenery of Turkey so you should not be afraid of them.

By saying that they’re everywhere, we really mean it! You can see them from the doorstep of Starbucks to the famous nightclub and luxurious beaches alongside the Mediterranean coast. Local people take care of them, and for this reason, they are pretty friendly.

Be ready for vegetarian-friendly Turkish cuisine

Although Turkish cuisine is indeed meat-heavy, several restaurants offer vegetarian-friendly options as well. For example, Zeytinyagli dishes are served at the Tradesmen’s restaurants (esnaf lokantasi). 

These dishes are made of vegetables and olive oil. You can get meat-free mezes in the menus of almost all of the fish and kebab restaurants in Turkey. These mezes are made of herbs, hummus, eggplant salad, and yogurt. 

If you are a vegetarian, be careful when ordering restaurant dishes with the word ‘tavuk’ in their name, meaning ‘chicken’. In Turkey’s eyes, chicken isn’t considered real meat, so you may be recommended ‘tavuk’ as a vegetarian meal! 

But it’s not the end of the ‘chicken story’! When you get a craving for some dessert, you should know that the most famous Turkish milk-based pudding contains chopped chicken breast! Remember the name ‘tavuk göğsü’ and watch out when looking over the menu!

Tap water is not for drinking

The quality of tap water is different in various regions of the country, but you should avoid drinking tap water in all Turkey parts. Turkish tap water cannot be used for drinking purposes. 

However, you can use it for cooking or making tea, but it should always be boiled water! You can also brush your teeth with it but try not to swallow it. Drink water from the filtration systems, which are located in big cities.

Kissing both the cheeks is the right way of greetings

The greeting of Turkish people shows how affectionate they are. You should kiss both cheeks as it is a traditional way of greetings in this country. 

Below, you can read what the ways of greeting depending on gender are:

  • Men – two men meeting for the first time will probably shake their hands, maintaining eye contact. Family members and friends will hug or pat each other. You shouldn’t also be shocked seeing two men kissing on the cheeks. It’s pretty common but relatively rare in the business world.
  • Women – two women will probably lightly shake their hands at the first encounter, while at the second and next meetings, they can kiss each other on the cheek and hug.
  • Man & Women – here, the greeting issue may be a little more complicated as it all depends on religious belief. As you know, Turkey is a Muslim country, so in many cases, religion will be the obstacle to greet by touching or kissing a person of different gender. The best way to avoid faux pas is to wait for the first move of the person you’re meeting for the first time. 

Be Careful when crossing the street

The pedestrians in Turkey have to be careful while crossing the streets because the traffic of Turkey is notorious for cars. You should not expect any vehicle to stop for you allowing you to cross first, even on the zebra crossing. 

The safest way of crossing a street or road is at the traffic light, but even then, you have to be careful and make sure that it’s all clear and there’s no car approaching you. 

Turkey is not only Istanbul

Many people, while planning their itinerary, give priority to Istanbul. However, you should look further than Istanbul because there are many beautiful historic places beyond this city. 

Turkey offers a wide range of landscapes to explore, from the valleys of the Black Sea region to the hiking routes of Lycia. 

At the most famous market (Grand Bazaar), tourists can find traces of Turkish culture and art in the form of thousands of pieces of jewelry, colorful carpets, and scarfs, as well as unique souvenirs. Sightseeing enthusiasts can visit ancient cities like Troy, Milet, Ephesus, or Pergamon. For those who, apart from exploring, also want to lounge a bit, we highly recommend a fairytale Cappadocia, underground temples, and Kelebekler Vadisi (Butterfly Valley). Turkey can also be an ideal place to do water sports, paragliding, or trekking. As you can see, there’s something for everyone!

Tea is the sign of hospitality in Turkey

Last up on this list of things to know before visiting Turkey is to prepare yourself to drink several cups of tea every day. You will be offered tea in both big cities and small towns in Turkey by their inhabitants. 

Even the shopkeepers will interrupt your shopping by offering tea in big shopping malls. You should expect a freshly-brewed cup of tea when visiting a Turkish household. So, before traveling, you have to remember that tea is a sign of hospitality in Turkey, and you shouldn’t refuse to drink it. 

Final thoughts

There you have it. Our top things to know before visiting Turkey. Plan your journey, pack your bags, and explore different Turkish regions choosing the form of activities that you like the most! In the meantime, when preparing for your trip, apply for your Turkey e-visa and enjoy the effortless online application process that will save your precious time!


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