Straddling western Asia and eastern Europe, Turkey’s rich cultural and historical legacy, combined with its sparkling coastline and warm, vivacious locals make it a stellar travel destination. Its seaside draw cards include the vibrant port city of Bodrum, the effortlessly elegant town of Kas, and the stunning beaches at the Fethiye, while its interior highlights include the hot mineral springs of Pamukkale, the bizarre rock formations of Cappadocia, and the ancient cliff temples of Dalyan. Istanbul presents a cosmopolitan, first-world city. From trendy restaurants and clubs to contemporary art galleries and five-star hotels and spas, the city offers a world of entertainment and leisure, which bustles between ancient monuments like the iconic, glorious Hagia Sophia. Famous for its hospitality, Turkey welcomes guests to explore its old-world charms while enjoying the best modern comforts.
TRAVEL, TRANSPORT AND GETTING AROUND
Turkey’s national airline is Turkish Airlines, which flies to multiple destinations across the globe, including the UK and the USA. Other airlines offering direct flights to Turkey from the UK include Atlas Global, British Airways and Pegasus Airlines.
Turkey’s road network continues to improve, with four-lane motorways connecting major cities, and well-surfaced modern highways elsewhere. However, further east and in rural areas, roads may be less well surfaced.Road conditions and standards of driving in Turkey can be poor. There is a road toll system in Turkey which uses electronically-read HGS cards; hired cars should be fitted with these. Both chauffeur-driven and self-drive cars are available in all large towns and resorts. All international companies are represented.
There are many types of taxi, share-taxi and minibus in operation. Taxis are numerous in all Turkish cities and towns and are recognisable by their chequered black and yellow bands. All taxis have a meter which must be switched on at the start of the journey. For longer journeys, the fare should be agreed beforehand. There is an extensive bus network around Turkey linking the larger urban centres to smaller villages, and if you’re willing to put up with long-distance overland travel, these can be much cheaper than taking domestic flights.
The minimum driving age is 18 and front seat belts are compulsory. Children under 12 may not sit in the front. The speed limit is 120kph (75mph) on dual carriageways, 90kph (56mph) on highways and 50kph (31mph) in built-up areas.
FOOD, DRINK AND CUISINE ADVICE
Turkish food combines culinary traditions from the people’s nomadic past in Central Asia with influences of the Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine. Such mixed heritage when it comes to food can be the cause of fierce debate when brought up, in particular when it comes to discussing whether dishes are Greek or Turkish in origin. Debate aside, Turkish food is excellent, with wide variation, going far beyond the familiar kebab.
In regards to tipping- a service charge is included in hotel and restaurant bills. It is customary to leave a small tip (10 to 15%) for barbers, hairdressers, Turkish Bath attendants and waiters in smarter establishments. In inexpensive cafes and restaurants, a small gratuity is appreciated. When using taxis, passengers should just round up the fare.
Mains water is chlorinated in towns and cities, but it is advisable to drink the widely available bottled mineral water. Milk is pasteurised. Eat only well-cooked meat and fish. When it comes to street food, common sense is advised; eat food that is freshly cooked and ideally, has been prepared in front of you. During the summer Turkey can experience temperatures up to 40°C (104°F);so carry a bottle of water to avoid dehydration.
CLOTHING AND DRESS RECOMMENDATIONS
Depending on where you are in Turkey, appropriate clothing will vary widely. If visiting during the summer take light cotton layers and a hat, as temperatures can reach scorching, particularly in the cities. During the winter months pack heavier layers and waterproofs. Sturdy shoes and equipment are advisable for anyone who will be trekking in the mountainous areas.
CLIMATE AND WEATHER
Turkey is a huge country, and its climate varies widely from region to region as well as seasonally. For sightseeing holidays to Istanbul and the most important ancient and medieval sights, and for active walking holidays, the best times to visit are spring (April-May) and autumn (October-early November) when days are generally warm and sunny but not uncomfortably hot. Rainy spells and cloudy days are possible, however, in spring and autumn, so the best months for a sun-and-sea holiday on the Aegean or Mediterranean coast are June to end September. Resort areas are most crowded from June until the end of August.
In developing ski areas such as Uludag near Bursa and Palandoken near Erzurum, the best time to visit is between December and April. Temperatures in and around Istanbul can vary from well below freezing in midwinter to above 40°C (104°F) in summer. The Aegean and Mediterranean coasts experience the hottest summers, with highs of 45°C (113°F), but midwinter temperatures can be as low as -5°C (23°F). Mountainous Eastern Turkey has the most extreme climate of all, with winter temperatures as low as -43°C (-45F) and highs up to 38C (100F). The climate of the central Anatolia is also extreme with summer highs of 40°C (104°F) and winter lows of -25°C (-13°F).