Turkey is a must-see destination for every traveler, but the differences from Western culture can sometimes lead to culture shock. Avoid any potential surprises by reading these dos and don’ts for visiting Turkey.
Prepare for the best visit to Turkey by taking the time to learn about the culture before you arrive. These tips will help guide you on acceptable and unacceptable behavior in the country. You’ll be able to have the ultimate Turkish getaway once you know what to expect.
So, what are the most important dos and don’ts for Turkey?
13 Dos and Don'ts When Visiting Turkey
Dos for Visiting Turkey
1. Do Dress Appropriately
Turkey is a predominantly-Muslim nation. Although tourist centers like Istanbul and the summer town Fethiye are more progressive and Western, wearing revealing clothing may attract negative attention.
Avoid wearing tight-fitting clothing, miniskirts, low cut tops, or see-through materials.
Do wear loose clothing like flowing skirts, baggy pants, and billowy shirts.
2. Do Be Prepared to Haggle
It is customary to haggle at bazaars or markets in Turkey. Although actual stores have fixed prices, the open-air markets expect you to haggle so their first price will be high.
Do take the time to learn the conversion rate between the Turkish lira and your currency so you know what you are haggling.
Don’t feel intimidated to pay the initial price. Tourists often pay without realizing they should haggle. This helps the shopkeepers, but harms your travel budget.
3. Do Visit a Turkish Bath
The ultimate Turkish luxury is visiting a Turkish bath or hammam. Westerners sometimes avoid this treatment because of the communal nudity, much like the Finnish saunas.
Don’t let your worries stop you from getting the most thorough scrub of your life. Everyone wears linen towels around their waist and are more focused on relaxing than looking at others.
You’ll quickly forget your worries once the warm water washes over you and the tellak (bather for men) or natır (bather for women) begins scrubbing away a lifetime of dead skin.
4. Do Learn Key Turkish Words
In popular tourist areas of large cities, like Istanbul, people speak English. However, most Turkish people are not fluent in the language. You’ll make it easier on yourself and them if you learn a few key Turkish words.
Here are 5 key words to learn before you visit Turkey:
- Merhaba = Hello
- Evet = Yes
- Hayır = No
- Teşekkür ederim = Thank you
- Türkçe konuşamıyorum = I don’t speak Turkish
5. Do Try Local Food
Turkish food is not to be missed! Start your day with a traditional Turkish breakfast consisting of a plethora of local cheese, butter, olives, eggs, tomatoes, cucumbers, jam, honey, spicy sausage, and even more.
Wash it down with a couple of glasses of traditional black Turkish tea. Be careful, though, because it packs a punch! Settle in the afternoon with a traditional Turkish coffee.
Be sure to venture beyond the traditional Turkish kebabs. Turkish food is much like Greek and Eastern European fare. You’ll find börek (baked pastry), pide (Turkish flatbread pizza), çorba (soup), helva (sweet confection), and more!
Don’t be afraid to ask restaurants what certain dishes are. They’ll explain it as best they can, and sometimes even offer a photo.
Do try new dishes throughout the country. Ask your guides or servers what they recommend and give it a chance!
6. Do Leave Istanbul
Istanbul is an incredibly unique city, as the bridge between Asia and Europe. But there’s so much more to Turkey than Istanbul.
If you don’t leave Istanbul, you only see a small part of the country. Go beyond the city to hot air balloon over fairy chimneys in Cappadocia, see the gates of Troy, and visit two wonders of the ancient world.
Don’t limit your adventure to the main city or you’ll miss out on Turkish culture and history.
Do find tours if you aren’t comfortable navigating the country on your own. There are dozens of companies that run personal and group tours to help you see more of Turkey.
7. Do Tip
Tipping isn’t common in Turkey in the way that it is in North America. Typically, you only tip at fancy restaurants, where you would leave an additional 10-15% for your server.
However, tipping culture has increased due to tourism.
Leave the equivalent of 50 cents or $1 USD for bellboys. In taxis, round your fare up to the nearest lira. For example, if your fare is 1.70 you would give them 2 Liras.
Don’t be afraid to ask your accommodation for additional tipping practices for tour guides.
Don’ts For Visiting Turkey
8. Don’t Engage Excessive in PDA
Respect Turkey’s Muslim culture by avoiding excessive PDA during your travels. In Turkey, it is not very common for men and women to overtly display affection in public. It can attract unwanted attention, especially from conservative men in small towns.
Don’t be overly affectionate with your partner in public. If you aren’t married, you may even need separate hotel rooms in some conservative parts of the country.
9. Don’t Drink Excessively
Despite what you may think, drinking alcohol in Turkey is legal and widely accepted, especially in major cities in Western Turkey such as Istanbul, Izmir, and Ankara. However, in some regions of Turkey and even neighborhoods of major cities, people don’t drink at all.
Although alcohol is readily available for tourists and locals alike, getting extremely drunk is frowned upon. It draws unwanted attention and can lead to an unsafe situation. Have a few drinks, enjoy the local favorite rakı (anise-flavored spirit) while you enjoy some meze (appetizers) but know your limits.
Nightclubs and bars are safe to visit, just make sure you have a trusted friend or companion and look after each other.
10. Don’t Travel Near the Syrian Border
Most of the crime in Turkey is centered around the southern border with Syria. Almost all tour providers have stopped going near the border to ensure their clients’ safety.
Our number one safety tip is to avoid traveling near the Syrian border.
Don’t let the civil unrest of another country prevent you from visiting Turkey. There are so many gorgeous sites to see in the north of the country.
11. Don’t Fall for Scams
Tourist scams are common in Turkey as a way for locals to make extra money. Be aware of the three most common scams in the country so you don’t get cheated out of your money:
- Unmetered Taxis: where taxis claim their meter is broken or offer a scenic tour, then grossly overcharge you at the end. Only take taxis with a working meter or use BiTaksi.
- Romance Scams: where Turkish men get into relationships with Western women then beg them for money when they leave. Be wary of getting into a vacation romance in Turkey, as many men will try to guilt you into giving them money before you leave.
- Pickpocketing: where thieves will steal your purse or wallet. This is the biggest crime in Turkey. Be careful at tourist attractions and avoid flashy items that attract their attention.
If you want to be more cautious, you can choose to buy travel insurance. Some travel insurance providers may even offer fraud/scam coverage up to a certain amount.
Remember to always buy travel insurance when planning a trip to Turkey, just to be safe!
World Nomads has a large selection of travel insurance available.
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12. Don’t Make Rude Gestures
This seems like common sense, but tourists often make this mistake simply because they don’t know what’s considered rude in Turkey. The common “ok” hand sign can actually be taken as an offensive gesture in Turkey. You should also avoid putting your thumb between your index and middle finger.
Do research the culture before you visit to ensure you don’t accidentally offend someone while you’re visiting. If you’re unsure, avoid gestures altogether and use the Turkish you learned earlier.
13. Don’t Stay Close to Tourist Attractions
Tourists have the misconception that staying near tourist attractions - either in hotels or lingering during the day - is safer. In Turkey, that is not the case.
Not only do restaurants and hotels have huge markups in these popular regions, but you’re also more at risk of getting pickpocketed or scammed.
Do stay on in the local neighborhoods, where accommodations are much cheaper. During the day, go beyond the typical tourist attractions to see a different side of the city.
Prepare for your ultimate Turkish vacation by learning these dos and don’ts before you visit. Go beyond the typical tourist areas to see more of the country, but behave appropriately to avoid upsetting Turkish locals. Respect the nation’s culture by dressing modestly and limiting your alcohol consumption.
Use these tips to feel confident in visiting this historically rich country. You’ll be so blown away by the hospitality of the Turkish people, the ancient sites, and the incredible food that you’ll be glad you spent the time learning the dos and don’ts so you could enjoy it all worry-free.