‘If one had but a single glance to give the world, one should gaze on Istanbul,’ so said French writer, poet and politician Alphonse de Lamartine. Falling under the spell of Turkey is almost a given during a holiday to its captivating lands. After all, there’s so much to fall for – from the pristinely beautiful Turkish Riviera to countless ancient ruins, otherworldly scenery that shows nature in all its glory and cities that hum with life. Here are some things to note before your stay.
Turkey is a country accustomed to outside attention and the tourism industry is a world heavyweight – hotels, flights, resorts, beaches and tourist attractions are well-oiled machines, making a trip to Turkey an easier travel experience than less developed nations. A modern country striding towards the future, the rate of progression within Turkey is rapid and there’s an ever-expanding list of hotels and resorts to cater for all budgets and tastes.
While Turkey is an Islamic nation, religion isn’t quite as omnipresent as in other Muslim countries, especially in larger towns and cities. The habits of restaurants and shops aren’t altered during Ramadan with many continuing to open during the day. Breaking the fast at sunset still embodies a special kind of atmosphere though and it’s also hard to miss the five-a-day call to prayer sounds that fill the streets. ¬¬¬Head to the bustling Sultanahmet Square at the centre of Istanbul a few hours before evening falls during Ramadan and you can enjoy outdoor concerts and families laden with picnics awaiting the time to eat. It’s a free spectacle that offers an interesting window into local life.
Currency in Turkey comes in the form of Turkish Lira. ATMs are widely available in major cities and tourist areas. You can get local currency from banks and exchange bureaus. It’s easy to pay by credit card throughout Turkey, even in smaller towns.
Before paying for anything at a market or street stall, always negotiate, especially for obvious tourist purchases – haggling is a Turkish way of life. Offering a 50% drop on the marked price is a good starting point ¬– keep a top price in mind, and don’t go over. Bartering is all in the approach – done with a friendly smile and jovial manner and you’re sure to be met with good humour from sellers. Fixed price shops and stalls in bazaars and markets, often selling higher-end products, are slowly becoming more common.
Tipping is common practice in Turkey and it’s best to tip in Turkish Lira. Around £5 a day for a good tour driver is a decent tip, while restaurants are usually left between 5% to 10% of the bill. Porters, housekeeping staff and taxi drivers will also gratefully receive a tip of £1 or £2 for a job well done.
Explore the markets and bazaars of Turkey during your holiday and you’ll open yourself up to a world of beautiful centuries-old crafts. Double knot rugs, pottery, onyx objects, textiles, leather, copper ¬¬– most fabrics and materials are transformed by the Turks who are known to have golden hands. The bazaars of Istanbul and Izmir contain the finest pieces.
After a day spent bargaining in the markets or being dazzled by ancient monuments, watch the sunset below the mystical fairy chimneys in Cappadocia, sip cocktails in the opulent surroundings of the historical Pera Palace or be scrubbed to within an inch of your life with an indulgent after-dark hammam. A myriad of wonderful Turkish experiences are ready and waiting for your arrival.