Turkey is one of the oldest inhabited regions in the world. It has been home to numerous cultures over the last thousand years. You can find evidence of some of those earliest settlements at Troy. Later on, civilizations like the Greeks colonized the coastal areas and established some of the region’s greatest cities including Ephesus. From the 13th century to the 20th century, Turkey was the heart of the Ottoman Empire, which gave us great mosques, palaces and other architectural wonders to visit today. With this old and rich history, you can be sure that Turkey is an incredible place to visit.
Is it safe to travel to Turkey?
We understand that some people might not feel totally safe going to Turkey, in light of the Syrian conflict and the recent terrorist attacks. How your country portrays these events and what you hear on the radio and TV can certainly influence what you think of Turkey.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office considers Turkey mostly safe, but still advises caution. They indicate that travel is safe in most of the country with the exception of a few regions.
The US Department of State is much stricter. It places all of the country at “Level 3”, the second-most severe of its four travel warnings. They say that visitors should “reconsider travel” to Turkey.
Here is what we think after visiting Turkey. We know that some regions are not safe, especially closer to the border with Syria, and therefore we did not go there. However the rest of the country we felt was safe. We had no trouble whatsoever, people were mostly nice and welcoming. If you want to visit Turkey, go for it! Just avoid talking politics, carrying all your cash with you, and if you hear of a demonstration or strike in the streets, then avoid that neighbourhood.
Not going to Turkey would honestly be a shame, because there is so much to discover. It was one of our favourite trips ever. We loved the landscapes, the food, the history and culture, the variety of activities, etc.
What is there to see in Turkey?
There are so many places to visit in Turkey, you would have to stay a few months to see it all. We only had 12 days. Here is what we did.
Days 1 to 3: Istanbul.
Day 4: Ephesus & Pammukale.
Day 5: Butterfly Valley.
Days 6 to 8: Kas Village.
Day 9: Antalya.
Days 10 to 12: Cappadocia.
If we had had a lot more time we would’ve loved to visit these places as well: Mount Nemrut, the north coast (Black Sea), Ankara, the ruins of Troy.
How can I travel across the country?
We took A LOT of buses during our trip, as this is the cheapest option to get around. Famous bus companies include Metro Turizm and Kamil Koc. The websites are mostly in Turkish and you won’t be able to book online so for the longer, more important bus trips, go to an agency once you arrive in Turkey and book your tickets in advance. For example, we booked our two night buses and the ones between big cities. Some regions and cities only have small local buses, which means you can’t really book your tickets in advance. The smaller trips can be booked right before you go on the bus, just be careful to check the timetables.
There are some larger buses which cost a bit more that are great because you have more room. The night buses are usually comfortable, and they give your drinks and snacks in the morning.
If you’re not on a budget like us, you can take planes between the biggest cities, which will take less time than buses.
Or you can rent a car and go on a road trip, which is great because you can stop whenever you want!
When should you go to Turkey?
I would avoid going in the winter (from November to March) as it can be freezing cold and lots of activities are hard to do at that time, like swimming, or hot air ballooning in Cappadocia. On the other hand, there are less tourists and I hear that Cappadocia in the winter is gorgeous.
I would also avoid summer (July and August) because of the heat and groups of tourists.
I would go from April to June, or from September to October, as the weather is nice and there are less tourists than in summer. It is mostly warm, but it can some days be a bit cold so bring a big sweater in case. The water is cold but you can swim in it without dying of hypothermia, and going hiking is nice because you are not too hot.
What should you bring with you to Turkey?
Most countries need a visa to visit Turkey, so check with your government if you need one.
For women, bring a scarf to cover up your hair and shoulders when you visit a mosque. And don’t forget to bring pants or a long dress to cover your legs as well. Most mosques can lend you appropriate wear but just in case, you should bring your own.
The water in Turkey is not well filtered so bring water purification tablets to refill your bottle. Or if you can’t be bothered with that, just buy new water bottles at the local shops, they are very cheap.
I recommend taking a small translation book or app. Locals always appreciate when tourists make an effort and it can help you negotiate prices.
Next item: walking shoes, not just sneakers, but real walking shoes that you buy in a sports shop. If you plan on hiking a bit, this is so necessary. Believe me, we hiked up a mountain with crappy shoes, and it was a nightmare!
I would also have tissues with me at all times because not all public toilets have some.
And lastly, you can bring some cat food. There are lots of cats in Turkey, and they are well taken care of. In Istanbul, they are taken to the vet, they are sterilized, and most locals give them food and water. If you like cats, feel free to bring some food (if you are allowed to take some in your suitcase of course) and feed them.
How much will a 12 day trip cost you?
Turkey is a pretty cheap country, which is great if you’re on a budget! It can of course add up if you like to stay in luxury accommodations or eat fancy dinners, but if you like to keep it simple, you won’t need to spend a lot per day. Here is what we spent for our 12 day trip.
- Airbnb (9 nights): 198€
- Butterfly Valley bungalow all included (1 night): 390TL = 60€
- Luxury hotel in Cappadocia (2 nights): 375€
Food, snacks & drinks: 2653TL = 412€
Museums and activities: 872TL = 135€
Hamam traditional spa treatment: 360TL + tip (20TL) = 60€
Souvenirs: 70TL = 10€
Ferry to Greece: 400TL = 62€
Horse riding in Cappadocia (3 hour tour): 120€
Hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia: 360€
Bus trips: 662TL = 102€
Taxis: 389TL = 60€
Public transportation in Istanbul: 116TL = 18€
Total: 1972€ for 12 days for two, so 82€ per person per day all included.
And that can go down to less than 60€ if you get cheaper accommodation in Cappadocia and skip the hot air balloon ride.
Turkey is an amazing country with so much to offer. We hope you decide to go!