Turkey is located in south/western Asia (the part that is west of the Bosphorus is included with Europe, or referred to as the ’European side’) and borders south eastern Europe. In the north it borders the Black Sea. To the west is the Aegean Sea, Greece and Bulgaria and to the east are Georgia, Armenia & Iran. In the south it borders the Mediterranean Sea, along with Iraq and Syria. It occupies a landmass of 780,580 square kilometres and its capital is Ankara.
Turkey is divided into 7 geographic regions: Marmara, Aegean, Mediterranean, South-eastern, Eastern, Black Sea and Central Anatolia. Over half Turkey’s land mass is above 1000 metres, with mountain ranges extending in an east-west direction parallel to the north and south coasts. The highest mountain of Turkey is the Mount Ararat in the east, on which Noah’s Ark is believed to be, and it is not far from Lake Van, the biggest lake of the country. The country has seven river basins, all of which have their sources within its borders and flow into the sea, into neighbouring countries. Turkey is a country of diverse landscapes, fertile plains, endless beaches, high mountains, long rivers like Euphrates and Tigris, which flow south as the elevation decreases rapidly.
The Turkish Grand National Assembly (TGNA) consisting of 550 members, is democratically elected by voters for a 5 year term. Voting is compulsory for all people 19 years and over. The TGNA then elects the Prime Minister and President to share executive powers and also The National Security Council, who is made up of high-level government and military officials, who meet regularly to advise the officials of current issues.
The population of Turkey is around 74 million. 60% of its population is under 26 age.
Agriculture, mining, manufacturing and tourism are the main industries in Turkey.
Although Turkey is situated in a geographical location where climatic conditions are quite temperate, the diverse nature of the landscape, and the existence in particular of the mountains that run parallel to the coasts, results in significant differences in climatic conditions from one region to the other. Istanbul is part of Europe and the weather reflects that. You’ll find a wet cold winter (3-8 degrees Celsius) slowly turning into a damp, warm Spring and a mild to hot (18-32 C°) summer that doesn’t hang around any longer than feels is necessary. The Aegean and Mediterranean coasts have a typical Mediterranean climate with hot summers (24-36°C) and mild winters (4-16 °C). Cappadocia shares the climate of much of inland Turkey. Summers can be very hot and your altitude is directly proportional to the amount of snow you get in the winter. Being a large country there is no ’average’ climatic condition and there are considerable variations between Istanbul, Cappadocia and the coastal regions. In Central Anatolia (Cappadocia) there is a considerable variation between day and night time temperatures, with summer peaking at around 26°C. Around Izmir and Ephesus the climate is warmer still, with average summertime temperatures occasionally exceeding 30°C. Further south on the Mediterranean in Fethiye mild winter for a few months and long hot summers with 30°C average. As for eastern Turkey The climate of the region can be harsh and unpredictable, summers tend to be hot and extremely dry. Winters are bitterly cold with frequent, heavy snowfall. Villages can be isolated for several days during winter storms. Spring and autumn are generally mild, but during both seasons sudden hot and cold spells frequently occur.
Country Festivals & Official Holidays 2008
1 Jan New Year’s Day.
23 Apr National Sovereignty and Children’s Day.
19 May Commemoration of Ataturk and Youth & Sports Day.
30 Aug Victory Day.
1-4 Oct Ramazan Bayrami (End of Ramadan).
28-29 Oct (28th is a half-day) Republic Day.
7-11 Dec Kurban Bayrami (Feast of the Sacrifice).
Please ensure that you have all required visas for your trip. Rules and regulations governing the issuance of visas are constantly changing, and vary for different nationalities and you should check visa requirements with your travel agent or relevant consular authority well before travel. www.mfa.gov.tr
Most Nationalities require a visa for Turkey which can be purchased upon arrival at Ataturk Airport. There are normally two types of tourist visas. A single-entry visa allows you to enter Turkey once. After you leave, no matter how long you’ve stayed in Turkey, you must pay for another visa to enter Turkey again. A multiple-entry visa allows you to enter and leave Turkey multiple times within its period of validity (normally 30, 60 or 90 days) at no additional charge.
Make sure you have cash (US dollars, euros, or pounds sterling) to pay for your visa when you enter Turkey as no travellers cheques or credit cards are accepted, cash only!
If you are arriving overland from Syria, Greece, Bulgaria or with a cruise, most nationalities will be able obtain a Turkish visa at the border or port customs.
Currently there are no compulsory vaccinations for Turkey; however, please consult your doctor for further advise.
Monday-Friday (8:30-12:30) , (13:30-17:30)
Istanbul Covered market: Monday-Saturday (8:00-19:00)
During summer months, the government offices and many other establishments in the Aegean and Mediterranean Regions are closed in the afternoon. These fixed summer hours are determined by the governing bodies of the provinces.
GMT + 2 (GMT + 3 from last Sunday in March to Saturday before last Sunday in October).
The international dialling code for Turkey is +90. IDD is widely available. The outgoing international code is: 00. There is an extensive internal telephone network, but often an interpreter will be needed for more remote areas. To phone from PTT telephone booths, which are found in all areas, telephone cards and tokens are used. Local, inter-city and international calls can be made from all PTT offices. Mobile phones work across 99.9 % of the country and there are internet cafes in all cities.
Email & Internet
Internet cafes are widely available throughout the cities and rural areas and the local charges are generally very low. This is easily the cheapest form of communication. A few internet cafes are starting to offer VOIP services (using Skype or a similar host network).
220 volts AC, 50Hz. Two pin plugs are used throughout Turkey.
The style of Turkish food owes some of its origins from the nomadic lifestyle of the people of this region during the reign of the Sultans. Even today the evening meal is often the evenings entertainment. Mezze, the equivalent of the western ’starter’, consists of a huge selection of tasty dishes served individually in the centre of the table which include vegetables, meat, chicken and seafood all prepared in uniquely different ways. It is customary for everyone to sample a taste from every dish, which often consist of the same vegetable prepared in a number of very different ways. There are for example over 100 ways to prepare Aubergines alone. Eating in a traditional Turkish restaurant is never a hurried affair and people tend to take their time. The transition from mezzes to the main course is not always obvious. The arrival of skewers of succulent lamb or chicken, supplemented by tasty rice dishes has to be anticipated at the mezze stage in order to avoid overdoing the first course. Deserts are very sweet (similar to Greek desserts) complement the predominantly savoury aspect of Turkish food.
Turkey has a good long-distance bus network with air-conditioned buses, reserved seats and generally good service quality, at least with the big operators. There are a few firms now provide luxurious buses with 1st class seats and service. Buses are staffed by good drivers and a number of assistants. On long haul travel a second driver will take over when the first gets exhausted. During the ride you will be offered free drinks, a bite or two, and stops will be made every two hours and a half or so at well-stocked road restaurants. The further East you travel, the less frequent busses will be, but even places as far as Dogubeyazit or Van will have regular services to many places hundreds of kilometres away.
Major cities are served by airlines as well, with reasonable prices, beating the bus travel experience especially over longer distances. Tickets can be conveniently bought from us or at ticket offices of Turkish Airlines , Onur Air , Fly Air , Pegasus Airlines and Atlasjet among others . Many of the large cities have daily connections to the traffic hubs Ankara and Istanbul, others will have flights on specific days only. Upon arrival at regional airports there will often be a connecting Havas bus, which has very limited stops. They may wait for half an hour, but will be available after the arrival of major flights.
Shopping is one of great pleasures of a trip to Turkey, and the rich variety of Turkish crafts make it impossible to resist buying a gift for friends or for yourself. Alongside the most modern objects, traditional handicrafts from villages and cities can be found. The most popular objects for the zzholiday makers are, of course, carpets; but the various leather and suede goods, copper and bronze wares, silver, ceramics, handicrafts, embroidery, and the famous Turkish meerschaum and onyx are on many shopping lists.
Ataturk International Airport is located 24km (15 miles) west of Istanbul. There are 17 International & 47 domestic airports. International airports facilitate banks, ATMs and exchange bureaus. At International airports there are 24-hour shopping facilities, including duty free shopping, 24-hour left-luggage facilities and porter services are also available. In Istanbul to get into the city, there is a light rail metro system connects the airport to Esenler. Taxis or dolmus (shared taxis) are available from the airport. Havas airport buses run to central Istanbul (Taksim Square) and to the bus terminal on demand (journey time: 30 minutes).
Places of Worship
If you wish to enter a place of worship, ask first. Shoes must always be removed before entering a mosque. Some mosques are out of bounds to tourists. Always dress conservatively, as though you were entering a Church, Synagogue or any other place of worship. In general, respect the locals wishes and tread softly wherever you go.
When it comes to dress codes, expectation that women will dress conservatively. Skimpy clothing is offensive to many local people, particularly the older generation and will be frowned upon. However it is fine for women to wear shorts in the more popular tourist areas, there is unlimited freedom on most beaches. A good option is a light cotton dress, or baggy cotton pants. You will need a dress when visiting mosques.
Men’s clothing is less subject to scrutiny. We recommend, however, that you take a mix of cotton pants and shorts. When visiting a mosque, both men and women should cover their limbs. Men can get away with trousers and a short-sleeved shirt; women should wear a dress (below the knees) with long sleeves, and when swimming, costumes must be worn at all times and a swimsuit, for women, is far more acceptable than a bikini.
Please take great care with your passport, airline tickets and monies. Most accommodation will have safety deposit facilities, which you are strongly urged to use. Do not carry more cash than required. A money belt worn under your clothing is suggested. If you are buying something, you should not flash large amounts of money around. Please clearly mark all your baggage with your name and address. Common sense and awareness will greatly reduce the unlikely misfortune of loss or theft. We also suggest you carry small padlocks for your luggage.
For many years Turkey had a somewhat confusing currency for foreigners, with a Euro worth about 1,900,000 Turkish Lira. Literally anyone with 1 US dollar was a millionaire. In 2004, the ’New Turkish Lira’ was introduced, with the Euro becoming 1.9 New Turkish Lira (YTL). Most of the old notes have been phased out but you may still encounter them in some areas so please check your change carefully. New notes are as follows, the old notes had 6 zeros more. 100 YTL, 50 YTL, 20 YTL, 10 YTL, 5 YTL, 1 YTL (TL 1,000,000). There are also coins for 1 YTL. The New Turkish Lira is divided into 100 Kurus (YKR) and these are all coins. Currency can be exchanged at airports, banks and exchange booths of which there are many. Banks open mainly Monday to Friday from 8.30pm to 5.00pm. All bank branches have ATMs which accept Cirrus, Plus and just about every credit card and ATM’s can also be found at ideally in many places. Major credit cards are widely accepted. Traveller’s cheques can be exchanged at banks and hotels. US$ or Euros are preferred. Post Offices in the larger towns will sometimes change currency and travellers cheques for a much lower commission than banks. The local currency is New Turkish Lira (YTL). Check out www.tcmb.gov.tr for current exchange rates.
Money is safest carried in the form of traveller’s cheques; however, these are difficult to change in regional areas. With plenty of ATM’s in major cities more and more people are bringing a combination of cash and credit cards. Look for ATMs displaying either the Maestro, Cirrus, Visa or MasterCard or whatever your card symbol is. ATMs will allow you to access cash (in local currency) from your credit card and possibly from your savings account if it is linked to Maestro or Cirrus or Visa Plus network. Withdrawn money or the purchase amount will be converted precisely by www.tcmb.gov.tr official rates.
If you are bringing cash, then the best currencies are US Dollars, Euro’s or British Pounds. Be aware that most insurance policies will not cover for loss or theft of cash. Credit cards are useful for large purchases but they may not be accepted in small restaurants, mini markets, local transport, taxis. More likely they will only accept cash as payment for goods or services.
There are no departure taxes payable locally when departing Turkey by air (it’s included in your air ticket).
Eating out in Turkey is relatively inexpensive. Good quality snack foods, such as small pizzas, cheese puffs or doner kebab sandwiches are good for a light lunch, will cost about 2-5 Euro. A typical dinner will include mezzes and kebabs and will set you back about Euro 6-12 Euro. Soft drinks cost about 1 Euro and a beer around Euro 2 in shops. In pubs and bars, beer is around 3-6 Euro.
Earliest records of the Turkish people show that their ancestors in Central Asia date back to some time before 2000 BC. The word ’Turk’ comes from Chinese and the Great Wall was built to keep out Turkish tribes. Roaming widely throughout Asia and Europe, the Turks established vast empires throughout these continents.
By the 10th century, most Turks had adopted the religion of Islam. Following this substantial change, the Karahanid Empire of central Asia (10th and 11th centuries) and the Ghaznavid Empire (10th and 12th centuries) developed in areas known today as Iran, Afghanistan and Northern India. Some Turks travelled southwest to Anatolia (Asia Minor) considered to be the cradle of civilisation because it has embraced more than 20 cultures and civilizations. These civilizations included the Hittites, Assyrians, Lydians, Greeks, Persians, Macedonians, lonians, Romans, Byzantines and Turks. In AD 1071, the Turks fought a crucial war with the Byzantine Empire. Settling in Anatolia (which today covers most of Turkey), they established many small feudal states and some empires.
The Seljuk Empire was the first Turkish Empire in Anatolia. After the Seljuk’s’ influence declined, Anatolia fragmented into a number of small states. The Ottoman Turks unified these separate units, which eventually became the largest empire in recent history, the Ottoman Empire. The Ottomans ruled for more than six centuries (1281 - 1922), in part because their system of government allowed flexibility in the practice of diverse religions, languages and cultures.
By the end of World War I, the Ottoman Empire had collapsed completely. In 1922, a fundamental political and social revolution took place, and the Sultanate, or Kingship, of Turkey was abolished. A man named Mustafa Kemal Ataturk was elected President of the Grand National Assembly in December and led the War of Liberation against such world powers as Greece. The next move of Kemal’s was the declaration of a Republic, occurring in 1923, to which he was again elected President. A wave of change swept through the country. The Arabic script was abolished and many religious schools and convents were closed. Ataturk is considered the founder of Modern Turkey and after surviving earlier assassination attempts he died in 1938. His comrade and long time friend Inonu became President of the Republic and the Turkish woman were given their right to vote and to be elected.
During the course of World War II, Turkey remained divided; people against government. Only when it became clear that the Allies would win did Turkey’s more liberal side show itself. The final Allied victory, in fact, was the turning point of Turkey’s governmental system. Democracy flourished, opening new doors of escape from the influence of strict governing. As new parties emerged, the Democrat Party became the most prominent, eventually overshadowing all others. In 1949, small measures of religion were re-introduced to the school system. By 1990, Turkey’s government had become a republican parliamentary democracy, since then, there are 82 provinces of the Republic of Turkey. The principal one of the 82 is the province of Ankara which is Turkey’s capital.
Historical events of recent years including the War on Terror, the Gulf War, the end of the Cold War and the dissolution of the Soviet Union (which gave independence to Turkish republics in Central Asia) have increased Turkey’s importance as a power for peace and stability in the region.
Turkey is an element of stability in an otherwise turbulent part of the world. As a modern, secular democracy with a free market economy, Turkey will continue to expand its role as a commercial, political and cultural link between the Middle East, the Caucasus, the Balkans and the West.
The Turks are racially diverse. Many are the descendants of refugees, often from the Balkans, but a strong sense of national identity is rooted in a shared language and religion. Most are Sunni Moslems, although a Shia community including the Alawite sect is growing fast. The largest community are the Kurds, making up about 20% of the population and the rest are Turks. There are some 500,000 Arabic speakers.
Turkish, English, German and French are widely spoken in cities.
99 % Moslem with a small Christian and Jewish minority. Turkey is a secular state which guarantees complete freedom of worship to any religion.
Turkey is one of the only regional countries that export agricultural produce such as cotton, tobacco, fruit and vegetables. Agriculture accounts for over 15% of total economic output and is a major employer, particularly of women. There are also sizeable mining and manufacturing industries. Tourism is one of the largest service sectors and serves as a key source of foreign exchange. Turkey is attempting to become part of the European Union and as a result many social and economic reforms are taking place throughout the country. As a result of this European alignment, Turkey’s trading partners have expanded widely from the Middle East, Europe, Balkans, Asia, Australia to America.