Travelling to Turkey
You should always exercise great respect for tradition and culture in Turkey. Even in a seemingly westernised city like Istanbul, people remain conservative. Turkish people are inherently hospitable and very appreciative of visitors who show importance for their customs. If you plan to travel to Turkey, consider these do’s and don’ts before you go:
- Do remove shoes or sandals before you go inside any of the mosques in Turkey.
- Do wear modest clothing, meaning no shorts or strappy tops for women and no shorts for men either.
- Do cover your head if you are female.
- Don’t visit any mosque on a Friday, the Muslim day for worship.
- Don’t talk or laugh loudly in a Mosque.
- Don’t walk in front of a person who is praying because, according to Muslim belief, the prayer will not be counted.
Visiting Traditional (Non-Tourist) Areas
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- Do wear conservative clothing when visiting anywhere outside of cities. Short sleeved shirts are acceptable.
- Do remember that public displays of affection (even between husband and wife) are not looked kindly upon in Muslim countries.
- Don’t sit beside or talk to single or young Turkish women if you are a male traveller because this is a threatening move to them.
- Don’t expect any Turkish male, such as merchandise sellers, to talk to a female traveller with a male traveling companion. Turkish men will only speak to male companions to protect the female’s honour.
Interacting with Turkish people
- Do be courteous. Turkish people place heavy emphasis on good manners.
- Do learn some polite phrases or words such as, ‘tesekkür ederim’ which means ‘thank you’ and ‘lütfen’ which means ‘please’. A downward nod of the head means ‘yes’ whereas nodding in an upward manner with raised eyebrows whilst making a click sound with the tongue means ‘no’.
- Do remember ‘evet’ means ‘yes’ and ‘hayir’ means ‘no’ in Turkish.
- Don’t make the ‘ok’ sign as it is known in the West by putting the thumb and forefinger together to form the letter ‘o’, because this is considered obscene in Turkish culture.
- Don’t make negative remarks about Kemal Atatürk, the Turkish Republic’s Founding Father.
In Restaurants or Cafes
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- Do remember that alcohol abstinence is encouraged in Muslim countries, including Turkey. A glass of wine is tolerable but drunkenness is not.
- Do be aware that smoking is common in Turkish cafes and restaurants. It would be rude to ask others to refrain from lighting up in this circumstance so just select a restaurant of café with a no smoking section if you would rather.
- Do pay for the whole meal if you initiated an invitation. Splitting the bill if you invited your guest is considered rude in Turkey.
- Do return the gesture if someone else offers to pay the bill, and make sure you invite that person to lunch or dinner before you leave.
- Do remember that burping, picking your teeth and blowing your nose in a restaurant of café is considered to be impolite in Turkey.
Ensuring your safety whilst travelling
Turkey is one of the remaining few places on Earth where you can buy kilims, rugs, carpets, and jewellery crafted in the ancient Turkish traditions. And with all that shopping, a holiday to Istanbul or Ankara necessitates taking out travel insurance to protect your purchases from loss or theft.
Whether you plan to go shopping for Turkey’s treasures or just want to savour authentic Turkish coffee and kebabs in style, remember that you are in an unfamiliar place and you cannot take too many precautions. Make sure you have appropriate travel insurance to protect you from any scenario.
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