Do's and Don'ts When Travelling in Turkey

26 Jun 2014 by Olga Brighton

Travelling to Turkey

Turkey's incredible landscapes, rich ancient history, culture and world-renowned cuisine make it a top holiday destination. British nationals alone made over 2.5 million visits to Turkey in 2019 according to the FCDO. Turkey offers a unique blend of Eastern Europe meets western Asia, delivering a fusion of contemporary and cosmopolitan, with rural life, antiquity and deep tradition. Your visit will be all the better for being aware of this rich variety woven into Turkey’s lifestyle.

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As with any country you visit, and perhaps especially Turkey, always exercise great respect for local tradition and culture. Even in a cosmopolitan city like Istanbul, people understandably revere their traditional customs. Turkish people are inherently very hospitable and welcoming of visitors who show an appreciation for their customs. If you are planning a trip, consider these do’s and don’ts in Turkey before you go:

Visiting mosques

As with any place of worship, check the rules for visitors and ensure you follow them. For example, wear modest, loose fitting, full length clothes. Wearing a headscarf is a good idea for women. Speak quietly and behave respectfully. Mosques will usually closed to visitors during prayer times.

Turkey mosque
  • Do remove shoes or sandals before you go inside any mosque.
  • Do wear modest loose fitting clothing, meaning no shorts for males or females.
  • Do cover your head and no bare shoulders if you are female.
  • Don’t visit a 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.

Visiting traditional (non-tourist) areas

  • Do remember you are a visitor in someone else’s country, so be respectful.
  • Do wear more conservative clothing if visiting anywhere rural or outside of cities. Short sleeved shirts are acceptable.
  • Do avoid public displays of affection.
  • Don’t sit beside or talk to single or younger Turkish women if you are a lone male traveller.
  • Don’t be surprised if merchandise sellers negotiate on the price of everything they are are selling! 

Interacting with Turkish people

Hospitality is at the heart of Turkish culture. Turkish people are welcoming, friendly, willing to offer help and have a chat.

Turkish people
      • Do be courteous. Turkish culture places 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’.
      • Do be aware of differences with some Western mannerisms - a downward head nod indicates ‘yes’, whereas an upward nod 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 any derogatory comments about the Turkish Flag, Turkey, or Kemal Atatürk, the Turkish Republic’s Founding Father….or in fact anything else Turkish. It's obviously impolite and deeply disrespectful!

Read also: Top 10 Exotic Foods to Try In Turkey

In restaurants or cafes

      • Do remember that alcohol abstinence is encouraged and common in Muslim countries, including Turkey. Tourists having a moderate drink is tolerated, but drunkenness and excessive drinking is not.
      • Do be aware that smoking in public areas like restaurants and bars is prohibited, but it does sometimes happen. You should stick to the rules though and don’t join in.
      • Do pay for the whole meal if you initiated a meal invitation. Splitting the bill if you have 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 be aware that gestures such as burping, picking your teeth and blowing your nose in a restaurant or café is considered impolite in Turkey.

Ensuring your safety whilst travelling

travel safety in Turkey

The FCO says that most visits to Turkey are trouble free, but like anywhere, be alert to your surroundings and remain vigilant in crowded places that are popular with foreign nationals. Certain areas have travel restrictions, such as areas within 10 km of the border with Syria, so be sure to check the lastest FCO advice before you book or travel.

Turkey is one of the remaining few places on Earth where you can buy kilims, rugs, carpets, and jewellery crafted in the ancient traditions. 

Top Travel Tip - Buy Travel Insurance so you’re prepared for emergencies

The key advice given by most travel experts is to make sure you buy travel insurance as soon as you book any part of your trip. It’s essential to have travel and medical cover in place so you are protected against emergencies that may occur during your trip, or even certain events before you travel that may prevent you from going. Many policies now include Coronavirus emergency medical expense cover if you contract the virus while on your trip, including Globelink, so it’s worth reviewing the reliable travel insurance policy options we offer.

Whether you are visiting ancient ruins such as Göbeklitepe, Ephesus, shopping for traditional craftwork, or just savouring authentic Turkish coffee and cuisine, remember that you are in an unfamiliar place it's always a good idea to take precautions, like having appropriate travel insurance in place. Key advice given by most travel experts is to make sure you buy travel insurance as soon as you book any part of your trip - that way you are covered from the moment you buy - even if your trip is cancelled for certain reasons before you travel. It’s essential to have travel and medical cover in place so you are protected against unexpected mishaps and emergencies during your trip, or even certain events before you travel that could stop you from going. Many policies now include Coronavirus cover for emergency medical expenses and cancellation if you contract the virus while on your trip, or before you travel -  including Globelink - so it’s worth reviewing the reliable travel policy options we offer.

Lastly, whenever and wherever you travel, always check your local Government, or for UK residents, the FCDO’s travel advice to help you stay safe and travel aware.

Read also: Cheap Accommodation & Budget Rentals in Turkey

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