The Do’s And Don’ts Of Visiting Turkey

We may earn commission from affiliate links

The Do’s And Don’ts Of Visiting Turkey

Turkey is one of the most visited countries in the world. It’s hardly surprising when you do a little research into why.

Turkey has epic history combined with fast-paced modern life to check out in Istanbul, and you also have stunning beach resorts on the south coast. Throw in mountains, ski resorts, traditions, excellent food, shopping, and historic ruins, and you can pretty much understand why most airlines fly to Turkey several times a day!

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the Turkish Lira is quite favorable for visitors these days, giving you more for your cash.

You’d struggle if you had to choose only one place to visit in Turkey. This is a vast country; it’s far bigger than most people realize. Istanbul alone is home to 15 million people, and that’s just one city! And then there are the beaches of the south coast, the stunning scenery of Cappadocia, the otherworldly Pamukkale hot springs, and so on. So, if you’re wondering, “is Turkey a good place to visit?” we can tell you 100% yes!

In short, a visit to Turkey can be incredibly varied or focused on just one thing. It can be short (a weekend) or long (literally weeks). If it’s your first time in Turkey, you might need some help planning your trip.

You can drift between old-fashioned customs and traditions and the modern way of life quite quickly in this country, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t quite a few do’s and don’ts to bear in mind if you want your visit to be memorable. For all the right reasons!

To give you the best experience possible for your first Turkish adventure, let’s check out what you should do versus the things you should be a little cautious of.


Turkey Travel Blog_The Dos and Donts to Visiting Turkey


Visiting Turkey Do’s

Ruins of Afrodisias (Aphrodisias) Ancient City - UNESCO Sites Turkey

What should you definitely do when visiting Turkey to make sure you really experience the wonder of this rather beautiful country?

Do Head Away From The Tourist Resorts

In the summer, the south coast is packed with tourists from all over the world and many holidaying Turks. Visit Antalya or Marmaris, Kusadasi or Bodrum, for instance. These resorts are beautiful, but they don’t show you the best of the country in terms of traditions.

Sure, you’ll see the natural beauty, hear the language, taste the food, and listen to local music, but you won’t get a truly authentic experience.

While visiting the coastal resorts, one of the best tips for traveling to Turkey we can give you is to seek out something a little more traditional, if at all possible. You’ll understand Turkish traditions far better as a result, and you’ll probably find yourself with a few new friends too! It’s not hard to travel around the country, so look for local towns that are easy to reach via bus and head over for a day or two.

Turkey is a massive country. Some parts are exceptionally traditional, while others are very modern and westernized. Make sure you get out and view it with your own eyes. Don’t just lay on a sun lounger all day long.

Do Take The Time To Explore Istanbul And Its History

Most Beautiful Mosques In Turkey - Blue mosque in Istanbul at sunset

There are few cities as historic and beautiful as Istanbul. This is the only city in the world straddles two continents; Asia and Europe are separated by the winding Bosphorus and connected via bridges, ferries, and the underwater Marmaray Metro service. Yes, you can visit two continents in one day, and it’s relatively easy!

Istanbul is not a city you will ever totally explore in the space of one visit, so if you want to see the best of it, you need to plan ahead. One of the top tips for visiting Istanbul is to ensure you have a reasonable amount of time.

It’s also worth mentioning that this city is HUGE. You will hit traffic at every turn, but you will also see buildings dating back to the 1400s. There is more history here than perhaps anywhere else, and seeing it for yourself is an absolute must-do on any visit to Turkey.

Do Familiarize Yourself With Turkey’s History, Politics & Religion

The country is a blend of secular and progressive movement along with regions that value more conservative practices. 

A great place to start learning about Turkey’s past is to read about Mustafa Kemal Atatürk – the founding father of the Republic of Turkey after the fall of the Ottoman Empire. 

Of course, don’t let your research stop there! There are loads of books on Turkey, both past and present. Here are a few ideas to help you get started:

  • A Turkish Awakening by Alev Scott – get a better sense of modern Turkish life and history
  • Birds Without Wings by Louis de Bernieres – the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the consequences of World War I, and the forced migration of Christian Turks to Greece and Muslim Greeks to Turkey
  • Atatürk: The Biography of the Founder of Modern Turkey by Andrew Mango
  • Crescent & Star by Stephen Kinzer – sheds light on Turkey’s culture and political landscape
  • Eat Smart in Turkey by Joan Peterson – learn the fascinating history and culture of Turkish cuisine 

Do Try The Local Food

What To Eat In Turkey - Menemen

You won’t struggle to find western food in Turkey. There is at least one Mcdonalds’, Burger King, Starbucks, and KFC in large towns and cities. However, try local food if you want to explore this country and allow your palette to enjoy the greatest of treats. The plus point is that local food is also far cheaper than western fare!

A few must-tries are lahmacun (a flatbread covered in herby, ground lamb), pide (another flatbread but this time with all manner of different toppings), doner kebab, Adana kebab (a long spicy meat kebab usually served with rice and salad), menemen (a tomato and egg omelet-style breakfast dish) and of course the famous Turkish breakfast, also known as kahvalti. You will not be hungry after you’ve had this feast of a meal!

It goes without saying that a hot glass of cay (tea) goes with every meal, and you should drink at least three!

Indulging in the diverse world of Turkish cuisine is one of the biggest “do’s” of visiting Turkey.

Do Learn A Few Words Of The Language

While most young people in Turkey speak English, you may struggle to find English speakers if you head out of the main cities and even into the main towns. While you can find yourself an app to help your way through it, and most people rely on pointing and hand signals to communicate their needs, learning a few words of the language will make your visit easier and endear you to the locals.


To help you out with the basics:

Hello – Merhaba
Goodbye – Güle güle
Please – Lutfen
Thanks – Teşekkürler
Good night – Iyi geceler
Good morning – Günaydın
Good evening – Iyi akşamlar
How are you? – nasılsın?

Do Learn How To Haggle

Turkish Souvenirs - Best Gifts From Turkey - Turkish Ceramics

A visit to a colorful and rather loud bazaar/market is a must-do, and you must learn how to haggle to purchase anything. This means being a little cheeky but to the right point only! Here’s one of the classic Turkey travel tips!

Ask how much something is and then come up with a price you want to pay for it, avoiding robbing them blind. Somewhere in the middle should do it. The vendor will then wave their arms around and huff and puff a little (jokingly, of course) before you meet somewhere in the middle of the two prices. And there you have it – a bargain!

However, you should only try bargaining in markets, not stores, as they will likely tell you to leave!

Do Leave Space For Souvenirs

While on the topic of haggling, remember to leave space in your luggage to bring home souvenirs from Turkey. The country is home to so many incredible artisans sharing their crafts, and you will be sad if you have no space to bring some of these incredible pieces of work home!

Do Comprehend The Size Of The Country

Best Black Sea Beaches -Amasra
Amasra resort town situated on a peninsula lagoon, Black Sea coast, Turkey

Many assume they can easily travel to Turkey and see almost everything, but that will take a long time! Turkey is 783,562 square kilometers, and if you travel by bus from one side of the country to the other, it will take you the same amount of time as it would to travel from the UK to Australia! For instance, a bus from Marmaris on the south coast to Diyarbakir in the country’s southeast will take around 24 hours!

For that reason, every good Turkey travel guide will tell you not to bite off more than you can chew. Look at different ways to get around but don’t discount the long-distance bus service. This is a great and very comfortable way to travel, although a slow one. Pamukkale and Kamil Koc are two of the biggest long-distance coach providers. However, there are many regional airports, so you can travel by air if you prefer. A flight from Dalaman on the south coast to Istanbul will take around one hour.

Do Familiarize Yourself With Visa Rules

You need to know about visa rules depending on your country of origin. Generally speaking, most countries can purchase an online tourist visa, which lasts 90 days out of every 180 days. Introduced in 2013, the Turkey eVisa is a popular option for travelers wanting to visit Turkey for tourism. The process is online and speedy. Keep in mind this visa is only available for eligible countries. 

If you want to stay longer than 90 days, you’ll need to apply for a residency permit, which you’ll need to apply for online before the end of your tourist visa. Generally, you’ll need to show money in the bank to tide you over (remember, you cannot work in Turkey without a work permit obtained from the Government), Turkish health insurance, and proof of where you’re living.

Make sure you avoid overstaying a tourist visa, as once you arrive at the airport to go home, you’ll end up paying a fine, and depending on how long you’ve overstayed, you might get a ban too. Check the Visa Turkey tourism system before you go.

Do Have A Plan To Access WiFi 

Airplane Travel - Save Money | Croatia Travel Blog

WiFi can be spotty in Turkey, and often a passcode is required to access it. When you arrive at the airport and need to show your visa, you can access WiFi if your visa information is online.  Plan to get an international phone plan or a Turkish SIM card. Newer phones (2020 or newer) typically can support eSIM cards that can be downloaded onto your phone, but for all other phones, you will need a physical SIM card.

Do Know That Some Websites Are Banned 

The most important banned sites you may try to access while traveling in Turkey are:

  • PayPal
  • Wikipedia

You can use these sites before entering the country and even book hotels using ahead of time, but you will not be able to access the sites or book on them once in the country. 

If you are a traveler who enjoys making last-minute plans while on vacation, have an idea of sites you will use to book hotels and transport other than or set up a VPN.

Do Bring A Travel Adapter

You will need an F-type adapter which is for the basic European outlet. The standard voltage is 220 V.  You can find adapters in Turkey, but don’t waste your time trying to hunt one down on vacation. Buy it ahead of time to avoid the hassle. 

Do Dress Modestly To Avoid Attention

What to wear in Turkey - What to wear in Istanbul

While most of Turkey is very laid back and westernized, that doesn’t mean you will not attract unwanted attention if you dress the wrong way. Despite being more relaxed than its Middle Eastern neighbors, Turkey is still a conservative Muslim country, especially away from the main tourist resorts.

While you can wear whatever you want on the south coast tourist resorts, you should dress more conservatively away from that. By doing this, you’ll avoid unwanted attention and show the respect you want to give.

Do Use Public Transport, Especially In Istanbul

You’ll save a tremendous amount of cash if you avoid taxis and other forms of arranged transport instead of opting for public versions. Buses are reliable and cheap and will quickly get you around most towns and cities. In Istanbul, you have a vast range of different transport options to try, and you need to purchase the Istanbul Card, a prepaid card, to use on all forms of public transport.

By doing this, you’re also getting a far more authentic experience. One of the things not to do in Istanbul is trying to navigate this enormous city in a rental car.


Visiting Turkey Don’ts

Best Places To Stay In Cappadocia, Turkey
Hot air balloon flying over Cappadocia Turkey

Like any other country, there are a few things you need to bear in mind when visiting Turkey.

Don’t Forget To Take Off Your Shoes At The Doorstep

If you’re lucky enough to be invited to someone’s home, make sure you remove your shoes at the door. This is a sign of respect and also links to the idea that you have dirt on your shoes, and by walking into the home, you’re bringing dirt and bacteria into the house, where people sleep and eat.

Not all households will ask you to do this, but do it anyway, and then you’re not at risk of upsetting anyone.

Don’t Assume Someone Is Being Rude If They Tut And Nod Upwards

This is a strange one, but it’s certainly something you’ll see if you communicate with locals. When someone makes a tutting noise and then nods their head upwards, e.g., a backward nod, it means “no.” They’re not being rude or doing something strange; they’re telling you they don’t want whatever you’ve asked.

Don’t Let The Media Scare You

Best Things To Do In Istanbul - taksim square Red tram in Istiklal street

Some travelers feel apprehensive about traveling to Turkey because of media generalizations. It’s true that a series of terrorist attacks occurred a few years ago, but this is incredibly rare – way less rare than gun violence in the United States. In fact, Turkey is a country that many people travel through solo (we have tips for solo Turkey travel here), and they never have any issues. 

As with any destination, research typical scams, know local customs and have an idea of your general itinerary. You will find it’s an incredibly safe place to explore.

Don’t Avoid The Double Cheek “Kiss”

When you meet someone for the second time, there is a high chance that they will greet you in a slightly more familiar way; they will semi-hug you and give you a “kiss” on each cheek; however, it will be more of an air kiss and in some cases can be touching cheeks together – it really depends on the person. You’ll see men doing this, but instead of the kiss, they nod the sides of their heads together.

If this happens, it’s lovely because it means that they consider you a friend or even part of their family.

Don’t Refuse Food Or Tea If Visiting Someone

What To Eat In Turkey - Turkish Food - Balik Ekmek

If you’re visiting a home, don’t refuse any food given to you or tea. You might be full and not at all hungry, but at least eat some of it! If they ask you if you’re hungry and you’re not, it’s OK to say so, but if they give you the food without asking, it’s customary to take it. Turkish hospitality is a huge thing, and by refusing it, some people may find it a little insulting, even if you don’t mean it to be.

Don’t Forget To Pack Clothing For Weather Changes

Turkey is a large country with various climates and topography. Depending on where you are in the country, you can encounter arid desert conditions, temperate weather, chilly snow, and sizzling hot sunshine.  

Research the weather in the locations you plan to visit ahead of time, so you aren’t surprised by drastic changes in conditions as you travel around the country.

Don’t Forget Etiquette When Visiting Mosques

Blue Mosque, Istanbul

Istanbul, in particular, has some breathtaking mosques, especially the famous Blue Mosque in Sultanahmet. You’re free to visit; however, mosques will close at prayer times throughout the day, especially on Fridays. Other than that, you can go inside but remember etiquette in this case.

Women should cover their heads and ensure that their elbows are downwards and their legs are covered. Mosque staff will usually give you a shawl to place around your shoulders or legs if they assume what you’re wearing to be inappropriate, but it’s always more respectful to dress appropriately in the first place. Men should wear long pants and a shirt/t-shirt, with shoulders covered. Everyone will need to remove their shoes at the door.

Avoid standing in front of anyone praying; if you want to take photographs, make sure you turn off the flash and never take a photo of someone praying.

While most mosques are free to enter, it’s always a nice token to give a small donation, as this will go towards the upkeep of these beautiful and, in most cases, very historical buildings.

Don’t Assume Anything Will Be Done On Time

It’s never a good idea to assume that anything will be done on time in Turkey. This is known widely as “Turkey Time,” which means that if someone says they’ll be there in one hour, they usually mean an hour and a half at the very least! It’s infuriating at first, but you’ll get used to it; in the end, you might find it endearing or see yourself turning up on Turkish time yourself!

Don’t Fall For The Drinks Scam

While this is not something that happens everywhere, you may find that you are given local drinks rather than international imports in some tourist resorts. In some cases, this can be of lower quality and, in some cases, may even be fake. The best advice is to drink bottled beer or draft beer and never leave your drink unattended. This is the same advice you’d received anywhere else in the world.

If you’re keen to drink spirits, such as vodka, make sure you ask if the vodka is a particular brand and, if possible, ask to see the bottle. You should still heed warnings with this, however, as you may find yourself with a rather dodgy stomach the next day otherwise, at the very least.

Don’t Let Taxi Drivers Take You On The “Scenic” Route

Getting around Istanbul - Taxi in Istanbul

As with any touristic country in the world, taxi drivers can sometimes take you on the scenic route and end up charging you more. This isn’t all taxi drivers by any means, but some, especially in tourist resorts and even in Istanbul, will do so.

If you need to take a cab, find out from a waitperson or hotel staff member beforehand how much it should cost roughly. Then, when you get into the taxi, try to set the price with the driver or tell them you already know what it should cost. Most will go by meter, but they will go the direct route if they know you’re already clued up.

  • Straight – düz (douz)
  • Here – burası (burasou)
  • Right – Sağ (Saou)
  • Left – Sol (Soh)
  • OK – tamman (tamman)
  • Good – İyi (eiye)

By following these do’s and don’ts, you’ll have the best time in Turkey  and no doubt be planning your return visit!


Comments (7)

  1. Pingback: Sebel

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.