25 Misbeliefs & Myths About Turkey The Country (Not The Bird)

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Post author Nicky

Written by our local expert Nicky

Nicky, originally from the UK, is now a local in Turkey. She moved to Marmaris, Türkiye for love 12 years ago and is now your Turkey travel planner.

Let me bust a few myths because, let’s be honest, there are a lot.

The first time I went to Türkiye, I can honestly say it wasn’t somewhere I had ever really thought about going. In fact, it’s somewhere I actively figured I’d never go because I had specific ideas in my head about what it would be like. That was 16 years ago.

Now, I live in Türkiye, and I’m even married to a Turk.

My experience has taught me that many of the beliefs I had about Türkiye were entirely off the mark. So, let’s explore some of those common misconceptions together and see just how amazing this country truly is.

And it is, trust me.

Myths And Facts About the Turkish Culture, Landscape & People

I hear a lot of things, and some of them make me roll my eyes so hard that I wonder whether I’ll see straight again. But there are also some everyday things that do have a little sense behind them. So, to help you understand just how amazing Türkiye is and to kick those confusing thoughts right out of your mind in the process, let’s take a look at 25 of the most common misconceptions about this stunning country.

And then you can thank me because you’ll have a fantastic holiday.

Myth 1: Turkish People Are Unfriendly To Foreigners

Many people believe that Turkish people are unwelcoming to outsiders. In reality, Turkish hospitality is legendary, and visitors often find locals to be incredibly friendly and helpful. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been invited into someone’s home for tea or offered assistance when I looked lost. Turks take pride in their hospitality, and it’s something that genuinely comes from the heart. If you come here with an open mind, you’ll leave with new friends and unforgettable experiences.

Myth 2: Türkiye Is A Dangerous Country

Okay, let’s sit down and discuss this for a moment. Türkiye is not dangerous. Yes, there have been a few problems in the past with terrorism and domestic issues, but show me a country that hasn’t dealt with things like that. Personally, I feel safer in Türkiye than I do in the UK.

The only advice I would give is to keep up to date with the news, just as you would in any other country you are visiting, follow government advice, and avoid large gatherings akin to protests. Just stay out of it and enjoy your holiday.

Myth 3: Turkish Cuisine Is Limited To Kebabs And Baklava

A rustic oven setup featuring the Turkish Testi Kebab, or pottery kebab. There are multiple pots and containers with dough baking over an open flame, surrounded by colorful decorations and fresh produce in the background.

Never say that to a Turkish person because they’ll be very insulted! Turkish cuisine is delicious and extremely varied.

Yes, there are countless types of kebabs to try (in fact, the list is ridiculously long), and yes, there’s plenty of baklava (and thankfully so because it’s gorgeous), but have you ever tried a Turkish breakfast? How about guvec and gozleme? Kofte and cig kofte should definitely be on your menu. Pide? Lahmacun? I could go on.

An assortment of street foods including a pizza topped with meat and vegetables on a white surface can be found in Athens.
Traditional Turkish pide

The point is, while kebabs and baklava might be famous, they’re certainly not the only things to try.

I recommend you step out of your comfort zone and try authentic Turkish cuisine while you’re in the country. You’ll easily find international fare, but why stick to what you’re used to? You’re sure to find a new favorite if you try something local.

Myth 4: Turkish People Don’t Speak English

Our Turkish guide smiling at the camera with an ID badge, standing outdoors with rocky formations and a blue sky in the background in Turkey.

Türkiye has a huge and booming tourist industry – how can it do that without speaking any English?

Of course, not everyone does, but many do. In fact, I’d say that if you visit the large cities and tourist resorts, more people speak English than those that don’t.

If you venture off the beaten track to perhaps east and southeast Türkiye, you might find more people who don’t speak English, but it’s a pretty sweeping statement to say that nobody does.

Personally, I think you should learn a few words of the local language no matter where you go, and Türkiye is no different.

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Myth 5: Istanbul Is The Only City Worth Visiting In Türkiye

SJ stands on a sandy hilltop in Devrent Imagination Valley, Cappadocia, waving their hand under a clear blue sky.
Hiking Devrent Valley Cappadocia

Oh, hell no! Look, I’m a huge Istanbul fan; I love the place, but it’s certainly not the only city worth visiting.

What about Cappadocia, Izmir, Antalya, Ankara, Trabzon, Fethiye, and Konya? These are just a few of the biggest and brightest places in Türkiye, and they’re all fantastic in their own right.

Türkiye is enormous; in fact, it’s much bigger than most people give it credit for. Of course, there is more to it than just Istanbul.

Myth 6: Turkish People Ride Camels

A camel lying on grass with a red blanket, with unique rock formations in Goreme, Cappadocia, and a clear blue sky in the background.

I’ve lived here for years, and I’ve never seen a camel. SJ did tell me that she saw them in Cappadocia, but only because the tourists like them, not because they’re actually native to the country. They were imported to serve the purpose of rides.

Personally, I’d be more concerned about the mosquitos because, trust me, those are a pain!

If you’re wondering how people get around, well, they do — just like everyone else—in cars, buses, trams, trains, and ferries. Oh, and people walk.

Sorry, no camels.

Myth 7: Türkiye Is Close To Syria And Iraq

 

This is half true and half not. Türkiye borders both of these countries, but as it’s a vast city, these two countries are extremely far away from most tourist destinations. For instance, the Syrian border is 1206km away from Marmaris. That’s a long way. Istanbul is 1685km away from the Iraq border.

Even though there is a border, it’s not like you’re going to go there, right? You’re very safe in the main towns, cities, and resorts. Türkiye is HUGE.

Myth 8: Turkish People Only Drink Cay

A clear bottle of Yeni Raki, a Turkish spirit, set on a table with plants softly blurred in the background. The label prominently displays "1937.

You might think so, but no. They also drink raki, ayran, Turkish coffee, and many other drinks. But yes, Turkish tea, or cay, is extremely popular.

After years of living and traveling in Turkey, I’m still yet to meet someone who doesn’t like it.

Myth 9: You Can Only Enjoy the Beaches in Summer

A group of people in the water at Incekum, near Marmaris
Incekum

Türkiye’s beaches are beautiful year-round. Moreover, Türkiye offers a variety of activities beyond beaches, like skiing in winter, historical tours, and cultural festivals.

I swam in the warm Aegean waters in October and skied in the mountains near Erzurum in January. There’s always something to do, no matter the season. Don’t limit yourself to just summer beach trips; Türkiye is a year-round destination with endless possibilities.

Myth 10: Turkey Is Just A Cheap Vacation Destination

A rustic outdoor sitting area in Goreme, Cappadocia, with a wooden coffee table on an ornate rug, a beige sofa, and a wooden door in a stone wall.

While Türkiye can be affordable, this myth undermines the quality and variety of experiences it offers.

From luxury resorts to historical sites and high-end cuisine, Türkiye caters to all budgets and tastes.

When I first moved here, I was amazed by the range of experiences available. Whether you’re staying in a five-star hotel in Bodrum or enjoying a boutique stay in Cappadocia, the service and amenities rival those of any top destination worldwide.

Türkiye is much more than a cheap travel destination; it’s a place of luxury and adventure.

Myth 11: Turkish People Have Arranged Marriages

Some do, yes, but certainly not all. In fact, I would say that most don’t. Arranged marriages certainly aren’t the norm, and they are not something that’s pushed upon anyone.

Myth 12: Turkish Men Have Multiple Wives

If you ask a Turkish man if he wants more than one wife, I can assure you he will say no! So, no, Turkish men do not have more than one wife; in fact, polygamy is illegal in Türkiye.

Myth 13: Turkish Women Have No Rights

Nicky smoking a shish on a couch in Istanbul.

I urge you to watch any Turkish soap opera, and you’ll instantly understand how ridiculous this misconception is. Turkish women are very loud, proud, and independent, and yes, while there are some more conservative areas where women aren’t seen out and about as much as in other places, they’re certainly not oppressed. They also have just as many rights as men.

Myth 14: Türkiye Is A Predominantly Arab Country

Türkiye isn’t Arabic; it’s Turkish. The language is Turkish, not Arabic. You’ll see lots of Arabs on holiday, just like everyone else, but no, Türkiye isn’t an Arabic country by far.

Myth 15: Türkiye Is Unsafe For Solo Female Travelers

Woman in a scarf at the Turkish mosque Suleymaniye

I traveled as a solo female in Türkiye and was fine. Many others have, too. Sure, some might have had a bad experience, but I can assure you that’s the case in any country in the world. Turkish people are helpful and welcoming, and if you do want to travel around the country alone, use your common sense.

Myth 16: Türkiye Is A Strictly Muslim Country With No Religious Freedom

An illustration of a donkey in a city with Christmas lights in Turkey.

I went to a Christmas market in Istanbul last year. So, from that, you’ll understand how ridiculous that misconception is. Yes, the majority of people in Türkiye are Muslim, but, as we’ve already talked about, it’s a secular country, and religion isn’t forced upon anyone.

Myth 17: Turkish People Don’t Celebrate New Years

A clock tower celebrating the arrival of a happy new year in Turkiye.

New Year is a huge deal in Türkiye. In fact, it’s basically the same as Christmas but without the nativity story. Known as ‘Yılbaşı,’ locals believe that Santa Claus visits on New Year’s Eve and leaves gifts.

There are trees, songs (yes, you’ll hear jingle bells), lights, and festivities. It’s a big deal, and if you try to get into a bar or restaurant on New Year’s Eve, you’d better have booked beforehand, or else there’s literally no chance you’re getting through the door.

Myth 18: All Women Have To Wear The Hijab In Türkiye

A bustling narrow street at dusk, lined with cafes and restaurants, filled with people dining and socializing. The vibrant scene is illuminated by streetlights and storefront signs—a perfect introduction for anyone exploring A Guide To Kadikoy Istanbul.

Nope, they don’t have to, but they can if they want to. You’ll see a mix of women with their heads covered, some without, some totally covered, and many wearing Western-style clothes. It’s a personal choice.

Myth 19: Turkish People Don’t Drink Alcohol

Oh, I can assure you they do! Some do, some don’t; again, it’s up to the individual. Small shops and supermarkets sell alcohol up to 10 p.m., and there are plenty of bars and restaurants that serve alcohol.

Some restaurants don’t serve alcohol, but these tend to be the more traditional soup/kebab, family-friendly places.

In fact, to show just how ridiculous this misconception is, think about raki for a moment. Raki is basically a national pastime for those who do drink, and if you want a genuinely traditional night out, head to a fish or meat restaurant and have raki with your meal.

Just don’t drink too much because you certainly won’t remember anything the next day! (Ask SJ after she and my husband drank a bottle)

Myth 20: You Have To Haggle For Everything In Türkiye

A variety of antique items and colorful textiles displayed on a rustic street market in Goreme, Cappadocia, including carpets, mirrors, and old metallic objects.

Haggling is fun; you should try it. But seriously, you only haggle in markets or bazaars, not in shops and supermarkets. If you try it there, the staff will give you a funny look and think there’s something wrong with you.


Myth 21: Türkiye Is Full Of Cons & Scams

Look, you’ll find some rip-off merchants in Türkiye, for sure, but it’s definitely not full of them. They’re a tiny minority, and the majority of people are extremely honest and helpful. You’ll find cons in any country, especially those that are pretty touristy.

I got ripped off in Spain once, and from that one experience, I don’t believe the whole of Spain is full of scammers, do I?

Myth 22: You Can’t Wear A Bikini On The Beach In Türkiye

Sedir Adasi, Marmaris

Tell that to everyone who is wearing a bikini on the beach in Türkiye …

I wouldn’t walk down the street in one without a cover-up over the top, but would you do that anywhere? Of course not.

Myth 23: The Country Isn’t Secular & All Turkish People Are Conservative & Religious

Strolling across the suspension bridge over the Kızılırmak River, with the idyllic backdrop of Avanos in Cappadocia. A stunning mosque with two minarets stands tall, framed by tree branches, in this picturesque pottery village.

Nope. Just as with any country in the world, you will meet some conservative people, and you’ll meet some not-so-conservative. Türkiye is a secular country, and while the majority of people are Muslim and follow Islam, that doesn’t mean it’s a very conservative country.

And even if you meet some people who are very religious and conservative, so what? They’ll speak to you like friends, treat you wonderfully, and probably offer you some tea.

This brings me to…

Myth 24: Turkish People Only Drink Cay

Turkish Drinks - tea in Turkey

You might think so, but no. Because they also drink ayran and Turkish coffee. But yes, Turkish tea, or cay, is EXTREMELY popular. I’m still yet to meet someone who doesn’t like it.

Myth 25: Animals Have No Rights In Türkiye

A ginger and white cat is curled up asleep in a wicker basket on a cushioned surface, with a leafy background visible, reminiscent of the cozy nooks you'd find while exploring A Guide To Kadikoy Istanbul.

I’m not going to lie; there were some issues with animal rights in the past. We’ve all seen pictures of dancing bears in holiday resorts twenty years ago. However, that wasn’t only Türkiye, and thankfully, it’s changed.

These days, animal rights are taken extremely seriously. In fact, they recently closed down a dolphin park in Marmaris because there were reports of mistreatment.

You’ll see street dogs and cats, and the local council looks after them very well. There are feeding stations and plenty of water left around, and they’re all tagged. Turkish people love animals.

Misconceptions Be Gone!

SJ looks up at a large orange and white hot air balloon flying in a clear blue sky, capturing the essence of "How To Spend 3 Days In Cappadocia

Türkiye is one of those countries that, unfortunately, has to deal with a whole range of different misconceptions. But as we’ve seen, these myths are far from the truth. Türkiye is beautiful, diverse, and welcoming. Yes, I’m biased, but it truly is a cultural melting pot with fantastic food, wonderful people, and stunning landscapes.

Don’t let misconceptions keep you from experiencing all that Türkiye has to offer. Whether it’s the vibrant cities, the delicious cuisine, or the rich history and culture, there’s something for everyone. Forget what people tell you, and go and see for yourself. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

So pack your bags, keep an open mind, and get ready for an unforgettable adventure in one of the world’s most incredible countries. Türkiye is waiting for you.

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