Country Guide: Turkey
Currency: Turkish Lira ($1=1.8 Turkish Lira check for changes)
Language: Turkish, Kurdish, and other regional dialects
Visa Required?: Americans, Canadians and Australians can buy a visa at the border crossing on entry point. For Americans the cost is $20. For others, check this link here.
Most Visited City: Istanbul, Ankara, Antalya, Izmir
Famous Landmark: Hagia Sofia
Random Fact: Modern day Istanbul was the last Roman stronghold and outlasted the western Roman Empire for many years after the city of Rome fell. The city was referred to as Constantinople under the name of the Byzantine Empire.
Overview: When I first set off for Turkey, I was certainly excited, but I did not know what to expect. In reality, I had heard many things from different people, most just said Istanbul was great. Realistically, in my mind I expected Turkey to be more Middle Eastern, but I was quite surprised by what I found. Turkey, to me, is a unique blend of European and Middle Eastern cultures. There are times that you will walk down the street believing that you are in a European city, whereas other times you will know that you are in an eastern culture. Istanbul is probably the only city in the world where you can be on two different continents and live in the same city.
The sky line is complemented by huge mosques that tower over the cities buildings several of them landmarks that have stood in the city for centuries. The cities cultural contrast is in many ways strangely comparative to its conflicted past. The Romans, Moors, and more fought over these lands. It has been ruled by Pagans, Christians, and Muslims. Currently, the state claims to be a secular state, but Islam undeniably rules the land.
You can experience the wonderful cultural mixtures in the bustling city of Istanbul and walk among its enormous population, or travel to the ancient landmarks like the Greek Ruins, or the coast. It is these things that have made Turkey an increasingly popular destination for backpackers and travelers alike in recent years.
How to get around?
If I learned one thing while traveling around Turkey, it was that things are best done on your own. What that translates into is that instead of purchasing a package or pass for anything, buy your bus, plane, or train tickets when you are ready to leave. Turkey is extremely easy to get around in.
During my trip, I chose to travel around Turkey mainly by bus. The main reason is because they are efficient and convenient. Trains are far slower although there is an extensive network for trains across Turkey. There are multiple bus companies that service Turkey, and the tickets are relatively inexpensive. If you have little time, then you may wish to take a regional flight, which are also quite cheap. However, for most things, you would not get the local price unless you were there.
I have heard of friends hitchhiking across Turkey. They said that it was quite easy and that they were successful. It is best to check a site like Hitchwiki if you want to get some specific tips.
All in all, I recommend taking the bus if you do not mind spending a little money. I took the Metro bus around, which hosted a brand new and luxurious fleet of buses.
What to see?
I got to see most of the main things in Turkey although, I did not see everything that there is to see (When do you ever?). I spent a fair amount of time in Istanbul, then traveled to Cappadocia, Pumakkale, Izmir, and passed through Troy on the way back to Istanbul. Basically, I took a large circle around the country. I was quite pleased with what I saw, but there are other things that I would like to see if given the opportunity. For example, Antalya, Ankara, or some of the islands would be a good start for me. Visiting Turkey is really cool though because there is tons of history all around you. You will not be disappointed with most cities.
- Turkish tourist companies will tell you that you cannot possibly get around without their tour package, which happens to be well overpriced. They are wrong. Buy your bus ticket from the local bus station and be on your way.
- I have heard that in some bars in Istanbul, people will present you will a large bill after drinking only a few drinks. Be advised as to where you are and your surroundings. It is best to pay by drink if you can, and do not buy drinks for the random people who sit down with you and act like they are your best friends. I have heard that they work together. This usually happens to guys. A woman or two will act like she is interested in the guy by sitting with him, and then the server will produce an abnormally large bill.
Bus company: Metro Bus
National Train Company: TCDD