We want to help make your vacation an enjoyable experience! So look over this list, and do not make the mistakes we or others have made while traveling internationally. Some of these tips are geared towards travelers planning to visit Turkey, so keep that in mind as you read through these recommendations.
1. Wait to get your visa at the airport Turkey just recently changed their policies so that you should get your visa before arriving in Turkey. It. should only take you about 30 minutes to complete the process if you have all of your paperwork up-to- date.
Do not, we repeat, do not just Google how to get a visa in Turkey. Many third party vendors charge an exorbitant commission to do something that you can do yourself or that we include with some of our services.
Do this: Only get your visa here: Official E-visa website.
2. Join a group tour when you really wanted a private and customized tour or vacation
This is something that many non-locals do not realize about Turkish tourism. Most tourism companies in Turkey are large group tours that you cannot customize. The company fills the number of slots they have available for each day. You then ride around on a bus and stay at hotels with these people that have also purchased these tours. They are often around 50 or more people.
If you are the type of person that likes to take your time, go at your own pace, and travel in smaller and more intimate groups, this large group style of touring and vacationing may be intimidating for you.
Check with your tour company before booking and paying deposit to ensure that their tours and vacations are the type that you prefer to have.
At SilkRoad Moments Tourism, we provide customizable and private tours that fit your family needs and preferences for traveling. Do you want to spend an extra few hours at the ruins or add an adjust your schedule to fit in toddler naps? We can do that. You do not have to worry about being crammed to the max with people you do not know in a tour bus if that is something that you do not want. We can accommodate your vacation needs and wishes.
3. Expect to be able to find English speakers in every city
Though in many of the larger cities and tourist areas people do speak English, you cannot expect to find them everywhere you go. For Turkey specifically, Turkish is the primary language in Turkey, and though many people will actually learn how to read and write in English, they cannot speak English.
You should be prepared to learn the Turkish words for certain things or locations especially when getting into a taxi. Most taxi drivers do not speak English. One suggestion is to ask the front desk at your hotel to help you tell the taxi driver where you are going.
If you would like to learn a few Turkish words and phrases before arriving in Turkey, be sure to check out this video our office manager made. It should help you with the basics. Click here to learn more.
4. Bring all the money you plan to spend in cash
It is a big mistake to bring your entire budget in cash. First, you run the risk of a pick-pocketer taking your entire vacation budget out of your wallet when you carry everything on you.
Second, there are plenty of international ATMs available for you to use located. throughout Turkey. When using an ATM you get a better exchange rate than when exchanging at your hotel or at an airport kiosk. Do consider the size of your bank or credit card. Some smaller banks might put a block on your card or prove difficult at a foreign ATM.
Third, while not all, many hotels, restaurants, and vendors do accept international credit cards. These merchants in tourist areas are used to working with foreigners and travelers.
5. Assume that touring without a guide is just as enjoyable
Google hasn't replaced tour guides. There is so much value in using a local, knowledgable guide to take you on a tour for multiple reasons. In a place like Turkey, there is unfortunately not enough information about sites and attractions in English. Some of the information is even incorrect or outdated. We have even visited a few sites where the posted signs are translated incorrectly. For that reason, we vet all of our guides and discuss what they share on their tours. We want to be sure that what they share is accurate and translated correctly.
Other reasons for using a guide include:
You can relax and not worry about your itinerary
You can ask questions from someone who has studied history, region, and culture
You do not have to worry about ordering food, knowing what to eat, or knowing where to go
You might find hidden sights and treasures you didn’t know existed or are not listed on Google or travel books. Your guide will know secret places to eat and things to see that others do not know and the internet does not mention. There is a secret basilica in the Southeast in the back of a Turkish auntie's house
Your guide will know about the constantly changing business hours, prices, closings for restoration, seasonal offerings (closed due to weather), holiday closures
Your guide will help you with any need you have such as hotel or transportation problems
Your guide will know history and context
Everything in Turkey is built on relationships. Our guides are local and have friends. They, therefore, travel around as locals. It is safer, with less logistical issues, and speak the languages. We have unfortunately heard horror stories from people who planned their trips on their own and got burned somehow.
6. Try to save money by doing everything yourself
As you can tell from the previous tip, there are a lot of details that only locals know about Turkey. Though it can be stressful for those us that are traveling and not "in-the-know," this is how things work in Turkey. Things change last minute and operate on a relational currency.
Working with a tourism company and a guide will alleviate much of that stress and uncertainty for you.
7. Do all the things in one trip
Do not try to create an over ambitious itinerary. Repeat this: things take longer in Turkey. That's just the way things work.
Remember the point of a vacation: to rest, recoup, and relax. You do not want to return home from your trip, return to normal life, and feel drained. If you need to, plan for rest days at the end of your trip to recoup.
8. Forgetting to inform credit card company or bank
One of the worst mistakes you could make is to get to an international location and not be able to access your money.Make it a priority to inform your credit card company that you plan to travel internationally between certain dates. They should also let you know if they have any foreign fees.
Debit cards are always a hit and miss. Cards from smaller banks typically do not work in Turkey. We have had great success with the Capital One 360 debit card in withdrawing cash from ATMs.
Credit cards that we currently have had success with include the following:
Amazon Prime Visa Card
American Express Hilton Card (works half the time but 100% at Hilton hotels)
Chase Visa Cards
We are not endorsing these cards or companies but merely sharing our experiences.
9. Trusting the internet to give realistic expectations
Unfortunately, as stated earlier, many of the resources about sites, especially those in English, do not get updated. Online sites almost never have up to date information. Working with a tourism company can ensure that you do not waste your time or set your expectations to see something that will actually be closed for the duration of your trip.
Especially in a country such as Turkey that celebrates with floating holidays (meaning the dates are not the same every year), then you want the inside knowledge on when things will be open.
10. Not being culturally sensitive
Being culturally insensitive could be something like not packing for the weather and culture or activities of where you're going. An example would be if you're going to Antalya but spending a few days touring another city. While the weather might be equally hot, the culture may be more conservative. Clothes would have to be appropriate for the different city, especially for touring mosques and even some churches - no shorts, etc.
While you may think that it is ok because you are a tourist, it is considered very rude and insensitive. Please be aware of the host culture and honor their traditions.
Other things to consider are
Hand gestures (the American "ok" sign is a big no-no)
blowing noses in public is offensive
throwing away or being wasteful with food or bread
being loud in public
eating in public during Ramadan
ruining any historic sites
speaking negatively of Turkey, Ataturk, the religion, or current leaders
Ready to start learning more about the trips you could experience in Turkey? Check out our tours page! Keep in mind that you can customize and add anything to make your trip fit your family and needs.