What suggestions/hints/tips can you provide for Turkey travel?
January 8, 2011 8:57 PM   Subscribe

I am attempting to plan a trip to Turkey in early September, with my little sister, for 2 weeks and have no idea what I'm doing. What suggestions/hints/tips can you provide?

Current plans are to stay at the Yunak Evleri Cappadocia Cave Hotel.
posted by nygma2001 to Travel & Transportation around Turkey (13 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
How old are you both and what do you like doing? Do you want to stay in the one spot or will you travel? By bus or what?
posted by anadem at 9:34 PM on January 8, 2011

Get the lonely planet book for turkey. Its aimed towards backpacker types, or in general people on lower budget DIY trips, but it'll hit all of the major attractions and give you some idea about how travel/etc works. Another useful resource is wikitravel, but its much spottier. I spent 2 weeks in egypt without any prior research, just the middle east lonely planet book & wikitravel from internet cafes, and it was totally sufficient.

The one huge tip I have for any travel, though, is that you both should get local cell phones as soon as possible. They're cheap and being able to call places (and especially each other) is invaluable.

That said, there are two reasons I really want to go to Turkey: Cappadocia, which you're clearly already hitting, and their organic farm stays. There's some awesome trekking as well, but I haven't looked into that as extensively.
posted by devilsbrigade at 1:03 AM on January 9, 2011

I don't know what you are planning to wear, but you may want to consider mildly modest attire. I only had a handful of clothing by the time I got to Turkey and the short shorts/tank tops that were fine other places were notably out of place. I wish that I would have brought a loose cover-up and some light linen pants. Turkey will be warm that time of year.
posted by amicamentis at 1:15 AM on January 9, 2011

Learn a little of the language. I picked up the numbers and a few other words and got by pretty well, at least in shops and restaurants. Even in the cities you'll find shop owners, etc, who don't speak English. And in Kapadokya there are even fewer.

One time my seatmate on a bus tried having a conversation with me via pantomime and pointing at things in my phrasebook. We didn't get very far, but it was a genuine, friendly experience that made me wish I'd learned more of the language.

Oh yes, attire. Women should carry a scarf since their heads should be covered when visiting mosques.
posted by booth at 6:06 AM on January 9, 2011

I'll 3rd the appropriate attire comment. You will feel out of place with bare shoulders in many areas. Also, what time of year are you going? Turkey can be very cold and wet this time of year, very hot in the summer.

Istanbul is one of the great cities of the world. You really have to visit some of the big, historic mosques. Also, the Topkapi Palace and the covered market (Kapalı Çarşı).

If you like coastal areas (or if you are into hiring sail boats) check out the coast line between Izmir, Marmaris, Gocek, and Fetihye. Very beautiful, the riviera of Turkey as they say. But only in summer, this time of year it would be a ghost town. Just west of Fetihye is the Olu Deniz beach area. Again if you are going in summer and want some decompression on the beach time this is a nice place with a good beginners' paragliding place nearby.

Also, within a couple hours drive from Gocek and the Olu Deniz area are some great ruins from an ancient pre-Greek culture (the name of which escapes me).

I've always wanted to tour the north coast of the country along the Black Sea, but have never had the opportunity. It seems like unique and untravelled place.
posted by pandabearjohnson at 8:28 AM on January 9, 2011

Turkey is an amazing place - I spent a month there in 2009. With 2 weeks, I would do a smaller loop that includes Istanbul, Capadoccia, and the southern coast (as mentioned above - Izmir, Fetihye, etc.). If you're into ruins, it wouldn't be hard to insert Ephessus into the loop as well, and it's worth seeing. Same with Pamukkale (cool calcified falls).

I wouldn't spend less than 3 or 4 days in Istanbul - I had almost a full week and did not run out of things to do. With only 2 weeks, I wouldn't bother much with Ankara. Likewise, there are some cool places on the Black Sea Coast and in the east, but you won't really get to do any of it justice if you try and cram it all to such a short time.

Get the lonely planet book for turkey.

I've worked in tourism, and I would say two things about the Lonely Planet - one, it is not necessarily the best guide book - find the one that fits the information you need (ie. Rough Guides are better if you're a even more adventurous and truly on a budget, Nat Geographic are better if you're paying someone to arrange the logistics and want to know about the sites.) The second is a warning - Many travellers use their Guidebook as a bit of a bible but they are never entirely accurate. The writers rarely actually visit the places that they talk about (once every 5-10 yrs), and the yearly/bi-yearly updates are generally based on feedback from the travellers that could be bothered to inform them of inaccuracies. Supplement your guidebook with the internet - I have seen firsthand, restaurants and accommodations that are raved about in Lonely Planet or others and have since become dives (and vice versa.) Having said that, a good guide book is still worth having.

The one huge tip I have for any travel, though, is that you both should get local cell phones as soon as possible. They're cheap and being able to call places (and especially each other) is invaluable.

While I normally take this advice as well, be warned, they are not cheap in Turkey unless something has changed in the last 18months. I've travelled a lot of places, and outside of North America, cell phones (or even just sim cards) have been the most expensive in Turkey by far.
posted by scrute at 8:53 AM on January 9, 2011

And enjoy! It's an amazing country.
posted by scrute at 8:54 AM on January 9, 2011

My husband and I went to Turkey for our honeymoon in 2009, four or five days in Istanbul and four days in Cappadocia. As with the others above, you will not run out things to do in Istanbul and though it is mostly secular dress modestly. It was easy to get around by food and lightrail to wherever you wanted to go. Also, the guidebooks willl tell you, if when in Istanbul to steer clear of the stands by the water selling stuffed mussels. Don't. I still crave them - they are delicious.

Unlike Istanbul, Cappadocia is more difficult to wander around in. We stayed in Urgup in a hotel called Esbeli Evi, which for us, made our stay there magical. Our host spoke wonderful English and was able to facilitate a ride to/from the airport for us as well as help us rent a car. Unless you have plans to join a group while in Cappadocia, I recommend getting some wheels. There is next to no public transportation and all of the area sights are so spread out that there is no way that you could walk to them.

As far as phones, we have found that if your hotel proprietor can speak well enough English, they are usually accommodating to make calls to area restaurants, and the like for you if need be for reservations, tickets, etc.

posted by wocka wocka wocka at 9:12 AM on January 9, 2011

Don't be put off by long distance bus travel in Turkey - it is clean, safe, and usually a cheap way to travel. You get offered tea (!) and lemon scented hand washing (!!) for free. Just be prepared for unscheduled stops to pick up and let off 'local' people.

We tried to learn Turkish and failed, miserably. But we survived. We also didn't bother about getting a mobile (cell) phone.

Depending on what your interests are and budget is like, plan on Istanbul, Cappadocia and maybe Ephesus. That is probably doable in two weeks without rushing things.

And have a great time - it is a fantastic and interesting place to visit. I hope to return soon.
posted by Megami at 9:37 AM on January 9, 2011

Turkey is so fabulous. The highlight of our trip was the Roman hot pool at Hieropolis. We went on a drizzy evening right before it closed and it was fantastic... the hot water steaming up into the cold air, swimming over and around the fallen Roman marble columns... and we were almost the only ones there. Then we checked it out the next day as we had come back to tour the rest of the Hieropolis ruins, and it was PACKED shoulder to shoulder with Russian tourists. It was like tourist chowder. So, do go there if you like hot springs and/or Roman ruins; but don't go during peak hours because that crowd is pretty gross.

The archaological museum at Ankara is fantastic -- this is one of the oldest cradles of civilization and the stuff on display there is first rate -- but otherwise Ankara is neither easy nor attractive.
posted by fingersandtoes at 11:01 AM on January 9, 2011

If you plan to travel to Istanbul before or after Cappadocia, don't rule out taking one of the Turkish airlines as an option to a bus. They're faster, reliable, and the service actually tends to be pretty good. (Much better than I've grown used to in domestic U.S. travel anyway.) Since you'll only be there for two weeks, time will be precious, and a flight will save you some time and hassle.

Our innkeeper in Urgup let us rent his car, but you can also join a tour group to the various cave sites in the area. There are a few tourism offices in the town, and you can just walk in and make arrangements. The people at your inn will also be willing to help you set something up. Don't do the "Turkish night" dinner at that restaurant in Avanos. It's pretty cheesy and the food is not great. Do conduct some research about the restaurants in Urgup. There were quite a few good ones when we were there at the end of 2009, though they weren't as inexpensive and we'd hoped.

As for Istanbul, I found Istanbul Trails to be a good guide. And I enjoyed our stay in one of the apartments from Istanbul Sweet Home. If you enjoy living like a local when you travel, these apartments are excellent and in great locations. If you prefer to be near all of the major tourist sites, it'd be better to stay somewhere in Sultanahmet.

Also? Carpets. It seems like everyone tried to sell us one. We thought our Urgup innkeeper was really nice for inviting us to dinner with his friend. It turned out the dinner was in a carpet shop with his carpet-salesman buddy. We finally caved (get it?) and don't regret it at all. (I was open to the idea and did a lot of research on carpets before we left for Turkey.) But it was still a pretty weird experience. Sales people are very aggressive there. If you're not used to that, you're going to have to toughen up quickly and learn to put your foot down. If you are open to buying local wares, carpets are big there for a reason. Avanos is famous for its clay for pottery. And the leather products are good too. Just be prepared to haggle. It's like a national pastime.
posted by zerbinetta at 8:56 PM on January 10, 2011

"We stayed in Urgup in a hotel called Esbeli Evi..."*

Hey - I stayed there once! Yunak will probably provide the same magic as Esbeli.
posted by booth at 1:04 PM on January 15, 2011

Thank you all for your help! As mentioned, We plan on going in September so I guess it will be pretty warm. My sister is 18 and I'm a few years older. I have seen head coverings mentioned numerous times around the internet; which is what I figured would be the case for her. I'll be sure to mention shoulder coverings (shirts and what have you) as well.
posted by nygma2001 at 4:00 PM on February 9, 2011

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