Top 5 the most essential tips for visitors of Turkey

1. Estimate a budget and stick to it.

Travelling within Turkey could be almost as expensive as a Euro trip, unless you impose a budget upon yourself. As a rule of thumb, it is cheaper to pay (and to be charged) in Turkish Liras than in Euros, and bargaining is hardly uncommon. Remember you don’t have to visit every tourist attraction out there just because everyone else does. You might be better off spending the entry fee on a nice meal at a cosy seaside cafe, or experiencing a Turkish bath at a Hamam.

On a moderate budget, staying in nice B&Bs and eating local, I spent 50 Euros a day on accommodation and food.

2. Beware of scams in Istanbul.

A Turkish lady stopped me on a sidewalk and tried to convince me that she needed to take her elderly mother to the hospital and had run out of money. She was convincing enough for me to feel guilty for refusing to offer her money, and believe or not, ten minutes later, I saw her devouring kebabs and exchanging smokes with her mother at a supper joint!

I’ve heard many friends-of-friends stories too, who were befriended by extremely friendly locals and offered to hang out at a bar, and later tricked to pay for extremely expensive bottles of wine. Sure, these would make for awesome travel stories in retrospect, but are probably not worth losing a fortune over. Wikitravel has an entire list of common scams to watch out for.

Luckily, these scams are more or less limited to Istanbul, so once you’re out on the countryside, you can losen up.

3. Use public transport across Turkey.

Public transport in Istanbul is quite convenient, and all journeys by bus, tram or metro are priced at 2 TL, irrespective of the distance you go. Cabs are easily available past midnight, when public transport stops operating, and levy no late night charges.

All major cities & towns in Turkey are well connected by private buses, and I found the services of Ulusoy and Safran to be the best. These buses are equipped with free Wifi, stop often for rest room breaks, and on longer journeys, you are served beverages and snacks. It is, however, difficult to book to book these buses online without knowledge of Turkish. The most feasible option is to show up at the bus terminal and purchase tickets to your onward destinations. Distances between smaller towns and villages can conveniently be covered by the area’s dolmus (mini bus), which stops along every small town on the way, dropping people off.

Hitch hiking is a convenient option on the countryside, but as in any country, you need to keep your wits about you to try it.

4. See Turkey beyond Istanbul.

Before I left for Turkey, the majority of people who had visited the country had only ever been to Istanbul, and at most Cappadocia. While the two are extremely beautiful and worth a visit, Turkey is more than just a 4 day stopover destination enroute to Europe.

The Turkish countryside along the Black Sea Coast is as beautiful, if not more, than the alpine countryside of Europe, and combines the quaint charm of European villages with a touch of Asia and the Arab world. Central Anatolia is home to some of the most stunning and stark landscapes, the far northeast of Turkey is a lush tea belt & replicates the terrain of Georgia, and the outskirts of Cappadocia are home to Greek ruins and underground cave cities untouched by the development of Goreme. The countryside that you’ll drive through to reach these far flung corners of Turkey is an other worldly experience in itself.

5. Get to know the locals.

For a country socially restricted by lack of a common language with the majority of the world, the Turkish people are truly kind hearted. I was touched and overwhelmed, time and again, by the hospitality and camaraderie extended to me by strangers in vastly different parts of Turkey, and under several different circumstances.

In a world where racism against Indians is hardly uncommon, Turkey is a breath of fresh air; I found that people were especially kind to me on hearing that I was from India, Hindistan as they fondly know it. Bollywood stars have fans in the smallest of Turkish towns, and our cultural similarities and larger than life attitude surely strengthen the bond. Make the best of it, even though lack of a common language will impose a barrier, and find a second home in this beautiful part of the globe.