Istanbul Travel Information
GMT +2 (GMT +3, Apr - Oct)
220 volts AC, 50Hz. The European two-pin plug is standard.
Turkish is the official language, but English is widely understood in the main tourist areas.
There are no vaccination requirements for travelling to Turkey. Mosquitoes can be an irritation in mid-summer but malaria is not considered a risk in the main tourist areas in the west and south-west of the country. Most tap water in the larger towns and cities has been chlorinated, but bottled water is still recommended for drinking. Food from street vendors should be treated with caution unless it is obviously fresh or piping hot. The standard of health care is not high in state hospitals but the private health sector is well-regarded and modern facilities exist in private hospitals in Ankara and Istanbul. Travel insurance is recommended.
Tipping is a way of life in Turkey and it is customary to give some small change for most services, or a small percent of the bill. In bigger hotels and restaurants if a service charge is not added to the bill, it is customary to tip between 10 and 15 percent. For taxi fares it is enough to round up the bill. Attendants at Turkish baths expect to share about 15 percent of the total bill if service has been good.
As in many Western countries, there is a threat from terrorism in Turkey and there have been a number of incidents, including small explosions in Istanbul, the capital Ankara, and in the coastal tourist resorts. There are continuing incidents of local terrorism in eastern Turkey, particularly the southeast. Visitors should avoid any public demonstrations. Street crime is relatively low although visitors should guard their valuables at all times. Many parts of Turkey lie on a major seismic fault line and are subject to earthquakes and tremors; several fairly recent earthquakes have shaken eastern Turkey, the southwest and southeast.
Although it is difficult to stereotype in a country that runs from Armenia to Greece, the Turkish people are in general welcoming and hospitable. Most visitors will stay in modern Istanbul or in one of the popular holiday resorts where locals are likely to be fairly open-minded, however tourists should respect religious customs, particularly during the month of Ramadan. Dress modestly when visiting mosques or religious shrines. There is a smoking ban on all forms of public transport and in outdoor venues.
In Turkey, business associates are addressed by their first names. If the associate is male, then his name is followed by 'bey', and 'hanim' is used for females. A formal, conservative dress code is observed in Turkey, and women should be careful to dress particularly conservatively. Gifts are common and are usually something the associate would use in business such as a pen or other office stationary. Business hours throughout Turkey are generally 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday with an hour taken over lunch.
The international country dialling code for Turkey is +90. Mobile phone coverage is good with GSM 900 and 1800 networks covering most of the country. Internet cafes are available in the main towns and resorts.
Travellers to Turkey do not have to pay duty on the following items: 200 cigarettes, or 50 cigars, or 200g tobacco. Alcohol allowance includes 1 litre or 700ml bottle of wine or spirits. Other allowances include 5 bottles of perfume up to 120ml each; gifts to the value of TRY 500, tea and coffee for personal consumption, jewellery and guns for sporting purposes. Tape recorders, record players and transistor radios have to be declared on arrival. Restricted items include playing cards limited to one pack.
Become our Istanbul Travel Expert
We are looking for contributors for our Istanbul travel guide. If you are a local, a regular traveller to Istanbul or a travel professional with time to contribute and answer occasional forum questions, please contact us.