The diversity and complexity of Turkey is visible in every nook and cranny of this amazing country with immense character. Yet, as captivating as the culture is, you might not know the code of conduct that one needs to follow when traveling around Turkey. The Flyavel team has done the research for you. Here are the do’s and don’ts of visiting Turkey.
Do dress appropriately
Because Turkey is a predominantly Muslim country, it is best to visit places with head, shoulders and legs covered, especially women. Men are expected to keep their knees covered, as well. If you try to visit any mosques, do note the local customs and that men and women are often separated during prayer times, it is also expected that you take off your shoes when entering a mosque. Furthermore, even in the more liberal areas, women will want to dress more conservatively, because Turkish men love women and aren’t afraid to approach you. So if you don’t want the attention, leave the skirts at home.
Do attempt haggling at markets
Turks love a good bargain as much as you do, and haggling at the famous bazaars, especially in Istanbul, can be the ultimate adrenaline rush. After watching how the locals do it, try to engage in some haggling over local handicrafts and produce yourself. One thing to keep in mind though is that you should never haggle over something you don’t intend to buy. This won’t make you many friends.
Bazars aren't the only places where you can haggle, though. Try visiting a carpet factory, a jacket factory or even a jewellery factory. A lot of them feature stores with huge collections of items available for purchase. The price tags are often very inflated, however, if you are skilled at haggling you can get really great quality items very cheap.
When visiting such factories in the Antalya region of Turkey, several members of the Flyavel team have bought genuine leather jackets with shelf price tags of around 8000 - 10000 TRY (about €1340 - €1675 or $1530 - $1920) for 2000 - 3000 TRY after a bit of haggling (of course, the final price varied based on how skilful each person was at haggling), beautiful earrings, necklaces and bracelets with precious and semi-precious gems for about 1/3 of the featured price tags and hand-woven carpets for about a fifth of the initial asking price. While the initial prices were inflated, the final prices were usually at least half cheaper than the prices of virtually identical items that can be found in more renowned stores around the globe.
Do try local food
Say “evet” or “yes” to local food. Turkish food is absolutely delicious, and if you ever find yourself in Istanbul, we at Flyavel definitely recommend the Istanbul fish sandwich. You should also savour the traditional coffees and teas, which are brewed with love. The best part is that your Turkish hosts will serve up a lot of food with love and pride—so be sure to thank them. Don't be surprised when you are offered some tea (apple tea is our favourite!) after walking in a store off the beaten track, or while engaging in some haggling over prices.
Do use the public transportation system
While some rural areas might not have the best public transportation systems in place (#flyavelTeam was pleasantly surprised with the good condition of the roads in such areas, though), the bigger cities are all sorted out in that department. For example, Istanbul’s buses are surprisingly very efficient and timely.
Don’t do PDA
Religion and culture in Turkey dictate that public displays of affection are a serious no-no. So, no holding hands, no snogging. Save it for the hotel.
Don’t disrespect the culture or people
Whenever you visit cultural attractions and shows, like the Whirling Dervishes, or the hammam (Turkish baths), do your best to be as respectful as possible. It's helpful if you read up on some Turkish history, both ancient and modern, so you know what to expect. Also, learn a few Turkish words, especially if you plan on haggling or going out to dinner often. You may also want to avoid going during the month of Ramadan, when everyone is fasting.
Don’t buy stones and fossils
While you might find some rare stones and fossils, thinking they are great souvenirs, don’t buy them. It is actually illegal to export fossils from Turkey, which can land you with a hefty fine. Even if you know it’s fake, avoid the temptation and don’t get conned. If you want a real souvenir, Flyavel suggests the Blue Eye, a charm that brings good luck and wards away evil. You will see them everywhere in Turkey.
There you have it—several dos and don’ts for traveling around Turkey. Remember, Turkish people are very friendly and welcoming as long as you are respectful of their culture and hospitality. Enjoy the fun, food, and hammam!