Did you know?
- Istanbul is the only city in the world built on two continents!
- Istanbul’s roots can be traced to the mid-seventh century BC. This city-state of Byzantium was an important centre of trade and commerce for the next thousand years.
- In the early fourth century AD, the Emperor Constantine made it the new capital of the Eastern Roman Empire, renaming it Constantinople.
- In 1453, the city fell to the Ottoman Turks, led by Mehmet II (“the Conqueror”), after a hard-fought siege. Mehmet renamed the city Istanbul and began at once to rebuild and repopulate it. Greeks, Armenians and Spanish Jews were encouraged to immigrate there.
- The city of Istanbul is divided into two sections by the Bosphorus Strait, one half in Europe and the other in Asia. The European side of Istanbul is divided again by the Golden Horn, a 7 kilometre inlet from the sea that is spanned by a pair of bridges.
- On the southern side of the Golden Horn is the Old City, which in ancient times constituted the entirety of Byzantium. It is there that most of the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman monuments are found.
- Tulips are originally from Turkey. The blooms were exported to the Netherlands in the 17th century.
- The famous Trojan Wars took place in Western Turkey, around the site where the Trojan horse rests today.
- Julius Caesar proclaimed his celebrated words, “Veni, Vidi, Vici” (I came, I saw, I conquered) in Turkey when he defeated the Pontus, a formidable kingdom in the Black Sea region of Turkey.
- The Basilica cistern, by Hagia Sophia, is just one of 17 major cisterns that dot the Old City. Istanbul’s cisterns were once fed by a complex of aqueducts more than 60 kilometres long. The best preserved ones stand on the edge of the Belgrade forest near the town of Kemer.
Visas & Passports
Australian passport holders travelling to Turkey need a visa at this time. An eVisa must be applied for before you travel online at: https://evisa.gov.tr.
We require that your passport is valid for travel for at least six months from the date you are planning to return to Australia. Your passport must be valid to travel internationally and must be machine-readable. You also need to carry a valid return ticket on you.
Whether travelling on an Australian passport or the passport of another country, all travellers require visas for a number of countries, and it is your responsibility to secure what may be required before departing Australia. You can consult with your travel agent, but it is also recommended that you check the foreign embassy website for your respective destination as it can also provide you with useful information.
Australian Embassy in Turkey:
Ugur Mumcu Caddesi No: 88, 7th Floor,
Ph. +90 312 459 9500
Fax. +90 312 446 4827
The official currency of Turkey is the New Turkish Lira. Notes come in denominations of YTL200, 100, 50, 20, 10, and 5. (The old Turkish Lira was taken out of circulation in 1996).
The recommended currency to take to Turkey is either US dollars or Euros. Ensure you change a small amount into small denominations.
Advise your bank of your travel plans so that they can make a note of it, otherwise they may cancel your credit card as a safety measure due to the overseas transactions. Also make a note of the 24-hour emergency contact number of the bank or building society which issued your credit card in the unlikely event that your card is lost or stolen.
Whenever possible use ATMs when the banks are open (Mon – Fri) so that if a machine ‘eats’ your card you can then deal with it straight away. It is always advisable to carry a supply of cash in addition to your credit card.
If you don’t have New Turkish Lira’s with you on arrival, we advise you to exchange some money into the local currency at the airport even if the exchange rate is not the best, this way you’ll have money to get a drink, snack or give a tip during those first few hours of arrival. Your guide will be able to advise you on the best places to exchange money.
Small change is also useful for paying for toilets while on tour which is customary in many places outside of Australia.
- The price of a cappuccino in Istanbul is approximately €2.50 - €3.
- The price of an inexpensive lunch is approximately €10.
- The price dinner in a moderate restaurant is approximately €25.
- The price of a beer in a local pub is approximately €4.50 - €5.
Turkish food is well-seasoned and delicious – reminiscent of what many people think of as Greek food. Menus in smaller restaurants or lokantas (taverns that serve food) are often written in Turkish only, so look around at what others are eating and point at what looks good. Rice, mutton, fish (along the coast), pine nuts, eggplant, onions and other vegetables are common ingredients. Fried, grilled and smoked foods are also common. The produce is great; sample fresh giant cherries and figs, in particular. Excellent yoghurt, used in desserts or salads, is also available. Be sure to try hunkar begendi (eggplant with beef or lamb), izgaralar (grilled lamb or beef), pide (kind of a Turkish pizza – lahmacun is one favourite variety), the many different kinds of kebabs (especially iskender), kofte (meatballs), ic pilav (fried rice and raisins) and kuzu dolmasi (lamb and rice). You can often make a meal from the numerous appetizers offered, such as yaprak dolmasi (stuffed vine leaves), spicy midye (mussels), peynirli borek (cheese rolled up in flaky pastry) and stuffed vegetables. Many desserts are excellent: some are milk based, while others are baklava-type pastries. Even if you think you won’t like Turkish delight, try it – very sweet and crammed with nuts, it’s a real treat.
Important: When dining at buffets (i.e. breakfast) please refrain from taking food away with you to ‘save’ for later! If you feel that you’ll need snacks between meals, pack some dried fruit, nuts, muesli bars etc.
If you have specific food allergies and/or preferences, we highly recommend you take every precaution before your tour, including carrying a small card with your food allergy listed in each language of every country you are travelling to show to table staff when ordering. Whilst we take all dietary requirements seriously, due to the serious nature of potential allergic reactions, it is your responsibility to be as prepared as possible.
The best time for touring in Turkey is March-June and September-October, when the day temperatures are most comfortable and the least amount of rain falls. Turkey is a big country, and the climate varies from region to region. The coasts are generally temperate, warm and fairly humid in summer with chilly, rainy winters. Central Anatolia has hot, dry summers and cold, rainy winters with snow. The Black Sea gets the most rain, and south-eastern Turkey is very dry and hot with temperatures reaching 38°C+ in summer.
Want to get out and explore on your own?
In Turkey, taxis are individually owned, so there is no taxi company to call. Cabs can be hailed very easily on the street, however. They are all yellow and hold four passengers. In general, taxi drivers are honest and the meters reliable, but a favourite trick is to take tourists on roundabout routes. You can usually avoid this by showing the driver where you want to go on a map, which will let him know that you are aware of the general direction of your destination. Another ruse is to not reset the meter when a new passenger gets in (the starting fare is usually around 1.25 TL; after that it’s 1 TL per kilometre). During the day, the meter should flash gunduz to show that the daytime rate is being charged; after midnight it should say geze (night), and the rate will be 50% higher.
And, of course, walking is a must in Europe’s finest cities. Istanbul is a particularly wonderful city to walk around and most attractions are within walking distance of the old town centre.
When catching taxis, have small change on you and choose one with a meter, if it doesn’t have one then negotiate the price before getting in. Also, ask your guide or hotel staff the names of reputable taxi companies.
So, you’d love to bring home a special souvenir from Turkey…
In Turkey, shop for hand-woven rugs and kilims, Iznik tiles, leather and suede items, ceramics, silk, jewellery, alabaster, onyx, embroidery, brass samovars, meerschaum pipes and copperware and brassware. Some vendors in the markets are aggressive, so brace yourself. You’ll be offered many “antiquities,” but most likely they’re fakes. If you do want to buy an antique or any item that may be deemed a cultural artefact, make sure you can get an official permit to export it before you purchase it. Those who don’t have a permit sometimes end up in jail (this is increasingly rare), but most are likely to have their treasures confiscated at customs, even if they are of no age. Some travellers have reported that new pine furniture was confiscated, so always get a certificate – Turkish officials have a great respect for stamped and signed pieces of paper.
Turkish people are well known for their hospitality and their customs are characterised by politenesses. Attempts by foreigners to return friendly gestures and to try to speak a few words of Turkish are much appreciated.
Don’t enter conversations about politics lightly – several topics are potential sore spots with the Turks. These include problems with the Kurds, the Armenian genocide, Islam and the Middle East, Cyprus and, although to a lesser extent these days, Greece.
Plan bathroom breaks around visits to restaurants and hotels. Public restroom facilities, especially outside of major cities, are less than pristine (and you have to pay for them as well).
Check the arithmetic on restaurant and hotel bills – mistakes often occur. Be aware, however, that inflation sometimes renders it practically impossible for a vendor to give you exact change. In most cases, the dispute amounts to a negligible amount of money.
Take the time to learn at least a few words in Turkish: Tesekkur means “thank you,” nasilsiniz means “how do you do?” and ne kadar means “how much?”
Be prepared for the hard-sell tactics of touts and commission boys, who will employ any ruse to get you into a carpet shop, restaurants, etc. Women may find themselves constantly hassled by would-be gigolos who comb resort towns looking for likely prospects. The simplest way to get rid of pestering salesmen and coastal Romeos requires no language skills at all – just tilt your head back quickly, close your eyes and lift your eyebrows. It isn’t rude – it just means “not interested” and works like a charm.
When bargaining, do not back away from a price you’ve offered – it’s considered extremely rude not to buy something after stating or accepting a price. Bargain hard. If you are trying to buy a rug, you should offer 50%-60% of the asking price. If a tout or guide accompanies you, he usually gets 10% of the price (which means you pay 10% more). If you are paying by credit card and you are not asked to pay the credit-card fee, you probably didn’t bargain hard enough.
Celebrations & Public Holidays
Turkey is home to some of the best festivals in Europe. These include the Izmir World Fair, held in early September every year, various folk dance festivals held throughout Turkey, the International Aspendos Opera and Ballet Festival as well as both classical and rock music festivals, and of course, the Whirling Dervish festival held in Konya every December.
Other national public holidays to be aware of include:
- New Year’s Day
- National Sovereignty and Childrens Day (April 23rd)
- Labour Day (May 1st)
- Commemoration of Ataturk, Youth & Sports Day (May 19th)
- Victory Day (August 30th)
- Republic Day (October 29th)
Turkey also celebrates many religious holidays throughout the year, which follow the lunar calendar, and therefore fall on different dates every year. For example, Ramadan Festival and the Feast of Sacrifice.
For the best part of two millennia, Istanbul has been one of the greatest cities in the world. Though no longer a world metropolis, it’s still one of the most vibrant and magical places in Europe and the Middle East, as well as a bustling commercial capital. Istanbul’s centuries of empire have left an extraordinary collection of palaces, churches, mosques and markets from every period of history. Its unique position as a city that straddles two continents, Europe and Asia, has given the city an unmistakably cosmopolitan atmosphere. Alongside all the life and colour of the Middle East, it has a high standard of living with many of the buildings of a European capital, such as shopping malls and upscale international restaurants.
This ancient Christian kingdom in central Turkey sits within a surreal and eerie landscape of pinnacles, ravines and carved-rock dwellings. It’s one of the most fascinating places in Turkey. Caves in the region were used as shelters and still contain marvellous frescoes. Cappadocia encompasses the area bordered by the towns of Avanos on the north, Kayseri on the east, Nevsehir on the west and Nigde on the south. Konya
An unusual natural and historical site with sparkling white castle-like cascades, Pamukkale is one of the highlights of Turkey. The dazzling white calcareous castles are formed by limestone-laden thermal springs, creating the unbelievable formation of stalactites, potholes and cataracts. The water of Pamukkale is famous for its benefit to the eyes and skin; and its curing properties of the ills of asthma and rheumatism. The remains of the ancient Hierapolis are situated on the back of the thrilling white terraces, standing proudly in the area.
Across the Dardanelles from Canakkale lies the Gallipoli Peninsula. Its historic significance can’t be overestimated – World War I would have been considerably shorter (and the course of history changed) had the British Empire’s troops succeeded in taking the peninsula. As it was, Turkish machine-gun nests kept the Allies pinned along the beaches, cutting them to shreds and effectively delaying any further Allied movement on the Eastern Front. The overwhelming majority of the Allied forces at Gallipoli came from the Australia-New Zealand Army Corps (the ANZACs), and the place is a pilgrimage destination for visitors from ‘down under’, especially on or around ANZAC Day. Most of the battlefield is now part of a national park, and the scenery – pine trees, green hills, ochre cliffs and sandy beaches – would be well worth a look even without the historical attractions that are discreetly present.
Small Group Tours
Immerse yourself in the incredible history of Turkey and Egypt.
Uncover treasures from these two richly vibrant countries. Journey from Istanbul to Athens via incredible Cappadocia, magical Meteora and cruise the idyllic Greek Islands.