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Travelling In Turkey

January 24, 2023

Entry Into Turkey

For UK and EU citizens entry into Turkey is possible on a visa free tourist basis for up to 90 days within any 180 day period. So it couldn’t be easier.

However US citizens are required to get an E-Visa prior to travel.

Driving In Turkey

We decided to hire a car for our month-long trip to the Southwest of Turkey. We wanted to be able to move around easily and not be tied down to tourist trips, particularly as we were outside of the main season. This proved to be a great decision.

We managed to find a car for a full month for £300. That works out at only £10 per day. We ended up driving around 3000km in total so I think we got our money’s worth and we went to lots of places off the beaten track which we just couldn’t have got to otherwise.

Our car was a Fiat Egea (Known as Tipo in the rest of Europe) and it had 68k KM on the clock when we got it. It had a couple of small scrapes but was in good condition and we didn’t have any problems with it.

We used a small car hire firm called Boycar that were based outside the airport. On arrival we had to give them a quick call and 10 minutes later we were picked up and taken to their office. About 10 minutes of paperwork and we were ready to go.

Overall we thought that the standard of driving in Turkey was pretty good although when we mentioned this to the locals they invariably found it hilarious… I guess they maybe haven’t driven through the centre of Lima or a little closer to home, Sicily – experiences not to the forgotten!  Like anywhere there are some aggressive drivers but with some defensive driving and a cool head it was a pretty good place to drive.

Perhaps the only area that took some concentration were the roundabouts. The general rule in turkey is that you give way whilst on the roundabout to traffic entering the roundabout. However, this isn’t always the case and with some you give way to traffic already on the roundabout. You just have to keep an eye on the signs as there is generally clear indication which set of rules apply.

There are quite a lot of police checkpoints where the police cordon off part of the road to pull drivers over. We were waved through all but once and on that occasion as soon as the policeman realised we spoke English and were clearly tourists he waved us on, so we are still not sure what they are actually checking.

We really enjoyed seeing the fake police cars that are pretty common at the side of the road to encourage people to slow down !

Speed Limits are mostly marked with signs at the side of the road however they are rarely obeyed and speeding is common place. The motorway limit is 120km/h (although certain motorways have a 130 or even 140 limit we did not encounter this) and main roads are set at 90km/h. Urban areas have a 50km/h limit.

Where to Stay

As we were travelling in the off-season in Turkey there weren’t a huge amount of people in the hotels and therefore, despite some hotels shutting for the winter, there was a lot of availability.

Our Room in Antalya – there was also a second bedroom with single beds and two balconies !

We had decided to not book any accommodation for our trip but to remain flexible and book 1 or 2 days in advance when we were sure of our plans.

Booking.com is blocked in Turkey and you cannot make local bookings using this website. However you can get around this by using a VPN or there are plenty of other hotel booking sites that do work in Turkey. We found that using google maps to show hotels in an area worked really well and this then gives you the cheapest price for online booking.

Prices for hotels vary considerably and it is possible to pay £100’s per night to stay in very upscale places. However, if like us you are on a tight budget there is plenty of affordable accommodation.

Bar/Restaurant in our Hotel in Side

In general we paid between £18-£25 per night over the course of our trip. Of course this was off-season.  These prices have increased since last year as inflation was running high in Turkey while we were there.  We booked almost all of our nights in advance over the internet however for a few nights we just wandered in off the street and found that it was possible to negotiate a reasonable rate.

A few nights we paid a bit more in the more expensive areas but our most expensive night was £30.

Breakfast in Aksehir

In almost all the hotels the cost included breakfast although the standard of the breakfast was very variable. From big buffet breakfasts with hot and cold options, traditional mezes, through to a plate with hard boiled egg, salad and bread we had a real variety.

Some hotels had swimming pools. Pamukkale Hotel pictured.

Eating in Turkey

To be perfectly honest we had no idea what to expect from Turkish food and we were so happy when we got to Turkey and started dining out.

The prices in Turkish restaurants vary wildly from town to town but in each area most of the restaurants seem to have similar prices (although of course there is some variation).  The most expensive places are unsurprisingly the most touristy and, for us, these were Antalya, Side and Goreme but even in the most touristy places you can still find cheap local eateries.  As always, the general rule of thumb to getting quality food and good value for money is to check out where the locals eat.

Our cheapest meal of the whole trip was around 80TL for two which is about £4 and our most expensive meal was 500TL or around £25.

Efes beers

If you want to drink alcohol this is fairly expensive with a bottle of beer around 80TL (£4) and the price of this doesn’t vary much from place to place. Efes is the most common beer in Turkey and it’s pretty decent, although there are a number of different types (Pilsener, dark, malt and others) so plenty to work through to find your favourite!

Lahmucan

In terms of food, some of the our favourite local dishes included Manti (Turkish pasta), Pide (Turkish Pizza), Lahmucan (Flatbread with Toppings), Tavuk Durum (chicken wrap), Beyti Kebab (meat in pastry) and Adana Kebab (spiced ground beef/lamb skewers).

Restuarant in Selcuk

Internet

Every hotel we stayed in had free WIFI available and almost all of them had good service. The speeds varied from around 10mb – 30mb but everywhere had decent speed.

For those with UK phone contracts it is unlikely that calls and data in Turkey will be included in your package and therefore will be a pricey extra.  To overcome this we bought a local pay as you go Sim card for use while on the go. We particularly relied on mobile data for navigation while driving.

Signing up for a pay as you go Sim is simple.  There are phone shop in all the towns, we visited Vodafone in Antalya and for £25 bought a sim with 20 gb of data and a large amount of calls and texts. This was a 30-day package which suited us perfectly. To recharge the sim with another 20gb of data is only £10. In order to sign up for this you do need to take your passport but it only took about 10 minutes to get set up. 

The mobile phone signal was strong everywhere we went and I think the only place that we suffered a dead spot was deep in a Cappodocian valley.

Museum Pass

Almost all of the ancient sites in Turkey come with an entry charge which can vary from as low as 20 TL (less than £1) up to 200 TL (£10).  Ephesus was the most expensive site we visited and in addition, they charge extra to access the excavated houses (85 TL/ £3.50) and the Ephesus museum (50TL/ £2).

When you are touring around these costs can add up really quickly.  Fortunately, there is a multi-day pass that can be purchased called the Museum Pass. This can be bought at the entry to all of the ancient sites/museums and costs 1000 TL (€50 or £43) and lasts for 15 days. If you are travelling for two weeks and planning on visiting a lot of sites this will definitely be good value.

It is also possible to buy cheaper 7 day passes for the Mediterranean or Aegean regions, a three day pass for Cappadocia or a 5 day Istanbul pass. These all represent worse value than the 15 day pass though.

We definitely visited more sites and museums than we would have if we were paying individually and thought that the Museum Pass represented great value for money.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Paul Gregory permalink
    January 26, 2023 8:31 am

    Great summary Mark. Did you get to Gocek, between Dalaman and Fethiye? It’s a place I go most years. I’m really enjoying your blog by the way. Where next?

    • January 27, 2023 2:32 pm

      Hi Paul, We didn’t get there – plenty of reasons to go back. We’ve been in the Lake District for a while but heading to Alpe D’Huez for a couple of months next week.

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