Turkey

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ShermansTravel experts rely on years of collective travel experience to bring you the best money-saving tips for your vacation. We take a discerning look at all the attraction passes, public transportation options, and other local bargains to make sure you get the most bang for your buck while traveling.

Turkey Money-Saving Tips

Mosques

In a 98 percent Muslim country some of the finest buildings are inevitably mosques, especially the great imperial mosques built by the Ottoman sultans to adorn their capitals of Istanbul, Bursa, and Edirne. Visitors are welcome outside prayer times provided they remove their shoes and dress modestly.

Alcohol

Despite the Islamic prohibition on alcohol, many urban Turks are fond of wine and beer. A homegrown wine industry is centered on Thrace and Cappadocia. Forget about finding liquor in Eastern Turkey.

Teahouses

Forget Turkish coffee – the real drink of choice is tea (cay, pronounced "chay") served in tiny tulip-shaped glasses with copious amounts of sugar. Ask for yours acik (pronounced "achook") if you prefer it weak. Apple tea (pronounced "elma chay") is pleasant, if wholly chemical.

Turkish Cuisine

Enjoy an evening in a meyhane, a Turkish tavern where people down raki, the local aniseed drink, and work through trays of mezes (hot and cold starters) before the fish or grilled meat main course. Follow with a milk pudding at popular chain pudding shops Hasan Usta or Ozsut.

Background

Although most Turks are Muslims, the Turkish Republic has been secular since its foundation by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in 1923 as a successor state to the defeated Ottoman Empire. The current government is moderately Islamic and the first to have governed without coalition partners in many years

Clothing

Turkey is a Muslim country, so dress conservatively except in Istanbul and the coastal resorts. Women should cover their heads and shoulders before entering a mosque. Both sexes should remove their shoes and avoid wearing shorts inside mosques.

Visa Fee

U.S. citizens need a visa to enter Turkey. This can be obtained in the U.S. or issued upon arrival. Before queuing at Immigration, go to the desk marked "Vize" to get the necessary stamp for your passport. A 90-day tourist visa costs $20.

Speaking Turkish

Around 150 million people speak a form of Turkish, but don't worry if you're not one of them – many Turks speak English. Pack a phrasebook and grapple with "please" and "thank you" to bring a smile to locals' faces.

Greece and Turkey

You can easily combine a holiday in Turkey with one to Greece. Ferries to the Aegean islands of Greece leave from Turkey’s Aegean ports. Trains and buses connect Istanbul with Thrace in northern Greece and then with Athens.

Money Matters

Leave traveler's checks at home. Except in the smallest villages, you should find ATMs dispensing Turkish lira (and sometimes U.S. dollars). Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted; American Express cards only rarely.

Islamic and School Holidays

Watch the calendar carefully since public transportation fills to capacity and prices soar over Ramadan and Kurban Bayrami, the two main Islamic holidays, and over school summer holidays (mid-June to mid-September). Banks close for Kurban Bayrami but not for Ramadan. Since Ramadan and Kurban Bayrami follow the Muslim lunar calendar (as opposed to the western Gregorian calendar) the exact dates of both holidays vary from year to year. In 2010 Ramadan takes place from August 11 to September 9 and Kurban Bayrami occurs from November 16 to the 19; in 2011 Ramadan takes place from August 1 to August 30 while Kurban Bayrami is celebrated from November 6 to the 9.

Train Travel

Except between Istanbul and Ankara, train travel is slower and cheaper than bus travel. High-speed train service between Ankara and Eskisehir began in March 2009, and Ankara-Konya and Ankara-Istanbul fast train connections are in the pipeline. A 30-day Train Tour Card costs around $100.

Bus Travel

Turkey has an efficient bus network that reaches even the most remote places. Prices are kept low by intense competition between companies; we recommend Kamil Koc (www.kamilkoc.com.tr), Ulusoy (www.ulusoy.com.tr), Varan (www.varan.com.tr), and Metro (www.metroturizm.com.tr). Bus stations are well maintained, with restaurants, cafes, and shops. Free "servis" buses connect distant terminals with town centers.

Going Alone

Traveling around Turkey independently is very easy. The Fez Bus (www.feztravel.com) offers hop-on, hop-off bus service, which makes moving yourself and your luggage around the most popular sites extra simple.

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