Basic information is provided by Turkish Embassy at Washington DC
below. You may find updated info by visiting www.turkey.org.
1. Do I need a visa to visit Turkey?
U.S. citizens must have a visa to enter Turkey. U.S. citizens may
obtain a visa upon entry into Turkey or in prior to departure from
one of the five Turkish Consulates in the United States.
Visas issued upon entry are valid for three months. Visas for
longer stays and for study, research or employment must be obtained
Non-U.S citizens must apply for tourist or business visas before
traveling to Turkey. Applicants should contact the relevant Turkish
Consulate in person, by mail or by a courier service.
Applicants outside the united States should contact the nearest
Turkish Embassy or Consulate to learn their visa requirements and
procedures. Turkish missions abroad are listed at www.mfa.gov.tr
2. Is it safe to travel
Turkey is one of the safest countries in the world in which to
travel, and its crime rate is low in comparison to many Western
European countries. Interpol ranked Turkey as the safest holiday
destination in Europe for travelers. Naturally, we recommend that
travelers to Turkey exercise the same precautions they would
elsewhere, and be aware of security concerns that affect all
The Turkish Government takes air safety very seriously, and
maintains strict oversight, particularly on international flights.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has places Turkey's
civil aviation authority in Category 1-in full compliance with
international aviation safety standards in overseeing Turkey's air
carrier operations. In the days following the September 11 attacks,
Turkish Airlines was one of the first international airlines cleared
by the FAA to fly into the United States.
3. When is the best time
to travel in Turkey?
The high season for travel in Turkey generally runs between
mid-April and late-October. During the off-season, temperatures are
much cooler and snow is possible in mountainous areas. Many visitors
enjoy the spring and fall, with their mild weather and small crowds.
Coastal regions are particularly popular with tourists during the
summer. These include resort areas along the Aegean and
Mediterranean coast with beaches and yachting facilities. The
coastline, especially between Izmir and Antalya, features numerous
coves and bays and many nearby ancient cities and is perfect for
yachting. A large number of international-quality marinas provide
services for the yachtsman. For active travelers, swimming, fishing,
water-skiing, surfing and diving are available.
Turkey also enjoys many spectacular rivers. They are ideal for
canoeing, skiing and rafting. Mountaineering is also popular in
mountain ranges throughout Turkey in spring and summer.
The high plateaus of the Eastern Black Sea Region are covered by
colorful flowers and green pasture during spring and summer.
Naturalists will enjoy the diversity of fauna and flora as well as
the heart-stopping splendor of the surrounding landscape.
Central and Eastern Turkey can receive large accumulations of
snow, and snow skiing is a favorite winter pastime. Turkey has
several ski centers, which are generally open from December through
April depending on snow conditions.
4. What are the most
popular travel destinations in Turkey?
From the perfect beaches and ancient ruins of its coast to the
pulse of its cosmopolitan cities, Turkey is a study in contrasts.
Visitors can lose themselves in the magic of a historic palace
before enjoying a world-class meal, or swim amidst Roman ruins
before continuing their journey in the comfort of a state-of-the-art
Whatever your fancy, there are countless things to see and do in
Turkey. Istanbul, the largest city in Turkey, serves as the gateway
for most travelers. Istanbul is the only city in the world that sits
on two continents and it offers an abundance of fascinating
attractions for visitors. Some of Istanbul's most popular sites
include the Bosphorus Strait, the Blue Mosque, Haghia Sophia,
Topkapi Palace, Dolmabahce Palace, the Kariye Museum, the
Underground Cistern, Galata Tower, the Tower of Leander, the
Princes' Islands and the Grand Bazaar.
From Canakkale Bogazi, also known as the Dardanelles, to the
fairytale Crusader castle and sunny beaches of Bodrum, the Aegean
shores of Turkey are among the loveliest landscapes in Turkey. The
highlights of an Aegean tour are Troy, the site of the legendary
Trojan War and its wooden horse; ancient Pergamon, once a great
center of culture and now one of Turkey's finest archeological
sites; Ephesus, the capital of Roman Asia Minor, dedicated to the
goddess Artemis whose temple was one of the Seven Wonders of the
Ancient World; Aphrodisias, the center of the greatest school of
sculpture in antiquity; Pamukkale, a unique fairyland of dazzlingly
white calcified castles; and Bodrum, a charming coastal town with a
long, palm-lined waterfront and beautiful beaches.
Antalya province on the Mediterranean coast is Turkey's principal
holiday region. It is a paradise for sunbathing, swimming and
sports. Best of all, Antalya serves as a convenient hub for nearby
archeological attractions. Ancient theatres can be found in a
remarkable state of preservation at Aspendos and Perge and visitors
can tour the sunken city of Simena in Kekova. Remains of ancient
Lycian cities such as Patara, Letoon, Xanthos, Myra and Apollonia
are also within easy traveling distance. These are among the most
fascinating sites on the Anatolian Peninsula.
Cappadocia in Central Anatolia is one of the most fantastic
landscapes in the world and one of the most popular tourist
destinations in Turkey. The area's early Christian inhabitants
utilized its remarkable rock formations to create more than 220
churches and numerous underground cities in which they took refuge
from their persecutors.
Other popular destinations include Safranbolu in the Black Sea
Region, an open-air museum of traditional Turkish houses; Mount
Nemrut in southeastern Turkey, where enormous stone statues of
deities commemorate the first century BC Commagene Kingdom. Konya in
Central Anatolia was home to the great Islamic philosopher Mevlana
Celaleddin Rumi who in the 13th century founded the Mevlevi Order
known as the Whirling Dervishes. Each year in early December, the
white-robed Mevlevi commemorate the death of Mevlana with their
trance-like turning dance or sema - an amazing sight to behold.
5. What attractions does
Turkey offer related to religious history and issues of faith?
History has been incredibly generous to Turkey, which has been
vital in the history of the three major Western religions --
Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. Turkey is one of a few countries
where all three religions have co-existed peacefully for centuries.
There are a many important sites in Turkey of interest to people of
More and more people are discovering the important role
Turkey played in the history of Christianity. Travelers can discover
many magnificent churches, some nearly as old as Christianity
itself, and can retrace the footsteps of Saints Peter and Paul from
the Biblical city of Antioch to the underground churches of
Cappadocia. Many of the most important events in Christian history
occurred in Turkey.
Born in Tarsus, the Apostle Paul spread the word of Jesus Christ
across Anatolia, expanding Christianity's reach from a predominantly
Jewish base to Gentile communities.
Not far from Tarsus on Turkey's Eastern Mediterranean coast is
Antakya, known in biblical times as Antioch. This ancient city was
founded around 300 B.C. and was home to the first important
Christian community, founded in 42 AD by St. Paul. Jesus' followers
were first called "Christians" in Antioch and from here
Christianity spread to the world. St. Paul departed from Antioch on
his three missionary journeys. The city holds the Church of St.
Peter, a cave-church where the apostles Peter and Paul are believed
to have preached. In 1963, the Vatican designated the site a place
of pilgrimage and recognized it as the world's first cathedral.
The "Seven Churches of Asia Minor," a series of
communities located near the Aegean coast, is where St. Paul
visited, preached and built the early church. Their ancient names -
Ephesus (Efes), Smyrna (Izmir), Thyatira (Akhisar), Sardis (Sart),
Philadelphia (Alasehir), Laodicea (Eskihisar) and Pergamon (Bergama)
are familiar from the New Testament's Book of Revelation.
Ephesus, perhaps the most prominent of the Seven Churches, is
where St. Paul wrote his letters to the Ephesians, and where St.
John the Evangelist brought the Virgin Mary to spend her last years.
The Vatican recognizes the Virgin Mary's house, located in the hills
near Ephesus, as a shrine. Just outside Ephesus, in Selcuk, is the
Basilica of St. John where he preached and is believed to be buried.
Many other regions in Turkey offer a wealth of attractions to the
Christian traveler. St. Nicholas was born and lived in Demre on the
Mediterranean coast. A church dedicated to the original Santa Claus
still stands. Visitors to the biblical area of Cappadocia, located
in Central Anatolia, can explore more than 200 carved rock churches
beautifully decorated with frescoes depicting early Christian
motifs, and a seven-story underground city where Christians took
refuge from their persecutors.
The stunning Monastery of the Virgin Mary located near the Black
Sea in Trabzon is a well-known monastic center dating to the 4th
century. Built on the edge of a l200 foot cliff and accessible only
by foot, it housed some of the Orthodox Church's greatest thinkers.
Istanbul became the center of Christianity in 330 AD and it was
here that the largest church in Christendom at the time, Haghia
Sophia or the Church of the Divine Wisdom, was dedicated by Emperor
Justinian in 536 AD. The Kariye Museum, a Greek Orthodox Church from
the 11th and 14th centuries, is famous for its incomparable
Byzantine frescoes and mosaics.
Judaism has had a continuous presence in Turkey since ancient
times. Signs written in Hebrew and menorahs carved into stone at
historical sites such as Ephesus, Kusadasi, Priene, Hieropolis, and
Pamukkale attest to long history of Jews in Turkey. In Sardis, near
Izmir, the remains of the largest ancient synagogue in existence
date to the 3rd century AD. Its frescoes and mosaics suggest a
large, well-established and successful Jewish community in Sardis.
According to the legend of the great flood, Noah's Ark ran
aground at Mount Agri (Ararat). When the floodwaters receded, Noah
and his family descended from the mountain to the fertile Igdir
Plain and repopulated the world.
Jewish Patriarchs Abraham and Job also made their mark in eastern
Turkey. Sanli Urfa in southeastern Turkey is known as the city of
Prophets. A cave there is said to be the birthplace of the prophet
Abraham. It has become a place of pilgrimage and is now surrounded
by the Halil Rahman Mosque. The Prophet Job, who was famed for his
patience, is believed to have spent seven years recovering from
illness inside another cave located in the district of Eyyübiye two
kilometers south of Sanli Urfa.
Jews have enjoyed tolerance and peace in Turkey for centuries.
After the Jewish communities in Spain and Portugal were exiled in
1492 during the Inquisition, Sultan Beyazit II welcomed them to the
Ottoman Empire. As a result, many Jewish communities still thrive in
Istanbul is of particular significance to Jewish visitors. In the
city's old Jewish Quarter is the 19th century Neve Shalom Synagogue,
the Zulfaris Jewish Museum and nearby, the 15th century Ahrida
Synagogue. The first Jewish printing press began operating in
Istanbul in 1493 and Jewish literature and music flourished during
In Bursa, a short drive south of Istanbul, visitors will find the
Gerus Synagogue, built at the end of the 15th century by the first
Jews who settled in the city after being expelled from Spain. The
name of the synagogue in Hebrew means, "Expelled". Izmir,
located on the Aegean coast, has several synagogues, including Beth
Israel Synagogue; Bikour Holim Synagogue, named in memory of an
epidemic when city hospitals were so full that synagogues were used
to house the sick, and Giveret Synagogue, rebuilt after an 1841
Visitors to Turkey are often touched by the call to prayer
from lofty minarets. The call is heard five times a day, inviting
the faithful to face towards Mecca and pray from the Koran. Although
Turkey is a secular democracy which guarantees freedom of religion
for all people, Islam is the country's predominant religion. People
of all faiths may visit Turkey's mosques.
Islam's roots in Turkey date to the 10th Century. In the ensuing
centuries Seljuk and Ottoman Turks constructed impressive mosques
with elegant interior decorations and imposing domes and minarets.
Virtually every Turkish city has a mosque of historical or
architectural significance. Sultanahmet Mosque in Istanbul stands as
perhaps the most impressive. Built between 1609 and 1616 in the
classic Ottoman style, the building is more familiarly known as the
Blue Mosque because of its magnificent interior paneling of blue and
white Iznik tiles. The Suleymaniye Mosque is the largest in
Istanbul. It was built between 1550 and 1557by Suleyman the
Magnificent, the greatest sultan of the Ottoman Empire.
Other cities also have impressive Islamic architecture. The Ulu
Cami (Grand Mosque) with its 20 domes and Yesil Cami (Green Mosque)
in Bursa, was constructed between 1419 and 1420. The mosque derives
its name from the exquisite green and turquoise tiles in its
interior. Haci Bayram Mosque in Ankara was built in the early 15th
century in the Seljuk style and was subsequently restored by the
master Ottoman architect Sinan in the 16th century. Selimiye Mosque
in Edirne reflects the classical Ottoman style and Sinan's lasting
Konya ranks as one of the great cultural centers of Turkey. As
the capital of the Seljuk Turks from the 12th to the 13th centuries
Konya was a center of cultural, political and religious growth.
During this period, the mystic Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi founded a
Sufi Order known in the West as the Whirling Dervishes. Mevlana's
striking green-tiled mausoleum is Konya's most famous attraction.
Attached to the mausoleum, the former dervish seminary now serves as
a museum housing manuscripts of Mevlana's works and various
artifacts related to the mystic sect.
6. How should visitors
dress in Turkey?
Casual wear is appropriate for most tour excursions. Women wear
pants or skirts, but when visiting mosques it is recommended that
they cover their heads with a scarf and both sexes should not wear
shorts out of respects for religious customs.
7. Should I exchange
money before I go to Turkey?
The highly favorable exchange rate makes travel to Turkey
extremely affordable. Most banks in the U.S. do not have Turkish
Lira. However, Turkish currency is easily obtainable upon arrival in
Turkey at any exchange office or bank. Daily exchange rates can be
obtained from the Turkish Central Bank web site at www.tcmb.gov.tr.
This site is in both Turkish and English, and gives links to all
Turkish Banks. Turkish daily newspapers also publish daily exchange
There are ATM machines throughout Turkey, particularly in larger
cities and tourist centers. Credit cards are accepted by hotels and
8. Are any vaccinations
required for tourists entering Turkey?
There are no vaccination requirements for any international
The World Health Organization web site, www.who.org,
provides vaccination certificate requirements by country, geographic
distributions of potential health hazards to travelers and
information on health risks and their avoidance (click on
9. Is it safe to drink
tap water in Turkey?
Turkey practices safe sanitation standards, and tap water is
suitable for bathing and regular tasks such as brushing teeth.
However, as is customary in most Mediterranean countries, the
majority of locals and visitors drink bottled water. We recommend
that visitors follow local custom and drink bottled water, which is
routinely served with any meal.
10. What is a Turkish
Communal baths were used in Roman and Byzantine times, but as the
name "Turkish Bath" suggests, they played a significant
role in Ottoman culture. At a time when the concept of cleanliness
was not yet accepted in Europe, the Turks were very fastidious due
to Islam's emphasis on cleanliness. Countless baths were built in
the typical Ottoman architectural style throughout the empire.
Unfortunately, few have survived to the present. Cagaloglu Hamami
and Cemberlitas Hamami, both in Istanbul, are very popular with
A classic bath usually has three sections: changing rooms, a hot
room and a cold room. After entering the hamam and exchanging one's
clothes for a "pestamal" or towel, you then proceed to the
"gobek tasi", a large heated stone where you perspire and
are rubbed down by a bath attendant. If the heat proves too much,
you can retire to a cooler room. This method of bathing is the most
11. What to buy in
Turkey and where to buy it?
Shopping is one of the great pleasures of a trip to Turkey and
the rich variety of Turkish crafts makes it impossible to resist
buying something. Fine apparel of silk, cotton, leather and wool;
artful jewelry; leather accessories; brilliant faience (colored
tiles); vessels of copper, brass, marble, meerschaum and alabaster
worked by master artisans; and of course heirloom-quality Turkish
carpets and kilims, are among the most popular purchases. Great
value and an enjoyable shopping experience can be found everywhere,
from small towns to big cities.
Unique regional handicrafts make shopping that much more
enjoyable. Traditional Turkish handicrafts crafts including carpets,
ceramics and pottery, tiles, copper items, woodcarvings, decorative
glass, and embroidery are a major component of Turkish culture. They
are a stunning reflection of Turkey's diverse cultural heritage and
thousands of years of history.
The Grand Bazaar, or "Kapalicarsi," in Istanbul is a
unique combination of fantastic merchandise and a memorable shopping
experience. The Grand Bazaar is a maze of some 4,000 shops, selling
treasures of every type. Still the commercial center of the old
city, the Grand Bazaar's 80 roads and streets form the original