FAQs about Turkey

Is Turkey a safe country?

There are two things that people usually ask before their first trip to Turkey; one is “Should I travel to Turkey?”, and the other is this… Also, there are two things that people usually say after returning from Turkey; one is “I would like to go back to Turkey” and the other is “Turkey is a very safe country“.

It may sound a cliché, but sometimes we are too influenced by what we read in the news or what we watch on television, and they are not always the best sources of information. If you have the opportunity to ask someone who has been to Turkey, he/she will surely corroborate that feeling of security and of being able to walk quietly at any time in any place of Turkey.

Of course, you have to take some precautions if you plan to walk in the middle of the night in a big city like Istanbul, which by the way has almost twice the population of New York… But you’ll feel twice more secure in Istanbul than in NY, too.

Is Turkey part of Europe or Asia?

Turkey is a country located on two continentsEurope and Asia. Most of the territory of the Republic of Turkey – around 97% – belongs to Asia, corresponding geographically to the peninsula of Anatolia, while the European portion of Turkey – 3% – includes the region of Eastern Thrace, at the eastern end of which is located the European side of Istanbul.

What is Turkey known for?

In Istanbul, the gateway to Turkey and Asia, the historic peninsula home to ancient Constantinople stands out, with Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, Sultanahmet or the Topkapı Imperial Palace. Also don’t miss the Grand Bazaar, the Egyptian Bazaar, Eminönü and the New Mosque (Yeni Camii), the Suleyman Mosque (Süleymaniye), the Galata Tower, and a tour by the Bosphorus. On the Anatolian peninsula, the region of Cappadocia stands out with its “fairy chimneys” and its incredible and enigmatic underground cities.

On the Aegean coast there are picturesque fishing villages and other more touristy cities such as Kuşadası or Bodrum; from there we can visit places full of history and beauty such as Selçuk or Şirince, or magnificent ruins of ancient cities such as Pergamum, Ephesus, Miletus, Aphrodisias or Hierapolis, and next to the latter the spectacular Pamukkale terraces. In the Mediterranean region, one of the most tourist areas of the country, places such as Antalya, Alanya, Fethiye or Demre stand out; this region offers a paradise of luxury hotels and beautiful beaches, but also great natural landscapes and important remains of ancient cities.

Do they speak English in Turkey?

People in Turkey speak Turkish, which is the only official language of the country; however, besides Turkish, English is taught at schools as a foreign language and is widely spoken in tourist places like Istanbul, Antalya, Cappadocia, Pamukkale… and in big cities like İzmir or Ankara, too. You’ll be amazed by the good English spoken when walking in places such as Sultanahmet or the Grand Bazaar; however, learning some Turkish words and phrases can be very useful, too.

How do you dress in Turkey?

Some travel guides say that women should not travel to Turkey in tank tops or shorts… That is totally false. Although some Turkish women wear traditional clothes, many others wear modern dresses, specially in big cities like Istanbul. However, short or open clothes are prohibited out of respect – both for men and women – to enter mosques, where a handkerchief will be given to us to cover ourselves.

Another false belief is that women should cover their hair… No, Turkey is not Iran. About 40% of Turkish women do not wear any type of head covering and dress as fashionable as any European woman; even among women who wear the traditional headscarf, the most common garment is a simple türban – which just covers hair – and otherwise they wear modern clothes.

Is Turkey safe for female Travellers?

That a woman should not travel alone in Turkey is another of those “advises” that sometimes we can find in some travel guides pretending to help… but actually, does not make much sense. Turkey is generally a very safe country for travelling, with an open, tolerant and secular society that embraces any foreign traveller with a big hospitality. Not only women can travel alone without any problem, but they will probably feel more secure than in many western countries. Millions of Turkish women travel alone every day: to work, to university, to shopping, to visit friends or relatives, for tourism… Just like in any other country. So, why shouldn’t a tourist do it?

Is Turkey an Arab country?

No, not at all! Arabs are a very very small minority in Turkey, and Turkey is not even close to Arabia… Neither ethnically, nor culturally, nor linguistically: Turks and Arabs are not the same! The Turks are a people who migrated to Anatolia a thousand years ago from the steppes of Central Asia; Turks are ethnically related to the Hungarians and the Finns, not to the peoples of the Arab countries, whose origin is in the Middle East. Not only are they unrelated, but some Turks may even take this comparison as an offence, since many Turks regard Arabs and Arab countries as backward and uneducated people.

The only bond between Arabs and Turks is the religion, since Turkey is a Muslim country – Muslim, not Arab… – but even in this field there are differences, too. Also, Turkish people are neither dark skinned, as many people mistakenly do believe.