Area: 783,562 km ²
Climate: temperate Mediterranean climate in coastal regions; much harsher and more arid inland
Population: 77,804,122 (est. July 2010)
Languages: Turkish (official), Kurdish, Zaza, Arabic, Azeri, Laz
Government-EconomyGovernment Type: Parliamentary democracyNational Holiday: October 29
GDP: $1.038 trillion (est. 2010) GDP – per capita (PPP): $ 13,392 (est. 2010)
Information for Foreign Students in Turkey Getting There
Turkey's primary international gateway by air is Istanbul's Ataturk International Airport. Ankara's Esenbo?a Airport handles a comparatively limited selection of international flights, and there are also direct charters to Mediterranean resort hot spots like Antalya in the peak summer and winter seasons. In 2005 customs at Istanbul international airport was rearranged to the effect that one is now required to go through customs and 'enter the country' there, rather than first travel to a regional destination and pass customs there. Luggage will generally travel to the final destination without further ado, but on occasion you may have to point it out to be sure it will be transported on. The information given by flight attendants in the incoming flight may not be adequate so until the procedure is changed (it is supposed to be only temporary) it is wise to inquire on Istanbul airport. Since one must pass security again for any inland flight, it is advisable to hurry and not spend too much time in transit. There are also some other regional airports which receive a limited number of flights from abroad, especially from Europe and especially during the high season (Jun-Sep).
Obtaining a Visa To see if you are a citizen of a country that does not need a visa to stay in Turkey for up to 90 days visit the following website (http://www.mfa.gov.tr/visa-information-for-foreigners.en.mfa) for more information. If you are going to study or work in Turkey, you must obtain appropriate visa from the Turkish consulate prior to arriving in Turkey. Foreigners who shall reside, work or study in Turkey should also register themselves at the nearest local police department upon their arrival in Turkey, regardless of the validity of their visa.
Accommodation Accommodation in Turkey varies from 5-star hotels to a simple tent pitched in a vast plateau. So the prices vary hugely as well. Youth hostels are not widespread, there are a few in Istanbul, mainly around Sultanahmet Square where Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque are, and still fewer are recognized by Hostelling International (HI, former International Youth Hostel Federation, IYHF). However, guesthouses/pensions (pansiyon) provide cheaper accommodation than hotels, replacing the need for hostels for low-cost accommodation, regardless of their visitors' age. Please note, pansiyon is the word in Turkish which is also used for small hotels with no star rankings, so somewhere with this name does not automatically mean it must be very cheap (expect up to 50 YTL daily per each person). B&Bs are also generally covered by the word pansiyon, as most of them present breakfast (not always included in the fee, so ask before deciding whether or not to stay there). It is possible to rent a whole house with two rooms, a kitchen, a bathroom, and necessary furniture such as beds, chairs, a table, a cooker, pots, pans, usually a refrigerator and sometimes even a TV. Four or more people can easily fit in these houses which are called apart hotels and can be found mainly in coastal towns of Marmara and Northern Aegean regions, which are more frequented by Turkish families rather than foreigners. They are generally flats in a low-story apartment building. They can be rented for as cheap as 25 YTL daily (not per person, this is the daily price for the whole house!), depending on location, season and the duration of your stay (the longer you stay, the cheaper you pay daily).
Cost of Living
Eating on the cheap is mostly done at Kebab stands, which can be found everywhere in Istanbul and other major cities. For the equivalent of a couple dollars, you get a full loaf of bread sliced down the middle, filled with broiled meat, lettuce, onions, and tomatoes. For North Americans familiar with donairs wrapped in pita bread, don't try to make the comparison. Pitas and wraps are almost unseen in Turkey, they like their bread thick and crusty.
There are legal exchange offices in all cities and almost any town. Banks also exchange money, but they are not worth the hassle as they are usually crowded and do not give better rates than exchange offices. You can see the rates office offers on the (usually electronic) boards located somewhere near its gate. Euro and American Dollars are the most useful currencies, but Pound Sterling (Bank of England notes only, not Scottish or Northern Irish notes), Swiss Francs, Japanese Yen, Saudi Riyals, and a number of other currencies are also not very hard to exchange. It is important to remember that most exchangers accept only banknotes, it can be very hard to exchange foreign coins. Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted, American Express much less so. Starting from June 1, 2007 all credit card users (of those with a chip on them) have to enter their PIN codes when using the credit card. Older, magnetic card holders are exception to this, but remember that unlike some other places in Europe, salesclerk has the legal right to ask you a valid ID with a photo on to recognize that you are the owner of the card. ATMs are scattered throughout the cities, concentrated in central parts. It is possible to draw Turkish Lira (and rarely foreign currency) from these ATMs with your foreign card. Any major town has at least one ATM.
While not as common as they used to be, possibly because of the widespread use of mobile phones which are virtually used by the whole population in the country, public pay phones can still be found at the sides of central squares and major streets in towns and cities and around postoffices (PTT), especially around their outer walls. With the phase-out of old magnetic cards, public phones now operate with chip telekom cards which are available in 30, 60 or 120 units and can be obtained at post offices, newspaper and tobacco kiosks. You can also use your credit card on these phones, though it may not work in the off chance. All phones in the booths have Turkish and English instructions and menus, many also have German and French in addition.
Big cities in Turkey, especially Istanbul, are not immune to petty crime. Although petty crime is not especially directed towards tourists, by no means are they exceptions. Snatching, pickpocketing, and mugging are the most common kinds of petty crime. However, recently with the developing of a camera network which watches streets and squares –especially the central and crowded ones- 24-hour a day in Istanbul, the number of snatching and mugging incidents declined. Just like anywhere else, following common sense is recommended. (Please note that the following recommendations are for the big cities, and most small-to-mid size cities usually have no petty crime problems at all) Have your wallet and money in your front pockets instead of back pockets, backpack or shoulder bag.
Turkey has a good long-distance bus network with air-conditioned buses, reserved seats and generally good-quality service, at least with the major operators. There are now a few firms providing luxury buses with 1st class seats and service. Standard buses, however, have seats narrower than those of economy class on airplanes. Buses are often crowded, and smoking is strictly prohibited. Cellphone use is also restricted on many buses.
Bus travel is convenient in Turkey. Go to the Otogar (bus station) in any of the major cities and you can find a bus to almost any destination within half an hour, or a couple of hours at the most. Buses are staffed by drivers and a number of assistants. During the ride you will be offered free drinks, a bite or two, and stops will be made every two hours and a half or so at well-stocked road restaurants. The further east you travel, the less frequent buses will be, but even places as far as Dogubeyazit or Van will have regular services to many places hundreds of kilometers away. Only the smallest towns do not have a bus straight to Istanbul or Izmir at least once every two days. Offering considerably cheap, but slower travel compared with the bus, TCDD (Turkish Republic State Railways) operate passenger trains all over the country. However, as Turkey has fewer than 11,000 km of rail network in the total, many cities and tourist spots are out of rail coverage.