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All about Turkey
Linking Europe and the Middle East, suspended between the new and the long established, Turkey retains a disconcerted balance of both east and west, representing a cultural mix with many discrepancies and contradictions. Modern city boutiques and exotic bazaars glamour for customers, the weekly tolling of church bells interrupts the daily call of the muezzin, and Roman ruins and the beginnings of Christianity compete for attention with the history of the Ottoman Empire.
The different regions of Turkey offer an assortment of landscapes, activities and characters, and whether one is a history or archaeology enthusiast, a sun-worshipper, sailor, or city-lover keen on shopping, there is something on offer for everyone. Istanbul, with one part in Europe and the other in Oriental Asia, is a fascinating city with its frenzied market places, imperial residences and minarets, and sporting a lively ambience of contemporary art and musical entertainment. Cappadocia in Central Turkey offers an astounding landscape of eroded volcanic rock cones and fairy chimneys, remarkable subterranean cities and rock-hewn houses that merge harmoniously with the ochre-colored landscape; while further south the 'Turquoise Coast' is a haven for boat cruises. One can enjoy a variety of water sports, sunbathe on golden sands, or explore the wonderful ancient cities of Troy and Ephesus on the shores of the Aegean Sea.
Most visitors’ concentrate on Western Turkey, with its picturesque seaside resorts along the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts, scenic and recreational attractions, well-preserved archaeological sites and fascinating museums that bring its rich history to life. Wherever one ventures in Turkey there is certain to be a warm welcome and traditional hospitality, making this a deeply satisfying corner of the world in which to travel.
Time: Local time is GMT +2 (GMT +3 from the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in October).
Electricity: 220 volts AC, 50Hz. The European two-pin plug is standard.
Language: Turkish is the official language, but English is widely understood in the main tourist areas.
Health: Numerous cases of bird flu have been reported in northern, eastern and central Turkey, but there is no evidence of the virus passing between humans; the people who died had close contact with poultry. Authorities are taking stringent measures to contain the outbreaks. Visitors are unlikely to be at risk, but are advised to avoid close exposure to caged, domestic or wild birds, and to ensure that poultry and egg dishes are cooked thoroughly.
There are no vaccination requirements, although a typhoid vaccine is recommended for all travelers, unless coming for a short period and only eating in major hotels and restaurants (e.g. business travelers or cruise ship passengers). There is a risk of malaria in the South Eastern part of the country, but not in the main tourist areas in the west and South West of the country, although mosquitoes can still be an irritation in summer. Most tap water in the larger towns and cities has been chlorinated, but bottled water is still recommended for drinking. Food from street vendors should be treated with caution. Medical facilities and standard of health care are not high in state hospitals and private health insurance is recommended. Modern facilities exist in private hospitals in Ankara and Istanbul.
Tipping: Tipping is a way of life in Turkey and it is customary to give some small change for most services, or a small percent of the bill. In bigger hotels and restaurants if a service charge is not added to the bill, it is customary to tip between 10 and 15%. For taxi fares it is enough to round up the bill. Attendants at Turkish baths expect to share about 15% of the total bill if service has been good.
Customs: Religious customs should be respected particularly during the month of Ramadan when eating, drinking and smoking during daylight hours should be discreet as it is forbidden by the Muslim culture. Dress modestly when visiting mosques or religious shrines. Do not take photographs of or near military and official institutions and always ask permission when taking photographs of people.
There is a smoking ban on all forms of public transport and in outdoor venues (including stadiums and playgrounds). By July 2008 this will include cafes, bars and restaurants as well.
Business: In Turkey, business associates are addressed by their first names. If the associate is male, then his name is mentioned as ‘”Bey” and “Hanim” is used for females. A formal, conservative dress code is observed in Turkey and women should be careful to dress particularly conservatively. Gifts are common and are usually something the associate would use in business such as a pen or other office stationary. Business hours throughout Turkey are generally 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday with an hour taken over lunch.
Communications: The international country dialing code for Turkey is +90. The outgoing code is 00, followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0044 for the United Kingdom). City/area codes are in use, e.g. Istanbul Asya (Asia side) is (0)216 and Istanbul Avrupa (Europe side) is (0)212. GSM 900 and 1800 networks cover most of the country. Internet cafes are available in the main towns and resorts.
Duty Free: Travelers to Turkey do not have to pay duty on the following items: 200 cigarettes, or 50 cigars, or 200g tobacco, and 200 cigarette papers, or 50g chewing tobacco, or 200g pipe tobacco, or 200g snuff tobacco. Alcohol allowance includes 1 liter or 700ml bottle of wine or spirits. Other allowances include 5 bottles perfume up to 120ml each; gifts to the value of €255.65; electronic articles to the value of €255.65; tea and coffee for personal consumption; Jewelry and guns for sporting purposes permitted by foreign travelers. Tape recorders, record players and transistor radios have to be declared on arrival. Restricted items include playing cards limited to one pack.