Turkey is a country with vast and varying landscapes. While most of us will never be able to visit another planet, visiting the Anatolian plains in Cappadocia is just as unique. As if plucked straight from a Hollywood movie or childhood fairy-tale, the phallic peaks and honeycombed caves make perfect backdrops for donning a cowboy hat and exploring. If you are looking for a stop in paradise, Oludeniz Beach is the answer. Istanbul on the other hand, is the only city in the world that traverses two continents. Wherever you plan to visit in Turkey, read on for essential information on planning your trip.
Travelling to Turkey
British citizens need a visa to enter Turkey. There are 2 ways to do this: order one online for the cost of $20, or purchase one at the airport for £20 (it takes less than 5 minutes).
Flights to Turkey from the UK to Istanbul are around 4 hours if you fly direct. The best time of year to travel is in early Spring or Autumn, when there are fewer tourists and flights are cheaper. If you are flexible or willing to keep an eye on flight prices, you will find some for less than £100. If you wish to travel during peak season (mainly the summer) be prepared to spend within the region of £300 for a return ticket.
Pegasus Airlines is the Turkish equivalent of EasyJet, which means while it is cheap, you have to pay extra to be served a meal on the plane. Turkish Airlines is rated very highly and uses larger planes with individual TV screens (great to keep little ones occupied). It also serves tasty hot meals at no extra cost.
You can reach Cappadocia quite easily by taking an hour’s flight from Istanbul. There are several flights a day from both Sabiha Gokcen and Istanbul Ataturk Airport. There are two airports in Cappadocia, Nevsehir and Kayseri, which are about an hour’s drive to the town of Goreme (Nevsehir is closer and will take less time).
The main areas that travellers stay during a visit to Cappadocia are Goreme, Nevsehir, Urgup or Uchisar.
For a truly authentic and unforgettable experience, we recommend staying in a cave hotel. Prices are generally extremely reasonable and start at around £35/night. Many hotels in Cappadocia are also rated very highly on Booking.com and Trivago, so it is unlikely that visitors will have a bad experience wherever they stay.
We stayed at the Vineyard Cave Hotel in Goreme, a family-run boutique hotel that also provides tours, travel advice and dinner upon request. The location is a few minutes’ walk from the centre of the town where you can enjoy traditional Turkish food and admire the locals’ handicrafts. For more details about the Vineyard Cave Hotel read our review.
Prices in the city are much less competitive than Cappadocia, which is to be expected of such a popular tourist destination. Expect to pay upwards of £50/night for a comfortable stay. We recommend booking a hotel in the Beyoglu area, which is known for its hip neighbourhood, proximity to amenities and safety.
We stayed at Sultan House in the Fatih area, less than 3 minutes’ walk from SultanAhmet Camii. While the location of the hotel was fantastic, unfortunately our experience was largely negative for a number of reasons. Without going into too much detail, the hotel appeared to be under pressure to arrange as many bookings as possible with little thought for how this would impact on the quality of care provided to guests.
Do lots of research before booking a place in Istanbul, and remember, you get what you pay for.
The easiest and most comfortable way to get around Cappadocia is by car. Public transport consists of local buses. Although renting a car is affordable, the cost of petrol is actually quite high, and car rental companies will give you a car with an empty tank.
We recommend getting a private driver, which is actually very affordable – around 170 Turkish lira for a whole day, which also covers the costs of the car. The benefit of having a local drive you around means you will get to explore like a local, and hopefully hear some of their stories too.
Taxis are also very reasonable and are useful if you want to spend the day exploring the streets on foot but need a more efficient way of getting home.
The easiest, fastest and most cost-effective way of getting around Istanbul is to use the tram system. In the city centre trams come around once a minute, sometimes more often and sometimes less. They are a great way to travel and see the city at the same time, unlike using the metro underground.
You will need to purchase an IstanbulKart from one of the yellow top-up machines, for the cost of TL.6. Unlike Oyster cards in London, you can use one IstanbulKart for more than one person.
Getting from one location to another by tram, metro or even ferry is incredibly affordable. For example, you can travel in a ferry across the Bosphorus (incidentally, to a different continent) from Eminonu to Kadikoy for a mere TL 3 with an IstanbulKart – that’s around 60p!
It’s not worth renting a car or using a taxi if you will be mostly travelling around the city centre, as the traffic can get really bad.
Turkish cuisine is some of the best in the world, but it is actually more varied than you probably realise. It is still very much a product of the Ottoman Empire, with many elements from the Balkans, Central Asia, Europe and The Levant.
The Black Sea region uses plenty of fish, especially the Black Sea Anchovy, while a variety of kebabs and mezes characterise the dishes in Adana and Gaziantep.
Wherever you choose to travel in Turkey, there are some dishes you must absolutely try at least once. A classic Turkish breakfast typically comprises eggs, cucumber, tomato, cheese, salami and börek along with jam, honey, tahini and grape molasses. For lunch, why not enjoy the classic combination of kebab, rice, grilled tomato and pepper.
Fast food chains like Burger King and McDonalds are present Istanbul, but do not dominate the fast food scene in the same way they do in London.
Finally, your trip is not complete without enjoying ample cups of Turkish tea and Ottoman coffee (not to be confused with Turkish coffee), delectable baklawa and sütlaç, a delicious version of what the Brits know and love as rice pudding.
It goes without saying that when it comes to praying in Turkey, you do not really need to worry about prayer facilities. Whichever town or city you are in, a mosque is likely to be a short walk away, and may well even be equipped with prayer facilities. Most masjids consist of one large prayer chamber, with an area at the back reserved for women to pray with some privacy.
There are also mini camiis in both Istanbul Ataturk and Sabiha Gokcen Airport, which double up as peaceful resting grounds for the travel weary.
Did you find this useful? Check out our other guides to visiting Turkey, including the only itinerary you need for an unforgettable trip to Cappadocia.