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What Don't Do in Turkey


Page update - Apr 6, 2023

What are the dangers for tourists in Turkey? How should you behave to avoid problems? What to take care of in advance? Read the answers and the 20 most important tips on safety in Turkey.

The information on this page was updated in April 2023.

The first question from tourists before the 2023 summer season

Everyone still remembers the terrible earthquake in Turkey and Syria in February 2023. And now many tourists are afraid of traveling to Turkey and ask us, "Can an earthquake happen in the resorts of Turkey?"

We give an answer. Of course it can. No region of Turkey is immune from earthquakes. According to statistics for 2000-2022, there were 17 earthquakes on Turkish lands, in which 1,101 people died. Of these 17, there were 2 earthquakes in the Aegean resorts.

Should you be afraid? The question is open. In our opinion, there is nothing to be afraid of, since the probability is minimal.

Important point!

Some readers may realize from reading this page that Turkey is a dangerous place. The truth is that Turkey is a safe country for foreigners. If it was dangerous, 57 million tourists would not come there (the totals for the record year 2019). The figures for the pandemic years 2020 and 2021 are more modest, 12.7 and 28 million. The year 2022 was better, 44.5 million.

We are guided by the principle of "forewarned is forearmed". We warn of all dangers, even if the chances are minimal, so that our dear readers are aware of them and are prepared. The list of dangers in Turkey has not changed recently but all fines have been increased in 2023. All the details are below on this page.




1. Don't forget pickpockets

Turks love cash. The switch to plastic cards is very slow. That is why the problem of pickpocketing, which most Europeans and Americans have already forgotten, is quite common in Turkey.

In resorts, pickpocketing is rare as crowds are rare. However, you have to be wide awake at the sights. In Istanbul, you need to be twice careful, and triple careful in public transport!

Keep money (except for change) and documents in inside pockets only. If not, get a small bag to carry under your clothes. Don't carry a shoulder bag, as it can easily be opened and valuables stolen.

Most importantly! Don't "flash" large sums of money. And try to hide your All Inclusive bracelet. It's the bracelet that clearly shows you're a tourist and the easy target as the result, as it is difficult for you to call the police quickly.

Thefts on motorbikes at resorts do happen, though very rarely. But still, keep your bags close to your body.




2. Remember to solve the communication problem beforehand

Few tourists are ready to part with the Internet on vacation. And few want to limit talking with loved ones. Although some tourists have such relatives that they have to flee from them to Turkey. But these sad cases we will not consider.

It is better to decide on a solution to the communication problem in advance. Internet problems can often be solved by Wi-Fi at the hotel. But this is only if you are not going out of the hotel and if the hotel has good internet speed and good Wi-Fi coverage. In other cases, you have to choose between roaming and a local SIM-card.

If you will be using roaming, you should choose the right options in advance. In some cases it may be worth buying a new SIM-card from a different operator than the one you use at home.

If you wish to use a local SIM-card, we strongly recommend that you buy one at the airport. You may not be able to buy one in town or at the resort.




3. Don't buy souvenirs during your first few days

This advice can be given to tourists in any country and resort. It is no secret that the closer a store to hotels and tourist spots, the higher the prices. So it's clearly not a good idea to buy something immediately at the shop near the hotel (or even in the hotel).

It is better to walk around and have a look at the range and the prices. By the end of the vacation you can buy gifts and souvenirs. At the end of your vacation you'll also know how much money is left. See our in-depth review, "20 Best Gifts from Turkey" for a list of the best things to buy.

Note that in Turkey you need to choose the right place to buy. For example, baklava, lokum, halva are better to buy in pastry shops rather than souvenir shops. Pine honey, raki vodka, olive oil or soap, cheeses, sujuk, and spices are best purchased in supermarkets.

We recommend going first to the nearest big supermarket and a good bakery for souvenir shopping. What you can't find there, you can look for in souvenir shops.




4. Do not mention Ataturk and Erdogan in talks

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk is the "father of the Turkish nation", the most respected figure in the history of Turkey and its people. Turks hold him in high esteem, considering him almost a saint and sinless.

To the rest of the world, Ataturk is not so sinless. He is considered responsible or partly responsible for the massacre of Greeks in Smyrna (today's Izmir) and the Armenian genocide.

But discussing all this with the Turks is categorically inadmissible. Any bad word about Ataturk could cause a sea of negativity. Although there are Turks who look at Ataturk without a position of sinlessness. Not all Turks are the same.

The current president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is admired by part of the population and disliked by another part. He is a very controversial figure. Some call him "the new Ataturk", others "the enemy of the nation". That is why it is better not to mention the name of Recep Erdogan at all, so do not start a debate about him.

It is also not worth mentioning the Armenian genocide, the massacre in Smyrna, the problem of Turkey's accession to the European Union, Syria's problems, and relations with Greece. You are there for a vacation, not for a political debate!




5. Don't forget your documents at the hotel

Turkey is now actively engaged in terrorism prevention, in addition to the current problem of illegal migrants in the country. The police carry out check operations all the time. While the raids are relatively rare in the resorts, they are quite frequent in the cities.

They check documents all the time in Istanbul's subway. If you can't show your passport, you may be taken to a police station and have your identity checked. This is extremely unpleasant. In cities, it is compulsory to carry your passport.

In resorts, package holidaymakers may carry a hotel voucher instead of their passport. Of course, the hotel voucher is not an identity document, but it's enough for the police not to have any claims.

You can also carry an international driver's license, which also proves your identity. Hide your passport in your internal pockets, as losing it will result in having to look for an embassy (consulate) and obtain a Certificate of Return.




6. Don't forget the dangerous sun

According to statistics, about a third of tourists on vacation in hot countries get sunburns of varying severity. Please note that sunburns are NOT an insurance case. That is, their treatment is solely at the expense of the tourist and the insurance company does not cover the expenses.

To avoid getting sunburned, you need to follow a number of simple rules.

The peak hours of sun activity are between noon and 2:30 pm (12:00 and 14:30). It is best to avoid direct sunlight during this time. Spend this time at lunchtime, in museums, or you can sleep in your room for a couple of hours. If you are at the beach, spend time under a beach umbrella.

Sun creams and milk are good against sunburns. For adults, we recommend SPF 20 or 30; for children, SPF 50 or 60. Bear in mind that the sunscreen has a limited effective period, and you'll need to reapply it after a couple of hours. And do not be greedy with the amount of cream, there is obviously no reason to try to save money.

Be sure to bring hats with you. Your clothes should cover your shoulders. Sunglasses are highly desirable.




7. Don't forget about the dress-code

Generally speaking, there is no strict dress-code in Turkey, although the country is Islamic. You can walk around Turkish cities in the same clothes you wear in your hometown.

However, we would like to point out that the eastern regions of the country are more conservative. But the eastern provinces are very-very rarely visited by tourists.

The dress-code obligatorily applies when visiting mosques. Women must have their shoulders and knees covered and their heads covered in order to enter the prayer hall of a mosque. Men must wear pants, no shorts.

Don't forget that shoes must be removed and socks must be worn when entering the prayer hall of a mosque, no barefoot. There are several synagogues open for tourists in Turkey and the rules are similar.

Also remember the rules! It is forbidden to make noise in a mosque or take photos of the prayers. In active mosques, there are special guest areas for non-Muslim visitors, and it is forbidden to go outside this area.




8. Don't forget about hygiene

Hot weather combined with high humidity provides ideal conditions for bacteria to flourish. Hygiene in hot countries requires special attention.

Many Turks use lemon cologne on a daily basis to wash their hands. Look at how many Europeans wipe almost everything they touch with antiseptic wipes. It's all heightened hygiene measures. And when it comes to hygiene, it's better to play it safe, because no one wants to get sick on vacation.

So, here are the main rules. Make sure you wash your hands before eating. If washing your hands is not available, wipe them with an antiseptic hand wipe before eating. Do not touch your hands to your face.

Fruits in Turkey are excellent, and many tourists buy it and eat it right away. This is risky. Be sure to wash fruits thoroughly before eating.

If you want to re-insure yourself, wipe dishes and cutlery in the hotel restaurant with antiseptic wipes. It's no secret that many hotels wash dishes extremely poorly.

The epidemiological situation with coronavirus in Turkey is now normalized, but still any hygiene measures are doubly or even triply relevant.




9. Don't be careless when crossing the road

Turkish drivers are very undisciplined. Sometimes it even comes to mind: "Do they even know the traffic rules?"

The problem of traffic accidents is not so big in the resorts, as there are not so many cars there. But in Istanbul, there is an awful lot going on. Drivers run red lights for pedestrian crossings without remorse.

Pedestrians are no better, they run the red light themselves. The principle of "who's the bravest" comes into play there. As it looks, see the photo near, click on the photo to enlarge it.

The extremely undisciplined behavior of drivers in Istanbul is compensated for by normal behavior in other parts of the country. As a result, Turkey has bad statistics of car accident victims - 46.4 victims per 100,000 cars. By comparison, the UK has 5.7, the US has 14.2.

If you're in Istanbul, be sure to look around when crossing the road. Even a green pedestrian traffic light does not guarantee safety. Never walk through the streets of Istanbul wearing headphones.

You can be less vigilant at resorts, but you should not be completely relaxed. Keep your eyes open when crossing the road.




10. If you don't like spicy food, choose your dishes carefully

Turkish cuisine is very diverse. There are very spicy and middle spicy, neutral, sweet, and even sour dishes. And some dishes look the same, but taste different. Adana Kebab and Urfa Kebab are prime examples. They are the same in appearance, but adana is spicy and urfa is neutral. And adana kebab is not just spicy, but very spicy.

Kofte burgers, some types of pilaf or soups can be very spicy. Even manty (Turkish dumplings) can be spicy.

You can ask at a restaurant how spicy a dish is. Turks know the word "spicy" very well.

Probably the only group of dishes that doesn't offer any surprises are sweets and desserts.




11. Don't forget about the scammer

Tourist scams are rare in Turkey, but don't be naive. There is no single fraud pattern that is most widespread. Each scammer does his/her own tricks.

In the tourist spots, there are scammers with a very simple scheme. The tourist is approached by a salesman and offered to buy some antique items very cheaply. If the tourist at least picks up the item, a security guard or an accomplice dressed as a policeman will appear "out of thin air" and accuse the tourist of stealing the national heritage of the Republic of Turkey and selling the antiquities. Most of the victims of this scheme prefer to pay them off.

In resort areas, scammers use a different scheme. A man approaches a tourist, introduces himself and offers him a drink at a neighboring bar. He introduces the tourist to girls at the bar, the victim's blood boils and the evening goes on. At the end of the evening, the stranger and the girls disappear, but a bill with an astronomical sum appears. The scammer works together with the establishment and the bill is overpriced.

Another option is more tough but also rare. A stranger invites or imposes to sit with a tourist in a bar. After a while, the tourist wakes up somewhere without money or documents. Going to the police in such a situation does not even make sense, because nothing can be proven.

Don't get involved with vendors on the streets, whatever they offer. Do not agree to have a drink with strangers. Do not change currency in dubious places. When paying with plastic cards, check the correctness of the transaction immediately by SMS or online-banking. And you won't have any problems!




12. Don't drink tap water

Tap water quality standards in Turkey are as good as Europeans. In the cities it certainly is, but it may be worse in provincial areas. That is to say, the water in Turkey's water pipes is clean and drinkable.

But there is another problem in Turkey - the average wear and tear of water pipes is very high. What kind of water will pour from the tap in your hotel room? Lottery. Don't be surprised if you open the tap and see yellow water. The pipes have long ago exhausted the resources of safe use and are rusting. There is no rush to replace such pipes in Turkey.

We urge you not to play this lottery and to drink only bottled water. All Inclusive hotels provide it. If you are NOT going for All Inclusive, then go to any grocery store. Now (April 2023) a 1.5 liter bottle of pure water costs from 5 Turkish Liras. Agree, the price is more than reasonable. See the current exchange rates of Turkish Lira in our review "Money in Turkey".

By the way, Turks themselves try not to drink tap water. You can wash your face and brush your teeth with this water, that's what Turks do.




13. Remember to behave correctly during Ramadan

During the holy month of Ramadan Muslims fast and are forbidden to drink, eat, smoke throughout the day. Turkey is a secular country and the laws do not oblige anyone to fast.

Half of the people in Turkey fast strictly during Ramadan. The rest fast but allow themselves irregularities. In any case, these people are thirsty, hungry, and some have a great desire to smoke.

Let's be kinder, let's not provoke destructive emotions in people. We should not drink or eat food in the presence of large numbers of people. Even in Istanbul along the busy streets, you can always find a secluded place where you will be seen by as few people as possible. It is better to go to the side for a smoke.

Also remember that some cafes and restaurants in the cities are closed during the day during Ramadan. They open in the evening for an iftar (meal after sunset), when they are full. Eating out during Ramadan can be a problem. In the resorts, however, this problem is hardly felt.

Read our detailed review "Ramadan in Turkey" for more details.




14. Don't smoke indoors or inside a car

Turkey has now introduced all restrictive anti-smoking measures it can think of. By 2023, they will introduce another increase in the age to buy cigarettes at 21 and reduce working hours for non-smoking workers. In 2019, the WHO named Turkey as one of the leading countries in the fight against smoking.

However, there are already so many anti-tobacco laws that the police have no way of enforcing them. Therefore, Turks smoke almost everywhere. Don't be surprised at that. Smoking indoors and in cars is banned in Turkey. It is not easy to get a fine for smoking indoors unless a policeman happens to pass by.

Smoking in a car, on the other hand, is risky. There are traffic police on the roads everywhere. If you get caught, you'll be fined 248 liras (increased in 2023). You can also get caught throwing cigarette butts in the street.

Just in case, we urge tourists to obey the laws. Do not smoke indoors, including in hotel rooms. Ask at the reception desk in advance if the hotel allows smoking on balconies.

See our detailed review "Smoking and cigarettes in Turkey" for more details.




15. Don't walk around drunk on the streets

Being drunk in Turkey is not an offense in itself. But it is if you behave peacefully and quietly.

If you behave aggressively or loudly then you have a fine of 100 Turkish Liras or more (depending on the seriousness of the offense).

The law enforcement practice in Turkey is very interesting. For example, you loudly complain to the vendor about the price of the goods. If you do it in a sober state, nothing serious will happen. The main thing is not to unleash the conflict further. You argue for a while, get your emotions out, and then you calm down.

But if you do the same in a drunken state, the police may arrest you if they are around. Or a security guard can detain you and get you to the police.

In addition to a fine, you will have to spend a night in a detention center at the police station. There are no sobering-up facilities in Turkey; you can only get sober in a cell. You will be released in the morning and given a receipt for a fine.

Drinking alcohol in public places is not an offense under federal law. However, most provinces have introduced such a ban. The penalty ranges from 100 Turkish liras.

Read more in our in-depth review "Alcohol in Turkey - prices and rules".




16. Don't do anything 'under the influence'

It is not a secret that some of our tourists like to sit in a bar and then go on a rampage and jump into the pool. Some of them just fall on the slippery floor as their coordination is impaired by intoxication.

A word of warning to boozers! Any injury, if sustained while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, is NOT an insured event. So, you'll be treated entirely at your own expense.

And the bills can be enormous. Treatment of a fracture in Turkey costs around 25,000 Turkish Liras. Therefore, it is better not to take risks and put all desperate actions on a sober head.

However, even if you get an injury sober, you will still have to pay, only less. Nowadays, all travel insurances come with a deductible.




17. Don't buy stones and antiques

Turkish vendors often offer tourists unusual items. For example, they may offer an old coin or other antique item. You are advised not to accept such offers, because:

Firstly, with a probability of 9 out of 10 the item will not be as ancient as declared. That is, you will get a fake.

Secondly, antiques are not allowed to leave the territory of the Republic of Turkey. If you get caught by random inspections, you can't avoid trouble. See our page "What you can and can't take out of Turkey" for details.

Thirdly, it is unlikely that the vendor will give you a receipt to prove that the item was purchased legally. And even if they do, the receipt will be in Turkish.

So we strongly advise against buying antiques and any old things in general. Items older than 100 years are considered to be cultural and historical heritage objects in Turkey.

Some dealers offer fossils, which they claim are millions of years old. Or stones from the ruins of ancient cities. These are fakes with a 99.9% probability. It's a waste of money and a chance of getting into trouble at customs when leaving the country.




18. Don't forget to buy Museum Pass if you go to Istanbul

If you go to Istanbul for sightseeing, be sure to buy a Museum Pass Istanbul. You can see how it looks in the picture beside, click to enlarge it.

It is a package ticket for several dozen attractions. The more you see, the bigger the savings. Naturally, all the main attractions are included: Hagia Sophia Cathedral, Topkapi Palace, Basilica Cistern, Istanbul Oceanarium.

Museum Pass Istanbul for 3 days costs 120 Euros, for 5 days 145 Euros and for 7 days 165 Euros. You can buy it at the official website istanbultouristpass.com. You will receive it as a code for your mobile app. In other words, you don't need to get the card physically. You just need to scan the QR-code from your smartphone screen to enter the museums.

Museum Pass has another important advantage. In the summer season, queues at museums can be huge, standing in line for an hour or longer. With a Museum Pass, you'll go everywhere without queuing.

Another option. MUSEUM PASS ISTANBUL MOBIL. It costs 1750 lira (increased in 2023). This pass can be purchased not only at muze.gen.tr/MuseumPasses but also at ticket offices. See the same website for a list of sales outlets.




19. Don't forget to haggle in bazaars

You always need to haggle in the Turkish markets otherwise you will end up paying too much.

If you either do not like to haggle, or feel shy, or do not want to waste your precious time and nerves, then you should not go to bazaars. You won't find anything unique in a bazaar. Even in the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, you will not find something exclusive that is not available in the shops in the city.

To haggle well and get a bargain, you need to know the real price of the goods. To find out, go to the shops first, check the prices, and then go to the bazaar to haggle. It is also desirable to know about the goods - to be able to distinguish the good from the bad.

One more important point. Try to go to the market with Turkish liras and to haggle in liras. If you pay in dollars or euros, you may find that the vendor gives you a lower price, but you will pay more as a result of the bad exchange rate the vendor gives you. Read our review "Where and how to change currency in Turkey".

Or trade directly in dollars or euros. In the Mediterranean resorts (Antalya, Kemer, Side, Alanya, Belek) this is usually the case.




20. Do not take food out of the All Inclusive restaurant

Although All Inclusive hotels forbid taking food out of the restaurant, tourists do it anyway. But it is possible to get in trouble that way.

Summer in Turkey is hot, and food spoils quickly. Unfortunately, many people have a problematic habit of not throwing food away.

Remember the "6 hours rule". If the food was cooked (taken from the restaurant) more than 6 hours ago, then feel free to throw it in the trash without regret, without hesitation, without thinking. Especially if you have a vacation with children who are still vaguely aware of the concept of "shelf life". Health is more precious than some irrational greed, because there's still plenty of fresh food in the restaurant.

Unfortunately, refrigerators in rooms either do not work at all or work very badly in most hotels in Turkish resorts. So keeping food in the refrigerator is unlikely to work. By the way, we do not recommend taking yogurt or any other dairy products for children because of the refrigerator problem.




More good to know

- You can easily get into trouble before you enter Turkey. For example, if you are carrying something forbidden and get caught by customs. To avoid problems, see our review "What you can and cannot bring into Turkey";

- Of course, problems are solved by people, not items. However, items help people to solve problems. On what to bring for a comfortable vacation, read our detailed review "What to bring for vacation in Turkey";

- On how much money to plan for a pleasant vacation in the Turkish resorts and in Istanbul, read our review "How much money to take to Turkey".

We wish you a vacation with only positive emotions, and read our helpful pages about Turks and Turkey (find the list of the pages below).

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