Top 10 Travel Mistakes in Turkey

Last Updated on September 22, 2023

Turkey ranks among the world's top tourist destinations. Multiple factors contribute to its popularity, although not all of them accurately represent the true experience of visiting the country.

Many people share their past experiences and perspectives about Turkey online. As a result, many misconceptions exist about this beautiful country, from camels and deserts to people in the region. Today, we put together the ten most common errors and misconceptions travelers have about Turkey.

1. Turkey is Dangerous

It's not. By and large, it's among the safer destinations in Europe. Violent incidents happen in many countries today, including Europe and North America. Mideast strife may make headlines, but it's in other countries. Approach Turkey's southeast cautiously for now, but travel freely in the rest of the country without a worry in mind about safety in Turkey.

2. Turkey is Cheap

While Turkey is affordable, and traveling on a budget is a popular option for many, it's no longer the bargain destination it once was. Still, the recent Turkish lira depreciation has made it a lot cheaper now, and it's more popular than ever. A few years ago, it became the 4th most popular destination in the entire world. And it's well worth the money.

3. Islam in Turkey is Strict

By its constitution, Turkey is a secular republic with separation of religion and state. Most Turks consider themselves Muslims, but as in many countries, the practice of religious observance varies. 

While many people in Turkey might strictly observe religious customs, some may never go to the mosque, while the majority of the population is somewhere in between. Non-Muslims are not expected to follow Muslim religious practices. This means women, including foreign tourists, do not need to cover their hair. Tourists also do not need to observe fasting hours during Ramadan.

4. Turkish Cuisine is All About Kebabs

While kebab is the first food that comes to mind when considering Turkish cuisine, there are many other meals. Turkey has a wide variety of dishes to offer unique to its each region. There is baklava, dolma, Iskender, and many other amazing dishes to add to the list.

5. I Can Buy My Visa When I Get There

Some nationals can indeed get a Turkish visa on arrival, and not every traveler needs a Turkish visa. However, if you can't get your visa on arrival (please check on the official website before traveling) and need a passport (and if your passport is US, UK, Canadian, Australian, Russian, or some European countries, you do), you must buy it online before traveling to Turkey.

6. Turkey is a Middle Eastern Country

Most of Turkey is located in Asia, while part of Turkey is located in Europe. In fact, Istanbul is a city located on two continents. Turkey is a large country and you can find many different terrains as well as cultural differences in the different provinces. 

Though there are some similarities when it comes to religion, culture, or food between Turkey and the Middle East, you generally would not experience the overall ambience that you were in the Middle East except if you  traveled to some Southeastern cities. Visiting cities such as Izmir or Istanbul, travelers will feel more similarities between Turkey and Europe.

7. Planes & Trains Go Everywhere

They don't. Some touristic destinations have no train service, and most plane trips involve a connection through either Istanbul or Ankara, making plane trips longer. Buses go everywhere. Planning your transport carefully is essential.

8. I Don’t Need to Make Reservations

During busy summer months, it’s important to plan ahead. The sooner you plan, the cheaper your trip will be and the more options you will have. You should make plans, especially for longer trips. If you want to visit 3 or 4 areas in 8 to 10 days, you must get all the details—especially the transport—exactly right, in advance. Don't make any reservations until you have all details planned, and if you need help, get it early. Any travel agent will tell you that re-designing a half-reserved trip is a nightmare.

9. Turkey Only Has Historical Sites to Visit

When you think about Turkey, you may think of the ruins of ancient Ephesus or the palaces of the Ottoman era. However, Turkey is also known for its Turquoise Coast and there are also many modern museums, restaurants, and sites to visit in Istanbul. Turkey also has much to offer in terms of outdoor activities: kayaking, hot air balloon rides, camping, rock climbing, etc.

10. No One will Speak My Language

Although Turkish is the only official language of Turkey, in tourist areas, you will be surprised at how many shopkeepers are able to communicate in multiple languages. Generally, if you travel off the beaten path, you may face some communication challenges. However, when traveling to tourist destinations, you will find that people will do their best to make tourists feel welcome.

Explore Turkey 

Turkey is an amazing country with lots of history and cultural spots. Many people travel to this beautiful and unique country for their holidays and share their experiences online.

However, this also means many misinterpretations about Turkey are shared online. It is important to recognize these misconceptions and explore Turkey on your experience. As always, remember to enjoy your travel to Turkey and welcome the local life! 

—by Tom Brosnahan, updated by Can Turan


Are there camels and deserts in Turkey?

While you might find some camels in touristy areas (I’ve seen some in Cappadocia and Side), it can be considered more of a tourist gimmick. You won’t find camels in any other parts of Turkey.

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