Turkey has, for good reason, always been a popular holiday destination, but has never been much of a feature in backpacker's plans. Every year millions of tourists flock to the bustling bazaars of Istanbul and the spectacular beaches or Turkey's west. For an all-round experience of sights, sun, sea, culture and, of course food, you'd be hard pressed to find a better destination. Backpacking Turkey has never been easier.
UK citizens do require a visa to visit Turkey. You will need to arrange your e-visa before arrival but the process is very simple. Your passport will need to be valid for 6 months beyond the proposed duration of your stay. The multiple-entry visa permits you to stay in Turkey for up to 90 days out of any 180 day period and costs $20 (£15.40).
WHAT TO SEE & DO
Where else would you start?! It may not be the capital city, but it will be the capital of your heart. Istanbul is an absolute treasure chest of wonders. A mixing pot full to the brim of culture, art, creativity, history, beauty, warm people and amazing food. The only city in the world to cover two continents with the gorgeous Bosphorus separating the Asian and European sides of the city. Napoleon Bonaparte said "If the Earth were a single state, Istanbul would be its capital." Read on...
Cunda is a beautiful island surrounded by seemingly endless sea glistening brightly in the sun. An island with Greek style stone houses lining its cobblestone streets. An island draped in natural charm and beauty where you can spend hours strolling amongst the olive trees. The island of Cunda seems too good to be true and from the moment we first set foot upon it, we were in love. Find out more about Cunda here.
Eat eat eat -
Street food in Istanbul is amaaaazzzzing. Food is a massive part of travelling and experiencing different cultures and, if you’re like us, you won’t want to miss out on a single bite. Turkey is famed the world over for its array of tantalisingly delicious dishes and Istanbul is the epicentre where they all come together to help you feast into oblivion. Read more...
This Ancient Greek city dates back to the 10th century BC and was once the traded centre of the ancient world. Originally established as a port its strategic location, fertile soil and importance as a commercial centre means Ephesus was of enormous significance in both history and modern times. Today many elements of the city remains still stand proud and the site is one of the most frequently visited tourist attractions in Turkey.
Pammukale, which translates to 'cotton castle', is another of Turkey's most popular attractions. The UNESCO world heritage site was once the beating heart of the ancient city of Hierapolis, the remains of which can be seen at various points around the site. The image of Pammukale you'll be more familiar with is that of a series of terraced basins filled with calcite-laden water set to a backdrop of white cliff.
The 'Dark Sea' coast of the north is a region explored by few but with so much to offer. The scenic countryside of Trabzon and Rize, the hidden waterfalls of Artwin and the traditional villages of Bolu are just the tip of the iceberg. We recommend either renting a car to explore Karadeniz or, if you're feeling adventurous and want to take a page out of our book, stick up your thumb. This region is notoriously easy and safe to hitchhike and you'll meet some wonderful people along the way.
Don't skip the east -
The eastern parts of the country get a bad reputation from modern media outlets which paint them as dangerous, no-go zones to be terrified of. Take it from it us, that is a total load of $h!t. We travelled through Gaziantep and Sanliurfa to Mardin on the border with Syria and met nothing but friendly, hospitable people every step of the way.
This my be one of the most hyped about places in the whole country and we were a little hesitant about going fearing it wouldn't live up. Boy, are we glad we went. It is one of the most enchanting places we've ever been. The surrounding caves and valleys are like something out of a fairytale and every morning hundreds of hot air balloons fill the sky at sunrise. Cappadocia is pure magic.
BUDGET & MONEY
Backpacking Turkey on a budget is not only entirely possible, but you can still have an amazing time and experience everything the country has to offer. On average, for 2 people, we were spending about 234 TL (£31.65) per day. That figure includes accommodation, transport, activities, food and, of course, beer. Turkey's currency is the Turkish Lira and the exchange rate is around £1=7.4. It's worth noting that the Lira has suffered a serious drop in value in recent times.
A private double room in a hostel or cheap hotel will run you around 100-120 TL (£13.50-16.20). You can find insanely good deals on Airbnb where you can rent a whole apartment for as little as 80 TL (£10.80).
FOOD IN TURKEY
Food in Turkey is just incredible and you'll definitely be heading home with a few extra kilos. You can pick up meals from street vendors for as little as 7 TL (£1). A meal in a local restaurant will cost around 20 TL (£2.70) and for a meal in a tourist-targeted restaurant you can expect to pay a minimum of 35 TL (£4.75).
Buses in Turkey are amongst some of the best we've ever been on. Modern and comfy, come with WiFi. Service attendant serving up hold and cold drinks and sometimes food. Pretty much the entirety of the country is serviced by the bus network with multiple buses running daily between various destinations. The average price per hour of bus travel is 9 TL (£1.20)
- Izmir to Cesme - 2 hours - 20 TL (£2.70)
- Goreme to Sanliurfa - 10 hours - 90 TL (£12.15)
- Gaziantep to Antalya - 12 hours - 75 TL (£10.15)
- Antalya to Kusadasi - 7.5 hours - 83 TL (£11.20)
- Izmir to Istanbul - 7.5 hours - 85 TL (£11.50)
If you're a bit more pressed for time you can get some incredible bargains on internal flights within Turkey. We flew:
- Trabzon to Izmir - 230 TL (£31.10)
- Izmir to Kayseri - 144 TL (£19.45)
For those with no time worries and an adventurous spirit, Tukey is ranked as one the safest countries in the world for hitchhiking. We hitched around 30 rides covering almost 2,000 km and the longest waiting time for a ride was about 10 minutes. The people are so friendly and hospitable it will be one of the highlights of your trip. Obviously, hitchhiking anywhere in the world comes with its fair share of risks and dangers so be sure to use your head. Check out this guide to hitchhiking in Turkey for more info.
On the whole, Turkey is an extremely safe place for visitors, tourists and backpackers. The risk of any serious or violent crime towards tourists is very low but there is still always the possibility of pickpocketing and petty theft. Try not to make yourself a target by not being flashy with cash, jewellery or electronics, avoid being out alone after dark and only use registered taxis which staff in most bars, clubs and restaurants will call for you.
As with anywhere in the world you need to keep a sharp eye on your belongings on buses and in and around stations, cities and major attractions as petty crime and bag theft is always a concern.
Final thing; make sure to have these numbers saved in your phone -
- Police: 155
- Ambulance/Fire: 112/110
- Tourist Police: +90 212 527 4503
- Your Embassy (UK): +90 312 455 3344