Backpacking in Turkey
For many travellers, travelling in Turkey means visiting the seaside resorts on the south coast and spending their holidays in the club complexes. But there are just for backpackers around Antalya many exciting places that are just waiting to be discovered. Turkey is a good beginner country for this kind of journeys. At the south coast and in Istanbul English is spoken, so that there are also no communication difficulties.
Turkey is a unitary state, developed from the Ottoman Empire, covers an area of 783,562 km² and has about 80 million inhabitants. The large metropolises include Istanbul, Izmir, Bursa, Adana, Gatiantep, Konya, Diyarbakir and the state capital Ankara. The country is regarded as a potentially aspiring economic power and is an emerging middle-income country.
There is a very good infrastructure, especially in the large cities and on the south coast. Buses serve 90 percent of the time as a means of public transport, as the train only travels to a few cities. In the Turkish Aegean you make good progress with ferries if you want to travel from one place to another. Turkey has impressive cities, beautiful beaches and fascinating landscapes.
The hub of economic and cultural life is the capital Ankara, Istanbul, Antalya and Izmir, which are also known beyond national borders. In these places you can feel the indescribable bustle in the streets and on the many markets. People trade and haggle to get a better price.
Around 1.3 percent of the country’s surface area is under nature conservation. Two national parks have been declared UNESCO World Natural Heritage Sites. The Süleymaniye Mosque belongs to the world cultural heritage. But that’s not all. Everywhere there are impressive things and monuments to explore such as the old town of Istanbul, the ancient city of Hierapolis with the limestone slabs of Pamukkale or the monumental tomb on the Nemrut Dağı.
Turkey is officially divided into 7 regions. During your backpacking trip through the regions, you will encounter very different climates and vegetation. While the Aegean and Mediterranean regions and Marmara have a typical Mediterranean climate with hot summers and mild winters, the Black Sea region has a suptropical climate, in East Anatolia even cold, snowy winters.
The national currency and thus the official means of payment in Turkey is the Turkish Lira (TRY). In circulation are besides notes also 1, 2, 10, 25 and 50 Kuruş as well as 1 Lira coins. Apart from cash in Turkey can be paid comfortably with the usual credit cards and also money from the account be withdrawn. This also works with an EC card at almost all Turkish ATMs. It should be paid attention only to the fact that the cash automat is equipped with the appropriate Logo.
Culture in Turkey
Due to the moving history of the country you will experience a cultural holiday at its best in Turkey as a backpacker. There are a multitude of historical sites with indescribable cultural assets to discover. The cultural structure of the country goes back far into history and is a centre of various cultures. Islam, the Middle East and the Mediterranean culture have strongly influenced the country.
One of the oldest settlement areas is Anatolia with a past that goes back thousands of years. Therefore, this region is characterized by different cultural influences, which differ strongly from other regions. The cultural centre of the country is Istanbul.
A special custom is the oriental dance, which is also called belly dance. It has been an important part of the Ottoman and Turkish culture for over 500 years and originated when women in the harem courted the favour of the Sultan. During your trip through Turkey, you should not miss a typical oriental show. Because it will completely enchant you.
More Backpacking Information about Turkey
Turkey is no longer the cheap travel country of Europe. But you still get a lot for your money. It is cheapest in Anatolia and in Cappadocia as well as in Selçuk, Pamukkale and Olympos. It becomes more expensive in Istanbul, Izmir and Ankara as well as in the tourist coastal places at the Mediterranean.
With a daily budget of 150 TRY (about 36 Euro) you can cover your costs as a backpacker, if you use public transport and don’t have any special requirements for an accommodation or hostel. For about 100 TRY (about 25 Euro) on average there is one overnight stay in middle class hotels in the whole country.
Travelling Turkey as a backpacker means experiencing culture up close. A large part of the country has dreamlike coastal region and impressive nature as well as landscapes, where extensive migrations offer themselves. Due to the pleasant climate in the summer months, relaxing days on the beach are an absolute must in your travel planning.
As far as food is concerned, Turkey has a lot more to offer than you are familiar with from Turkish snack bars in Germany. Therefore a visit to the typical Turkish restaurants where you can eat delicious fish specialties, seafood, Köfte, Pide, Börek, Dürüm or Kebap is definitely worthwhile. Streetfood is always a cheap alternative. Basically you can assume that you will be satisfied with 5 to 8 Euro per day.
You can simply visit Turkey or immerse yourself in the life of the big cities. Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir and other big cities are true shopping paradises. Besides an infinite number of shops, there are extensive markets where trading and haggling is the order of the day. As a rule, prices can be reduced by 30 to 50 percent. Leather goods such as jackets, bags and shoes, as well as jewellery, are available at low prices.
As a German citizen, you don’t need a visa or any special travel documents to enter Germany. What else is important for you as a backpacker in Turkey, you can find under Visa & Vaccinations.
In contrast to other backpacker countries, travelling and living is quite inexpensive. On average, you can expect to make a perfect living with a budget of 40 to 70 euros. A simple meal is already available from 1.50 Euro. Of course it will be more expensive if I choose a fancy restaurant for you. Because the higher the class, the higher the price for food and drinks.
The local main drink is water for obvious reasons and the most important staple food. Drinks like Cola or Fanta are available in 0.3 l and 0.5 l cans and cost 1.50 TRY (0.60 Euro) in the supermarket. For a beer of the national standard brand you pay around 1.50 euros in the supermarket for a 0.33 l bottle. In a bar or restaurant the price for a beer is between 2.50 euros and 6.00 euros.
In addition to hotels, there are hostels close to the city centre, especially in the large cities, where you pay around 20 euros for an overnight stay in summer. In the many provincial cities it becomes clearly more favorable. There you pay only about 10 Euro for an overnight stay.
Taxi driving Bus driving in Turkey
In addition to car rentals, which can be found in cities and at airports, there are also taxi stands. You can recognize the vehicles by their yellow colour. In Istanbul and Ankara the vehicles are equipped with taximeters. You should negotiate the fare with the driver, especially if you want to cover a longer distance.
Usual prices for a taxi ride in Istanbul, for example, are as follows. The basic price is around 0.85 euros (3.45 TRY), which is displayed on the taximeter when you board the taxi. The average price for one kilometre driven is around 0.60 euros (2.10 TRY). There are no additional costs for journeys on motorways, to the Old Town or over the Bosporus Bridge.
On fixed routes and at fixed times in the vicinity of villages and towns there are shared taxis, so-called Dolmus. The fare is calculated on the basis of fixed zones. A trip is not very comfortable, but it is very cheap.
Bus driving in Turkey
If you don’t want to take a rental car on your backpacker trip, you can travel very comfortably through all the cities with a coach. The regular bus connections are networked with each other. They travel at any time of day and take you quickly to your desired destination. In comfortably equipped coaches WLAN, a television, air conditioning and a bus companion are a matter of course.
Domestic fares in Turkey
Within Turkey, there are several airlines that can cover longer distances comfortably and quickly. Airlines like Pegasus Airlines (PC) and Turkish Airlines (TK) connect Ankara and Istanbul with Adana, Antalya, Izmir and Trabzon.
Onur Air (8Q) flies from Istanbul to Antalya, Adana and Trabzon, Atlasglobal (KK) connects Istanbul with Adana, Antalya, Trabzon and SunExpress (XQ) serves the route Istanbul – Antalya. A domestic flight should be considered, since a faster, more comfortable travel is not possible. A comparison is worthwhile before booking!
Rail travel in Turkey
On the Turkish rail network, which is operated by the Turkish State Railways, railways run between all major cities in most of the country. They are divided into regional trains (Bölgesel), mainline trains (Anahat) and high-speed trains (Yüksek Hizli). The Blue Night Train (Avi Tren) and the Bosphorus Express are also available. Information can be found on the homepage.
They all operate on different routes and even across national borders and are a good, safe alternative. The journey times between the big cities are not insignificant, so you have time to admire the landscape as you pass by. Reservations are recommended for all train journeys. Information and prices can be found on the homepage!
Ferry in Turkey
Around Istanbul there are numerous ferry connections serving the Marmara region and some to Bursa, Izmir and Canakale. There are also ferries connecting the European coast of Eminonu, Karakoy and Basikatas with Kadikoy and Uskudar on the Asian side.
On your backpacking trip you will experience a culturally and geographically diverse country that has much more to offer away from the tourist strongholds. There are a variety of scenic features as well as nature reserves and nature parks that invite you to hike.
In Istanbul you will encounter an indescribable connection between Orient and Occident on your backpacker journey. For the city on the Bosporus has always been a link between Asia and Europe and at the same time separated from them. You can shop in the pulsating metropolis in the big bazaars, taste delicious street food at the Galata Bridge, visit the Topkapi Sultan’s Palace with its harem or celebrate in the bars of Beyoglu. The city is full of interesting contrasts.
No less exciting is Nemrut Dagi, the mountain sanctuary, where statues of gods have been watching over the Euphrates valley for 2,100 years. The Nemrut Dagi has a height of 2,150 meters and is located in Mesopotamia. The view at sunset is unforgettable because the red sun transforms the valley into a mystical place. During your backpacker tour through Eastern Anatolia you must not miss this unique spectacle. What should you have seen on your backpacking trip?
Route 1: The classic (15-20 days)
- Enjoy 3 days in Istanbul and the pulsating life of the city. Pure shopping is the order of the day!
- 2 days Ankara. Also in the capital of the country there is a lot to see and experience.
- 2 days exploring Cappadocia as well as Göreme and the unique cave architecture.
- 3 days comb the Taurus Mountains with the mountain shrine Nemrut Dagi.
- 2 days Adana. Experience culture and unique nature.
- 3 day Mersin and the adjacent coastal strip enjoy and relaxation experience.
- 2 day to let Antalya have its effect and visit the Antalya Toy Museum and the Kaleici district.
- 3 days Proviniz Izmir and the ruins of Ephesos, explore Curetes Street and relax at Ilica Plaji.
Route 2: Backpacker Intensive Trip (up to 40 days and more)
- 3 days exploring Istanbul with its many facets and going shopping.
- 3 days Ankara. There is a lot going on in the capital. There is much to discover.
- 3 days exploring Cappadocia and the National Park, Fairy Chimneys and Güllüdere Vadisi in Göreme.
- 4 days hiking in the Taurus Mountains and discover the eternal fires of Chimaira and Olympos.
- 3 days Adana. Nature and game reserves, as well as unique buildings await you.
- Experience 2-3 days in Mersin and relax on the adjacent coastal strip.
- 4 days Antalya museum tour, then explore the city and landscape with its natural spectacles.
- 1 day Termessos visit old ruins.
- 4 – 5 days province Mugla. National park roam, experience indescribable nature and discover old ruins.
- 3 days Aydin and the Guzelcami National Park as well as ruins roam.
- 3 – 4 days to let Antalya have its effect and visit the Antalya Toy Museum and the Kaleici district.
- 3 days Proviniz Izmir and the ruins of Ephesos, explore Curetes Street and relax at Ilica Plaji.
- 3 days Bursa. Visit museums, nature and parks as well as historical sites.
Travel times in Turkey
Above all, Turkey is known as a summer destination. Climatically it belongs to a subtropical rain zone that provides hot, dry summers and mild winters. On the Bosporus, however, there are also cold winds and even snow. On the Black Sea coast in the north it is rather rainy and not very warm.
On the coasts of the Aegean there is no winter, except in the mountain regions. The Mediterranean Sea, the Marmara Sea and the Aegean Sea are dominated by hot summers and mild winters, which correspond to a Mediterranean climate. In the Anatolian highlands you will find cold winters with lots of snow and dry, hot summers.
For the seaside resorts, the optimal travel time is from June to September. If you want to avoid the high heat and the high season for backpacking, spring and autumn, the months May to June and September and October are ideal. You’ll encounter warm temperatures and save yourself the oppressive heat and crowds in many places.
Turkey offers a wide range of accommodation options. But the price structure always depends on the accommodation, the location and the standard that is offered to you. Accordingly, these accommodation offers have their price. If you want to stay at a very reasonable price, it is best to use the many hostels in Izmir, Istanbul and Cappadocia, where you pay between 10 and 20 Euros per night.
The Black Sea coast and East Anatolia offer only a few hostels. But there are inexpensive hotel rooms. At the same time, privately rented rooms can also be used. There are them in Istanbul, Antalya, Izmir and in the large bathing resorts at the south coast. In the luxury hostels you can also get a room for less outside the peak travel season and have a lot of luxury with you at the same time. What are the costs for an overnight stay during backpacking in Turkey? Information about this can be found on the hostel page Hostelworld. The average prices for a bed in a hostel are as follows:
- Istanbul 8 -10 Euro
- Izmir 8-10 Euro
- Antalya 14-20 Euro
- Göreme 8-14 Euro
- Ankara 13-20 Euro
- Seluk 10 Euro
- Fethiye 8 Euro
- Bodrum 11 Euro
- Olympos 11 Euro
Some of the prices in the hostels vary, so that you will quickly pay more than double for a double room. Therefore, it is worth taking a look at the prices of the motels, which sometimes offer a good price/performance ratio.
Motels on exit roads and motorways
Motels are an interesting overnight option, even if you are not exploring Turkey with a rental car. You can find them on the motorways and arterial roads of the cities. You will be offered different hotel categories and at the same time appropriately equipped rooms. Starting from 19 euro there is already a room with Internet, own bathroom with shower and hair dryer, air conditioning and against a surcharge of 2.00 euro a rich breakfast buffet.
Without a doubt, the Turkish Riviera is a great region for a backpacker trip. You will find there, besides a Mediterranean climate, historical sites and a 250 km long, varied coastline. There are romantic bays, extensive sandy beaches and picturesque pebble beaches with crystal-clear water.
In the hinterland you will be enchanted by indescribable oleander groves, fragrant pine forests and lemon plantations, which in early summer create a colourful landscape with their lush blossoms. The indescribable landscape with its unique vegetation stretches between Antalya, Side, Alanya and Belek.
Hospitality is very important in Turkey, so that the guests and holidaymakers feel completely comfortable. So it can happen to you without further ado that you get a tea, other beverages or small meals served first of all with your shopping tour in a business. It is lived according to the Turkish proverb. It reads: “You come as a stranger and go as a friend”.
Backpacker Highlights in Turkey
One of the backpacker highlights in Turkey is shopping. Because you can stroll relaxed and stock up with leather goods and jewellery and get some bargains. There are also cotton articles as well as spices and tea. The colourful markets and bazaars where you can haggle with the flying traders are indescribably impressive. Especially with leather goods from well-known manufacturers you should make sure that these are not plagiarisms and require a certificate of authenticity.
In a Turkish bathhouse, relaxation, wellness and recreation are on the agenda. Immediately upon entering, warm and humid air, enriched with oriental oils and flower scents, strikes you against. There are unique washes that you won’t forget for a moment. Afterwards you will feel tired and hungry but still like newborn. After the procedure with an Ayran, which quenches your thirst and supplies you with important minerals, you will draw new strength.
Backpacker insider tips in Turkey
A special insider tip is Anatolia, where you will find peace and serenity on your backpacker trip to the Black Sea. Here you will not only experience the special splendour of the Turkish landscape, but also the typically relaxed Turkish lifestyle of the northeast. Between Samsun and Trobzon there are very seldom temperature swings, so that it can be endured there very well. You can also find the same flair in the ski resorts Eleskirt and Sarikamis, which are a little further inland.
Olympos-Cirali is another destination that you have to visit on your backpacker trip. You’ll come across an old hippie settlement and the tree houses in Olympos where you can spend the night. There are many possibilities like yoga, water sports and an indescribable nature, which work like a magnet. The whole bay is protected because Caretta sea turtles live there and lay their eggs on the beach.
Turkish cuisine with its culinary diversity can compete with any other Mediterranean country. It has its origins in the nomadic period of the Turkic peoples. The bread was baked in clay ovens, they ate yoghurt dishes or lamb dishes. The traditional dishes merged with the Asia Minor cooking culture and especially with the special fish preparation.
Turkish cuisine is characterised by its elaborate, time-consuming preparation, even of simple dishes. Therefore, it is common practice to celebrate the main meal in the evening over a longer period of time. A Turkish breakfast consists of white bread, sheep’s cheese, olives and jam. At noon there is a soup and then a light dish of vegetables.
Food in Turkey
A highlight of the Turkish cuisine are the cold starters (mezeler) like vegetables marinated in olive oil as well as crabs, squid rings, pureed chick peas, puff pastries and salad. Raki is served in taverns, which also goes well with sheep’s cheese and honeydew melon.
Meat dishes include grilled lamb and beef or on a spit served with potatoes, rice or bulgur. Poultry is often prepared in the oven. Besides the fast food variant, where thinly sliced doner slices are served in white bread, there are countless variations of meat to prepare.
Patlican kebabi (stuffed eggplants with minced meat on the spit) or sac kebabi (lamb fried in a pan with mushrooms and tomatoes) comes from Eastern Anatolia. Fish dishes such as venison (monkfish), fresh lobster (istakoz) and seafood can be eaten very well on the Mediterranean coast.
Also the dessert has culinary delicacies ready for you. There are puff pastries, pâtés covered with honey syrup, hoing and watermelon, grapes, pomegranates and peaches. A Turkish mocha or tea concludes a main meal.
Drinking in Turkey
The national drink in Turkey is tea (çay), which is served in small glasses and sweetened as desired. When eating, table water (su) should not be missing. If you prefer carbonated water, simply order soda. Ayran is a mixture of water and yoghurt. Foreign wines are only served in exclusive restaurants. Local, solid table wines are the brands Doluca or Kavaklidere.
Beside well-known beers like Carlsberg and Tuborg as well as Bitburger the local beer EFES is to be recommended. It is a light, drinkable Pilsner, which is also available as black beer, EFES Dark. Raki is an absolute must, especially after an extensive, delicious meal. However, alcoholic beverages are not served everywhere. This is especially true for the central and eastern Anatolian cities.
For your backpacking in Turkey you don’t need a visa. You can stay up to 90 days, in a period of 180 days in Turkey. For German citizens the entry with valid entry papers is possible. The entry regulations according to the Foreign Office are as follows:
- Passport: Yes
- Provisional passport: Yes
- Identity card: Yes
- Temporary identity card: basically yes, but with restrictions
- Children’s passport: Yes, with photo
An entry into Turkey is not possible with a travel document issued by the Federal Police for emergencies as a passport replacement. Due to the politically tense situation, German citizens are advised to exercise increased caution and are recommended to register in the crisis prevention lists of consulates and embassies, even during short stays.
Medical Information & Vaccinations for Turkey
You can enter the country without special vaccinations. Nevertheless, it is recommended to have the standard vaccinations of the Robert Koch Institute up to date. Hepatitis A and B as well as typhoid fever and rabies are recommended as additional travel vaccinations. Good medical treatment options can be found in any case in large cities and holiday regions.