Are you looking for all the details on how to plan your first trip to Turkey? We know it can be overwhelming getting started so we’ve created this step-by-step guide to get you started.
If the thought of walking through historic Mosques, seeing spectacular Ottoman architecture, listening to the call to prayer, and having magical adventures in a faraway land is on your bucket list, Turkey is the perfect place for your next vacation.
When To Go To Turkey
To plan your first trip to Turkey, you want to go when the weather is great. Are you wanting to see the tulips bloom in Istanbul in the Spring, enjoy the Mediterranean without the intense heat and humidity, or make sure you miss the rainy season? Depending on what you want to do and where you want to go, there are best times to travel to Turkey. Generally, the best time to visit is April to October. Here’s what you can expect:
Spring | March-May
In March and April, the weather is starting to warm up and it’s a great time to explore without it being too hot or humid. The wildflowers begin to bloom, and you’ll find colorful fields of flowers across the country. In the cities, you’ll find flowers and specifically in Istanbul, the famous tulips will be blooming.
Summer | June – August
This is the peak tourist season. It’s hot and you’ll find the prices higher during this time. Expect high humidity and temperatures along the coastal regions of Turkey. It’s a great time to enjoy the beach and swim in the Mediterranean.
Fall | September – November
The tourist season begins to slow down between September – November. The temperatures are still warm; you can still plan a beach vacation and enjoy swimming in warm waters. You’ll find the classic sites to still be a buzz but less crowded than the summer months. This is our favorite time of the year to travel in Turkey. In Istanbul moving into late October and November, you may begin seeing rain, so it’s always good to come prepared with a rain jacket or umbrella – just in case.
Winter | December – February
These are the cold months with a slow amount of activity happening across the major cities. In Istanbul and the northern part of Turkey, you’ll have snow and rain and along the coast, you’ll have torrential rain the blows through regularly. You can still plan on visiting the classic sites, just remember your winter coats, hat, and gloves.
Inflation in Turkey for Travel- **Updated
**As of January 2023, inflation in Turkey is at an all-time high. Due to inflation, costs have changed quickly over the last year. Our advice is to know the exchange rate for the currency you’ll be using for your trip and do your research on costs. We believe the Luxury travel market will feel the largest cost difference when pricing out hotels for their trip.
The national currency is the Turkish Lira (TL).
To plan your first trip to Turkey, you need to know how much to save for your trip. Where you go and the time of year that you decide to visit will play into the cost. The tourist season runs from April to October, with the peak season and highest prices from June to August. :
Staying in hostels, pensions, and one & two-star hotels. This would include eating at inexpensive restaurants and traveling in-country by bus and by train.
Staying in three & four-star hotels, dining in some nicer restaurants, traveling by air, and possibly some car rental.
Staying in 5-star hotels, dining in high-end restaurants, traveling by plane, rental car, and enjoying some private tours or a private blue cruise.
Next, let’s look at the exchange rate for the Turkish Lira.
What is the Exchange Rate for Turkish Lira?
As of 2023, the exchange rate for the Turkish Lira to US dollars has been 1 USD to 18 TL respectively. The exchange rate for Euros is 1 EU to 20 TL. Be sure to check your favorite currency converter for the most recent exchange rate as you plan your first trip to Turkey.
Passports and Visa
Before you start researching your trip, make sure your passport will be valid more than 6 months before you plan to travel. It can take time to process applying for or renewing your passport even if you expedite it. Allow for 8 – 12 weeks to receive your passport in the mail.
Type of Travel
Before you start researching locations of where to go and what to do when you plan your first trip to Turkey, there are a few questions you need to ask yourself first:
How do you like to travel?
- Do you enjoy slow travel or like to go at a fast past seeing as much as you possibly can?
- Are you looking for some adventurous activities like hiking, paragliding, or a hot air balloon trip?
What are your interests?
- Are you a foodie and you want to try all of the “best of the best” foods in each of the areas you travel?
- Do you want to see the historical or faith sites in the cities you visit?
- Do you want to see the UNESCO World Heritage sites in Turkey?
- Do you want to enjoy time a the beach or water activities?
How many days do you have to travel?
- Do you have a full week to travel, 14 days or a whole month? This will help you determine how much time you have for each location or activity.
After answering all of these questions and having a general idea of how much time you have, your interests, and what type of travel you enjoy, you can dig into the locations and activities that match up with what your ideal trip to Turkey looks like.
Research Your Trip to Turkey
There are thousands of resources you can research and plan your first trip to Turkey online. A few places that we recommend are:
- Adventurefolio’s Travel Guides
- Adventurefolio Instagram Community
- Best Turkey Travel Apps for Families
- Online News & Magazines
The options will feel endless, and you’ll feel like you want to do everything. Before you start making any decisions for your family trip to Turkey, start collecting your ideas and bookmarking sites or activities you’d like to do. You can create a bookmark folder on your favorite browser or even create Pinterest boards that you can organize for your destinations.
Picking up a traditional guidebook at your local bookstore is a great reference guide for all things in Turkey. They’ll give you in-depth information on destinations and activities as well as travel tips.
PLANNING TIP: Don’t go too far down the rabbit hole as you’re researching destinations in Turkey. Getting stuck and feeling overwhelmed can hinder your planning process. Give yourself a set amount of time to research and then start narrowing down activities and destinations to fit your time frame and budget.
Small Group Tours in Turkey
Are you looking for a small group tour option? Tour companies design tours that cover the main sites in the areas you are visiting. You can also find group tours around a certain interest. It’s an inexpensive option to experience Turkey together before going off to explore on your own.
If you’re wanting a personalized custom tour experience, a private family tour may be right up your alley. You’ll have a licensed English speaking guide with you at all times that will take you to explore based on your requests and interests and share their knowledge of the area.
Build Your Itinerary
There are so many magical places to see when you’re building out your itinerary for your first trip to Turkey. Once you’ve gone through the process of researching locations and activities that fit your style of Travel. It’s time to start building out your itinerary. Many people get stuck here because of decision fatigue and wanting to do everything. Here are some suggestions on where to start:
As a baseline, you can start with a minimum of three nights in each place to minimize the time you spend traveling and enjoy each location as much as possible.
- 3-5 travel days after arrival – We suggest choosing one destination – a city or a region.
- 7-10 travel days after arrival – We suggest choosing 2 – 3 destinations.
- 9-14 travel days after arrival – We suggest choosing 3 – 4 destinations.
The most popular itineraries will range 8 – 14 days that generally includes traveling to the classic areas of Istanbul, Cappadocia, Ephesus, and the Mediterranean region.
Try not to squeeze in too much. If you underestimate your travel time, you will end up tired, feeling like you’re spinning your wheels, and not have time to enjoy and soak in your experiences during your trip.
TRAVEL TIP: Plan – but leave time for the magic to happen on your trip.
Most Popular Cities
When Should You Start Booking Your Trip?
It’s never too early to start booking and planning your trip to Turkey.
We would suggest starting with your hotel bookings first to ensure you get the hotels and rooms that you want. If you wait too long, many hotels will fill up or the best rooms will not be available. You can book directly with the hotels or go through a booking site such as Booking.com or Airbnb. Check the cancellation policies when booking.
Depending on where you are flying in from, you may be able to find a direct flight into Istanbul from a city near you. You can book at least 6 months in advance. We suggest setting up a travel comparison on Skyscanner to find the best price for your ideal flights.
Tours & Activities
Day tours and activities can sell out during peak travel times. If you are wanting to experience the Hot Air Balloons in Cappadocia, book this as soon as you have your travel dates for your trip. Most activities will provide a full refund up to 24 hours before your activity starts. Be sure to ask for the refund policy before booking.
Booking Your Flights to Turkey
If you’re flying in from the U.S. you may be able to find a direct flight into Istanbul. We highly recommend direct flights because it is a long flight and it will cut down on your travel time getting there and getting home.
To find flight deals, we use the following:
- Skyscanner: Set up alerts on Skyscanner for the month you want to travel. You’ll be notified of price drops.
- Google Flights: Check schedules and airline routes
- Turkish Airlines: We love flying Turkish Airlines for long-haul international flights.
PLANNING TIP: Always use an incognito browser window to search for your flights. The sites will track your dates and search criteria and you may see the flight prices going up for dates you are looking for each time you return to the site. If you’re incognito, this will not happen.
We always recommend buying travel insurance for your trip. This will cover health costs should you become ill while traveling. Be sure to check that your insurance covers COVID 19 as well. Make sure you read all of the terms and conditions of the policy before you commit to buy.
We recommend Allianz or World Nomad Insurance – they provide a quick no-obligation quote for your review.
Accommodations and Transportation
Most Popular Cities
Choosing where to stay at each destination is an important part of planning your trip to Turkey. We recommend staying in areas that are walking distance to most of the sites and attractions. You can view our City Guides to get all the details for each recommended area to stay.
The rooms of hotels, pensions, and rental flats are going to be smaller than rooms in the U.S. Adjust your expectations for things to be a little tighter. If a room says it will fit 2 people, typically this will be the max number of people allowed in the room.
If you are traveling in a group of 5 or more people, you may want to look at booking a flat through Airbnb. It will be cost-effective, and you can find some amazing places in all of the major cities in Turkey.
Best Accommodation Sites:
Please Note: If you are booking a hotel through booking.com, you must be located outside of Turkey to complete the transaction.
Once you’re in Turkey and you want to travel between cities and regions, we suggest flying to save time traveling and to get to your next destination as quickly as possible. You can fly one of the smaller inexpensive airlines such as Pegasus, SunExpreses, Atlas Jet, or Onur Air. If you fly a major airline such as Turkish Air, you will pay more for your flight. You can set up alerts on Skyscanner for the routes you want to fly. Be sure to book early for flights in the summer months because they will fill up.
Train & Bus
If you have more time and want to try another mode of transportation, there are options to travel by train or by bus throughout the country. It’s difficult to find accurate departure times and this would be something you would have to organize once you arrive in Turkey.
Within many of the larger cities in Turkey, there will be options for tourists to ride local trains, trams, and buses to get around. Visit our city guides for more information on transportation in a specific city.
You can visit smaller towns from the cities in Turkey by renting a car and going out on the open road. Driving in Turkey is not for the faint of heart – make sure you have nerves of steel and an adventurous spirit!
Here are some tips:
- You need to bring your driver’s license from your home country
- Most cars are NOT automatic. They will be manual, so make sure you know how to drive a stick shift before renting a car in Turkey.
- There will be lots of honking – it’s like another language in Turkey. It’s not personal – don’t be afraid to use the horn.
- We do not recommend driving in the city.
You can use RentalCars.com to find a car rental deal in Turkey including one-way options. They search for international and local providers so you get a wide variety of choices and there is 24/7 support if you need it.
If you’re going somewhere further than walking distance in the city, you can take a taxi. Ask your driver to use the meter before you go anywhere. If they will not use the meter, use a different taxi.
Planning your arrival for each destination is recommended. Most of the airports are far out from the city center and you’ll have an easier transition to your location if you schedule a transfer to take you straight to your hotel.
Some hotels will schedule your transfer for you. You can ask when you book your accommodations; otherwise, you can book hotel transfers through Get Your Guide.
Activities and Tours
There are many different options for exploring independently, with a small group, or with a private guide. Each has its pros and cons – you know yourself best and how you like to travel. Use the tips below while you plan your trip to Turkey.
Istanbul is the most visited city in all of Turkey with an array of activities and tours. A few of our recommendations:
- Hagia Sophia
- Blue Mosque
- Topkapi Palace
- Bosphorus Boat Tour
- Grand Bazaar
- Turkish Bath
- Local Food Tour
Next in line is the area of Cappadocia with one of the most unique landscapes you’ve seen you can visit fairy chimneys, interconnected underground cities with the largest going 8 stories underground, and head up in the air in a famous sunrise hot air balloon ride.
Don’t forget the food! Every area is famous for a specific food unique to its area. Learn more about Turkish food in our Foodie’s Guide to Turkey.
You can explore all these areas on your own or schedule a private or small group tour with a licensed English speaking guide.
Get Ready to Go
The local currency in Turkey is the Turkish Lira TL.
You can convert your local currency to TL once you arrive at the airport or you can find an ATM to withdraw TL. We would suggest finding one of the national bank ATMs such as Garanti Bank, Yapi Kredi Bank, Vakifbank, or Isbank.
As you are planning your trip to Turkey, be sure to notify your bank and credit cards when and where you will be traveling so they do not put a block on your card due to unusual activity during your trip. We suggest bringing several cards with you just in case.
How to access the internet on your trip
You want to make sure you have wi-fi access on your trip to either make calls or to use data. You have several options:
- Check your phone company to see if they have an international plan you can use while traveling. Some companies have plans for as little as $10 per day.
- If you don’t use an international plan, you can purchase a SIM card at the airport once you arrive in Turkey at Vodafone or Turkcell. If you go this route your U.S. or local number will not work while in Turkey but you will have wi-fi access for data to access apps such as What’s App to make or receive calls as needed.
- If you don’t want to purchase a SIM card for your phone, you can purchase a wi-fi device at Vodafone in the airport that includes a SIM card. This will give you direct wifi access as needed and you can still have access to your U.S. or local number.
We recommend traveling with a carry-on or mid-sized suitcase to make it easy to go from one place to another while in Turkey. If a carry-on suitcase won’t work for you, take the smallest suitcase you can and skip using a large suitcase.
Essentials for your trip:
- Carry-On Luggage
- Day Pack or Purse
- Plug Adapter
- Portable charger
- Phone or Digital Camera
- Comfortable Walking Shoes
- Water bottle or Life Straw
- Disinfecting wipes & Hand sanitizer
- Masks (Bring more than 1)
- Shawl or Scarf (for women entering faith sites)
Learn more about it from our ultimate travel packing guide.