Tips for Backpacking Around Turkey
There is something to be said about the freedom of putting on a backpack, and going off to explore a new country. This is something that is popular with a lot of young people and also older people. You have the freedom to move about to where you please, at the drop of a hat if you so desire. Not restricted by timetables and schedules of a conventionally bundled vacation, it is a great way to explore a country and its people. It can certainly be great fun, and you will most likely meet some great people along the way, as well as some really interesting ones. Turkey is a predominantly Muslim country, which may put off some female backpackers who are traveling alone. However, you do see females exploring Turkey by themselves, just as you see plenty of males, as well.
Getting Around Istanbul
Istanbul is a beautiful, old city which is steeped in history. It is also remarkably easy to get around, and walking is the best way to see the city close up. If the place you want to go to is not within walking distance, then you can use the public transport system quite easily. You will need to purchase an Akbil, which is an electronic key which can contain credit for use on public transport. There is plenty of it about:
- Metro Bus
The Akbil can be used for single people as well as groups. These can be bought easily near the metro stations, and there are automatic machines you can use to top them up.
Photo credit: Kivanc Nis
There are some terrific foods on offer in Turkey, and in Istanbul you will find lots of vendors on the street offering their wares. Some of these are very delicious, but if you are not tempted and would rather sit down somewhere, then you have plenty of choices in the many tea gardens on offer, which also serve food. You can dine out relatively cheaply, and there is a lot to get the taste buds tingling. Pork is generally off the menu as the majority of the population is Muslim, but there are still plenty of tasty meat dishes, as well as sea food and vegetarian options, the taste of which will explode in your mouth making you want more.
Traveling During Ramadan
During the month of Ramadan, you may find that places such as shops and restaurants are open for shorter amounts of time, less public transport and fewer people about. This is because the people of Muslim faith will fast between the hours of sunrise and sunset. During this time, they are not allowed to eat or drink. As a tourist, you will not be expected to observe this, unless you wish to, but it is best that you refrain from eating and drinking in public during the hours that the sun is up. Also bear in mind when dealing with people during this period, what they are going through each day. People can get cranky without eating, and it is the same for all of us.
Seeing the Sights
There is plenty to see and do in Turkey with a lot of historic sites and buildings throughout the country. There are a lot of beautiful Mosques, which you can visit, but do remember to dress correctly. Both men and women are asked not to show their shoulders, or their knees. Females are required to wear a scarf, to cover their head when inside. Prayer takes place 5 times a day at the Mosque, and it is best to avoid going there at these times. Friday is also a very busy time at the Mosque as it is the holiest day of the week, so it may be best avoiding going there, as well. There are plenty of organized tours taking in a lot of the favorite tourist hotspots if you like, or you can explore them at your own pace. If you travel down to the coast, you can see some lovely scenery, as well as beautiful beaches.
Photo credit: Christopher Chan
The Art of Haggling
You will find that a lot of places are willing to haggle over the price of services and goods. This is something a lot of tourists either forget to do, or are too shy to do. It is customary here to haggle for a lot of things, so you need to get in the habit of asking for the price, then countering with a lower price. This is the best way to strike a deal. There are shops and markets stalls all over the place, so if you cannot get what you want at the price you want, walk away and try somewhere else. Haggling can be fun and does add an extra dimension to shopping!