What to buy?
Carpets and kilims
Â many regions in turkey produce handmade kilims and carpets. though the symbols and figures differentiate depending on the region in which the carpet is produced, they are generally symbollic expressions based on ancient anatolian religions and/or nomadic turkic life which takes shape around shamanic beliefs more than 1000 years ago. you can find shops specialized on handmade carpets and kilims in any major city, tourist spot and sultanahmet area.
You seriously cannot go anywhere in Turkey without someone trying to sell you a carpet. People will approach you on the street, engage in a little friendly conversation about where you're from, how do you like Turkey, and "would you like to come with me to my uncle's shop? It's just around the corner, and has the best authentic kilims." It can be irritating if you let it get to you, but remember that a large part of these people's economy comes from tourist's wallets so you can't blame them for trying.
Â handmade cappadocian pottery amphoras, old-style plates, flowerpots etc are made of local salty clay. salt content of clay, thanks to salt spray produced by the salt lake âwhich is the second largest lake in turkey- in the heartland of central anatolia, is what makes local earthenware top quality. in some cappadocian towns, it is possible to see how these artifacts are produced, or even to experience producing one, at the dedicated workshops. tiles with classical ottoman motives that are produced in kã¼tahya are also famous.
Â the pine honey ã§am balä± of marmaris is famous and has a much stronger taste and consistency than regular flower honeys. although not easily attained, if you can find, donât miss the honey of macahel valley, made out of flowers of a temperate semi-rainforest, which is almost completely out of human impact, in the far northeastern black sea region.
Â made out of syrup and chestnuts grown on the foothills of mt. uludaä, chestnut dessert kestane åekeri is a famous and tasty product of bursa. there are many variations, such as chocolate coated ones. chestnut dessert can be found in elsewhere, too, but relatively more expensive and in smaller packages.
Castile (olive oil) soap
Â natural, a silky touch on your skin, and a warm mediterranean atmosphere in your bathroom. absolutely cheaper than those to be found in northern and western europe. street markets in the aegean region and southern marmara region is full of olive oil soap, almost all of which are handmade. even some old folk in the aegean region is producing their castile soaps in the traditional way: during or just after the olive harvest, neighbours gather in yards around large boilers heated by wood fire, then lye derived from the wood ash is added to hot water and olive oil mix. remember â supermarkets out of the aegean region are generally offering no more than industrial tallow based soaps full of chemicals. in cities out of the aegean region, natural olive oil soap can be found in shops specialized in olive and olive oil. some of these shops are even offering ecological soaps: made of organic olive oil and sometimes with additions of organic essential oils.
Unique to turkey are: laurel soaps defne sabunu which is produced mainly in antioch, soaps of isparta enriched with rose oil which is produced abundantly in the area around isparta, and bä±ttä±m sabunu, a soap made out of the oil of seeds of a local variety of pistachio tree native to the mountains of southeastern region. in edirne, soaps shaped as various fruits are produced. not used for their lather, rather they make a good assortment when different âfruitsâ are placed in a basket on a table, they fill the air with their sweet scent as well.
WARNING! To export or to take out the antiques which are more than 100 years old from Turkey is subject to heavy restrictions or in many cases outright forbidden. If it is the case that someone offers you to sell antiques, either he/she is a liar, just trying to sell cheap imitations or he/she is committing a crime, which you are about to be a part of, if you accept to be the purchaser.
In 2005, Turkey dropped six zeroes from its currency, thus making each post-2005 lira worth 1,000,000 pre-2005 lira or so called "old lira". During the transition period between 2005 and 2009, the currency was briefly called new lira yeni lira officially. Since Jan 1, 2009, a new series of banknotes and coins have been introduced and the currency is again simply called lira officially Turkish Lira, TÃ¼rk LirasÄ±, locally abbreviated TL, ISO 4217 code: TRY; don't be confused if you see the currency abbreviated YTL, that was standing for yeni lira, just drop the Y and you'll be fine, which is divided into 100 kuruÅ abbreviated kr. Since Jan 1, 2010, neither pre-2005 nor pre-2009 banknotes and coins those bearing yeni lira and yeni kuruÅ are not legal tender, but can be exchanged at certain banks till Dec 31, 2010 for coins and Dec 31, 2019 for banknotes.
Banknote nominations are in 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 and 200 lira, whereas coin nominations are in 1 very rare in circulation, 5, 10, 25, 50 kuruÅes and 1 lira.
Money exchange â There are legal exchange offices in all cities and almost any town. Banks also exchange money, but they are not worth the hassle as they are usually crowded and do not give better rates than exchange offices. You can see the rates office offers on the usually electronic boards located somewhere near its gate. Euro and American Dollars are the most useful currencies, but Pound Sterling Bank of England notes only, not Scottish or Northern Irish notes, Swiss Francs, Japanese Yen, Saudi Riyals, and a number of other currencies are also not very hard to exchange. It is important to remember that most exchangers accept only banknotes, it can be very hard to exchange foreign coins. In some places, where there is a meaningful explanation for it, more uncommon currencies can also be exchanged, too, for example Australian Dollars may be exchanged in Ãanakkale where grandchildren of Anzacs gather to commemorate their grandfathers every year, or in KaÅ, which is located just across the Greek island of Kastelorizo, which in turn has a large diaspora in Australia. As a general rule, if a place attracts many visitors from a country, then it is usually possible to exchange that countryâs currency there.
Tourism-oriented industries in tourism-oriented towns, as well as shops where big amounts of money change hands, like supermarkets, in most parts of the country, generally accept foreign currency usually limited to Euro and American Dollars only, but the rates they accept the currency are usually a little lower than those of exchange offices. Ask first if they accept foreign currency.
â¬ 1 = 2.35 TL
US$ 1 = 1.71 TL
GBÂ£ 1 = 2.82 TL
all as of July 27, 2011
Credit cards and ATMs â Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted, American Express much less so. Starting from June 1, 2007 all credit card users of those with a chip on them have to enter their PIN codes when using the credit card. Older, magnetic card holders are exception to this, but remember that unlike some other places in Europe, salesclerk has the legal right to ask you a valid ID with a photo on to recognize that you are the owner of the card. ATMs are scattered throughout the cities, concentrated in central parts. It is possible to draw Turkish Lira and rarely foreign currency from these ATMs with your foreign card. Any major town has at least one ATM.
ATMs ask whether to provide instructions in English or in Turkish and sometimes some other languages, too as soon as you insert a foreign card or a Turkish card which is not the operating bankâs own. When withdrawing money from ATMs, if the ATM in question does not belong to the bank that you already have an account in, they charge some percentage generally 1%-one per cent of what you withdraw from your account each time. This percentage is higher for advance withdrawing with your credit card.
No establishments require a commission surcharge when using a credit card.
Tipping â A 10% of the total bill or simply rounding up to the next lira for smaller purchases is welcome, though this is not a custom to be strictly followed. Tipping ceremony is performed like this, especially in the restaurants and cafes: first you ask for the bill, the waiter/ress brings the bill inside a folder, and puts it on the table and goes away. You put the money into the folder with the bill, and after a few minutes later waiter comes back to collect the folder. A few minutes more later, waiter comes again with the same folder in his/her hands and leaves it once more on the table. This time there is change in it. You leave the amount of change you think waiter deserves and close the folder. The waiter comes again last time a few minutes later to take it. If you think they donât deserve any tip, walking out into the street without leaving anything is totally okay, and there is no need to feel ashamed. Some establishments charge an additional 10% on your bill that you have to pay, that is the âservice chargeâ, and sometimes it is not declared to the customer until the bill shows up. There is obviously not a reason to leave any more tip in that kind of places. Itâs also a bit odd to tip in self-service restaurants and cheap&dirty bars.
Taxi drivers usually tend to round up what the meter says to the next lira and give your change accordingly. So tipping is not necessary. If you insist on taking your exact change back, ask for para Ã¼stÃ¼? pronounced something like âpah-rah oos-tooâ, which means âchangeâ. Driver will be reluctant to give it at first, but you will succeed eventually.
Supermarket cashiers usually round up the total sum to the next 5 kuruÅ if you pay in cash the exact sum is extracted when paid by a credit card though. This is not a kind of involuntary tip, as the 2-3-4 kuruÅes donât go into their pockets. It is simply because they are not adequately supplied with enough 1 kuruÅ coins as it is very rare in circulation. So donât be surprised if the change given to you is short of a few kuruÅes from what should be given to you according to what the electronic board of the till says. It is totally okay to pay the exact sum if you have enough number of 1 kuruÅ coins.
Bargaining â In Turkey, bargaining is a must. One can bargain everywhere that doesnât look too luxurious: shops, hotels, bus company offices, and so on. During your bargaining, donât look so impressed and interested, and be patient. Since foreigners especially Western people arenât expected to be good at bargaining, sellers are quick to reject any bargaining attempt or are at least quick to look like so, but be patient and wait, the price will fall! Donât forget, even if you are successful at your bargaining attempt, when you get your credit card out of your wallet, rather than cash, the agreed price may rise again, though probably to a lower level than the original one
VAT refund â You can get a VAT refund currently 18% or 23% on most items if you are not a citizen or permanent resident of Turkey. Look for the blue âTax-Freeâ sticker on the windowpane or entrance of the shops, these kind of shops are the only places you can get a VAT refund. Donât forget to take the necessary papers from the shop that will enable you for a VAT reclaim when leaving Turkey.
Although Turkey is in a customs union with the European Union for some goods, unlike the situation in the EU, there is currently not an initiative to abolish duty-free shops in the airports.