Turkey, the essentials
Brief information on various subjects of interest, and answers to common questions;

need to know
  • The country is 2 hours ahead of GMT. Daylight saving is applied with the rest of continental Europe.
  • Currency unit is TL - Turkish Lira. By Jan. 2011, 1 USD is 1.55 TL, 1 EURO is 2.10 TL.
  • Turkey uses the metric system.
  • Current is 220 V 50/60 Hz., round plugs like the rest of continental Europe.
  • Internet use is wide spread. Communication systems are developed all through the country (you will be amazed by the number of cell phones in use), but postal services are slow.
  • Use of credit cards is common, however Visa and Mastercard are more readily accepted. Money exchange offices usually give better rates for cash.
  • Monday thru Friday are the official work days, official work hours are 9:00 am - 5:00 pm. Private sector takes Saturday afternoon and Sunday off.
  • Stores are open on Saturday, and usually on Sunday in urban areas. State offices and banks are closed at weekends, and on religious and national holidays. Museums are usually closed one day a week.
Turkey in a nutshell
  • Turkey is one of the fastest urbanizing countries in the world, with a population of over 70 million, and a diverse ethnic background.
  • The country has a young population, largely concentrated in commercial and industrial districts.
  • Ratio is 103 men to 100 women, due to 1990 results. One out of every five citizen lives in Istanbul, or the suburbs and neighboring towns.
  • As stated by the constitution, the official language is Turkish. A greater majority of the population are muslim.
  • Illiteracy is very low as a direct result of the education system introduced by the revolution. 8 years of primary school education is compulsory.
  • Military service - altough there are exceptions - is required by law for every male citizen.
  • The country is extremely rich in mineral deposits and reserves. Industrial products (over %75), minerals and agricultural products are major export items.
  • The western part of the country has a great deal of geographical diversity, whereas central Turkey is dominated by plateaus, with an average elevation of 700 to 1000 meters. East is rugged and high-altitude. The highest mountain within boundaries of Turkey is Mt. Ararat (5137m).
  • Geographical variations mean that the climate is also varied, affected by the subtropical Mediterranean climate with dry summers.
  • Turkey is surrounded by the Black Sea to the north, Aegean on the west, and the Mediterranean to the south. The two straits, Bosphorus and Dardannelles, and the inner sea of Marmara are the only water pass between the Black Sea and the Aegean.
  • Turkey is one of the rare countries in the world self sufficient in agriculture and foodstuff.
  • Hydroelectric power is the prime source of energy. Natural gas, geothermal and recently solar energy are in extensive use.
  • The Central Bank is in charge of financial policies. Current exchange rates are based on free market demand, supervised by the Central Bank.
  • Unesco lists nine world heritage sites in Turkey. Seven of them are cultural sites: Istanbul (the Old Town), Safranbolu, Bogazkoy (Hattusha), Mt. Nemrut, Xanthos – Letoon, Divrigi Grand Mosque and Hospital, and Troy. Two are listed as both cultural and natural heritage sites: Pamukkale and Goreme – Cappadocia.
  • The first urban settlement of the world, Neolithic Catalhoyuk, is in Turkey.
  • Turkey is home to two of the Seven Wonders of the World: Tomb of Maussolos (the Mausoleum), and the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus.
contemporary Turkey

Mustafa Kemal was only a rebel army officer for the authorities just before the War of Independence, although he had risen to prominence for his success and bravery in Gallipoli and other fronts during WW1. The war marks the end of "the sick man of Europe", the ruins of the mighty Ottoman Empire that was sovereign on three continents for centuries.

Established in 1923, the Turkish Republic is the outcome of a three years long liberation movement led by Mustafa Kemal, later to be given the last name Ataturk by the Parliament. "Revolution", in his own words, continued after the victory. In less than a decade, the parliament abolished all the institutes in connection with the past. The new perspective aligned Turkey with the West, rather then the East with radical changes in state administration, education and life style. Ataturk, as a great leader to his country when the times were challenging, is deeply respected by the people of Turkey.

After Ataturk passed away in 1938, Inonu, refered to as the "national leader", became the second president to the republic. He managed to keep Turkey neutral in WW2, but immense financial losses as a result of war gave way to new political movements. The political clash between the right and left wing parties and groups resulted in military interventions three times, the last one in 1980, each time returning control to the people. With a new constitution in 1982, the Senate was abolished, and the House of Representatives or the National Assembly became the only institute of legislation. President's authority was intensified but his status remained symbolic. Current political system is based on the concept of a stronger administration rather than coalitions with inner conflicts. EU membership as a growing consensus among people, privatization of state enterprises, growing loans and the regional conflicts are the priorities that current governments have to deal with.

Turkey is a member of Nato. The country is in the process of EU membership, and has already signed the Customs Union Treaty. New laws are on the agenda of the parliament to eliminate legal differences, conflicts and double standarts.

frequently asked

Is the country safe?
Turkey is one of the safest countries in Europe. Crime rate is low as a result of strong family bonds, social traditions and values, and religion. There is no such problem in the countryside, but in cosmopolitan areas, like the rest of the world, you should be aware of pickpockets in crowds and on public transportation. Odds are low, but it does not hurt to be cautious.

Any restrictions on clothing?
In mosques, women are expected to cover their head with a scarve, appreciated as a sign of respect, although it is not a rule that is enforced all the time. Shoulders and knees need to be covered for both men and women, and you are required to take your shoes off as you go in.

Is there any attitude against foreign travelers?
People of Turkey are easy going, and they are not prejudiced. There is no attitude against travelers.

Are there any health concerns?
None. No shots are required at the time for travel in Turkey, and this is unlikely to change. Visit the web page www.cdc.gov/travel (Centers for Disease Control) for updates.

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