When travelling anywhere it is helpful to have a general idea about a culture and local mannerisms. It may save you from any potentially awkward situations. Knowing, for instance how people greet one another will get you bonus points among the locals.
The Tourist Information Office
You can pack a travel guide or two with you to help you get about a new region you are visiting, but it never hurts to at least know where a tourist office is or a visitors office. They usually have some very useful information and at the least, you can usually get a free map with all the sights and attractions pointed out for you and maybe some information on where to go in case of an emergency. You can contact the center for Turkish Culture & Tourism Office at 212 687 2169. In Dalyan the Tourist Information office can found in the mosque square.
For Turkey tourism information offices in your home country, this website has a long list of offices in many areas:
Understanding the Culture
If you like to mingle with the locals while traveling, Turkey is a perfect location. Turkish people love to socialize and usually are more than happy to spend half a day speaking with a perfect stranger. They thrive on meeting new people and enjoy talking about everything and anything. In Dalyan one of the greatest ways to truly understand and appreciate traditional turkish ways of living and values is to join us on our Village Life trip – a day to immerse yourself in authentic turkish culture.
A phrase you will hear often while in Turkey is ‘hoş geldiniz’, meaning welcome. You should respond by saying ‘hoş bulduk’ which translates as ‘we feel welcome’. If you forget, they are more than understandable and happy to have your company in any case.
If you are a woman, it is important to know that there are some establishments that do not allow women. It is not easy to accept, but it is much easier to just accept you are travelling in another country with different rules. In traditional Turkish tea houses, women are not permitted or welcome. If you are a woman or travelling with a woman and/or your family, there are Turkish tea gardens you can go to instead. If you are in doubt, just look for another place. A good sign that women are not accepted is if you see tables with men playing backgammon. The most beautiful tea garden in Dalyan is at the end of the river path directly facing the rock tombs. A fabulous place to sit and watch the boats go by on a hot summers day with a glass of turkish çay.
It is not uncommon that if you are staying a few days in an area and you make Turkish friends that you will be invited to some sort of social gathering. It may even be a wedding or a circumcision party. The standard for gatherings in Turkey is the more the merrier. There may or may not be alcohol served at these events. It varies with each family.
Islam is the major religion here. As Christians have Jesus as their prophet, theirs is Muhammad. He was the one who brought a revelation to mankind and the last book of the Quran. The Quran is based on the actions of the prophet, referred to as the ‘Sunnah’ and is used as their guidance of their religion.
The religious rituals of Islam is for the followers to pray five times per day. Prayer times for each day and the exact time can be found in the local newspapers. Friday is the holy day for Muslims, though it is not practiced in Turkey. Most males will attend the afternoon prayer. During Ramazan, which is usually starts mid-June through mid-July, Muslims fast from dawn to dusk. Fasting does not mean solely abstaining from food, but drinking, smoking and even chewing gum. If you would like to learn more about the religion of Islam and discover the history and reasoning behind the rituals displayed in the mosque, join us on our complimentray Mosque Tour every sunday morning.
Mannerisms & Etiquette
When you travel to a new place it is always a good idea to educate yourself on local customs and etiquette. Even if you simply learn how to greet the local people, they will greatly appreciate that you know and it helps not to make for an uncomfortable situation. Here are some rules of handling oneself during your stay in Turkey.
● When you first meet someone, shake hands with them firmly. It is not custom however to shake hands when departing.
● Friends and relatives greet one another with two kisses on the cheek. The elder family or friends are always greeted by kissing their right hand followed by placing your forehead on their hand.
● When you first enter into a room, if no one is there to greet you, then greet the most elderly or most senior person first. If you enter a room for a social occasion, it is custom to start greeting those closest to you and work your way around the table or room counter-clockwise.
● It is nice to say ‘Asalamu alaykum’ meaning ‘peace be with you’ when you greet someone. Or you can say ‘Nasilsiniz’ for ‘how are you?’.
● If you are invited to dinner at a local home, it is custom to bring a gift. The best gift to bring would be a pastry. Flowers are inappropriate and unless you are certain that they drink alcohol, it is not the best gift. If there are children at the host’s home, it is nice if you bring some expensive candy or sweets.
● If you are invited to dinner at a restaurant, it is custom for the host to pay the bill. They never share a bill and even if you offer to pay, they will never allow you to. If you would like to thank them, the best thing is to invite them for dinner a couple days later and inform the restaurant manager that your guests are not to pay for the meal.
● Rakı is the local alcohol that often accompanies the evening meal.
● It is custom for the Turkish to smoke during a meal or take frequent breaks to smoke in between each course.
● Turkish coffee or tea is served at the end of a meal along with pastries. Sip your coffee and do not drink to the bottom of your cup as there are coffee grounds at the bottom which are not very tasty. A word to the wise – turkish coffee is VERY strong so don’t be expecting a turkish nescafe!
What to Wear
Depending when you travel and where will determine what clothes to pack. Be sure to check the weather and climate for the places you are going and when. For general packing tips it is advised to bring tidy and comfortable clothing and shoes you are comfortable walking around in.
If you are planning on visiting any religious sites, avoid shorts. Dress as neatly as you can as if you are going to church. Locally that means not sleeveless shirts and no shorts. Bring along socks to walk on the carpet.
For women travelling in Turkey, it is wise to dress more on the side of ‘smart casual’, especially in the cities. You can be more casual along the coastlines. When you visit a mosque, be conservative in your dress. Do not show your thighs or your upper arms. Bring a headscarf for your hair. The Dalyan mosque has shawls and skirts they can lend to you for your visit there if you don’t have anything suitable with you so don’t worry.
At the beaches and coastal areas, you can dress how you want. Some tourists even sunbathe nude, but put their bathing suits back on to walk around.
Nightlife in Turkey
As the strict rules of alcohol in this Islamic country do not really apply, the nightlife in Turkey is diverse and rated some of the best in the world. Istanbul is the most popular spot with endless evening entertainment, but the absolute best spot would have to be in the Turkish Riviera. This area is located in the southeast on the coast where the small, charming towns of Marmaris, Kusadasi and Bodrum during the day transform and become a hip lively center for eclectic nightlife in the evening and often until early morning.
Dalyan is much less of a party town although there are many lively bars to choose from should you so wish, many with live music throughout the season and there’s even some kareoke dotted about!
While you might be going to Turkey on an adventure, there is another adventure awaiting you, one of the culinary sort. Turkish food is a delight (no pun intended) and it is something to be explored all its own.
Kebabs are the most popular dish of Turkey made by stewing them or grilling. They vary from region to region and and are typically made with lamb that is put on a skewer and cooked over charcoal. This is widely known as the ‘sis kebab’. The ‘doner kebab’ is a little different in that it is a roll of lamb which is turned parallel to a grill. Other meat dishes are ‘Sac kavurma’, ‘Tandir’ and ‘Alanazik’.
The eggplant or aubergine is popular in Turkey and make up a large part of their dishes. ‘Patlican dolmasi’ are eggplants mainly stuffed with garlic, onions and tomatoes and served cold.
From the Black Sea region, you can enjoy a dish called ‘hamsili pilav’, which is a rice dish with small fish.
Try ‘borek’, the pies with pastry with cheese, potatoes or meat. Yogurt is also a common ingredient and sometimes served as an appetizer like ‘cacik’.
The Turks are very widely known for their pastries and sweets. Many of you have had baklava, but try ‘helva’, ‘asure’ and ‘kadayif’.
The popular national drink is Turkish coffee. Be prepared to be ‘perked up’. It is rich and thick and very strong. It is enjoyed in two manners, without sweetener or very sweet. Raki is the local alcohol and if you like black licorice you might be able to appreciate it. The locals refer to it as the ‘lions drink’ because it is that strong. Outside of coffee and Raki, tea and tea houses are a large part of their culture and enjoyed several times per day.
Ayran is a yogurt drink made with water and a substantial drink for when it is hot and you need some fast calories. ‘Salgam’ is another traditional drink with turnips, violet carrots and salt, mixed with bulgur flour or pounded wheat. It is customly served with many kebab dishes in the southeast and traditional in Adana. It is a very healthy drink to revive yourself if you are feeling run-down from travel, as it is full of B1 and B2 vitamins, vitamin C, iron and potassium.
Where to Stay
When it comes to planning your place to stay in Turkey, there are many places to stay with an array of options and for many budget sizes. For backpackers on a budget, there are hostels, guesthouses and even some B&Bs that may fit within a small budget. There are villas to rent in the coastal areas, boutique hotels and luxury apartments with full services. You can find luxury spa hotels and old mansions that have been refurbished into hotels. Plan ahead and book ahead for the best rates and look for dates which might have special deals. You might even be able to plan your vacation around special deals. Expect higher prices for hotels and other places from July into September during the peak tourist season. In Dalyan there really is something for everyone, ranging from villas and apartments to bed and breakfasts, luxury spa hotels and pensyons. Our favourite places to stay are listed for your information in our Accommodation suggestions section of our guide.
Staying Safe & Healthy
With the recent turn of events politically and otherwise in the Middle East, many people may be wary of travelling to Turkey altogether. The truth of the matter is if all the news and advice was heeded by what we see on TV and other media, the majority of us would never travel. There have been bombings in Turkey, yes, however there have been other bombings in Boston, Madrid, New York and London. The risk of a traveller being harmed by terrorist acts is very small and not worth putting your travel dreams on hold.
As of more present situations, it is advised by the UK to avoid any travel to Ceylanpinar and Akcakale or anywhere within ten kilometers of the Syrian border. That is about 800 miles from Istanbul.
● Avoid any public demonstrations or gatherings
● Do not photograph any government buildings.
● Carry a business card from your hotel, the one written in Turkish.
● Have a record of emergency contacts and numbers to use for medical emergencies, the police and your hotel. A travel flashlight or headlamp might come in handy too.
Travelling abroad is much more enjoyable if you know how you can stay safe and healthy. It is advised to only drink and cook with bottled water. If you have a portable water filter, this might cut the cost of spending a fair amount of money on water and might come in handy in general. Avoid any tap water unless it has been boiled. In addition, only eat food which can be peeled yourself or has been cooked thoroughly.
Use bug spray and mosquito spray as malaria is prevalent in some areas. You can prevent the onset of malaria if you have been bitten by a malaria carrying mosquito by taking malaria prophylaxis medication. You can start taking it about a week before you travel and throughout.
Rabies may be contracted by getting a scratch, bite or lick from an infected animal. If you are unfortunately scratched or bitten or licked, you should get a vaccine within 24 hours. If you cannot get a shot within 24 hours, you will need a series of injections as soon as possible. It should be known that a shot does not give you immunity, but it gives you time to seek professional medical help. There are several doctors and pharmacies in Dalyan, one of these pharmacies will be open for 24 hours if you are ever in need. There is a main doctors surgery at the end of the river walk by the tea garden, and the main hospital with an international department is in the next town of Ortaca, a 10 minute drive away.
If you are traveling during the hotter months, be sure to hydrate yourself well and avoid being out during the hottest times of the day or at the least find shade. Heatstroke is not very comfortable and can be dangerous. If you are partying and drinking a fair amount of alcohol, be sure you stay hydrated and drink more water. If you do get heat stroke on big symptom is that you will stop sweating but feel extremely hot. Cool off as soon as possible by drinking cool water or juice, get under cool water and cooling fans. It is common to lose a lot of vital salts with heatstroke. This can easily be replaced with broth and adding extra salt to your food.