Turkey travel guide: plan a trip to Turkey step by step

If you are going to plan a trip to Turkey, you have come to the right place. In this article I am going to explain in detail all the tips to plan a successful trip to Turkey. If you follow this guide step by step, I'm sure you'll have a great trip.

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Plan a trip to Turkey

¡Follow these steps to plan a trip to Turkey!

1. ¿Can I travel to Turkey? COVID-19 entry requirements

Yes, Turkey’s borders are open for tourist.

These are the following COVID-19 entry requirements:

VACCINATION CARD: passengers with a COVID-19 vaccination certificate showing that they were fully vaccinated at least 14 days before arrival do not have to take a PCR test prior to arrival

PCR TEST REQUIRED? A PCR (48h) test is required for individuals over the age of 12 who are unable to show proof of vaccination or are unable to submit a document stating that they’ve had COVID-19 in the last 6 months.

HEALTH FORM: A completed “Traveler Entry Form” must be presented upon arrival. You can complete and obtain the form on this website.

IMPORTANT: Entry requirements may change at any time. For this reason, it is very important that you confirm any information on your country’s official website, since it is possible that there has been some changes. I also recommend that you check the requirements again a day or several hours before your flight.

2. Best time to plan a trip to Turkey

If you have flexible dates to choose from when you are planning your trip to Turkey, you are surely interested in knowing when is the best time to visit Turkey.

If that is the case, I recommend traveling to Turkey during the spring, since these are months with very good temperatures throughout the country and long days, although it is possible to have a rainy day, especially in April. Autumn is also a very good time to visit because the temperature is still pleasant throughout the country, although the days are very short.

Summer is also not a bad to plana trip to Turkey as long as you have a good tolerance for heat, as temperatures can get quite high, especially as you get closer to the eastern part of the country. Your last alternative is visiting during the winter, since the temperatures are cold and there is more chance of precipitation.

Autumn and spring months are high season in Istanbul and Cappadocia. During the summer, towns on the Mediterranean coast experience peak season. Winter is the lowest season in Turkey, but you will be able to enjoy better prices and avoid crowds.

3. How many days should you visit Turkey

One thing’s for sure, the next time I travel to Turkey I will spend at least 20 days. There are so many beautiful corners in this country!

If you are interested in visiting the most popular places in Turkey (Istanbul, Cappadocia and Pamukkale) and spend enough time in each place, I recommend visiting Turkey for at least 10 days. The more time you have to visit, the better. These are your options: either spend more nights in each place to have more time to get to know them or add another place in the country. Later I will tell you what else you can visit in Turkey.

4. Flights to Turkey

Once you know which time of the year you want to plan a trip to Turkey and how much time you wish to spend in the country, you can go ahead and purchase your flights.

I always use Skyscanner whenever I want to purchase airfare. It’s simple and easy to find the best and most affordable days of the week to fly.

I happened to be in Madrid at the time and I bought my flights Madrid – Istanbul and Istanbul – Madrid on March 20th, 3 weeks before we left. They cost me $165 with Pegasus airline.

Keep in mind that Istanbul has two airports: Istanbul Airport (IST) and Sabiha Gökçen (SAW). The IST airport is located northwest of the city and can be reached by bus. SAW airport is on the Asian side, much further away. I chose to fly to SAW because the flight was much cheaper. It’s always like that.

To go from SAW airport to the city center you can choose between taking a bus or a taxi. In my case, I was pretty tired, so I shared a cab with 2 other travelers and went downtown. Sharing expenses between the 3 was convenient, I only paid $10.

¿Do I recommend flying with Pegasus?

The truth is that I had not read great reviews online, but the price difference was huge, so I decided to buy my flights with Pegasus.

They don’t serve food or drinks and there’s a fee if you want to check in luggage. It wasn’t a problem for me because I didn’t check any luggage in and as for food and drinks, it’s as easy as buying something before the flight. Other than that, both flights were good. There is sufficient space between seats, not too small, which I didn’t expect from a low-cost airlines.

That being said, I do recommend flying with Pegasus.

5. Do you need a visa to enter Turkey?

U.S citizens need a visa to travel to Turkey. If you are traveling to Turkey for tourism or commercial purposes of up to 90 days within a 180 day period, you can obtain a Turkish visa from this website prior to arrival.

Remember that your passport must be valid for at least 6 months from the date of entry to Turkey.

6. Safety in Turkey

Security is always a topic of concern when we visit a foreign country. I always say that you have to be careful and have common sense anywhere you go. Turkey is not a dangerous country, but you should always be careful. I always give everyone the same advice regardless of the country he or she is planning on traveling to.

Of course, due to the situation in neighboring countries, it is not recommended to visit the provinces bordering Syria and Iraq.

In any case, I advise you to take a look at the travel recommendations given by the U.S Embassy in Turkey.

TRAVEL INSURANCE FOR TURKEY

Something we must do before our trip is purchase travel insurance for Turkey. I thought we would get to use it on our last trip to Turkey because my partner was sick one day, but he recovered quickly. What a relief it was! You always have to have insurance just in case; it is better to be safe than sorry. For some time now, I have always purchased HEYMONDO travel insurance before my trips. It is the insurance that I like the most and the one that I recommend.

Rates for travel insurance for Turkey:

– 1 week: starts from $21.71
– 2 weeks: starts from $41.69
– 3 weeks: starts from $59.67
– 1 month: starts from $78.66

If you still haven’t purchased travel insurance for Turkey, you can purchase it through this link and take advantage of a 5% discount for being a reader of my blog.

7. Places to visit in Turkey

The first thing you have to be clear about is the amount of time you wish to spend in Turkey. Turkey is a fairly large country with plenty of places to visit. My advice is, the more time, the better!

We spent a total of 8 days visiting Turkey, therefore our list of places to visit in Turkey was quite short. Of course, visiting Istanbul and Cappadocia was a no-brainer. I really wanted to visit both places.

Both Istanbul and Cappadocia have countless places to visit. You could perfectly spend a week in each place and not get bored or stop seeing new things. I recommend spending a minimum of 3-4 days in both Istanbul and Cappadocia. I repeat, at least. I do not mean that 3 days is enough time to visit every place in Istanbul because you wont. It is a huge city. But I do think that it is enough to visit the most interesting places and get a good feel of ​​the city.

Other places that I recommend adding to your itinerary when you plan a trip to Turkey (and that I would have visited had I had more time) are Pamukkale, Ephesus, Mount Nemrut or some small town on the Mediterranean coast.

PLACES TO VISIT IN ISTANBUL

Do not forget to visit these must-see places in Istanbul:

– Hagia Sophia.
– Blue Mosque.
– Topkapi Palace.
– Basilica Cistern.
– Grand Bazaar.
– Spice Bazaar.
– Suleiman’s Mosque.
– Prince Mosque.
Free tour of Istanbul.
– Stroll through Balat neighborhood.
– Cruise on the Bosphorus river. You can book your cruise here.
– Enjoy the view from as many viewpoints as possible (Galata Konak Cafe & Restaurant, Seven Hills Hotel, Hotel Arcadia Blue, etc.).
– Galata Tower.
– İstiklal Avenue.
– Dolmabahce Palace.
– Ortaköy Mosque.
See whirling dervish show.
– Watch the sunset from the carpet cafe in Uskudar.
– Visit Beylerbeyi Palace and Eyup (Asian part). You can book a tour here.
– Enjoy a Turkish bath.

If you prefer to have everything planned for you, in Istanbul you can book organized trips to other touristic spots in the country and avoid having to worry about preparing the visit. I recommend booking them in advance:

1 day tour of Cappadocia from Istanbul..
7 Day Turkey Classics Tour.
Cappadocia, Pamukkale and Ephesus 6-Day Trip.
Hierapolis & Pamukkale Day Trip.

If you want to know more information about Istanbul, I recommend reading my post about the best places to visit in Istanbul.

plan a trip to turkey
Plan a trip to Turkey

PLACES TO VISIT IN CAPPADOCIA

During your visit to Cappadocia, don’t forget to visit the following places:

– Rose Valley and Red Valley.
– Pasabag or Valley of the Monks.
– Lovevalley.
– Uchisar Castle.
– Göreme Open Air Museum.
Fly in a hot-air balloon over Cappadocia.
– Devrent Valley.
– Visit an underground city.
– See the sunrise from a terrace or viewpoint.

If you’re interested in knowing more about Cappadocia, I recommend reading my blog post about the top 10 things to do in Cappadocia.

8. Plan a trip to Turkey, plan a route

Ok, now that you know how long you are going travel to Turkey for, you have the flights to and from the country, the visa, travel insurance, etc, It’s time to plan a route!

To plan a successful route you have to take into account two very important factors: the available time and the places you want to visit.

Visiting Istanbul we all know is a must. For me, Cappadocia is as well. Surely, if you had visited Ephesus or Pamukkale, you would say that these places are also must see places… Yes, Turkey is full of beautiful places that should be included in your itinerary. It’s your trip and it’s up to you to choose. Look at photos, watch videos, read information. Think carefully about what you are going to enjoy visiting the most and plan your route.

Planning was a bit simple and easy for us. Having only 8 days to visit Turkey, I only wanted to visit two places. We didn’t want to rush trying to visit as much as possible. Therefore, as you may already know, we decided to visit Istanbul and Cappadocia.

Our route in Turkey was the following:

➙ April 1st during the night: Arrival in Istanbul (SAW Airport).
➙ April 1 – 6 in Istanbul (Partner arrived on the 3rd in the morning).
➙ April 6th in the evening: flight to Kayseri (from IST Airport).
➙ April 6 – 9: Göreme (Cappadocia).
➙ April 9th at nigh: flight to Istanbul (SAW Airport).
➙ April 10th in the morning: flight back home (SAW Airport).

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9. How to get around in Turkey

Once you know which places you want to visit, you have to brainstorm and figure out how many days you want to stay in each place. You also have to start planning how to get from one place to another.

Now is the time to purchase flight tickets, train tickets, rent a car, etc. Domestic flights in Turkey tend to be fairly affordable and the fact that the country is large, flying from one place to another would be ideal.

We only purchased 2 flights in Turkey, first to fly from Istanbul to Kayseri and then the return flight. All 4 plane tickets were approximately $100.

plan a trip to turkey
Flight from Istanbul to Cappadocia

10. Book hotels in Turkey

Once we had our plane tickets, we began booking our hotels .

WHERE TO STAY IN ISTANBUL

Search for hotels in Istanbul.

I recommend staying in the European side of Istanbul because, most places of interest are located in the European side. Nevertheless, do not forget to visit the Asian part of Istanbul, at least for a sunset.

The most popular places to stay in the European side of Istanbul are Beyoğlu and Sultanahmet (on either side of the Golden Horn).

We stayed in Beyoğlu, very close to Galata bridge, which we constantly crossed to visit Sultanahmet in just a few minutes.

We stayed in Golden City Hotel Istanbul, a hotel near many touristic places. You can walk from this hotel to many points of interest. In addition, the staff was friendly, the room was spacious and clean and the hotel’s rooftop terrace had incredible views. I highly recommend it.

Aquí tienes unas recomendaciones de alojamientos en Estambul según tu presupuesto:

Below I’ve listed several hotel recommendations in Istanbul for different budgets:

– Low budget: Nobel Hostel (hostel), My Holiday Time HotelHOTEL MİKLAGORD.
– Average budget: RampartsMeretto Hotel LALELİTulip Guesthouse.
– High budget: Celine Hotel – Ottoman MansionSenatus Hotel – Special Class.
– Luxury budget: Sultan Tughra HotelWorld Heritage Hotel Istanbul.

WHERE TO STAY IN CAPPADOCIA

Search for hotels in Cappadocia.

In Cappadocia we decided to stay in Göreme, since it is where all balloons take off from. We wanted to have them very close.

We stayed at Koza Cave Hotel. What can I say about this place? We simply loved it. It is a hotel located in a cave, hence the name. The room, the upstairs terrace full of rugs, every corner of this hotel is beautiful. In addition, the staff is very friendly and is there to help with everything you need. I highly recommended.

Maybe you are interested in this post: Where to stay in Cappadocia: best areas and hotels.

plan a trip to turkey
Our hotel in Cappadocia
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11. More tips to plan a trip to Turkey

Below are some additional tips to help you plan a trip to Turkey:

BOOK A HOT-AIR BALLOON FLIGHT ON YOUR FIRST DAY

Unfortunately, we were not able to fly during our trip to Cappadocia. We booked the flight for our second day and the flights were cancelled due to unfavorable weather. We were offered another flight on the following day…It was cancelled again! That was our last day in the the region and missed the opportunity to fly.

I advise you to book your balloon flight for your first day because it gives you a higher chance of actually flying if it were to be cancelled.

plan a trip to turkey
Cappadocia, Turkey

INTERNET IN TURKEY

My service provider didn’t have any data plans for Turkey, therefore I purchased a SIM card as soon as I landed. If you don’t mind waiting a bit, I recommend purchasing a SIM card outside of the airport, it will be more affordable. You can visit a Turkcell store and purchase a SIM card there.

CURRENCY EXCHANGE

When I travel, I never exchange money before my trip. I usually withdraw money at an ATM or exchange money once I’ve arrived. That is what I did when I arrived in Turkey, I exchanged currency (USD to Turkish Lira) at the airport. Exchange rates aren’t usually good at the airport; however, it was at Istanbul airport. I only withdrew a bit of money at the airport and later withdrew a bit more once I got to the city. The exchange rate was good in the city as well.

Otra opción muy recomendable es adquirir una tarjeta que no tenga comisiones. Yo uso la tarjeta N26. Con ella puedes hacer pagos en tarjeta sin comisiones y sacar dinero de cajeros solo con 1,7% de interés (mucho menos que los bancos tradicionales). Puedes sacártela a través de su web.

I also recommend getting a bank card without or low fees and commission. I use Revolut. You may or may not have heard of this company but it allows you to withdraw money for a small commission of 1.7%. Your bank most likely charges more for overseas transactions.

HOW TO GET AROUND IN CAPPADOCIA

One of our mistakes was not renting a car in Kayseri to get around in Cappadocia. We rented a moped once we got to Göreme but later return it because it wasn’t suitable for some sandy roads and we didn’t want to use our travel insurance…

We ultimately opted for an ATV on our second day and visited a lot of places and hit many of the trails we couldn’t hit with the moped. Of course, it was a bit more on the expensive side (at least we had a great time). Therefore, consider the option of renting a car.

On our second trip to Cappadocia, we did rent a car and it was the best option. It was cheap and allowed us to move around the region with complete freedom. We rented the car upon arrival at the Nevşehir airport, from Avis. If you prefer to book it in advance, I recommend looking at prices in Auto Europe.

This is the end of the post about how to plan a trip to Turkey. I hope this post has been informative and very useful for you to plan your trip to Turkey. If you want to make any other recommendations or have any questions, I encourage you to email me, reach out through social media or leave a comment down below. Until next time!

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