Turkey used to be the least expensive of the Mediterranean countries, but prices have risen in recent years. At press time, Istanbul was roughly equivalent to other cities in the Mediterranean in terms of cost, but in the countryside, and particularly away from the main tourist areas, prices are much lower—room and board are not likely to be much more than $50 per person per day.
Coffee can range from about $2 to $5 a cup, depending on whether it's the less-expensive Turkish coffee or American-style coffee, and whether it's served in a luxury hotel, a café, or an outlet of a multinational chain such as Starbucks or Caffè Nero. Coffee lovers beware: much coffee listed on menus in a restaurant, unless specified otherwise (e.g., as filtre kahve, or "filter coffee"), is likely to be instant coffee (Nescafé). Tea will cost you about 75¢–$1.50 a glass, rising to $2–$3 for a cup (the latter is larger). Local beer will be about $3–$6, depending on the type of establishment; soft drinks, $1.50–$2; and a lamb shish kebab, $5–$8.
Prices are given for adults. Substantially reduced fees are almost always available for children, students, and senior citizens.
ATMs and Banks
ATMs can be found even in some of the smallest Turkish towns. Many accept international credit cards or bank cards (a strip of logos is usually displayed above the ATM). Almost all ATMs have a language key that enables you to read the instructions in English. To use your card in Turkey, your PIN must be four digits long.
In Turkey, as elsewhere, using an ATM is one of the easiest ways to get money. Generally the exchange rate is based on the Turkish Central Bank or the exchange rate according to your bank.
Turkey largely uses the "chip and PIN" system for debit and credit-card payments, a more secure method than swipe-and-sign. (The chip in the card contains identifying information.) The card is inserted in the POS terminal, which reads the chip and sends the information down the line. The user is then asked to enter his/her PIN and this information is also sent down the wire; if everything matches, the transaction is completed. If you don’t have a PIN, check with your bank to get one before you leave the United States.
It's a good idea to inform your credit-card company before you travel, especially if you're going abroad and don't travel internationally very often. Otherwise, the credit card company might put a hold on your card owing to unusual activity—not a good thing halfway through your trip. Record all your credit-card numbers—as well as the phone numbers to call if your cards are lost or stolen—in a safe place. American Express, MasterCard, and Visa have numbers you can call (collect if you're abroad) if your card is lost. If possible, you're better off calling the number of your issuing bank, which is sometimes printed on your card. Note that American Express is not commonly accepted in Turkey.
Although it’s usually safer to use a credit card for large purchases (so you can cancel payments or be reimbursed if there’s a problem), some credit-card companies and the banks that issue them add substantial percentages to all foreign transactions. Check on these fees before using your card.
Before you charge something, ask the merchant whether or not he or she plans to do a dynamic currency conversion (DCC). In such a transaction the credit-card processor (shop, restaurant, or hotel) converts the currency and charges you in dollars. In most cases you'll pay the merchant a 3% fee for this service in addition to any credit-card-company and issuing-bank foreign-transaction surcharges.
DCC programs are becoming increasingly widespread. Merchants who participate in them are supposed to ask whether you want to be charged in dollars or the local currency, but they don't always do so. And even if they do offer you a choice, they may well avoid mentioning the additional surcharges. The good news is that you do have a choice.
Credit cards are accepted throughout Turkey, especially in larger cities or towns, but many budget-oriented restaurants or hotels in rural areas do not accept them.
Reporting Lost Cards
American Express. 800/528–4800; 336/393–1111; www.americanexpress.com.
MasterCard. 800/627–8372; 636/722–7111; 00--800/13--887--0903; www.mastercard.us.
Visa. 800/847–2911; 00--800/13–535–0900; usa.visa.com.
Currency and Exchange
The Turkish lira is divided into 100 kuruş, and is issued in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, and 200 TL notes; 5, 10, 25, 50 kuruş; and 1 TL coins.
Your bank will probably charge a fee for using an ATM abroad, and the Turkish bank may also charge a fee. Even so, you’ll get a better rate than you will at currency exchanges or at some banks.
Hotels and banks will change money, as will larger post offices, but in Turkey the rates are usually better at the foreign exchange booths (look for signs saying "foreign exchange" or "döviz"). Most are now connected online to the currency markets and there will be little difference between them.
Exchange bureaus are found only in big cities, usually in the center, so if you are heading to small towns make sure you change your money before leaving.
Bureaus in tourist areas often offer slightly less attractive rates—rarely more than 2%–3% difference—than bureaus in other places. Almost all foreign exchange bureaus are open Monday–Saturday. Hours vary but are typically 9:30 am to 6:30 pm. In tourist areas it is sometimes possible to find bureaus that are open later or on Sunday, but they will usually compensate for the inconvenience by offering a rate 2%–3% worse than during normal working hours.
İş Bankası (İş Bank) is Turkey's largest bank, with many branches in the cities and at least one in each town, usually in the center of town.