The official currency of Turkey is the Yeni Turk Lirasi (YTL) 'the New Turkish Lira' and is called Turkish Lira (TL) for short. Bank notes come in 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 or 200 liras and coins come in either 5, 10, 25 or 50 kurush in addition to the 1 Lira coin. 1 Lira equals 100 kurush and so 1 Lira is equivalent to 2 coins of 50 kurush, 4 coins of 25 kurush, 10 coins of 10 kurush, or 20 coins of 5 kurush.
Currency Exchange Offices
Concerning money you bring with you from your home country, you can bring any amount of currency (either foreign or Turkish) into turkey as there is no limitation on the amount. Foreign currency can be exchanged at either banks or Exchange offices (döviz bürosu), however you may prefer the more reasonable prices offered in these Exchange offices. These offices are open long hours (as a minimum, between 9am and 7pm) while exchange offices in tourist areas generally open until midnight. Upon arriving at Ataturk International Airport, you can find some exchange offices in the arrival hall that is open 24 hours a day. If you have US Dollars or Euros they can be easily changed at these Exchange offices. In addition, these two currencies are often accepted for payment without being changed. Also most hotels, car rental agencies, shops, pharmacies, venues and restaurants can accept Visa and Mastercard.
(ATMs, cashpoints) can be found in all major Turkish banks and some smaller banks, in addition to many other places as well. The machines pay out Turkish liras and can accept Bank Debit (cash) cards as well as Visa and Mastercard. There is a limit of YTL600 to YTL800 (depending on the bank) per day on cash withdrawals through ATMs. All ATMs have a language key to enable you to read the instructions in English or French. The most common banks you may find are Akbank and Yapı Kredi where there are certainly ATM Machines there. One thing you should take care of when using these machines is to make sure that the specific machine you use has a reliable connection with the ATM networks’ computers, because if there is no reliable connection the machine will display a false message saying that the transaction was refused by your bank and the card may be returned to you (hopefully). In order to avoid such situation, you should look on the machines for stickers with the logos of (Cirrus, Maestro, Plus Systems etc) services.
There are many private and state banks in Istanbul with their head offices, hundreds of branches in different districts of the city. Banks are usually open between 09:00 am to 5:00 pm during weekdays, closed on weekends and religious or national holidays. Some banks in big shopping malls have longer working hours and are open during weekends as well.AKBIL and Electronic Tickets Used in Transportation
AKBIL is a magnetic pass that is accepted in all means of public transport. In addition to offering discount, AKBIL allows you to get in buses, tramway, subway, train, ferry boat, and pay your fare for transportation easily. Akbil is used by pressing in the chip at the round but hollow metal casing that is the size of the chip located on the Akbil machine at the front near the driver on buses and on the turnstiles on tramway, subway and ferry boats. If you use Akbil, after the first use, for 5 uses in two hours, the machine will apply a discount of 50% on these uses, however Double-deckers, Tunnel and IDO Sea Buses do not apply such discount. You can buy Akbil from Akbil Kiosks, where you will also have to pay a little deposit for it that you can get back when you give back the Akbil. You can recharge credit to Akbil as you wish and you can see how many credits are available in your Akbil on the screen of the Akbil machine when you use the Akbil. Akbil can be recharged at an Akbil Sales Point or Akbil recharge machines. The credit gets down by 1.25 liras in each use, so an average recharge amount is about 20 liras.
These are credit-card-sized cards used only for five uses and cost you the price of five tickets. These electronic tickets are accepted only on buses and used by passing the card through a reader located on the top of an Akbil machine. These cards does not offer discounts and can not be recharged, as you will have to buy another card after you have completed your five uses.
In 1997, Istanbul had a population of 10 million. About %99.8 of the population in the city are Muslims, 0.20% Christian, and 0.01% Jewish.
The official language is Turkish.
The following Turkish words and phrases can be useful during your visit to Istanbul:
Good morning: Günaydin
Have a nice day: Iyi günler
Good evening: Iyi aksamlar
Good night: Iyi geceler
Good-bye (to be said to the person who leaves): Gule Gule
Good-bye (to be said to the person who stays): Allahaismarladik
How are you?: Nasilsiniz?
Thank you: Tesekkur ederim
How much does this cost?: Kaç lira?
Good Appetite: Afiyet olsun
Too expensive: Pahali
You're welcome: bir şey değil
Excuse me: pardon
Do you speak ... : biliyor musunuz…
(Insert language); English = İngilizce, French = Fransizca , German = Almanca , Spanish = İspanyolca, Chinese = Çince
Where is the bathroom?: tuvalet nerede?
I do not understand: anlamiyorum
In Istanbul, tap water is mostly drinkable, but it is not always safe because local water tanks may not be always maintained properly, thus one should try to avoid tap water if possible as locals themselves prefer bottled water. Also restaurants usually present bottle water. There are mainly no problems associated with food and drinks except that some Turkish foods’ ingredients include a variety of strong and hot spices which may affect tourists who may not be accustomed to similar ingredients. Having this said however, most of Turkish food is edible for any tongue. One important thing however is taking care when buying certain foods, particularly from street vendors, because delicacies specially such as "Firin Sutlac" (which is a kind of rice pudding) can turn bad rapidly on a hot day, this also applies to the oysters that can be found sometimes for sale on the streets.
Istanbul has good medical facilities and excellent doctors, so it is much expected that you will receive the appropriate and reliable help when needed. There are two types of hospitals; state hospitals and private hospitals. Of course state hospitals are cheaper than private ones, however private hospitals offer more luxurious services, are less crowded and generally apply the European standards. Medical service in private hospitals are not as expensive as in Europe or the States, but it is better to have some cash or a credit card ready as hospitals expect you to pay immediately for their services. You can of course claim your money again later from your insurance.
Full-equipped ambulances are also available in the city at anytime to provide medical services to emergency cases. In case of emergency, you can dial 112 to contact the 112 Emergency Aid and Rescue Center and inform them about the emergency case, address, and type of emergency. The medical stuff is immediately informed and they rush to the emergency site with full-equipped ambulance, and the doctor and his accompanied medical stuff will do the required actions for the ill or injured person in a short time.
Pharmacies and Drug Stores:
The Turkish word for pharmacy is (Eczane). There are many pharmacies and drugstores available in every place in the city. However, you should know that many people in Turkey go very often to a Pharmacy to buy some medicine without a prescription in order to save the money for a diagnosis. Pharmacists are not very much qualified to provide medical services or suggesting medications for common ailments. To stay away from possible side effects that can be caused by a wrong prescription, you should only have diagnosis and treatment by a registered medical doctor.Safety
Istanbul is generally safe, however as is the case with most European cities, pickpockets are sometimes wandering over the city, specially in crowded touristic places. They are often equipped with many sorts of strategies to steal whatever they can reach. You should always watch your pockets and travel documents and even do not rely on the ‘safe’ feeling you get from the presence of policemen.
Most of the other problems you may encounter are related to scams. You may encounter some sort of scammers in some bars/clubs where they are mostly associated with high-drink prices scams. These clubs usually charge overpriced bills, based on a false copy of the original menu. Also, you should be aware of friendly behaving groups of young men or male-female couples opening a conversation in the street and inviting you to a "good nightclub they know", as this is often frequently a prelude to a scam. You are not supposed to be over-anxious but only aware of such tricks. In case you realize that there is a kind of scam taking place, you should refuse to pay the high prices and try to call the police (by dialing #155) to file a complaint. Another kinds of scams are also there like Lira/Euro Scams which happen often in smaller hotels but also can happen in other situations as well. What happens is that the hotel offers a quoted prices in Lira and later, when payment is due, claims the price was given in Euros. Also some hotels which reject payment early in a stay and let you pay when you are leaving should raise suspicions as well, although these kinds of hotels often offer excellent service and accommodation in order for most guests to be somehow satisfied with the service and do not object much on paying higher prices.
Other scams may be related to payments or currency exchange and mostly rely on the resemblance between different banknotes or coins that have different values but very similar appearance, like the resemblance between the two-Euro coin and the 1 Lira coin (the 1 Lira coin looks indeed very similar to the 2-Euro coin but worth only about one third of the value of 2 Euro), similarly, the 50 Lira note looks somewhat similar to the 5 Lira note and some scammer handed 50 Lira note may quickly switch it with a 5 Lira note and insists that the handed one was the 5 Lira note. To avoid many of such scams, you should take precautions and only exchange currency in banks or Exchange offices that will provide you with an invoice, and also make sure to count the handed money carefully before leaving the office. Watching carefully the value of the money you either hand out or handed out also helps preventing, or at least making difficult, such kinds of scams to happen.
Concerning taxi-related scams, unfortunately tourists are more faced with taxi scams than locals. Some of the less-than-honest taxi drivers may use the banknotes resemblance trick while others may try to charge a higher rate by sitting the taxi meter to the nighttime rates while in daytime. Taxis have a meter that will displays "GUNDUZ" if daytime rates are being charged (until midnight) and "GECE" if nighttime rates are being charged (until dawn), so you should watch the meter and make sure that it applies the correct rate before paying your fare. Also, be aware that taxi drivers use cars affiliated with a particular hub, and that the name and phone number of the hub, as well as the license plate number, are written on the side of each car. You can note or simply photograph this information which can be useful if you run into problems. There are also taxis affiliated with major hotels (Hilton, Marriot, Ritz, etc.) which are safe and you can ride in one of them form their hotel’a hub as it is even not necessary to stay in these hotels to use these taxis.
In case of troubles that you want the police to assist in or be involved, you can dial 155 for emergencies, or you may seek assistance from police stations available in every district.
Tourism police is also a separate unit offering service in tourism sectors with available foreign-language speaking stuff and is mainly concerned with the security of tourists visiting Istanbul. You can always seek assistance from the Tourism police, in case of trouble, which is located opposite the Yerebatan Sarnici (Basilica Cistern). Its address is Yerebatan Avenue, No. 6, Sultanahmet, and its telephone number is: +90 (212) 527 45 03.