As with visiting any foreign country you should take a moment to reflect on how you will pay for things while visiting Turkey. Since the Turkish government introduced the new Turkish Lira in 2005, the currency is much simpler to get to grips with ; no more are the many millions of Lira quoted just for a mere round of teas so your bills will look a lot less frightening.
However, the continuing practice of shopkeepers, hoteliers and restaurateurs to quote prices in different ways can be something of a headache and may cause you to wonder if you’ve done the right thing with regards to your holiday money. If your mobile phone has a currency conversion tool or you have an electronic convertor, it will probably see a lot of use over a fortnight in Turkey.
All large towns and cities have ATMs and provided you are prepared to pay whatever charges your card provider holds you can easily get by withdrawing cash for your trip. Small villages may not have this facility so you should make sure to withdraw cash when you have the opportunity. In the main tourist areas you’ll be able to pay with credit cards even with stall holders in Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar but in the less touristy areas you’ll find that many restaurants and small hotels do not.
As is often the case when entering a country, don’t be tempted to change lots of money with the first money exchange bureau you see as the rate is unlikely to be good. If you can, shop around a little or just change as much as you need to get to your hotel. Travellers cheques aren’t a good option as many places don’t want to change them, partly because the process is quite laborious for them.
In the bazaars, you are expected to haggle. Haggling is fun and, if you do it properly, will make sure that you don’t go home with some worthless rubbish you’ve paid a fortune for. Don’t start haggling for something you’ve no intention of buying in the first place. Don’t waste the shopkeeper’s time. If you mention a price, you are obliged to pay it – your role is to go up not down! You should roughly end up paying a third of the price the stallholder originally demands, but this is not always the case. Don’t insult the trader by sticking to a ridiculously low price. Think about how much you would pay for the item at home and work accordingly. Usually traders who realise that you are new to haggling are quite helpful and don’t try to take advantage of your inexperience. Most traders are able to converse in English and French (and some even in German), which makes things easier, but you can get a little bogged down when you convert from Lira into your own currency.
Some of the traders are great performers and will feign huge disgust as you make your opening offer. This is (usually) part of the act. Don’t be nervous. The stallholders will realise that you haven’t haggled much before and very few will try to swindle you. Have a price in mind before you start and remember that if you still think you’re not getting a good deal, look somewhere else instead until you do.
Keep a few Kurus (the sub unit of the Lira) at hand for tipping, which is usual in the more expensive restaurants, tea gardens and places like Turkish Baths. You should tip taxi drivers, but it is not usual to tip dolmus drivers.
While many places are happy to accept payment in Euro (in the very touristy resorts on the coast), you should not assume this is the norm and give some consideration to your money matters before you arrive. This way you can find what suits you best and gives you a good deal.