Grand Tour of Turkey
Know Before You Go
For an epic trip with zero stress and infinite holy s#!t moments, get familiar with the information below. Seeing the world should be fun, not stressful, which is why we’ve written this guide for you and are available 24/7 so all you have to do is travel. Now, it’s time to do a happy dance and make this trip ULTIMATE.
Complete Your Checklist
Before heading to the airport, complete the tasks below and check them off in your Online Account Checklist. If you have any questions, give us a call at 800-766-2645. We’re available 24/7 to make sure you have the Best. Trip. Ever.
- Verify your passport: In order to enter Turkey, U.S. and Canadian citizens need a valid passport with an expiration date of at least six months after the date of re-entry. A visa is also required for this trip- see Visa Information below for more information.
- Join the Facebook group: Join your private Facebook group as soon as it opens! It’s how you can meet other travelers and see announcements from your Tour Director. Call us at 800-766-2645 if you’re having trouble joining.
- Request a roommate:: Double check with us and your Tour Director that they have your rooming status on file. We will assign a roommate for you if you do not submit a specific request.
- Personalize your trip: Travel Insurance is not available for purchase on tour, and the price of Optional Excursions increases after departure. We suggest logging in to your Online Account now to add these items.
- Call your bank: Let your bank and credit card company know of your travel plans so you can withdraw cash and use your debit/credit cards abroad. Otherwise, you risk your account being blocked.
A Visa is required for all U.S. travelers going to Turkey. It is your responsibility to apply for this visa and obtain all necessary travel documents. EF Ultimate Break will not complete this process for you, but we’ve provided additional information below regarding this application process:
- In order to enter Turkey, U.S. and Canadian passport holders must obtain an electronic visa through the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs prior to arrival. E-visas can be purchased at the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.
- Passport control officers at ports of entry can verify your e-visa in their systems. However, we advise keeping either a digital or hard copy of your e-visa in case of any system failures.
- You can also purchase your visa in advance by using a visa provider, such as our partner VisaCentral
- We recommend having at least two blank passport pages for entry stamps
Stay Healthy Abroad
There are no major health risks associated with traveling to Turkey, but we strongly recommend you consult your physician or local travel clinic, and the CDC (Center for Disease Control) at lease 60 days prior to departure for the latest updates and entry requirements. See more tips below for staying healthy in Turkey:
- Do not drink the tap water. In some smaller cities tap water may be clean to drink, but certainly not in larger cities like Istanbul. To be safe, always drink bottled water, even for brushing your teeth.
- Take proper care with sun exposure, the sun is very strong in some of the areas you are visiting
- Bring a small first aid kit, including antacids, anti-diarrhea medication, motion sickness medication, and any prescription medications in your carry-on bag.
- Certain medications (both over-the-counter and prescription) are banned in foreign countries. Consult your physician at least four weeks prior to departure to make sure any medications you want to bring with you are legal.
- Public restrooms in Turkey can be quite bare. We suggest carrying bathroom tissue and hand sanitizer with you.
Turkey is a very diverse country. On one street you might see a woman in shorts and a tank-top, while on the next you’ll see a woman with everything covered except her eyes. We recommend travelers bring both conservative clothes for when you notice a change in culture and don’t want to attract unwanted attention, and your more “summery” clothes for parts of Turkey where you feel more comfortable, such as the beach or bigger cities.
Your airline ticket includes one checked bag (typically 27" x 21" x 14") but double check the luggage size requirements on your airline’s website. We recommend traveling with one small backpack or purse, and a smaller carry-on suitcase (22” x 14” x 9”) or bag. See more packing tips below:
- 1 lightweight jacket or rain jacket
- Comfortable walking shoes for sightseeing
- Sandals to stay cool on warmer days and at the beach
- 1-2 pairs pants, long skirts, dresses: Pro Tip: Summers can be extremely hot, but nights can be chilly. Pack lightweight dresses, pants/shorts, and loose-fitting shirts for comfort.
- 3-4 shirts / t-shirts / sweaters
- 1-2 nicer outfits for the Welcome & Farewell Dinners
- 1-2 bathing suits
- Sunglasses, hat, and sunscreen. Pro Tip: Bring two travel-size sunscreens in your carry-on
- Underwear and socks
- Toiletries, medicine
- Hand sanitizer
- 1 reusable water bottle
- Phone or camera, portable charger (not required)
- Passport, Visa
- Debit / Credit cards and cash
- A power adapter – type “C”, “E”, or “F” (two small, round pins). A staff favorite is also the “Targus World Power Travel Adapter” ($20, Amazon.com)
Note: Pack lightweight, loose-fitting clothing you can easily layer to accommodate high and varying temperatures. Note that all travelers are required to cover their knees and shoulders in sacred places like mosques or other religious sites.
International and Domestic Travel (Flights)
When preparing for your international flight to Turkey, check your online account 30 days prior to departure for your flight itinerary and confirmation number. With this information, you can check in to your flight 24 hours prior to departure. If you prefer to check in at the airport, plan to arrive 2.5 – 3 hours before departure.
- If your flight is cancelled or delayed: Don’t worry! We design the first day of tour as an arrival day in case of flight delays or cancellations. Work with the airline to get rebooked on the next available flight, then let your Tour Director know your new arrival time
- If you slept in and missed your flight: You should still talk to the airline and see if they can get you on the next available option. Tears may help in this case.
- Long Flights: Travel from the U.S. to the Middle East a can be a lengthy process (10-20+ hours travel time total). Bring a book, watch a movie (or five), and drink plenty of water!
Arriving in Istanbul
Congratulations! You’ve landed in Istanbul, a bustling city sandwiched between Europe and Asia with equal representation of both cultures. Before you arrive, your Tour Director or Trip Consultant will communicate on Facebook or email about where to meet them at the airport in Istanbul. If you booked flights with EF Ultimate Break, your transfers to and from the hotel when you arrive in and depart from Istanbul are included.
Note: If you have difficulty finding your group or representative to bring you to the hotel, just give our team a call at 800-766-2645.
Your Tour Director
Your Tour Director will tell you best way to communicate with them during the trip; they will be with your group from start to finish so if there is anything you need, connect with them.
Phone, Internet, and Electronics Abroad
We recommend you get an international data plan from your cell phone provider. The most common options are the Travel Pass with Verizon, or purchasing a personal hot spot with your carrier. Read on for additional connectivity must-knows:
- Wi-Fi will be in some hotels, restaurants, and bars, though charges may apply and it may be slower than in the U.S.
- Wi-Fi is not available on the bus
- For your cell phone and any other electronics you bring abroad, you will also need a converter/adapter.
Note: Turkey operates on 220 volts and use Types C, E, or F plugs with two round pins. A staff favorite adapter is also the “Targus World Power Travel Adapter” ($20, Amazon.com) which is compatible to all countries.
On The Ground
Money and Tipping
The currency of Turkey is the Turkish Lira (TRY or TL), and while the best rates are found in the local currency, U.S. dollars and euros are sometimes accepted as well. In addition to local currency, we recommend you bring a debit/credit card with you to withdraw cash at local banks or ATMs if needed. Read more tips below:
- While better exchange rates are usually found overseas, it’s worth ordering some currency from your local bank to use when you first arrive. After, you’ll find the best exchange rates at ATMs or an exchange office near the Grand Bazaar (Istanbul)
- Credit and debit cards are widely accepted in Turkey, but cash is preferred for shopping, markets/Souks, and at restaurants.
- It’s extremely useful to have supply of local currency in small denominations for this trip for tips, souvenirs, snacks, and more.
- Budget around $80-$100 per day for meals, drinks, souvenirs, and tips or extra activities
- We recommend tipping your Tour Director $52-$78 at the end of the trip, plus additional tips for local guides ($1). Tipping is an important part of Turkey’s local economy and a common tip at restaurants is between 5-10%. You may also be solicited to tip locals who assist you in public places, including taking photos. We recommend having small bills in USD or local currency for this purpose.
Transfers and Transportation
On this trip, you’ll take a private bus and internal flights between cities which can take anywhere between 2-8 hours depending on distance, local traffic, and bathroom or photo-stop breaks. The beauty of travel is that you get to explore a new place, but note that it takes time and energy to see everything worth seeing.
- Prepare to walk between 2-5 miles per day, especially when sightseeing. We’ve packed a lot into this trip, so be ready for a fast-paced adventure!
- Remember temperatures range from a cool 50 to a hot 100 degrees Fahrenheit in Turkey, so always bring your layers, water, hat, and sunscreen with you, especially on long sightseeing days.
- We recommend bringing a small back-pack or cross-body bag with you on sightseeing or activity days to carry essential belongings or a change of clothes
Note: We recommend you bring a book or download music ahead of time for transfer days. Or, catch up on sleep during those early morning departures!
Optimize Your Free Time
If you did not purchase EF Ultimate Break Optional Excursions before the trip began, you can log into your Online Account and do so on tour. You can also talk to your Tour Director on tour and they can help you get enrolled. If you’d like to plan something else during your free time, connect with your Tour Director before doing so; they sometimes arrange extra activities for the group during free time. Prices for these optional excursions will increase on tour, so please check your online account for available add ons.
Food and Drinks
In Turkey, breakfast typically consists of sourdough bread with sheep’s cheese and olives, as well as jam or honey. A midday meal or dinner often starts with a meze, which is a plate of varied appetizers like cheese pastry rolls, pickled vegetables, and potato fritters. The national drink is tea, but don't miss out on the strong and rich Turkish coffee! You’ll sample a variety of local dishes on this trip, but read on for more tips when dining in Turkey, and delicacies you must try:
- Turkish Delight: Sorry, we had to. But this is something you can’t leave Turkey without trying. This sweet treat is a combination of chopped dates, pistachios, walnuts/hazelnuts, and more.
- Kebab: Typically the kebab is thinly sliced lamb served with warm tomato sauce, and traditional bread.
- Mezze: Mezze is a group of small plates usually served with drinks before a meal… Like happy hour apps, but better. Way better. Expect hummus, rice-stuffed vine leaves, meatballs, cheese, and more.
- Baklava: Another sweet treat, this is layers of flaky pastry with chopped nuts and sweet syrup to hold it all together
- Shish Kebab: A Turkish classic! Shish Kebab is usually chicken, beef or lamb grilled and served on a skewer with a side of rice, salad or fries.
- Tea (çay): Tea is a very important part of Turkish culture and hospitality. Most locals drink it black, but apple tea is a popular choice as well!
- Corn on the cob: You’ll find this smoked, steamy treat served along many of the streets you walk in Turkey. Just keep your floss handy
- Karniyarik: Also known as stuffed eggplant, this is great for a filling meal. The eggplant is warm and stuffed with ground meat, onion, black pepper, tomatoes, and parsely.
Note: Vegetarian options will likely be available but let your Tour Director know of any dietary restrictions ahead of time so they can plan accordingly.
Local Customs, Culture, & Safety
Prepare yourself for the electric vibes of Istanbul, the magical landscapes of olive groves, ancient ruins, and mysterious rock formations, and the best cuisine you’ll ever taste. Read on to learn more about Turkish culture and see specific tips to help you make the most of your trip.
- Local Laws: Please refer to the U.S. Department of State’s page on Turkey for specific information on the country’s latest regulations and alerts, and remember you are subject to the laws of the country where you travel. For example, while Turkish law does not criminalize same-sex sexual activity, LGBTQ individuals are not protected by anti-discrimination laws in Turkey.
- Dress Code: Turkey is a very diverse country. Bring both conservative clothes for when you notice a change in culture and don’t want to stand out, and your more “summery” clothes for parts of Turkey where you feel more comfortable.
- Female Travelers: Female travelers should be prepared for some degree of cat-calling and harassment from local young men in Turkey. EF Ultimate Break and the Tour Director will do everything in our power to prevent and preempt this kind of behavior. We understand it’s easier said than done, but ignoring most verbal harassment is usually the best policy. Act confidently and keep walking forward,but always exercise caution and stay with a buddy or group.
- Water: Do not drink the tap water. In some smaller cities tap water may be clean to drink, but certainly not in larger cities like Istanbul. To be safe, always drink bottled water, even for brushing your teeth.
- Taxis: Always carry small bills for taxi rides, as some drivers may claim they don’t have change for large bills. You should also keep your GPS on during the ride so your driver knows you know where you’re going.
- Language Barrier: English is not widely spoken in Turkey. Try to practice a few key phrases like “Hello”, “Thank You”, “Where is __?”, and “Yes”/”No”.
- Nightlife: Avoid local bars if you’re just with one other person. Instead, try to go with a small group of 2-3 travelers, and always make sure everyone knows how to get home.
With a global presence of more than 46,000 people in over 115 countries and regions, we’re fully committed to your safety. But, it’s equally important for you to maintain your health and safety while abroad. From your first flight all the way through to your farewell dinner, drink plenty of water, get sleep when you can, and don’t hesitate to reach out to your Tour Director or your Trip Consultant if you need a helping hand. Keep these extra tips in mind so you can #travelsmart:
- Again, remember you are subject to the laws of the country where you travel. In some countries, consensual same-sex sexual activity, public gathering, or dissemination of pro-LGBTI material may be illegal.
- Keep your bag/purse in front of you and your phone zipped inside when you’re not using it. Leave your laptop at home, store valuables at the hotel in locked luggage or the safe deposit box. Refrain from carrying large sums of money or wearing valuable jewelry.
- Use the buddy system. Stay in groups and watch out for each other, especially at night—no one gets left behind!
- Before you go out, grab a business card at your hotel so that you always have the address handy for getting back later.
- At the end of a night out, consult your Tour Director and stick with your group to use trusted transportation back to the hotel
- Be smart about alcohol consumption. Watch your drinks and don’t accept drinks from people you don’t know. Don’t leave the bar alone with someone you just met.
- Save our 24/7 number in your phone: +1–617–619–1411
We’re so glad you chose to travel with us and are now part of the EF Ultimate Break family! We'll look for your post-card in the mail, and your #thisisultimate tags on Instagram. Cheers to the Best. Trip. Ever.