TURKEY: Survival guide

Money
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Money

The Turkish lira depreciates rapidly against all western European currencies - even Sterling. Exchange rates in the UK rarely keep pace with the fall in value so it is better to wait until you arrive, and then to change small amounts. A month ago, when the research for this section was conducted, pounds 1 bought you 111,000 Turkish lire; today the rate is nearer 115,000. You only need pounds 9 to become a lira millionaire.

Banks keep short hours, but souvenir shops or hotels give reasonably competitive rates.

Getting There

Frequent scheduled flights link London Heathrow with Istanbul. A return trip on British Airways (0345 222111) or THY Turkish Airlines (0171-499 4499) costs around pounds 250 including UK tax of pounds 10.

This month, there are plenty of cheaper charter flights around which have the advantage of serving a wider variety of airports. Check for late deals with a High Street travel agent, or look at the advertisments on ITV Teletext. You can expect to pay around pounds 150 return (including tax), though cheaper last-minute bargains may be available.

To reach other places in Turkey by air, it is best to buy a through ticket, via Istanbul, on THY. The extra cost of a connecting flight to somewhere like Adana near the Syrian border is not much higher than the standard return fare to Istanbul.

Getting In

British tourists have to pay pounds 10 upon arrival for a visa.

Getting Around

Domestic flights on THY are relatively cheap (around pounds 25 for the Istanbul- Ankara hop), but the main mode of transport is the express bus. These are huge, air-conditioned conveyances with free soft drinks and eau-de- Cologne. On main routes, buses run frequently - at least every 15 minutes on the six-hour trip between Istanbul and Ankara.

Services are run by numerous competing companies, and at some of Turkey's livelier bus stations it is easy to be hijacked by a tout who steers you towards a particular operator; shrug off all offers of "help" and check all the ticket offices yourself before buying a ticket. Fares on long- distance runs tend to be around pounds 1 per 100km (60 miles).

Shorter trips are operated by minibuses, generally of advanced years and retarded comfort. The name for this type of vehicle is dolmus, meaning "stuffed", which also applies to collective taxis - generally a stretched Mercedes which takes seven passengers on a good day.

Car hire is easy and relatively cheap, but be warned that the roads in Turkey are dangerous if you are unused to the extravagant styles of driving.

Rail travel has all but died out in the face of relentless competition from buses, but services on the main line east from Istanbul to Ankara and beyond have survived. See the Thomas Cook Overseas Timetable for details; this line is not included in the European Timetable.

If you plan ahead, you need never pay for a Turkish map (unless you are hiking and need some large-scale charts). The Turkish tourist office in the UK (First Floor, Egyptian House, Piccadilly, London W1; 0171-629 7771) has an excellent range of national, regional and city maps.

Accommodation

There are two basic options: hotels, which are cheap, and pansiyons, which are cheaper. Turkey seems to have an over-supply of accommodation, so you need not book in advance. One exception is Istanbul, where many travellers prefer to have a room reserved in order to minimise hassle upon arrival.

In Istanbul, a room in comfortable but not overly luxurious hotel will cost around pounds 15 single, pounds 25 double; elsewhere, you can expect to pay about half as much. Pansiyons charge around pounds 3 per person per night.

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