The Turkish people take pride in their traditions and culture. However, having ties with western countries, Turkish people in major cities have adopted a western way of life. A foreigner visiting any one of the large cities in Turkey will find himself or herself in an atmosphere similar to that of a contemporary western city. There are no local customs, beyond the bounds of normal courtesy that a visiting businessman should feel compelled to observe. In general, a personal relationship is an important basis for a successful business relationship in Turkey. It is usually important to allow time for friendly conversation before commencing with a business agenda. Business cards are almost always exchanged, and visitors are usually offered a glass of tea or a cup of Turkish coffee and it is customary to accept the offer.
The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas.
U.S. citizens are required to obtain visas before entering Turkey. A passport and visa are required. Holders of all types of passports can purchase a 90-day sticker visa at the port of entry for $20, if they are traveling to Turkey as tourists. For further information, travelers in the U.S. may contact the Embassy of the Republic of Turkey at 2525 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone: (202) 612-6700, or the Turkish consulates general in Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, or New York. Information may also be found at Internet address http://www.turkey.org. Overseas, travelers may contact a Turkish embassy or consulate. Holders of official and diplomatic passports on official business must obtain a visa from a Turkish embassy or consulate before arrival in Turkey. Holders of official and diplomatic passports on private travel may receive a visa free of charge from a Turkish embassy or consulate, or obtain one upon arrival at the port of entry for $20. All those who are planning to stay more than three months for any purpose are required to obtain a visa from a Turkish embassy or consulate. Such travelers must also apply for a residence/work permit or Turkish ID card within the first month of their arrival in Turkey. For example, this would include anyone who plans to spend more than three months doing research, studying, or working in Turkey.
All travelers are advised to obtain entry stamps on the passport page containing their visa at the first port of entry before transferring to domestic flights. Failure to obtain entry stamps at the port of entry has occasionally resulted in serious difficulties for travelers when they attempt to depart the country.
In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure. The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Travelers are encouraged to carry a photocopy of their passport, to assist in getting a replacement passport if the original is stolen. U.S. citizens may refer to the Department of State's pamphlet, A Safe Trip Abroad for ways to promote a trouble-free journey.
U.S. Companies that require travel of foreign businesspersons to the United States should allow sufficient time for visa issuance if required.
Communication: The telephone system in Turkey's major cities is good. E-mail and faxes are widely used in international business. Travelers and businesspersons can utilize GSM cellular service prepaid cards and hire a GSM mobile/cell phone in Turkey. Coverage is nationwide.
The national flag carrier, Turkish Airlines (THY), together with its subsidiaries, dominates air passenger service and flies non-stop daily to most major European, Middle Eastern, Asian cities and U.S. gateways including Tokyo, London, Frankfurt, Paris, New York and Chicago. Major European airlines have also frequent non-stop flights to Turkey. Delta Airlines serves Istanbul direct from its New York Kennedy hub. THY is joining the Star Alliance in 2008. United Airlines and Lufthansa offer code-share service with Lufthansa serving Istanbul, Izmir and Ankara from its Star Alliance Frankfurt and Munich hubs. Though Turkish Airlines dominates domestic air travel within Turkey, the Government has liberalized domestic air service, and new airlines are also serving the domestic market. Rail transportation is also available between most of the major cities. Comprehensive networks of long distance buses, which are inexpensive, operate between the major cities. Car rental is relatively expensive. Public transportation is available in the cities. However, businessmen are advised to use taxis.
Medium to luxury-type hotels, including international hotels such as the Hilton, Sheraton, Hyatt, Holiday Inn, Conrad, Four Seasons, Ritz Carlton and Swissotel, are available in major cities. Apartment rents in Istanbul are expensive. Rents in Ankara and Izmir are more reasonable. Payment on an apartment rental, in a popular area of a city, is usually made in a foreign currency. Generally, six months to one year's rent is expected in advance.
Language: The official language spoken by more than 90 percent of the population is Turkish. Most educated Turks have a command of at least one foreign language, with sufficient fluency to carry out business transactions. Most company executives were educated in western countries. English is the dominant language for international business.
Medical facilities are available, but may be limited outside urban areas. Food and water borne diseases are prevalent throughout Turkey. Anyone coming to Turkey should have comprehensive medical insurance. Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure, Medical Information for American Traveling Abroad, available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs
Vaccines necessary for Turkey are all childhood immunizations, Typhoid, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis A (or Immune Globulin as an alternative). Visitors who will visit rural areas, or go on hiking, or trekking trips in the country may wish to get Rabies vaccine although this is not required. Information on vaccinations and other health precautions can be obtained from the Center for Diseases Control and Prevention’s (CDC) hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747), fax 1-800-CDC-FAXX (1-800-232-3299).
Turkish cuisine is characterized by the freshness of its ingredients and most American business travelers have no trouble finding a good meal. All major hotels have at least one restaurant serving continental cuisine. Several European and ethnic restaurants are also available in major cities. Prices at these places are usually moderate-to-expensive. Good food is available not only at expensive restaurants but also at moderately priced establishments. One also has the choice of fast food restaurants such as McDonald's, Wendy's, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Burger King and their Turkish kebap equivalents. A variety of fresh fruits and vegetables are available throughout the year.
Local Time, Business Hours, and Holidays
Time in Turkey is Universal Time Coordinated/Zulu + 2 hours (Zulu is London UTC). In comparison, Eastern Standard Time is Zulu –5 hours, Central Standard Time is Zulu –6 hours and Pacific Standard Time is Zulu –8 hours.
Temporary Entry of Materials and Personal Belongings
Travelers entering Turkey on a temporary basis and carrying items such as laptop computers and accessories, display and exhibit materials are permitted to bring these items into Turkey duty free. Customs officials register the items to the traveler’s passport and subsequently cancel them as the traveler exits the country with the same items. Catalogs, brochures, pamphlets, and similar advertising materials are exempt from customs duty.