Top 10 Things Not to Do in Turkey

By Kimi Huang | Updated Nov. 9, 2021

Once the seat of the Ottoman Empire, Turkey boasts of a rich cultural heritage. Travelers not acquainted with the culture of the country may unknowingly offend locals and spoil a beautiful experience that they may have otherwise enjoyed. In this article, we have compiled a list of the top 10 things you should not do in Turkey.

1. Don't Wear Shoes in Places of Worship

A mosque is a place where Muslims gather for worship. Therefore, travelers are expected to keep mosques clean when they visit them. Entering a mosque with your shoes on is considered disrespectful. So, leave your shoes at the entrance when you visit a mosque or any place of worship in Turkey.

2. Don't Board a Cab Without a Taxi Logo

Many reports come in every day of tourists getting ripped off by unlicensed drivers. There are some local cabs that do not have taximeters, which is a device that calculates and displays the trip fare. Without a meter, the driver can charge you any price they want, even if it is for a short trip.

When visiting prominent tourist spots in Turkey, don't book an Uber. The local taxi drivers don't like people using Uber and will sometimes resort to violence to stop your trip.

We recommend you use public transport instead of taxis in central tourist areas, such as in Istanbul and Antalya.

3. Don't Eat in Tourist Spots

Restaurants in tourist spots such as Taksim Square, Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, and the Grand Bazaar can be quite expensive, and the food isn't always authentic. It's advisable to go a bit further and look for local eateries where the food is cheaper and more authentic.

Better yet, seek help from a local to order from the menu. Turkish people are proud of their cuisine, and they'll ensure you get to try some delicious local food. Make sure you try the street food; it is cheap and available everywhere.

4. Don't Expect to Be Understood

Many Turkish people do not speak English, so do try to learn some essential words that you can use in daily conversation. For instance, "yes" is "evet" in Turkish, "no" is "hayir," and "thank you" translates to "tesekkur ederim." If you forget the words, smile, be polite, and joke with them. Turkish people love banter, and even if they don't speak English and you don't speak Turkish, you can still have a good laugh.

5. Don't Argue about Football and Politics

Turkish people are passionate about football and their football team. So, if you get into a heated debate with a local about football, the situation could quickly escalate. Hence, it's best to avoid talking about football.

Discussions on the political situation in Turkey can be very intense. Turkish people love their country and generally dislike any adverse commentary on its local politics.

6. Don't Refuse Tea

Don't refuse when someone offers you tea. Saying "no" to tea is considered disrespectful in Turkey. It could get awkward, and you may sound impolite while turning down the offer. Your host is likely to keep refilling your cup with or without your consent as you finish it. So, instead of saying no, just put your teaspoon on top of your cup. This indicates that you are done with your share.

7. Don't Buy Stuff Without Bargaining

In Turkey, there are numerous things worth buying, such as lamps, lanterns, pumice pipes, carpets, tea sets, and ceramics.

However, items sold near tourist areas are generally overpriced. If you intend to buy something, it's polite to haggle with the shop owner. If you succeed, you might grab one at half its quoted price.

Before you make any purchases, look around first to get a rough idea of what the item is priced at in different stores.

8. Don't Drink the Whole Cup of Turkish Coffee

Turkish coffee doesn't refer to a type of coffee bean; it refers to a method of brewing. Generally, the coffee is brewed by sprinkling fine coffee powder into a metal cup full of boiling water and then allowing it to settle at the bottom. If you drink the whole cup, you'll end up eating the residue as well.

9. Don't Leave Any Food on Your Plate

As Turkish cuisine is pretty delicious, leaving the meal unfinished indicates that you didn't like the meal. So, it is a mark of reverence not to leave any leftovers.

10. Don't Walk in Front of a Person Who Is Praying

Muslim tradition holds that if you walk in front of someone who is praying, you're getting between the person and God, which is considered disrespectful. Ensure that you never walk in front of someone while they are praying in a religious place.

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