Dealing with money in Turkey for first-time visitors may feel a bit intimidating at first. Being unfamiliar with the currency, the notes, coins, tipping in Turkey and prices of things can be quite daunting even for the most experienced of travellers.
Today, we would like to share some useful tips and reassure you that it isn’t as difficult as it appears to be. It certainly helps that Turkish money has come a long way since the days it used to use those millionaire notes with six zeros at the end of everything that often confused everybody 😉
At first you will probably need to download a currency converter app to help you see exactly how much things cost. However, it will only be a number of days before you quickly adapt and be more familiar with the currency and money. This will inevitably lead you to being more confident using the ATMs and recognize a good bargain when you see one.
A Guide To Using Money In Turkey
Turkey’s national currency is the Turkish Lira, of which the sign is ₺, this is also written as TRY in an abbreviated form. Don’t get confused when you see, YTL which refers to the new Turkish lira for the locals, or TRL which refers to the old Turkish lira which was replaced in 2005. You may also see some shops using TL.
Turkish Lira Notes and Coins
Note denominations of the Turkish lira include 200, 100, 50, 20, 10 and 5 liras. There is also a 1 Turkish lira coin like the UK pound coin. The coins are called Kurus and come in the form of 1, 5, 10, 25 and 50 Kurus coins.
Can you use Foreign Currencies in Turkey?
Yes, all touristy holiday destinations, restaurants and shops will take most foreign currencies that include the Euro, the British pound and American dollar. Having said that though, bear in mind Scottish notes are rarely accepted in Turkey. It’s also worth mentioning that the exchange rate when using these currencies won’t work in your favour! You will get more for your money when you exchange your money into the Turkish lira at the beginning of your holiday.
ATM Machines in Turkey
It’s always best to notify your bank with your plan to go abroad before you leave the country. Making your bank aware that you will be visiting Turkey will eliminate any possibility of them flagging any ATM transactions as security concerns and you can also use this opportunity to inquire about how much they charge for each foreign withdrawal.
You can use foreign debit and credit cards in most ATM machines throughout Turkey. Most ATMs give out Turkish lira only, however, there are some designated banks such as HSBC who also have machines where you can withdraw GBP.
What cards can I use in Turkey?
You can use most major credit cards in Turkey including Visa and Mastercard. Most restaurants and shops in large cities & tourist holiday resorts take them. Just check the currency and amount is correct before you tap your card or if it’s a swipe, after they swipe your card into the machine check the amount before entering your pin number. If a place doesn’t accept cards for any reason, this is usually their own business policy.
Get the Best Turkish Exchange Rate
Never exchange money at the airport or in hotels because they rarely offer good deals.
If you should need some cash to get you through a few days when you get there, only exchange a small amount in your home country to tie you over until you are able to get to a Turkish bank or commission shop. You will get a much better exchange rate in Turkey, but you will need some ID such as a passport.
Remember that if you should withdraw money from an ATM in Turkey, you will be charged the exchange rate used by your bank at that time.
Money Limits in Turkey
Although there is no limited amount of money allowed into Turkey, you must be aware that the Turkish Ministry of Customs and Trades says the limit for taking money out of Turkey is the equivalent of 5000 USD, and this must be declared. This will probably only affect people travelling to Turkey for trading purposes however if you are visiting Turkey in the interest of property investment, we can advise our clients of a much safer method of transfer with better exchange rates.
Avoid getting scammed in Turkey
When you become more confident & familiar with Turkish money, it’s important to still be careful as being too relaxed can lead to opportunist scams. Here are a few points to keep in mind:
- If eating out at a restaurant, bar or cafe, always check the itemised bill and never accept drinks from strangers.
- When using a taxi, insist they use their meters and also carry small notes so that they can’t claim they don’t have any change.
- Don’t be too embarrassed to always check your change when it is given to you, even if there is a que.
- Always keep your bags and wallets securely hidden and close to you at all times. It is very rare but, as in many other large cities in the world, Turkey does have pickpockets so be vigilant of this.
- If you see a shoe polisher drop his brush, do not pick it up, this can be a way to lure you into what you think is a free shoe polish but then you are charged an unreasonable amount of money.
How much & when to Tip in Turkey
Tips are a common practice in Turkey and part of an everyday routine but only in certain places. Turks don’t tip everywhere, so, here is a guide on where and how much you are expected to tip in Istanbul. And of course, anything given above this and or on any other place or occasion would be considered very generous. On the other hand, if you were unhappy or disappointed with the service you received, you could choose to give less or even not tip at all to show your dissatisfaction.
Tipping in Turkey: General Rules
While tipping in Turkey, you should bear in mind these general rules:
In general, you are expected to tip 5-10% in restaurants, cafés and bars. Hotel staff expect between 5 to 20 Turkish Liras for their services depending on their duties. Turks don’t tip taxi drivers but tend to round up their taxi fares instead.
Cash is usually used in bars, cafés and restaurants, where waiters will normally bring the bill to your table, on a plate or in a small booklet. You can pay the bill cash or by credit card. However, tips are always left on the plate or in the wallet in cash. Unfortunately, unlike in some Western countries, there is no way to add an extra amount to the bill before paying it by credit card. So always have some change or small notes at hand.
Staff prefer to receive their tips in Turkish Liras, both notes and coins are fine. Foreign currency is also appreciated, however, bear in mind that foreign coins cannot be exchanged into Turkish Liras. So, if you want to leave a tip in foreign currency, make sure it’s in notes.
Where and How Much to Tip?
- Airports — Every airport has professional porters, operating by an official tariff. In case the tariff is not prominently posted, tip 2 to 3 TL per suitcase. In case it totals less than the official tariff, be reassured that the porter will let you know.
- Taxis — For taxi drivers, don’t tip, just round up the fare. So, a fare of 6.70 TL, for example will become 8 TL. The only time people tip cab drivers are when they carry your luggage or bags to and from the car.
- Minibus (Dolmuş) — No tip.
- Hotels — For porters and room service, it is customary to tip 5 TL, the smallest note. For housekeeping, people tend to leave their local change which can be anything from 5-10 TL and this is normally left on the bed. It is also common for guests to leave a tip at the reception after checking out, mostly around 20-50 TL.
- Restaurants, Cafés & Bars — As mentioned earlier, 5 -10% is common. In more expensive & posher places, it’s appropriate to tip 10 – 15%.
- Musicians — In some places it is common to have strolling musicians that play for tips. If you don’t want them to play at your table, it’s not impolite to graciously wave them away. But, don’t have them play a few songs and then not reward them after. The traditional method to do this is to slide a 5 or 10 lira note behind the strings of the violinist when he leans over the table. Otherwise, you can just put some money straight into his pockets.
- Turkish Bath — There is no way you can avoid or forget tipping the Turkish bath or otherwise known as hammam workers. Before you leave, they will all come ‘to say goodbye’, so make sure you have some cash money on you. You normally divide 10 – 20% of the total amount you spent among the them.
- Tour Guides — Tour guides don’t work for tips, you already paid for their service. Having said that, they of course do hope to receive a tip, which is shown as a token of your appreciation for a job well done. In this case, you don’t have to tip them individually like in the hammam, this time anything between 20 – 30 TL is commonly given to them as a group.
Shopping & Haggling in Turkey
A cultural tradition is to haggle over expensive items, like Turkish carpets or leather goods, both of which are popular souvenirs to buy in Turkey. The aim of haggling is to get a better price, and it can be a long process involving lots of cups of Turkish tea smiles and small talk. The first step is to ask for a price. It will already be set for haggling because the seller expects you to bargain.
Respond with a price that is 50% to 40% lower than the original. The seller has no intention of accepting and will respond with comical banter that he has a family to feed and expenses to pay but he will quote another lower price, which you will counteract, and the process continues until you both reach an agreed price.
Alternatively, if this really isn’t your style, you’re too shy or embarrassed, at the very least say, listen, I don’t like to haggle, please give me your last & final price and look after me so that I may come again!
Warning About Buying Antiques
Given Turkey’s illustrious history, antique souvenir shopping is popular. However, before you buy anything old, precious or worth any value, you should know about antique laws in Turkey. If the item you are buying is more than 100 years old, you will need a certificate from authorities. Failure to get it can result in severe penalties and even imprisonment.
Well, we hope we have summarized enough for you to feel a little bit more confident when handling and dealing with your money. Turkey is usually a very beautiful experience and the people are known for their generosity and kindness. It is very rare to have any negative experiences but it’s still best to be prepped and alert for all possibilities.
All in all, you are most certainly going to be pleasantly surprised by its value for money and affordable living. It would be lovely to hear about your experiences and any further useful thoughts on the subject, so, if you should have anything else to add to this post please feel free to share it with us in the comments section below 😉