Ankara is the capital of Turkey, located quite a ways inland in the northern half of the country. It is a very old city, founded in 2000 BC, but was only made into a major city in 1923 when Atatürk made it the capital of his new republic. He chose it because of its location in a place well-protected from invaders. The city is now the political and cultural centre of Turkey and is very cosmopolitan. There are music, ballet, opera, and theatre performances of all kinds, many museums, as well as some prestigious universities and the largest library in Turkey. The most famous musuem is the Musuem of Anatolian Civilizations, and is well worth a visit. Other attractions include the ancient Roman sites and ruins in and around Ankara and historic monuments and buildings such as Kale, the old fortress overlooking the city. The most interesting and charming part of Ankara is Ulus, the old town, which is built on two hills and full of steep, winding streets.
Ankara is one of the driest places in Turkey and has what is known as a ¡°steppe climate,¡± with hot, dry summers and cold, snowy winters. Both summer and winter can be harsh in their respective ways. Summer temperatures average around 29¢ªC (84¢ªF), while in winter temperatures around -5¢ªC (23¢ªF) are normal. The most rain falls in the spring, particularly in May, while the summers receive little rain.
The language spoken in Ankara is Turkish. Some people, particularly younger people and those involved with tourists, speak good English, and German is another common second language.
Turkey is 99% Sunni Muslim, though a large number of these people are not practicing. The other 1% is made up primarily of Christians and Jews.
The currency used in Turkey is the New Turkish Lira, or lira for short. The official abbreviation of the currency is YTL. One lira is made up of 100 kurus. Notes come in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 lira, and the coins in use have values of 1, 5, 10, 25, and 50 kurus.
Tips are generally more modest in Turkey than most European countries, and may be only a small percentage of the price or a rounding up of the bill. However, as the many American tourists who come to the country usually leave larger tips, many Turks now expect generous tips from tourists. In restaurants it is much appreciated if you leave between 5 - 10% of the bill as a tip. Tipping it not required, but it is customary is the service was satisfactory. In more expensive, luxury restaurants, you should leave a slightly bigger tip, between 10 - 15% of the bill.
When tipping a taxi, don’t leave a percentage tip, but instead simply round the bill up to a convenient amount. If you go to a Turkish bath, the attendants will expect a tip when they line up to say goodbye. If the service has been good, leave a tip of about 15% of what you were charged, spread out among them. It is also customary to tip tour guides and porters who help you with your bags. A few lira is sufficient in these cases.
The VAT (value added tax) in Turkey varies depending on what you are buying. Goods and services that are considered essential are taxed between 1 - 8% of the value, depending on what they are. The tax on services from banks and insurance companies, for example, is 5%. VAT for everything that is considered non-essential is 18%. Taxes are levied on imports but not on exports. Details of exactly which items and quantities of items you can bring into the country untaxed can be found at: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Travelg293969c77270/Turkey:Duty.Free.Allowances.Into.Turkey.html
The country code for Turkey is +90 and the area code for Ankara is 312. To call Ankara from abroad, dial any country exit codes, then 00 90 312, followed by the local number.
There are many public telephones in Ankara, and it is cheapest to call from these PTT booths than to use the phone in a hotel, for example. The payphones in Ankara require a phone card, which can be purchased from telecom shops and convenience stores.
Many internet cafés, fast connections, also wifi, for free in many cafes. Internet centres often offer other services such as faxing, scanning, photocopying, international phonecalls, and more.
In general, shops are open Mon - Sat from 9 am until 7 or 8 pm, though some close earlier, at 5 pm. Some shops are also open on Sunday, but it depends on the owners. The opening times of musuems vary, but are typically from 8 or 8.30 am - 5 or 6 pm. Banks are open Mon - Fri from 9 am - 5 pm and the post offices are open Mon - Sat from 8 am - midnight and Sun from 9 am - 7 pm.
On the following days, most shops, banks and musuems will be closed, and public transport is likely to be more limited.
Januray 1, New Year’s Day
April 23, National Independence and Children’s Day
May 19, Atatürk Commemoration and Youth Day
August 30, Victory Day
September/October (dates vary), Feast of Ramadan (3 days long)
October 28 and 29, Republic Day
December (dates vary), Sacrifice Feast (4 days long)
Turkey is generally quite a safe country to visit, and Ankara is no exception. However, tourists should take basic precautions, as petty thefts and pickpocketing are not uncommon, and are more likely to happen to tourists. If your hotel has a safe, use it to store your valuables and your passport. Don’t carry more cash with you than you need, and keep it in a safe place. Carry a copy of your passport around with you for identification instead of the real thing.