Area Codes -- The three-digit area code for the European side of Istanbul is 212; for the Asian side, dial 216.
Business Hours -- Banks are open Monday through Friday from 8:30am to noon and 1:30 to 5pm. Government offices are open Monday through Friday 8:30am to 12:30pm and 1:30 to 5:30pm. Official hours of operation for shops are Monday through Saturday 9:30am to 1pm and 2 to 7pm, but I've yet to find a store closed at lunchtime, or a shop outside of the Grand Bazaar or the Egyptian Spice Market closed on Sundays. Museums and palaces are generally open Tuesday through Sunday from 9:30am to 5 or 5:30pm, while the closing day for palaces is Tuesday, Thursday, or both. Museum opening hours are generally extended by an hour or two in summer; note that museums generally also stop selling tickets up to an hour prior to the official closing time.
Consulates & Embassies -- Australia, Ritz Carlton Residences, Askerocagi Cad. 15, Elmadag Sisli (tel. 0212/243-1333; Mon-Fri 8:30-4:45); Canada, Istiklal Cad. 189/5, Beyoglu (tel. 0212/251-9838; Mon-Fri 9:30am-12:30pm and Mon-Thurs 1:30-5:30pm); United Kingdom, Mesrutiyet Cad. 34, Tepebasi (tel. 0212/334-6400; consular section Mon-Fri 9am-12:30pm and 2-3:30pm); United States, Istinye Mah., Kaplicalar Mevkii Sok. 2, Istinye (tel. 0212/335-9000; Mon-Fri 8am-4:30pm).
Courier Services -- The post office (PTT) offers an express mail service (acele posta servisi), although you may feel safer with old reliables such as DHL (tel. 0212/444-0040), FedEx (tel. 0212/444-0606), TNT (tel. 0212/444-0868), or UPS (tel. 0212/444-0033).
Dentist -- Istanbul seems to have developed its own dental tourism niche. The Koç American Hospital in Nisantasi (tel. 0212/311-2000) and the International Hospital in Yesilyurt (tel. 0212/663-3000) can provide emergency dental services in an English-speaking atmosphere. For a list of private practitioners, log onto http://turkey.usembassy.gov/docistanbul.html.
Drinking Laws -- For a predominantly Muslim country, it might be surprising that alcohol is even sold in Turkey. The truth is, beer, wine, and the national drink raki have quite a loyal following here. Alcohol is available for purchase in restaurants, in bars, in grocery aisles, and at convenience stores. In recent years, however, the current, Islamic-leaning government has done its part by setting sky-high taxes on alcohol, and restaurants operated by the municipality run a dry operation. Theoretically you have to be at least 18 to purchase or consume it.
Drugstores & Pharmacies -- Pharmacists in Turkey are qualified to provide some medical services beyond filling prescriptions, such as administering injections, bandaging minor injuries, and suggesting medication. Local pharmacies (eczane) operate on a rotating schedule so that one is always open; each posts the address of the one whose turn it is in the window (Nöbetçi or "on night duty").
Electricity -- The standard is 220 volts, and outlets are compatible with the round European two-prong plug. You may be able to leave your hair dryer at home, as most hotel rooms come equipped with at least a weak one. Visitors from America and Canada with electronics that need to be recharged will need an adapter, a transformer, or both, depending on the appliance.
Emergencies -- Local emergency numbers are fire tel. 110, police tel. 155, and ambulance tel. 112. Emergencies may also warrant a call to Medline (tel. 0212/444-1212, 24 hr. a day), a private company equipped to deal with any medical crisis, including ambulance transfers (cost varies according to distance), lab tests, and home treatment. The International Hospital also provides ambulance services.
Gasoline (Petrol) -- The cost of petrol in Turkey is among the highest in Europe. Taxes are already included in the printed price. One U.S. gallon equals 3.8 liters or .85 imperial gallons.
Holidays -- Most shops and official offices and museums are closed on January 1, April 23 (National Independence & Children's Day), May 19 (Youth & Sports Day), August 30 (Victory Day), and October 28-29 (Republic Day). These same establishments also generally close on the first day of religious holidays. During the 30 days of Ramadan, many shops and businesses close early, while many restaurants either close down completely or offer limited menus at lunchtime.
Hospitals -- For optimal local emergency care, put yourself in the hands of one of the reputed private hospital facilities with reliable English-speaking staff: the new Koç American Hospital, Güzelbahçe Sok., Nisantasi (tel. 0212/311-2000); Metropolitan Florence Nightingale Hospital, Cemil Aslangüder Sok. 8, Gayrettepe (tel. 0212/288-3400); the International Hospital, Istanbul Cad. 82, Yesilköy (tel. 0212/663-3000); the German Hospital, Siraselviler Cad. 119, Taksim (tel. 0212/293-2150); and the Or-Ahayim Balat Hastanesi (or Balat Jewish Hospital), Demirhisar Cad. 46-48 Ayvansaray (tel. 0212/491-0000), with an on-staff international patient coordinator. Don't forget that payment is required at the time of treatment.
Insurance -- For information on traveler insurance, trip-cancellation insurance, and medical insurance while traveling, visit www.frommers.com/planning.
Language -- English, French, and German are widespread, and increasingly so are Russian, Japanese, and even Korean. For the linguistically challenged, it may not be so unusual to encounter some minor language barrier (including, surprisingly enough, in established restaurants), but the inherent willingness of the Turks to help combined with a little sign language and a lot of laughs will almost always do the trick.
Laundromats -- The Turkish word for a laundromat is çamasirhane. You can drop your soiled clothing at Popup Internet and Laundry, Evkaf Sok., Yapi Hani 5/2, Divanyolu (tel. 0212/458-1997; Mon-Sat 10am-8pm). On the other side of the Golden Horn, a couple of laundry/dry cleaners are near the Pera Palace Hotel, and there's one tucked behind the dolmus stand at the end of Ana Çesmesi Sok. (intersection of Taksim Cad.), but the prices don't warrant circumventing the hotel service.
Legal Aid -- Foreigners and tourists get the benefit of the doubt in most every run-in with the law, but some things you just can't talk your way out of. For real trouble, contact your embassy or consulate for assistance and ask for their list of private law firms catering to English-speaking foreigners.
Mail -- The PTT, hard to miss with its black and yellow signs, offers the usual postal services, in addition to selling tokens (jeton) and phone cards for the phone booths located in and around the post office and in most public places. Postcards cost 65kr to Europe and 80kr to all other continents. Rates for an international express mail letter begin at 22TL and go up to 40TL for deliveries farther afield. The PTT also has currency exchange and traveler's check services. Delivery, however, is notoriously slow, so I'd stick with one of the private carriers like UPS or DHL.
Newspapers & Magazines -- For local and national information, the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review (formerly the Turkish Daily News) gives a basic rundown of the day's headlines in print and online (www.hurriyet.com.tr) in English. The national Today's Zaman (www.zaman.com) also has a bilingual website. For local listings, the Guide Istanbul and Time Out Istanbul contain essential listings for tourists. Both are available at newsstands; the former is provided free at some hotels.
Passports -- See www.frommers.com/planning for information on how to obtain a passport.
Police -- To reach the police, dial tel. 155.
Smoking -- It's official: Smoking is banned in all public places. So what does this mean for the local saying: "Eat like a Turk, smoke like a Turk"? It roughly translates to "we don't like this new law and we're not going to take it anymore." For the most part, though, people comply, and eating, drinking, and waiting around the airport is so much more pleasant these days.
Taxes -- A flat 18% VAT (value-added tax) is incorporated into the price of almost everything you buy. This number is reduced to 8% for tourist services such as hotel tax when not already included in the room rate. A special class of items that includes cars and luxury goods is taxed at a higher rate. And illustrating how the current government frowns on un-Islamic vices such as consuming alcohol, taxes for beer, wine, raki, and spirits are as high as 40TL a liter.
Time -- All of Turkey adheres to Eastern European Time (EET), which is Greenwich Mean Time +2. For North Americans: When it is noon in New York, it is 7pm in Istanbul. Daylight saving time, when clocks are set 1 hour ahead of standard time, is in effect as Eastern European Summer Time (EEST), from 1am on the second Sunday in March to 1am on the first Sunday in November.
Tipping -- Gratuities are a way of life in Turkey and are often expected for even the most minor service. Try to keep coins or small notes handy and follow these guidelines: Give the bellhop 50kr to 1TL per bag; leave at least an additional 10% to 15% of the restaurant bill for your waiter; reward your tour guide with 10€ to 20€ for a job well done; and give the attendant in the Turkish bath 5TL before the rubdown. Shows of appreciation are also expected from your chambermaid, your barber or hairdresser, and an usher who has shown you to your seat. It is not customary in Turkey to tip the taxi driver.
Toilets -- There are two types of waste repositories in Turkey: the traditional "European" toilet and the Turkish toilet -- that dreaded porcelain latrine in the floor. Public restrooms (WC, or tuvalet) are located all around town, in addition to those in public buildings such as museums. "Toll money" in Istanbul costs about 25kr, which occasionally includes a bonus handful of toilet paper. Most modern hotels and restaurants in Istanbul have European toilets, while older establishments (including eateries, shops, and such), have albeit clean squat latrines. Many Turks and Europeans swear the Turkish toilet is hygienically superior; but having stepped in more unidentifiable liquids than I care to remember, I'm not convinced. In any case, you'll be thankful for those footrests and might even master the art of avoiding backsplash. The floor-level faucet and bucket are also for quick wash-ups (probably the reason the floor is wet); in both cases, toilet paper is for drying. Flushing the toilet paper is sometimes hazardous to the life of the plumbing, but generally when this is the case, there will be a sign above the tank requesting that you dispose of it in the nearby wastebasket. My advice? Lift your skirts high, hang on to the cuffs of your pants, and always carry tissues. As for the European toilets, most have built-in bidets. Simply locate the faucet -- usually on the wall behind you to the right of the tank.
Water -- Water is an integral part of Turkish culture; when the French were perfecting the art of camouflaging fermenting bodily odors with perfume, the sultans were basting in spring water in a sky-lit marble chamber and doted on by a handful of naked members of the harem. But the reality is that the water you bathe in is not necessarily the water you want to drink. It certainly won't kill you if you do. But take it from someone with an iron constitution -- it will definitely slow you down. Do yourself a favor: Drink bottled water and wash fruit and vegetables thoroughly before eating.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.