Hotels in Turkey are classified by a government-designated star system. Roughly, stars are awarded for the presence of such amenities as fitness centers or conference space, so a worn-out old five-star with moldy bathroom tile might rate higher than a brand-new sky-lit gem with nothing to offer but basic clean rooms, stunning balconies, and a pool.
Unless stated otherwise, the price of hotel rooms listed here includes breakfast and tax. In higher-priced hotels, tax and breakfast are not included, although it is often possible to score a promotional rate that does. Also, prices listed here reflect the rates quoted on the hotel's proprietary website (for high season), which are as close to reality as you can get without haggling over the phone. Many of the larger chain hotels use booking systems that price rooms according to real-time demand, so I've tried to paint as accurate a picture as possible, given the inherent and often unexpected fluctuations of supply and demand. (Rack rates are those fictional prices posted behind the reception and that are almost never quoted -- not even to the most desperate last-minute walk-in.) All bets are off in Istanbul between Christmas and New Year's, as well as during the Formula 1 event and other major conventions, when rates go up, up, and away. Also, many hotels offer a 5% to 10% discount for payment in cash or free pickups/drop-offs from the airport for stays of a few nights or longer. Parents with kids will be pleased to learn that children 6 and under, and in some cases 12 and under, stay free.
In rare cases, the currency of operation is not specified by the hotel on its website. This leaves the hotelier some wiggle room to take advantage of the stronger currencies. For example, say I contact the hotel for the price of a room. Before I get a response, I'll be asked where I'm calling from. If I say the U.S., the quote will be, say, $300 (462TL). The price quote in euros by contrast would be 300€ or 572TL. Get it? This can be quite a shock when you go to pay and you have no written confirmation of the rate quote. Always get it in writing, as this scam is becoming sadly more prevalent in the smaller hotels. Note: Sometimes the hotel will simply ask you where you're calling from in order to be sincerely helpful by quoting the price in a currency convenient to you. Again, best to do this type of business in writing.
Many rural hotels rely exclusively on solar power, which sounds great until you get in a cold shower at sunrise. This is increasingly rare, however, as many establishments are installing backup generators for "24-hour hot water." Power outages are an unavoidable part of daily life, and because the water supply operates on an electric pumping system, there will be no water for the duration of the outage, usually only a couple of hours. In the sweaty heat of the summer, this is where the neighborhood hamam comes in handy.
Typical hotel rooms in Turkey seem to have more rooms with twin beds, so unless you specify that you want a double "French" bed, you and your partner will feel like a couple out of a 1950s sitcom. Fitted sheets seem to be an anomaly in Turkey, so if you're a restless sleeper in a village pension, expect to get a view of the mattress in the morning. Ask for an extra sheet if there's nothing between you and the blanket, as bed-making habits in Turkey vary from hotel to hotel. TVs are generally a standard feature in rooms, but even a TV with a satellite hookup will limit you to BBC World, CNN, and endless hours of cycling tournaments. Local programming is at least captivating, with reruns of Guys and Dolls, The Terminator, or Law & Order in Turkish. Another interesting media feature in older hotel rooms is a built-in radio with centrally piped-in music. There is generally a choice of up to three channels, and if you don't like the music, I discovered that calling down to the reception for special requests was effective.
Another standard characteristic of hotels rated three stars or lower (Turkish rating) is the "Roman shower" -- essentially a showerhead on the wall and a drain in the floor. In some cases, you'll get a square enamel stall basin and a shower curtain, and practiced proficiency with the hand-held showerhead will eventually ensure the least amount of leakage on the bathroom floor. Be aware, too, that an ongoing problem of not just the older hotels is the rapidity in which a clear drain in even a five-star hotel will get clogged. Be patient, and if it's a real nuisance, ask the hotel concierge for assistance.
All hotels provide laundry and dry-cleaning services, seeing to it in the process that they make a huge profit on the transaction. Depending on the establishment, expect to pay anywhere from 3€ to 12€ per item for ordinary laundry. At around 10TL per load, a local Laundromat (camasirhane) is a cheap alternative, as long as you don't mind borrowing the hotel iron. Another service offered by all five-star hotels is babysitting, arranged by the hotel through reputable outside agencies.
Surfing for Hotels -- For a list of charming hotels beyond those recommended in this guide, log on to www.smallhotels.com.tr and use the "Search Hotel" function. Be aware, however, that all of the hotels listed on this site pay a subscription fee and therefore may not be as wonderful in person. Another new online resource is the suite of customer-rated sites listing selected hotels in a location. These sites include www.antalyaresorts.com, www.istanbulresorts.com, www.izmirresorts.com, and so on, with sites for Çesme, Marmaris, Fethiye, Bodrum, Kusadasi, and Cappadocia.
In addition to the online travel booking sites Travelocity, Expedia, Orbitz, Priceline, and Hotwire, you can book hotels through Hotels.com, Quikbook (www.quikbook.com), and Travelaxe (www.travelaxe.com). Two other great resources for locating affordable hotels are www.venere.com and www.hostelworld.com, which, in addition to youth hostels, lists a number of respectable pension and B&B options.
HotelChatter.com offers smart coverage and critiques of hotels worldwide. Go to TripAdvisor.com or HotelShark.com for helpful independent reviews of hotels and resort properties.
It's a good idea to get a confirmation number and make a printout of any online booking transaction.