Some practicalities you need to keep in mind when planning your first holidays in Turkey:
Visa: when you enter the country you need to buy travel visa – it costs £10/$10/€10 and you can only pay in these currencies – we had unpleasant situation when at the passport control desk we were refused to pay the equivalent of £10 in Turkish Lira (TL30 at the time). The fact the security guard spoke no English didn’t of course make it any easier. Luckily, there was a Turkish traveller from the UK who took our liras and gave us pounds in exchange. So take it as an important advice: have your foreign currency with you when entering the country to pay for your visa.
Language: generally, if you speak English you’ll be able to find your way in Turkey; as a country crowded with tourists, it would be very silly for Turks not to speak English. That said, I’ve only used my English skills in hostels, restaurants and places tourists go to, and it was pretty basic chat I had with people, so can’t really comment on how far you can get with your English if you want to have a more in-depth conversation.
Transport: It’s very easy to travel from one place to another in Turkey. Public transport will get you everywhere and if you need to take a journey further away, Turkey has excellent bus services and cheap and frequent connections. For example, to travel from Kaş to Fethiye (107km/ 65 miles) you can choose a minibus every hour. Havaş buses offer convenient shuttle service to airports for domestic and international flights; buses departure 2 – 2.5 hrs before flights and costs only TL10. You will find it especially useful in case of early morning flights – as you will also save lots of money on airport transfers from your hotel.
Car hire: I haven’t hired a car, but my colleague travelled by car from Greece to Istanbul, and she said this: make sure you get GPS as all road signs are in Turkish and it’s easy to lose your way. I had no chance to verify that, but you might want to consider that if you plan to hire a car in Turkey.
Weather: when best to go? Definitely not in June, July or August or you’ll melt. We melted every day in the middle of September, and I can’t imagine how people can choose to go to this roasting land in summertime. That said, Istanbul was a bit chillier than the coast, with a bit of wind and a milder sun, but this is really what we needed when sightseeing all day. As a guidance, I’d say middle towards the end of September is good for Istanbul, as you want it to be less hot so that you can go around, visit places and not sweat like a dog, but at the same time have a pleasant sun above your head. Beginning of October should be good for beach laziness on the coast, as middle of September was just still a bit too hot. Remember that the closer to October you visit this country, the less touristy it will be, with better prices and smaller queues to all attractions. If you prefer to travel to Turkey in spring time, a friendly shopkeer in Istanbul advised April and May would be best months for that, as, again, it’s not roasting hot yet, and there are relatively few tourists. I imagine April/May would also be nice for the coastal holidays, with high enough temperatures and reasonable prices.
Travel guide: by all means, buy a travel guide and read about the places you want to visit! You will better understand the country you’re visiting and make more meaningful discoveries! I can only recommend one travel guide I have used when travelling in Turkey and Morocco, and it was Lonely Planet. It has some general overview of the history, culture, food etc, but is especially useful when on the road, as has pretty detailed information on how to get to places, where to stay and what to do. It gives you average prices, as well, so it’s a good point of reference; you will avoid being ripped off by more entrepreneur shopkeepers or bus drivers if you buy the latest edition of your travel guide, as you’ll be able to compare the latest official prices listed in the guide with what you’re expected to pay. I can only add that travel guide was especially useful in Morocco, as it gave me a good base for my interpretation of how far I can go when haggling (or discussing prices, as Moroccans like to put it diplomatically).