Merhaba Means Hello: Cultural Tips for Visitors to Istanbul

Istanbul is an exciting and exotic city that is very popular with travellers. There is nowhere else in Europe quite like it and with attractions including the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and the Galata Tower, it is the perfect destination for a weekend getaway or a longer break.

Istanbul is also popular because prices tend to be quite low here. If you are keen to stay in one of its hotels Istanbul has a wide range available for all budgets, so you can enjoy a cheap break or a luxury stay.

However, there are certain cultural differences that you need to be aware of during your time in Istanbul. Here is a quick guide to some of the essential cultural tips to remember during your time here.

Be Respectful when Visiting Mosques

If you visit a mosque during your time in Istanbul, you should be very mindful of the fact that these are holy buildings, and as such, you should dress and behave accordingly.


The first thing to remember is that you should avoid dressing in anything that is too revealing. Try to wear clothing that covers your body, so avoid shorts or anything skimpy. Women should also cover their heads with a shawl. When you enter the mosque, you should take off your shoes, and when you are inside the mosque, remember to be quiet and respectful at all times.

Learn Some Basic Phrases

It is always a good idea to learn some of the local lingo before you travel to a new country. In Istanbul, there are a number of useful phrases that you can learn to help you out when you arrive. These will also be appreciated by the local people, who will see that you are making an effort. Some of the phrases that you might want to memorise include:

–    ‘Merhaba’, which means ‘hello’

–    ‘Te?ekkürler’, which means ‘thank you’

–    ‘Lütfen’, which means ‘please’

–    ‘Bakar m?s?n?z’, which means ‘excuse me’

Using Public Bathrooms

Be prepared to find different styles of toilets in the public bathrooms in Istanbul. Although standard western-style toilets are available, you will also find that squat toilets are common. Make sure you carry your own toilet paper with you, and never flush it – use the bins provided instead. Also be aware that you may have to pay to use public bathrooms.

Be Prepared to Haggle

Haggling is very much a part of how goods are sold in Istanbul, so be prepared to fight for a good price. Don’t show interest in an item unless you are genuinely interested in buying it because if you start haggling over something then it will be difficult to back out and you could end up making the vendor angry.

Be Respectful of Atatürk

Atatürk was the founder of Turkey and you will see him represented in images and statues throughout Istanbul and the whole country. Defamation of Atatürk is illegal, so avoid saying anything negative about him during your time here.

Enjoy Fascinating Istanbul

If you are looking for an exotic holiday destination, consider Istanbul for your next trip. Be mindful of the above cultural tips during your stay and you will enjoy a fantastic holiday or weekend break in this beautiful city.

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