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Lira or Euros (or both)? - Istanbul 7 day Tour

There seems to be conflicting information about whether to use Lira and/or Euros while in Istanbul. I'm going on the RS 7-day tour at the end of March. I guess it's best to bring both kinds of currency (as well as US dollars), but would like to keep things as simple as possible. Any feedback? Thank you.

Posted by
6716 posts

Always use the local currency (in any country) to get the best rates. Euros are supposedly for "your convenience" but the exchange rate will benefit the seller, not you. You can withdraw Lira at any ATM - there are plenty by the Haghia Sophia, for example. I got some Lira right at the airport using a normal bank ATM (not Travelex or an exchange bureau)

Posted by
1829 posts

You don't need Euros, as a matter of fact I don't think you need dollars. There is at least one ATM at the airport, as you go out.

Posted by
16 posts

Hi Bruce and Agnes:
It seems I can't respond individually (or can't figure out how). The reason I asked about Euros is the hotel shuttle asked for payment upon arrival in cash, Euros. And throughout the book there are prices in Euros and Lira and the RS book says to bring both. Didn't know if people experienced using one form of currency over the other. And thank you, Agnes for your feedback as well.

Posted by
2525 posts

Prices in euro may be a convenience for understanding costs as more people understand the relative value versus Turkish lira. If the advice is in Rick's current materials, ask tour department staff since you are booked on a RS's tour.

Posted by
101 posts

The only reason to have dollars in Istanbul is if you had not obtained an eVisa. You would need $30.00 at the airport to buy an entry visa. Other than that, you pay with lira. My hotel gave me a 5% discount paying with lira over a credit card. I did find that trying to jiggle my mind between lira and euro was confusing.
Having said that, on my first visit I had used up all my lira and euros and was able to use dollars to pay for the 3 AM van ride to the airport. Having a few $20's in your luggage is always a good idea. The ATMs on the European side of Istanbul give you a choice of lira or euro but the Asian side only dispenses lira.
Have a great trip!

Posted by
16860 posts

I don't believe that Rick's book suggests taking euros. It's not mentioned in the section on "Cash," on pages 10-12, and I also don't see any such notes on tour documents. Do plan to get your first supply of Lira from an airport ATM. Many prices are described in euros because the Lira price may change too often to be published reliably. Then, your actual payment in Lira is calculated using the hotel's posted exchange rate. I doubt that it would be legal for a Turkish business to refuse Turkish cash.

Posted by
14326 posts

I was in Turkey a year and a half ago, week in Istanbul, then the RS Turkey tour. No one asked me for cash payment in any currency except lira. After you go through customs, you can get lira at an ATM in the airport. There are ATM's all over the city too.

Posted by
1939 posts

RMBoston, we are also going on an RS Istanbul tour beginning the 22nd. Our tour hotel (same one?) also specified payment for the shuttle in Euros. That wasn't in the tour information but came directly from the hotel when we wrote to request the shuttle from the airport to the hotel.

Posted by
11262 posts

"Our tour hotel (same one?) also specified payment for the shuttle in Euros."

My hotel quoted its prices (for the room as well as the airport shuttle) in Euros, but actual payment was in Turkish lire. So double check before you worry about bringing Euros.

By the way, this is common in other countries. Hotels in Hungary and Russia (among other non-Euro countries) will often quote prices in Euros, but payment is usually (Hungary) or always (Russia) in local currency.

Posted by
16 posts

Andi -
I'm going on the RS tour on the 29th! And yes, the hotel said shuttle payment would be in Euros. Have a great trip!
And thanks Chani, Harold, and Laura for your feedback on getting lira at the airport and other.
RM

Posted by
1939 posts

Thank you! And you also. I'm really looking forward to it!

Posted by
2 posts

Living in Turkey for many years now, what I can tell you is that Turkish people change their preferred currency depending on the strength of a that particular currency and right now the dollar is definitely the best.

Posted by
1173 posts

I went on the week long Istanbul tour Sept 2013. I stayed one extra night before the tour and the hotel stay was in Euro. I paid in cash Euro for my hotel stay. I did not ask if I could pay in Turkish lira for my hotel stay. I did note that when I checked a few different hotels on their web sites in Istanbul, they all listed the room rates in Euros. We went to the baths and they also wanted Euro, but I wanted to pay in Turkish lira and they told me how much it was in Turkish lira so I paid in Turkish lira. I never paid for anything in US dollars. I never paid for dinners or food or museums in anything but Turkish lira except for the one night hotel stay.

Posted by
16 posts

Thanks for the info, Ann. It's all a learning experience, isn't it? I'm curious as to which baths you went to. I plan on going but there certainly is a variety... Cheers, RM

Posted by
6 posts

I do not know if any of this is still helpful, but I have planned an independent holiday for the most part in Turkey but using a tour based in Turkey but who uses some US ( Istanbul based) agents. They quoted me costs in Euros, and I could also get them in $US or Turkish Lira. I am paying in Euro cash and that includes a theatre ticket, which paying in Euro gives me a small discount.

As the Aussie dollar where I am from is not recognised at all in Turkey and many other places I am travelling, I am taking Euros, Turkish lire and cash in Aussie dollars to be converted to TRY via ATMs. The ATM rate is often the best as it is usually based on a straight bank transfer, especially if you do not have to have foreign transaction fees applied. I will pay a $A4 ATM fee approx, but that still works out at a better rate. I am using this technique in Israel and Jordan also.

Posted by
35 posts

We have just returned from a one month self-organized holiday in Turkey. For the most part we spent lira but some places had quoted us in euros so we paid them with that currency. Almost anywhere you go in Turkey they will take either currency because they use xe.com to convert to Turkish lira or to euros depending on what you have on hand. ATM's are in most places and using them is very easy. They will also dispense euros or lira.

Posted by
15 posts

I might suggest using a no fee credit card when possible is get the official exchange- one that does not charge overseas exchange rates (such as Pentagon Federal Credit Union, but there are others.)
Also when using a credit card and a merchant asks if you want them to convert the payment to Euros or Lira "say no". They want to charge you for converting- let your credit card do if for free.

Posted by
5 posts

What about if you want to take the metro in Istanbul, can you pay for the tickets with your credit card in the metro machine? We also want to Haga Sophia, will they take credit card for method of payment? Our cruise also goes to Ephesus and we want to take the local bus, would it be better to round up and pay in dollars or euros? Will Ephesus take credit card? Thank you for your responses.

Posted by
6716 posts

@elidonley - I don't remember whether the metro has a credit card option but it was not hard to get lira at the airport ATM to pay for the metro. It's so inexpensive I would just pay cash (it was something like 4 lira or $1 dollar). Haghia Sofia is free I believe (don't remember if I'm mixing it up with the Blue Mosque). Just use lira for everything (not Euros or Dollars). Don't know about Ephesus because I went w/ tour and the tickets were already purchased. Go on the Ephesus website and see what they accept....

Posted by
78 posts

None of public transportation systems including metro has credit card option to buy. The best and easiest way to get on public transportation in Istanbul to get an Istanbul Card. You pay 10 liras (you can return it after you leave from Istanbul and get your 10 liras back)to get it and you fill it like prepaid credit card. Once you get on bus, you scan it on bus or if you get on metro ,you scan it on machines before metro and you get in metro.

https://www.google.ca/search?q=istanbul+card&biw=1439&bih=684&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=5bFGVe-iO8nWU832gfgE&sqi=2&ved=0CAcQ_AUoAghttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QQ9_AVapc50

Istanbul Card is a must for people who wants to stay longer in Istanbul. With Istanbul Card, you can take any transportation system including ferries but not taxis nor 'minibus'.
Yes you can buy tokens too but nobody really uses tokens in Istanbul and they are 1 liras more expensive and you can not buy tokens or you can not find them in every station depending on your transportation method.
For example you can not find a place to buy tokens at most of bus stations.
You can even use your Istanbul Card to pay public toilets (Public Toilets are not free) They are operated by Istanbul Municipality. You will see one by German Fountain in Sultanahmet. There is toilet and you pay it with Istanbul Card

Istanbul Municipality works like a business corporation. They operate toilets, they operate bookstores in major city centers, they operate parking spots in all Istanbul, they operate own their restaurants( cheaper, cleaner and open to public, I would recommend to you the one in Uskudar), they build homes and sell to public like contractor, they make and sell litter bins, sitting benches, bollards, tables, they make and sell asphalt and many more.... They have over 27 companies in Istanbul including even major bread company . They bake 1,900,000 bread in a day and sell it public and using all of profits from its companies for Istanbul again.....
Good luck