Located between modern Europe and the more traditional Middle East, Turkey is a bridge between cultures and time. The people are hospitable and friendly and the nation’s tourism industry is highly developed. And while English isn’t spoken as widely as in some other touristic countries, don’t let that stop you from visiting this geographical and natural treasure. By learning some of the basic Turkish phrases for tourists below, you will not only make your time in Turkey more enjoyable, you will impress the Turkish local you are speaking with.
Turkish people absolutely love it when you try to speak their language. Remembering a few phrases in Turkish for tourists will go a long way. Locals will be delighted that you are trying and they’ll treat you as an honoured guest if you make even the smallest effort to speak Turkish.
To get started, here are some of the most useful Turkish phrases for tourists, broken up into several different categories.
Before we begin with phrases, here are the basics about Turkish that will help you pronounce each word correctly. First, in Turkish, each letter only makes one sound. The language is completely phonetic. Also, Turkish uses a latin script so the letters will look familiar to you with the exception of a few extra letters. Here are the extras and what they say:
ğ: this is a place holder letter and doesn’t make a sound, it merely elongates the letters around it.
ş: says sh
ç: says ch
You will also see dotted and undated i’s, o’s, and u’s but you can just pronounce them as usual since they only have slight technical differences. The difference is important for advanced speakers, but for those just wanting to learn some of the most common Turkish phrases for tourists, those differences are not necessary to worry about.
Basic greetings and salutations
Greetings are very common in Turkey. They are a sort of song and dance, with the same conversation being had dozens of times throughout the day.
Merhaba (mer-ha-ba): Hello
This is the most basic word for hello and can be said to anyone at any time of the day.
Nasılsın? (nas-il-sin): How are you?
This phrase is the most common way to ask how someone is doing.
İyiyim, Sen nasılsın? (ee-ee-im, sen nas-il-sin): I’m good, how are you?
This phrase is a way to answer the previous question and then ask it back to the person you are talking to.
Benım adım…(ben-im, ad-im): My name is.
Senin adın ne? (sen-in, ad-in, nay): What is your name?
Nerelisin? (ner-el-i-sin): Where are you from?
Hoş geldin (hosh, gel-din): Welcome
Hoş bulduk (hosh, bul-dook): A way to say thank you for welcoming me
Kolay gelsin (kol-eye, gel-sin): May it come easily (said to someone who is working, usually when coming or going)
Görüşürüz (goo-roo-sh-oo-rooz): See you again, goodbye
Iyı günler (ee-ee, goon-ler): Have a good day
Learning a few basic Turkish phrases that express common courtesy are also very important as Turkish people are used to a more formal way of interaction.
Teşekkür ederim (tesh-ek-ur, ed-er-im): Thank you
This is one of the hardest words to say in the whole language, but also one of the most important. If you’re having a hard time with it try the easier option below.
Sağol (sa-ol): An easier way to express thanks, it literally means be healthy
Rica ederim (ri-ja, ed-er-im): You’re welcome
Çok güzel (choke, goo-zel): Very beautiful
Also, the word “Çok” is very useful and can be added before anything to emphasise it. It means very, and Turkish people use it a lot.
Elinize sağlık (el-in-iz-ey, sa-lick): Health to your hands.
This is a way to compliment your cook for a their work in making your food.
Finding your way around
These basic Turkish phrases for tourists will help you as you try to navigate your way around Turkey’s major cities like Istanbul, Ankara, Antalya, and Izmir. They will also help if you go further afield to some of Turkey’s more rural and natural areas.
Tuvalet nerede? (to-let, ner-ay-day): Where is the bathroom?
Note that you can pronounce toilet as you do in English and they will know what you mean.
Otobus nerede? (ot-o-boos, ner-ay-day): Where is the bus?
Havalimanı nerede? (ha-va-li-ma-ni, ner-ay-day): Where is the airport?
Taksi nerede? (tak-si, ner-ay-day): Where is the taxi?
Taksi ne kadar? (tak-si, nay, ka-dar): How much is the taxi?
AVM nerede? (ah-ve-mey, ner-ay-day): Where is the mall?
AVM is an abbreviation that is commonly used for the words that mean shopping mall.
Hastane nerede? (has-ta-ne, ner-ay-day) Where is the hospital?
…nerede? (ner-ay-de): You might have guessed from the above phrases that the word nerede means where, and you were right. This is helpful to know because you can just place any word in front of nerede and it means “Where is…” that thing or place.
When going out to eat there are several phrases and names of food that are helpful to know to make sure the meal is a tasty memory rather than a cultural or culinary disaster. Here are a few of them:
Menu alabilir miyim? (men-u, al-a-bil-ir, mee-yum): Can I have a menu?
Fiyat ne kadar? (fee-yacht, nay, kad-ar): How much?
Tavuk (ta-vook): Chicken
Et (et): Beef
Kuzu eti (koo-zoo, et-ee): Lamb meat
Balik (bal-ick): Fish
Vejetaryen (vej-e-tar-yen): Vegetarian
Allerji (all-er-ji): Allergy
Çok lezzetli (choke, lezz-et-lee): Very delicious
Hesap alabilir miyim? (hey-sap, al-a-bil-ir, mee-yum): Can I get the bill?
You can’t go to Turkey, especially Istanbul, and not go shopping. For tourists, the two most famous and fun shopping areas are Taksim Square and the Grand Bazaar. If you want to experience how Turkish people live, you can also try to go to a modern day bazaar, held in most neighbourhoods at least once a week. These common Turkish words and phrases for tourists will help you out.
Kapalı çarşı (cop-al-a, char-sh-a): The Turkish name for the Grand Bazaar
Pazar (pa-zar): The name for a modern, local, open-air market
Ne kadar? (nay, ka-dar): How much?
Taksim (tak-sim): The name of one of Istanbul’s most famous shopping districts
In the very unlikely event that you will be faced with an emergency, there are a couple of Turkish words that will help you.
Imdat (eem-dat): Emergency, use the phrase if you feel threatened by someone
155 (yuz-el-ee, baysh): The emergency number you can call if you need to, and how to pronounce it in Turkish
How to learn Turkish?
With so many great language learning apps and websites, it’s easy to learn to speak Turkish. Here are some of the best apps, podcasts, and websites for beginning your Turkish learning adventure.
Duolingo: The popular app is a great way to get started learning simple words and phrases for free.
Babbel: Babbel is an app that does cost money, but is sure to produce solid results in as little as five hours. It also has a one-month option, so users can pick it up and then drop it if they feel it isn’t working or that they have learned enough for their upcoming trip.
Rosetta Stone: Rosetta Stone is a great way for those who are more serious about picking up some Turkish to learn before they go. Like, Babbel, Rosetta Stone is a paid option, though it does have a free three-day trial.
Turkish Tea Time: Turkish Tea Time is a website and podcast that offers a great way to learn Turkish for free. The podcast especially does a wonderful job of breaking down different words and grammars so they can be understood. It works best for those who have strong English.
Sesli Sözlük: This is a dictionary app that translates words from Turkish to English and vice versa. It is one of the best dictionary apps available for those wanting to look up the meaning of Turkish words in English.
Iyi Yolculuklar (Bon voyage!)
Your trip to Turkey is going to be amazing, filled with exciting encounters with locals, fantastic food, and unbelievable sites. Where else can you visit ancient churches and monasteries, swim at pristine beaches, ski the snowy slopes of gorgeous mountains, explore underground cities, savour the exquisite cuisine of a culinary scene hundreds of years old, and spend the afternoon shopping at world class malls and shopping districts. It’s true, Turkey has something for everyone.
With a little effort beforehand, you can pick up some Turkish phrases for tourists that will impress the Turks you talk to and make your trip that much easier. Have a great trip.