Turkey currently uses the lira as its chosen currency. There has been talk for some years about the prospect of Turkey joining the European Union. If this occurred it would therefore replace the lira with the Euro. However we are still a fair way off from seeing this happen. No country is allowed to join the EU or adopt the Euro unless it can meet stringent requirements to put it in the right position to join. As such it may be some time – if at all – before we say goodbye to the Turkish lira.
The lira is a decimal currency and can be divided into one hundred kurus. The symbol used to represent the lira is similar to a small ‘t’ with two horizontal lines going across it. As for the kuru, this is represented by the letters ‘kr’.
What coins and notes are available for this currency?
There are six coins in circulation for the currency, although the one kuru coin is rarely used or seen as it is worth so little. Other than this you will see the 5kr, 10kr, 25kr and 50kr coins, as well as the one lira coin.
There are also six banknotes in use at present. These are the 1, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 lira banknotes. Each one has a different design and is of a different colour as well.
From past to present – the history of the Turkish lira
The first use of the lira can be traced back to 1844, when it was a gold coin. The gold standard remained in use for a while but fell out of favour by the time World War I arrived. At this point it was decided the currency should be pegged against the value of another currency. Typical examples of currencies chosen at various points are the French franc and the British pound.
The lira has been through the wars in terms of value over the years. It enjoyed a fairly stable period between 1946 and 1960, when it was pegged against the US dollar. Once this period ended devaluation occurred and the Seventies saw some very troublesome times for the currency. Indeed the lira was pretty much worthless during this time and the country went through two tough recessions as well before the new century dawned. At one point in 2004 a single US dollar was the equivalent of more than 1.3 million lira, whereas back in 1966 you would have got just 9 lira for a US dollar. That’s how troublesome things were. 1.3 million lira might sound like a lot but it would make you far from a millionaire in real terms, thanks to the rampant inflation that had taken hold in the country.
The currency in place now is still the Turkish lira but it was brought in on 1st January 2005 as a new issue of the currency. Initially it was literally called the New Turkish Lira but the ‘new’ part was dropped after a few years had gone by.
How to get hold of Turkish lira
Lots of holidaymakers go abroad to Turkey every year, so it should not come as a surprise to learn that Turkey makes it quite easy to get hold of their currency if you are on holiday there. Most tourist friendly areas have plentiful cash machines to use that make it easy to get hold of lira whenever you need it. Of course you will probably want to take some with you as well. This can be arranged ahead of your journey by ordering some lira from a bureau de change before you leave. You can either pick up your cash a few days before your trip or arrange to collect it at the airport before catching your flight. Don’t forget you might find traveller’s cheques useful to have as well.
Once you are in Turkey you can still exchange banknotes for lira notes at exchange offices in various cities and towns. Again, you will pretty much find them anywhere you go, even often outside the main tourist areas. It is not usually wise to use banks to exchange your cash for lira because they tend not to offer such preferential rates.
How to find out the latest exchange rate between your home currency and the Turkish lira
This is easy to do. Just use your favourite currency converter and find your own currency and the Turkish lira from the drop down boxes traditionally used in such a converter. You can select either the one unit ratio to find out what one of your own currency would be worth in lira, or you can look to find out how far a specific amount of spending money would take you when converted into lira.
Remember you’ll need to add on any commission a bureau de change would charge you for making the transfer. A currency converter will only give you a basic conversion to go on. The commission will vary from place to place so shop around to get the best deal you can.
If you are thinking of travelling to Turkey in the near future you can visit the website for the Consulate General of Turkey in London at http://www.turkishconsulate.org.uk for more information on visa applications and other relevant details.
Travelling safely with Turkish lira
For the most part Turkey is a safe and enjoyable country to visit. You can find the latest travel information with regard to safety on the government website, since this is regularly updated. Generally it is advised to stay away from areas close to the Syrian border in the south and south east of the country. However many of the main areas that draw in the tourists are far away from this. For example Istanbul is in the north western corner of the country.
Common sense should always prevail when you are on holiday anywhere in the world, and this applies just as much to Turkey as it does anywhere else. For example you should be aware that tourists are easy targets in a lot of big cities and towns in Turkey, so try to minimise the chances of becoming a target. Don’t carry too much cash with you and consider wearing a money belt too. It is very easy to be captivated by your surroundings and the people around you when you are somewhere new, and it is this kind of situation that gives a pickpocket time to lift your wallet or purse without you knowing.
It is also a good idea to have some ID on you at all times. In some cases the hotel you stay in will require you to leave your passport with them during your stay. However if this occurs you should have another form of identification to use while you are out and about, just in case you are asked to provide it.
All in all make sure you check the relative safety of the area you wish to visit before you go to Turkey. For the most part it is perfectly safe but it is always good to check in advance.
Where to spend your lira in Turkey – and what to spend them on
Istanbul is obviously one of the main draws for many people, and for good reason too. It is a huge city and one that is unmissable if you have never been to Turkey before. The Bosphorus strait runs through it and it should come as no surprise to learn that people have lived here for centuries. As you may know it was originally known as Constantinople.
The city has a strong past, much of which is evident when you visit. This is why the historic parts of the city are recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and rightly so. This includes the Galata Bridge, which crosses the Golden Horn waterway, Topkapi Palace and Hagia Sophia among other sights. There are expensive neighbourhoods, historic areas and many other engaging sights and areas to be seen as well.
Istanbul is not the only city with a vast history either. Halicarnassus may not easily roll off the tongue but this city is chock full of amazing ancient sights that have been largely preserved until today. It is often referred to as an open air museum, and you may know it today as being in Bodrum. This also boasts the Castle of St Peter.
Of course lots of people head to Turkey for the weather and the sensational beaches on offer. There are many of them too, some of which have dedicated resorts built around them and others that are more rugged and natural. You can try the likes of Marmaris and Kusadasi among others. If you head for the coast you can enjoy a wide range of water sports, such as scuba diving, snorkelling and swimming.
Turkey also provides the ideal chance to go on a walking or trekking holiday. Some of these are organised in advance, while others offer the chance to explore on your own. There are some fantastic trails in Turkey, including the Kackar trails and the Lycian Way among others.
While there are many attractions and destinations that will help you part with your lira, you may also want to tuck into a meal or two while you are out and about. Turkish cuisine is amazing and if your experience of it thus far extends only to the odd kebab, you have some surprises on the way. Baklava is a Turkish delight that is eaten in small bites, fusing filo pastry with nuts and sugar – plenty of sugar.
If you’d rather have a quick and filling bite as a snack, Icli Kofte might fit the bill. These are bite sized dough balls filled with meat, onions and spices, and are truly mouth-watering. You’ll find it hard to stop at one or two!
In truth whatever your likes and dislikes are in terms of food, you won’t run short of amazing things to eat to satisfy your appetite while in Turkey.
As you can see a trip to Turkey provides a wealth of things to see and do. You can check out all the most famous sights as well as exploring off the beaten track and heading into the countryside. Whether you spend your lira in top restaurants, on admission to some of the most famous attractions or on street food en route, you’ll be glad you chose to visit Turkey in the first place.