When I came to Turkey for the first time, I had mapped out everything I wanted to do. The different historical sites I wanted to see, places I wanted to take pictures, clubs I wanted to hang out in. But there was one thing I didn’t plan; where and what was I going to eat? Normally, that is priority #1. But, I figured that I would just wing it, and pay for food that looked good. Although this is a fine idea hypothetically, it kept me from combining the financial and cultural connection, leaving me either full and broke, or hungry and anxious.
Two years later, with the help of my fiancé and friends, I’ve really cultivated a wide variety of options to eating well and cheap. I wish I had known all this sooner however, as I constantly think back to the times I was either ripped off or short cutting myself. Thus, this blog is meant for the upcoming visitor to Turkey. These are some of my recommendations to eating well, cheap, while embracing the culture all at the same time.
Ayran: The Turkish yogurt drink, that’s great with meat dishes in the afternoon or nighttime. It goes for 1-2 Liras – if you find yourself paying anymore than 2 liras, which is on the high end, you’re being ripped off. I had the unfortunate mistake of paying 4 liras once!
Turkish Tea: This is often FREE in restaurants, after having finished lunch or dinner. However, if having to pay for tea, this can be easily be found for 50 kurus (35 cents) to 1.5 lira. Otherwise, save tea for another time, as it’s a common all-day drink in Turkey.
Bottled Water: Should not be more than 50 kurus. Possibly it goes up to 75 in Istanbul, but again, no more than that!
Simit: A sort of Turkish pretzel, this sesame covered carb-delight is large and filling. Normal price is 50 kurus. Not too bad for filling you up for an hour or two!
Dürüm: A Turkish wrap sandwich filled with either strips of chicken, lamb, or beef, this tasty Ottoman treat can be found for 2.5 to 4 liras, depending on your location. It’s a great way to fill up if you’re on the run. Combined with a drink, and you’ll find yourself spending 6-7 liras on lunch, which is about $4. Not too shabby!
Doner: Similar to the Greek gyro, this sandwich should be easily priced around 3-4 liras, and should leave you stuffed.
Pide: A sort of Turkish pizza, this delicious bread topped with minced meat, and additional choices of spinach or eggs, can be found at 4-6 liras. Higher end restaurants are known to price it for 9-12 liras, but that is absurd!
Gozleme: A favorite of mine, it is a soft, thin bread wrap quickly heated on a stone tablet, and is often stuffed with cheese or spinach. In more rural parts of Turkey, gozleme is found for 1 lira, but in populated areas, goes for about 2 liras. If you’re paying more than 2.5, then you’re paying too much.
Borek: This is great for breakfast. Usually filled with cheese, spinach, or meat, this phyllo-stuffed specialty is usually found at bakeries that specialize in borek. The average price per piece (about 4x4inch) can go for about 2 lira. Wash it down with a cup of tea, and you not only are satisfied by the flavor, but you save money for the rest of the day too!
In the end, you can find that exploring the cuisines of Turkey and being financially sound can go hand in hand. When spending money on food, a normal day around Turkey can cost as little as $10-$15. So go ahead, be adventurous, but be smart. Because if you spend too much money on one meal, it can hold you back from trying a really good meal the next time you’re hungry.