Turkish for Tourists: Basic Turkish Words & Phrases for a Great Trip

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Are you interested in learning Turkish for tourists? Let’s jump in!

When I first moved to Istanbul, Turkey, honestly it was a bit overwhelming. I wished I had learned some Turkish before I moved.

As English speakers, I sometimes feel we are quite lazy in some areas and hard-working in others. Languages is one of those lazy areas.

Cultures and people around the world are working to learn English, yet we, at large, only know English.

When you visit a new country people will often want to speak English with you and practice the little they do know. They are proud they can speak it.

But that unfortunately means that many of us have become lazy. We assume that anywhere we go, we will be able to be understood. That is, however, not the case.

Now that I am fairly fluent in the language, I can help you avoid some of the pitfalls that I hit hard when I got here.

So if you’re preparing for your trip to Turkey and you don’t know the Turkish language, let me give you some basics and helpful phrases for tourists to set you up for success.

Why learn Turkish words and phrases?

Turkish phrases for tourists are important for a few different reasons and even more important for people who are moving to Turkey. Here are a few reasons.

  • It communicates honor which is especially important in this part of the world. When you take time to meet someone where they are you honor them.
  • It will open so many more doors. Turkish people are quite hospitable and kind people. Sometimes in touristy areas that can get you in trouble but on the whole, they are proud of who they are and want to share it with you.

    As you speak Turkish with locals, they will be so thrilled you took the time to learn their language and you will experience things others don’t get to.
  • It grows you! When you learn a new language and then actually use it, you grow in humility, bravery, and compassion.
    • Humility because you will say it wrong and will have to be corrected…or maybe they just nod and smile.
    • Bravery because it is hard to be wrong but that is often what love does….it attempts to honor regardless of losing face.
    • Compassion because you start to see things from a different perspective.

With that being said, this blog is about helping you with some useful Turkish words and phrases. Things that will be helpful for you to know as you go.

One thing I do want to point out that was really encouraging, in the beginning, is that Turkish is a phonetic language. Every letter always makes the same sound! That is a win in my book.

Turkish alphabet

Let’s look at the Turkish alphabet

PronunciationUpperLowerPronounced asTurkish Word
aAabut, flood, cousinaraba
beBbsame as in Englishbalık
ceCcjam, justusceket
çeÇçchair, choreçiçek
deDdsame as in Englishdede
eEemet, headelma
feFfsame as in Englishfil
geGggame, garglegöz
yumuşak geĞğsilent connectordağ
heHhsame as in Englishharita
ıIıigloo, sinceışık
iİisneeze, breezeinek
jeJjpleasure, televisionjaguar
keKksame as in Englishkedi
leLlsame as in Englishlimon
meMmsame as in Englishmasa
neNnsame as in Englishnar
oOoboat, northokul
öÖöheard, hurtöğretmen
pePpsame as in Englishportakal
reRrsame as in Englishrobot
seSssame as in Englishsıfır
şeŞşshine, plushşapka
teTtsame as in Englishtahta
uUubush, gooduçak
üÜüpew, eweüzüm
veVvsame as in Englishvazo
yeYysame as in Englishyılan
zeZzsame as in Englishzebra

“Do you know what a foreign accent is? It’s a sign of bravery.” ― Amy Chua

You can now start practicing reading Turkish and listening. Thankfully when Ataturk established Turkey, he also transitioned Turkish to a Latin alphabet.

I did a post on the best Netflix Shows that you can watch to help you pick up the sound of Turkish.

As for reading, when I first got here, every day I would ride into the city to my language lessons, and I would sound out every word I could read. It was so helpful.

I got used to some words and perhaps it helped me to memorize them faster.

There are a couple of things to note.

The letters in the Turkish alphabet are mostly the same as in English though in Turkish we don’t use q, w, and x.

You also have the addition of a few vowels and consonants: ç, ğ, ş, ö, and ü.

They are mostly self-explanatory though most Westerners have a hard time with the ö and the ü.

I also want to make a quick note about the “yumuşak get”. This is a silent connector, a soft g = ğ.

It elongates the letter before it. For instance, dağda would sound like daada when you pronounce every letter, which you always do in Turkish.

The other quick note I want to make is the h is never silent like it is in English.

If you see harita for instance, you will definitely start the word with the “ha” sound.

With that in mind, let’s jump into some vocabulary!

pin for Turkish for Tourists

Common Turkish Greetings

These are some of the most common Turkish phrases used because they are used whenever you enter or leave a place. They are used when you see someone.

And oftentimes, many of them are used together as one greeting.

One of my favorite things is when Turks say goodbye, they will say “Goodbye. Take care of yourself. Kisses.” It’s quite endearing.

Let’s take a look at some greetings in Turkish.

MerhabaHello in Turkish
GünaydınGood morning
İyi günlerGood dayUse during daytime
İyi akşamlarGood evenıng
Hoş geldin (hoş geldiniz)Welcome (plural)Used when entering somewhere
Hoş buldukGlad to be hereResponse to hoş geldin
Hoşça kalStay wellAs leaving a place to the person staying
Güle GüleGo smilinglyResponse to hoşça kal
Kolay gelsinTake it easyMany different uses
Nasılsınız?How are you

As far as basic Turkish phrases go, greetings are an easy win. If all you learn is hello in Turkish and then how are you in Turkish, consider it a win.

You will make Turks so happy if you use them. You can use them even if you don’t understand what follows.

If you say a greeting and someone responds more, you can follow up with something like “Kusura bakma, Türkçe öğreniyorum” which means, “Sorry, I’m still learning Turkish.”

You will also notice that most of the time when you leave, you will hear multiple expressions as a goodbye.

For instance, someone will say, “Kolay gelsin. İyi günler. Görüşürüz” all in the same breath.

My personal favorite is “kolay gelsin” because it can be used in so many different ways.

It can be used as an opener for conversation, like when you first enter a shop or restaurant and want to ask a question. It can be used when exiting a shop as a goodbye greeting.

You can even use it when a situation isn’t easy at all but you’re wishing it were.

For instance a student with a lot of homework, you could say, “kolay gelsin” to them. You can use it with friends and in more formal settings.

Basic Turkish for Being Polite

While Turks don’t often say please and thank you, it doesn’t stop you from using them while abroad.

I remember when I first got to Turkey I was told I used them too much…I think that is silly. They make you sound like a foreigner but guess what…I am one!

Let’s take a look at how to say a few useful phrases to convey politeness.

Teşekkür ederim, TeşekkürlerThank you, Thanks
SağolInformal thank you
Afiyet olsunBon appetite
Ellerine sağlıkHealth to your hands – said to the one who cooked or prepared something
Geçmiş olsunLiterally may it be in the past
Kusura bakmaExcuse me, forgive me
Özür delirimApologizing for something big, when you’re really sorry.

Geçmiş olsun is another one of those words that can be used in multiple ways. You can say it to someone who is having a hard any type of situation.

It is used when someone is sick or gets water splashed on them by the truck driving by or even when a person spills something while eating.

This is different than “I’m sorry this is happening to you.” It is more of a wish for it to pass quickly. You could say both though.

“Çok üzgünüm. Geçmiş olsun.” (I’m so sorry [for you]. I hope it passes quickly.)

a Useful Turkish Conversation

Let’s take a look at a short conversation that could take place. You can run through this multiple times.

This is a conversation about how you could introduce yourself in Turkish.

Person APerson B
Merhaba. Benim adım Kimberly. Senin adın ne? (Hello. My name is Kimberly. What is yours?)Merhaba. Benim adım Ayşe. Memnun oldum. (Hello. My name is Ayşe. Nice to meet you.)
Ben de memnun oldum. Nasılsın?
(It’s nice to meet you too. How are you?)
Teşekkürler. İyiyim. Ya sen?
(I’m well. And you?)
Teşekkürler. Ben de iyiyim.
(Thank you. I’m also good.)
Süper. Ben gidiyorum. Görüşüz. Hoşça kal. (Great! I am heading out. See ya later. Stay well.)
Tamam. Görüşüz. Güle güle.
(Ok. See ya. Go smilingly).

If you practice it enough times it becomes easy. A way to do this is to practice with whoever you’re going to Turkey with.

You could exchange greetings with each other back and forth. By the time you get here, you’ll be ready to go!

This is a great resource. It is a pocket and contains not only a dictionary but also a pronunciation guide. Let it help you as you make your way through Turkey.

Needing help as a Tourist

Sometimes you need help. Here are a few phrases that will help you as you navigate through Turkey.

Bakar mısınız?Excuse me. (Literally can you look here?)
AffedersinizSorry (used for small things), getting someone’s attention
Bana yardım eder misiniz?Can you help me?
İmdat!Help or Emergency
Polise nerede?Where are the police?
Alerjim var.I have an allergy.

Language Apps for Your Phone

I have an entire post on the best apps for travelers but there are a couple of great apps with regard to language. Let’s take a look.

reverso logo

Reverso is a great app because it will give you a handful of options for a phrase.

This is especially helpful because Turkish words can have varied meanings.

So if you’re thinking it means one thing, you may miss what is being asked.

google translate logo

Google Translate is also helpful! It isn’t going to be perfect every time but you will find it is quite robust.

The best feature is the camera function. If you turn on the camera translate, you will be able to translate live.

It’s super helpful in stores!

Tureng logo

Tureng is similar to reverso in that it gives you lots of options.

Often when you use Google Translate, it will give you one option (unless you hit enter) and it doesn’t always fit.

But Tureng will allow you many different options for the word’s meaning.

sesli sozluk logo

This one is similar to Tureng but if you want to learn more context, this is a great app.

It gives more descriptions and helps you really understand more than just a quick answer.

One last tip for travelers

One final tip that I still find helpful is that you can add an extension to your browser that will allow you to translate a page.

Google Translate Extension for Chrome is really helpful but Firefox also has its own.

This is especially helpful because even though many websites will have an English option, you will miss so much because it is a much more basic translation.

They don’t add everything they would in Turkish.

Obviously, the translated page can’t translate images but the ability to go shopping or order yemeksepeti on the website makes it so much more understandable.

Wow. That was a lot. Hopefully, you learned something new or were encouraged by what you already knew!

If you have learned a foreign language before, you will know that this is just the beginning. But if you can get these down, it will make for such a better trip.

You will make people so happy that you took the time to learn a little of their language and it will bless you greatly!

Have you studied any Turkish yet? Did you find this Turkish for tourists helpful?

Hopefully, you did. As always, feel free to let me know what blog topics you would like to see. Catch you on the next blog.

Read more:

Turkey vacation basics

When I plan a trip these are the websites I use. Hope they help you plan your next adventure as well!

FLIGHTS: I am a huge fan of Skyscanner and WayAway.

VISAS: You can use the free e-visa portal here but for a few extra dollars you can use iVisa and someone else will handle any issues that may come up.

E-SIM: When I traveled to SE Asia I discovered e-sims and I’m never going back. Airalo has been easy and cheap!

TRAVEL INSURANCE: I use TravelInsurance.com for my trips abroad.

CAR RENTAL: I have loved working with Discover Cars when I rent cars in country.

AIRPORT TRANSFERS: I have used these transfers many times and they are always great. If you’d like more options, I also recommend GetTransfers.com as they allow you to compare companies.

ACCOMMODATION: Find the best Turkey hotel deals on Booking.com.

CITY TOURS & DAY TRIPS: You can browse GetYourGuide’s website to find just the tour you’re looking for!

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