Turkey Travel Tips: 2008
Ancient cultures, delicious food, and warm, sunny beaches: We love and Turkey! What tips do you have for your fellow travelers to the East Mediterranean?
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We enjoyed our recent trip to Istanbul. The grand bazaar is overpriced and most of the items can be found in the state run Dosim stores (found near major tourist sites), for much less. A resturant worth trying is Asitine's. It does receipes that were fed to the Sultan's. It was very good and a short taxi ride away from the Blue Mosque. We felt completely safe (my wife and two boys 9 and 13) and we did most of our site seeing by foot with a few exceptions. We had 3+ days here and we could have used a couple of more.
Seattle, WA USA Thu 12/04/2008
Travellers Beware in Istanbul
Istanbul Travel Agent - Traveller beware. Agent recommended by front office manager Eresin Crown Hotel,Sultanahmet. Our experience with Istanbul Insider Tours trading as Ensemble Travel was totally unsatisfactory and in our opinion this company(s) should be avoided by all travellers to Turkey. Primary complaint is overcharging to the extent of a rip off of 40-50% over billing. Secondary complaint is their booking or day tour from Istanbul to Gallipoli with "Hassel Free Tours" A pick up and drop off at your hotel tour was essential and offered. Pick up with the tour bus from our hotel door and travel to and at Gallipoli was to schedule. However passengers returning to Istanbul at Gallipoli were off loaded by "Hassel Free Tours" and put on a public bus for the return journey - not a tourist bus- for the 5 hours plus journey to Istanbul - the bus company - Canakkale Truva Buses. Our party of 4 was advised a shuttle bus would ensure we were returned to our hotels. On being escorted to the Truva Bus, they tried to get us to pay for the fare back (38.00 Turkish Lira) This bus after stopping at numerous small towns, finally arrived at an outer suburban bus station at Istanbul approx 12.15am where all passengers were instructed to get off as this was the final destination for this local bus service. The area was quite threatening especially around midnight. Our small group of non Turkish travellers tried to explain we had paid for a drop off at our hotels and requested a shuttle bus. Canakkale Truva claimed they were not aware of any obligation or arrangement to get us back to our hotels and that Hassel Free Tours had not advised them of this. Much difficult discussion took place, with our small group of 4 finally put in a small van with the bus companies staff. The driver did not understand any English or know the location of our hotels, and was going to drop us off near at the Blue Mosque. Finally at around 1.00am we made it back to our hotel. The agent overcharged for the day trip and the tour bus company did not honour the pick up and drop off at your hotel.- with a tour bus resulting in creating much apprehension and concerns of safety and wellbeing. We were abandoned at some outer suburban bus station at midnight in a city such as Istanbul and left to our own resources
Melbourne, Vic Australia Sun 11/02/2008
Travellers Beware in Istanbul Counterfiet Notes
Istanbul t - Traveller beware. We loved Istanbul and the history of the city, but when we went to Topkapi Palace and handed over a 100.00 Lire note we were given a 50.00 Lire fake note in return. so Beware.
Melbourne, Vic Australia Sun 11/02/2008
hello everyone, I was in Istanbul about 2 weeks ago and I was surprised by the cost of some of the sites. in general I found that most of the sites in Istanbul cost twice as much as it says in Rick´s Istanbul book. Hagia Sofia is 20 YTL, not 10 YTL, however, the underground cistern is the same.
Tacoma, WA USA Sat 11/01/2008
Recommend taking a private tour of Ephesus
We recently returned from a cruise in the Mediterranean with a stop in Kusadasi, Turkey. (August 5) I found Ekol Travel from a fellow traveler on tripadvisor and can't recommend them highly enough! Our guide's name was Ali and he worked extremely hard to make our tour interesting and enjoyable. His knowledge of history is amazing! We had our 17, 19 and 22 year old children with us and they loved him! We added the terrace houses to our tour (fantastic) as well as a stop for a delicious home-cooked meal and tour of rug handicrafts. I was reluctant to visit because I had read about pushy rug dealers but everyone we met was very relaxed and friendly. It turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip! I'm really glad we used a private tour guide instead of going on a big tour bus. We were met at the dock and then taken to an air-conditioned van for our tour. This is the only way to go! Our experience was wonderful.
Seattle, WA USA Wed 08/20/2008
We visited in May for 2 weeks- stayed just in Istanbul and believe me there was plenty to do in a city of 18 million people. We had the eyewitness-guide and Rick's book on Istanbul written by the Turkish couple. All the information we used was exact and the guide to the baths was invaluable. We felt like we had a more authentic visit than those tourists who hadn't read his specific instructions and guidelines. We rented an apartment from the VRBO website and felt it VERY reasonable and allowed breakfast and drinks and snacks at less cost than eating our every meal. The vegetable man came down our street a couple of times a week and we loved our interactions with the locals. All Americans should visit this country and realize Muslims are a lot like us- proud of their children and trying to make a living for themselves. We enjoyed our visit and thank RS for another invaluable travel guide which worked beautifully.
K & r
Atlanta, GA USA Fri 07/04/2008
Turkey Through the Back Door
I became interested in Istanbul from studying late Rome or the Byzantine Empire. I needed to see this grand city. It seemed so far away to me. After buying Rick Steves' Istanbul (written by some great guide- friends of Rick's) I felt armed to tackle a city on the edge of the West. It seems that the Turks expect a little more notice when booking hotels so my pay phone call for a hotel room from Germany was a little bit of a struggle. My US dollars seemed weak to me, even to Turkish Lira and my flight from Frankfurt to Istanbul was maybe 240 Euros round trip. And..the rooms weren't cheap..but they could have been worse. It was so exciting to be flying further east than I had ever been before..and probably farther than anyone in my whole family had ever gone before. I loved smoking with my cab driver…and I used a few Turkish phrases from my Rick Steves book which were very helpful. Please add more useful Turkish phrases in your next addition. I loved watching the walls of Constantinople come up! Amazing. What an amazing slice of unknown Turkish life. Byzantine history right there! I was hoping to hear some Turkish electronica, but I never found it. My room's balcony looked out to the Blue Mosque. I could hear the call to prayer. The smell of the night air impressed upon me. I was in Constantinople, Nova Roma, Istanbul. The power went out in my hotel so there were no showers to be had. And I had to move to another hotel that night as they didn't have a room for me for my second night (but they did for my first and third!). Turned out very well as the second hotel had the electricity going. I had a limited time due to budget constraints but there is plenty in Istanbul. Hagias Sophia, underground cistern…the amazing Istanbul Archeological museum which rivals the London museum. If you have any interest in late Rome or Byzantium then Istanbul is required. I also became more interested in modern Turkey as well and wished I read more although the Turks I talked to were impressed with my knowledge. I spent some time drinking and speaking about the state of the world with a young Turkish fellow. I also became a regular at a nearby kebab restaurant where that had a cat named Basil..a Byzantine Emperor ..but apparently also a Turkish term for bad-boy..at least that was the double meaning explained to me by the fellow there. I didn't want to leave Istanbul or Turkey but I eventually did. In fact the people in the neighborhood seemed to be sad I was leaving…maybe it was my imagination. My four days or so have only left me wanting more of course. I would love to see more ancient sights and now I have read "The Crescent and the Star"..a great modern history of Turkey. A fascinating place that is now at the center of the world. Thanks Rick for your very helpful book and inspiration.
Forestville, CA USA Wed 06/25/2008
My friend was able to exchange my leftover Turkish money at Bank of America in NYC. He said they will do this for account holders only. I don't know if they will do this in smaller cities. They exchange rate was in line with what you would get changing any other currency, but I didn't lose anything as the lira had appreciated since my trip last year.
Everett, WA USA Fri 06/20/2008
In Patara stay at the Eucalyptus Pension
If you are looking for a great getaway, consider Patara, along the coast close to Kalkan. I was just there for 10 days and had a great time relaxing, reading, knitting, eating great food and of course going to the beach everyday. I stayed at a small family run pension, Eucalyptus Pension. Their web site is www.eucalyptus-pension.com. I can recommend them highly.
Lincoln, NE USA Sun 06/15/2008
Iznik - A Turkish Back Door
As wonderful as travelling in Turkey can be, it's good to get away for at least a day or two and experience life in a smaller town, without hordes of tourists, carpet sellers and lines to see everything. Iznik is a small town on a large lake that is less than 3 hours away from Istanbul. A visit will provide you with a relaxing, authentic experience of Turkish life, complete with a few historical sites, great food and a bustling market every Wednesday. I spent three days there at the end of March, and highly recommend staying at the town's only pension, Kaynarca Hotel & Pension, run by the enthusiastic and helpful Ali Bulmus, who will do everything possible to make sure you enjoy your visit--including a free trip to watch the sun set over the lake from one of the hills overlooking the town. You can check out the accommodations at kaynarcahotel.com--the rooftop terrace and kitchen will make your stay even more pleasant. To get to Iznik on public transport, take the fast ferry from Istanbul (leaves from Yenikapi) to Yalova, then catch a minibus to Iznik. Bursa is a good daytrip from Iznik, also one hour by minibus, although it is such a large city that you will need to travel by taxi in order to see the main sights. Beware, right now the Green Mosque is closed for renovation, although the area is still worth a visit to see the Museum of Islamic History and Art. If you are interested in traditional tilemaking and decoration, Ali can introduce you to the owner of a family-run tile producer--you can even try your hand at painting some tiles yourself!
Marysville, WA USA Wed 04/02/2008
Kadifele: The Velvet Castle
The VELVET CASTLE
Skipping on up to the Velvet Castle I have come to the realization, yet again, that school is an unpleasent waste of my time here in Turkey. For almost five months, I have sat for eight hours a day staring at the same four walls, yet I still have not seen many of the amazing sights in Izmir. Usually I am not the kind of person to skip school, because I care about my grades. But here, school means nothing to me and I don't do anything in class. So what am I missing…nothing, except maybe some dramatics from the crazy girls, more than a few shouts from the up tight staff, and a sore back from the wooden desks unfit for any person that are so common in Turkish public schools. So this week was an enjoyable and educational series of days, and I feel so much less…well pissed off now that I don't go to that place. So yesterday, me and a few friends decided to skip and visit Kadifekale.
According to legend, Kadifekale (the Velvet Castle), was where Alexander the Great founded Smyrna (previous name for Izmir) on the slopes of Mt. Pagos. Today the ruins of a great fortress can still be seen on the top of a hill close to downtown Izmir. Now the neighborhoods surrounding the castle are a haven for Kurds and poor immigrants from Eastern Turkey. From early on in our exchange, all the exchangers have been interested in the castle. But after asking our Turkish classmates about it, we were informed that this was not a place to visit. They told us that it was full of gangs, Kurdish drug lords, violence, tent cities, that it was just a pile of rocks, basically this place is the hood. After doing more research about it, we discovered that this is actually a really interesting place, and a must see in Izmir. To us, all these stereotypes and rumours just made the castle sound more interesting. So the journey began, on an early, breezy Thursday morning, to the drug castle…to the UNKNOWN.
Four of us, all American, loaded onto a bus amongst the Turks of a time passed. Elderly women in gypsy garb, and smiling old men in their knit caps playing with prayer beads…then us, young Americans sitting, taking in the world around us, a Turkey we had pictured in our minds, beyond the capitalism, desire to be all things western, and the non-stop thumping of Turkish electronica. Kadifekale dances to another beat. As the bus ascended the hilly, windy, streets, we began to see the transformation from the familiar and modern city of Izmir, to an exotic and ancient city. The narrow streets were full of street vendors selling their wares, bakeries with their yeasty and inviting smells of freshly baked bread, and yelling children playing soccer amid the broken glass and waste from hundreds of years of civilization. Once we reached the top, the wind blowing strong, we could see all of Izmir, a vista shrouded with a static blue sea, and a distant backdrop of the dramatic mountains surrounding the city. The ruins themselves were quite impressive, though they could use some renovations. We climbed around on the castle for a couple of hours, then walked back down the hill in the neighborhoods that expose a different side of Turkey. As we were walking, we picked up some freshly baked pieces of flat bread, still warm out of the oven. Then we noticed a group huddled around a large vat on the side of the street. It was a large vat of oil, free donuts frying for the residents of the neighborhood. They insisted that each of us take some of these ''special Turkish sweets". After declining their kind offers, they kept insisting, so we gave into the famed Turkish hospitality. Walking through the neighborhoods, a crisp wind blowing through the maze of crumbling buildings, we realized we were all hungry from the trek, despite the doughnuts. We stopped into a nice, fairly clean looking place, and took a seat up stairs. For 3.50 YTL, we got a warm plate of Turkish moussakka, and yoghurt. Quite delicious. We caught a bus back to downtown, and met some more of our friends. The rest of the day shaped up to a normal day hanging out with friends. I hope to have many more experiences exploring Izmir, and the rest of this fascinating country. Also this Monday all of the exchange students are leaving for a five day trip to Istanbul. I am very excited for that.
Add comment January 25th, 2008
Ismir (Vashon), WA USA Fri 01/25/2008
Athens to Istanbul reccs.
You say "a few days,' so I asume five. Use neck pouch for valuables.
Take a night train to as close as you can get to Ancient Vergina or Pella, on the way to Thessaloniki. See those two places (use Lonely Planet for details, or Rough Guide, taxis if you must, but it can be done by bus), and sleep in Thessaloniki (I like Orestias Kastorias Hotel, with cybercafe around the corner). Take bus or train to Istanbul.
Stay in central city at a hotel Rick or someone similar (risible notion) touts.
See Hagia Sofia, Blue Mosque, Suleyman Mosque, Topkapi Museum, covered market.
Seattle, WA USA Thu 01/17/2008