Turkey Travel Tips: 2009
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?
- Please don't post questions here. Use our Travelers Helpline.
General tips, places to stay
The www.turkeytravelplanner.com is an awesome web site for planning a trip to Turkey. It's almost a one-stop shop for all your planning needs.
We used Backpackers travel to get to/from Ataturk airport and they were great. The link is through the turkeytravelplanner web site. You book with them and they pick you up in a nice car for about 20 euros. On time, clean vehicle.
Istanbul: We stayed at the Hotel Sultan Hill. This was a great place. The staff was friendly and helpful, and the location was great. The roof terrace had excellent views.
Cirali (near Antalya). We stayed at the Canada Hotel. Wonderful place. The rooms were clean and tidy, the food (including dinners) was great. Owners were very helpful - they called the police station and other places and helped us track down a lost money belt (which was returned with no money missing!).
Kas: We stayed at The Hideaway hotel. Again, great place to stay. Wonderful hosts, great location and view from the top terrace, very good food (including optional dinners).
Celcuk: We stayed at the Hotel Bella, and this was my favorite hotel in all of Turkey. Rooms were very good, but what made this place special was both the rooftop terrace/restaurant, and the warmth of the owners and staff. The food was so good at the restaurant that we ate almost every dinner there - not something we normally do when there is a town to go explore.
Boulder, CO USA Tue 12/08/2009
Veni Vidi Travel Turkey
We arrived back in Australia yesterday after the most wonderful tour of Istanbul and many of the highlights of Turkey, organised by Veni Vidi Travel Company. The difficult became easy and the seemingly impossible became a breeze, from Australia. The hotels were excellent, fairly priced and not over-the-top. The extensive knowledge of the tour guides in small groups to make our holiday totally enjoyable and seamless. Barry & Elizabeth Pointon.
Veni Vidi Travel Group Inc. : www.venividitravel.com / email@example.com / +90 212 458 9 777
Melbourne, AU Thu 11/26/2009
Hotel Sultan Hill
Just got back from Istanbul a couple of days ago. I stayed at the Hotel Sultan Hill, in Sultanahmet right behind the Sultan Ahmet Mosque. It was one of the "Special Class" hotels recommended in the RS guidebook. I HIGHLY recommend this place. Tidy clean rooms, complimentary fresh breafast. And so close to most of the major sites. Great work by Lale and Tankut; I must concur with a previous poster that I got more milage from this guidie than any of the previous RS books--and that's going some. Istanbul was still alright in mid-November (though October would have been perfect), and for those that want breathtaking terrace views of the Sultan Ahmet Mosque, I definitely recommend the Sultan Hill.
Houston, Texas USA Mon 11/23/2009
Hints for Best of Turkey Tours
Rick Steve's Best of Turkey Tour. I took this tour in 2008...in October. The weather was perfect. Here are some hints gathered from my experience on this tour.
To help keep your memories organized it pays to have a really good map along on tour. Also a daily journal of what was seen each day. Also keep a log on the photos you take. If you are going to return to Turkey often you can follow R. Steve's advice on whether or not to use a camera, but if you have any doubts bring along battery charger and plenty of memory chips so you can shoot photos of everything remotely interesting. After you are back home those photos are all you will have to reflect on. The photos are priceless because your memory of sites fade...and the photos do not. I am going back to Turkey this spring and will be doing a back-to-back tours for a total of 38 days. Will be visiting eastern Turkey and historical parts of central Turkey. It may be my last visit to Turkey...and I intend for my camera to get a thorough workout!
It is a good idea to come a few days early to Istanbul to wonder around at your leisure. My fondest memories are from wondering around on my own time. Hotels like to quote rates in Euros. Be very firm that any rate quoted to you in advance IS IN TURKISH LIRAS. Why? When you arrive you will visit an ATM machine...from which you will receive Liras. There is opportunity in the moment for confusion. They will admit a mistake only if you catch it. For whatever reason many credit card transactions are blocked in Turkey. Your debit card is a necessity. And most shops demand cash anyway. On the Best of Turkey Tours there is an opportunity to see a series of village shops while other members are hiking down a valley. If you pass on the walking trek and visit this village look for the tin smith shop turning out large cooking pots, wood stoves and even hot water solar heaters. It is something out of history not seen in the states since the thirties. Another shop sells scooters and bicycles. Check out the bicycles with styles not seen here at home. I so regret not taking photos of the tin shop.
If you elect to end your tour at Kusadaci and ride the ferries over to the Greek Isles, it will be mid to late October and the winds will pick up...and the temps will be edging downwards. You should bring along a windbreaker jacket. If traveling lite you can add an extra layer of underwear and shirts for warmth. Tourist season will be over in the Islands and you can travel there with no need for advanced bookings. That was ideal for me. Do not bet on the opportunity to cash in Turkish Liras before leaving Turkey. I ended up exchanging Liras for Greek currency in Athens at a currency koist on Syntagma Square. Good luck anywhere else.
Packing. I know Rick Steve's organization may not be too happy to hear me say this...but. If you really find it impossible to stuff everything into one piece of luggage as was my case, plan to have one large luggage to leave on the bus and use a lesser size to take to your room. Just do not hold up the driver at the end of the day while you sort clothing. That is not nice. On this tour the driver is one busy fellow and his day is long. It worked very well for me. Matter of fact, you might entertain the idea of checking the big luggage straight through if there are several flight connections before reaching your destination. If you plan to keep all your luggage close to you,....having luggage on wheels sure beats carrying it between terminals.
Books. Rick Steve's books are very good. Also Lonely Planet's Turkey. You will need both. And if you sincerely want to be able to speak a little Turkish to get by with....you can do no better than buying PIMSLEUR's Conversational Turkish CD course. Only Level One Turkish is available, but you will learn some basic Turkish without the normal frustrations because this course builds on spoken sounds as a young child would learn it in his native language. That is about the only way to learn some elementary Turkish...and to be able to understand it when you are spoken too. If your ears are not trained to hear Turkish it will come to you as gibberish even if you know how to pronounce some Turkish.
While on the Best of Turkey Tour be careful to be on time. One couple had to be hunted down more than once for the tour to stay on schedule. The tour stops are carefully timed or the bus will be late at the end of the day. Nobody wants that. There is quite a bit of flexibility on this tour for the person who would rather see something off tour. Just be aware of the alloted time.
I started studying the guide books seven months before the trip and there was plenty of things I did not know that I wished I had once the trip began. You will not be wasting time getting familiar with the layout plan of the tour using guide books. Also, The Teaching Company sells a DVD course on Great Ancient Civilizations of Asia Minor and another course, The World of Byzantium. Good luck with all that.
Stephen R Douglas
Omaha, NE. USA Sat 11/21/2009
I have been in Turkey twice. First time for a 7 day trip. Second time I had a connection flight at Ataturk Airport. Both experiences were AWFUL! I was literally harassed by men. As I hear about so many good experiences that other people had in Turkey, it is very difficult for me to understand why did that happen to me. During my last trip, at the airport I was mistreated, ignored and given wrong information. Instead of answering to my question about where the airport hotel is, the customer service advised me to buy a visa and stay at a hotel outside the airport. I explained them very clearly that I have a connection flight and I don't want to leave the airport. They simply ignored my request. I will NEVER fly to or through Turkey again!
USA Sun 11/15/2009
All Class Hotels
All Class Very good atmosphere in this hotel. The room was spacious, clean and very comfy! Check inn very good and staff very helpful and nice. We had a room in the top www.allclasshotels.com Great view to the opposite street. Room was refurbished. Nice bathroom with very comfy bathtube and shower. You got the feeling of beeing back in the times of All class Hotels inside. be careful
london, uk Mon 10/19/2009
Warning re One Nation Travel Agency
There are several posts purporting to be from One Nation Travel Agency. They have been spamming this forum with pretend reviews for ages. Despite having their fake posts removed and being warned that disguised ads are not permitted here, they persist. I have no idea whether they are a good travel agency, but their dishonest marketing ploys ought to give you pause.
Seattle, USA Sat 10/10/2009
tour guide recommendation
Hi, just returned from Kusadasi, Turkey. I took several tours of the area. I would like to recommend Ertunga Ecir. He does private tours. He's an awesome tour guide, very nice and informative. I've done a lot of traveling all over the world and he's one of the tour guides I will remember.
Daytona, FL USA Wed 10/07/2009
We have just returned from a five-day trip to Istanbul, our first(24-29 Sept). We had a great trip and utilized the Rick Steves' guidebook before and during the trip (in fact, anytime I saw other travelers with the guide book I took it as free license to approach them and swap recommendations).
We stayed in the Hippodrome Hotel recommended in the RS guidebook. As there were three of us, they placed us in the annex building across the street. We realized that this was actually an upgrade as this was the only room in the annex that had a balcony. We also had a kitchenette so we had apple tea on our balcony every night. The room was clean and I would recommend the Hippodrome to other travelers. We paid $150 per night (10% RS discount!) and that included breakfast in their sister hotel the Obelisk and airport pick-up. Breakfast was fantastic and the rooftop terrace was great -- we sat each morning with a view of the Blue Mosque and could walk around the corner to see the Hagia Sophia. Note: annex has no elevator and we were on the sixth floor which actually was only four floors up).
The mosque of Suleyman the Magnificent is still closed off for construction. However, I think it is worth the walk just to see the mausoleums.
We couldn't pass up the experience of the Turkish Bath, so we went to Cemberlitas because it was within walking distance. I'm glad we did it however I do feel it is getting more touristy than authentic. We went after 8pm when it said it was less busy, but the attendants were perhaps tired because I felt we got the half-effort bath. But the interesting part was that two attendants got into a shouting match across the marble slab and this went on for several minutes. What I can deduce is that one attendant may have stolen a client from the other attendant (they use a token system where you pay at the front desk and give your token to the attendant who bathes you). All is all, a worthwhile and memorable experience but next time I will seek out a more authentic hamam.
I thought I got more use out of the Istanbul guidebook than any other I've ever used. I am loyal to RS guidebooks so that is quite a compliment. The writers did a great job using landmarks to keep you on the right path. I will close with a quote I overheard from a traveler in Spain, "Rick Steves has never led me wrong." Thanks for the help!
Lincoln, NE USA Mon 10/05/2009
Istanbul restaurant recommendation
Forgot one recommendation in my last posting. Near the Hagia Sohpia and recommended in the RS book: Caferaga Medresesi. Charming location down a narrow alley. Courtyard restaurant is surrounded by student workshops creating tiles, painting, silk scarves, jewelry, etc that is for sale at reasonable prices. Food is good and reasonable; try the Turkish coffee for dessert. I bought a beautiful silk scarf and should have bought more in retrospect. Next time!
Lincoln, NE USA Mon 10/05/2009
Istanbul tour companies
Hi, I just came back from Istanbul (Sep 17-23, 2009) and was really pleased with all the travel arrangement made by my travel agent = ONE NATION TRAVEL AGENCY. Mr. Bilal, the manager, personally talks to you over the phone & replies your emails. If you don't have time to scout around for transfers, hotels & tours, then, don't go any further, One Nation Travel Agency is your choice... Their office is in Binbirdirek Mah. Kladfarer Caddesi, Sultanahmet, Istanbul. Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org and website: www.allistanbultours.com Phone: +90 212 4582191.
One satisfied tourist,
New York, 10018 USA Mon 10/05/2009
6 Day Classic Turkey Tour
I had a wonderful time. The travel arrangements made by One Nation Travel worked like "clock work". I would recommend this tour to anyone. Turkey is a beautiful place.
New York, NY USA Fri 09/11/2009
I went with a couple of friends to the island of Kos in Greece under the guidance of www.dogreece.com . We hopped from their on our own to Bodrum, Turkey with a small fishing boat and it was the best thing we ever did. It was great over there. Very cheap and the service was great! Bodrum is also becoming very cosmopolitan too lately with a yacht marina and jet-setters from all over the world!
Los Angeles, CA USA Tue 08/04/2009
Great Tour Guide in Ephesus
Prior to our trip, we contacted Fatma (email@example.com) to see about taking our extended family (including 2 kids under 10 and my 86 year old Dad) to Ephesus and the Virgin Mary's house.
Fatma was very good with the children and our kids can still tell us how to differentiate Doric, Ionian and Corinthian columns from her unique way of telling the story of this area of Turkey. After a very insightful tour of Ephesus, she took us to a nearby village and we got to experience the best food of our entire trip at a local cafe. To get there, we walked through farmer's market and saw the most colorful fruits and vegetables I have seen in ages. After lunch, we finished with the Virgin Mary's house.
The only downside was that my sister in law and I wanted to visit a hammam and do a turkish bath after the tour. Fatma was glad to accomodate us and arranged transportation back to the boat for us while she took the rest of the party back. I was a little wary when the hammam we stopped at had a sign saying 'Best Hammam in Turkey' or something like that in English . Everything I had read prior to travel said that hammams were separated into male and female sides. After we were in there, we found out it was COED! It apparently catered to Russians and other Europeans who weren't too bothered about being half naked in front of other people - plus we didn't have swim suits like the other tourists did, we had to wrap with towels. It was a very strange experience, but not very relaxing. I would have rather had a 'real' hammam experience, the woman only thing - not big guys slathering me with oil, next time, I'll know to ask in advance.
Other than that, Fatma was wonderful, knowledgeable, very patient about my Dad's physical limitations and helpful. Including the entrances to the parks, we came out much cheaper than we would have with some of the bigger tours, particularly the ones from the boat (which had way too many people - we saw them around Ephesus). We would all definitely recommend her to any family traveling to see Ephesus.
College Station, TX USA Thu 07/09/2009
I would like to thank you for arranging my tour of Istanbul on March 16. Everything went very smoothly and comfortably. The young driver, I think his name was Mehmet, was very courteous and pleasant. I would particularly like to say thank you for my guide, Mr. Ilhan Atesgoz who was so knowledgeable and a very interesting person to talk to. He certainly made the time spent in Istanbul memorable. I shall be very pleased to recommend OneNation Travel http://www.turkeytravelservice.com/ to anyone who is coming to Istanbul. All the best and thank you again. Rumi Engineer
New York, NY USA Mon 06/29/2009
We traveled to Turkey between May 14-28, 2009 and found that the Mosque of Suleiman the Magnificent (Süleymaniye Mosque) is essentially closed at present. Only a small portion of the interior is open to visitors. Also, if you need to travel to the Militas airport in Bodrum a taxi will cost you about 100 lira while the Havas bus (associated with Turkish Airlines) is only 15 lira per person. The Havas bus leaves from the Octogar (bus station) in Bodrum. Rick, hurry up and extend your book to cover Ephesus, Bodrum, and Cappodocia. Ed
Washington, DC USA Thu 05/28/2009
Aegean turkey tours
Our students group visited western Turkey in March. We visited Pamukkale, Pergamon, ancient Priene/Miletos/Didyma, Izmir, but the highlight of this excursion was Ephesus! The site is so impressive! The Virgin Mary house close to Ephesus house we liked too; the most interesting part of this tour was Sirince (old greek village close to Ephesus) where we had traditional turkish lunch in the house of one of the villagers, and it was great experience. That village is famous for wine tasting, too. Ancient towns Priene/Miletos/Didyma were another destination important for our history and art lessons (I liked the photo of Apollo temple in Didyma, that I saw many times in books; when we arrived to the temple, the first reaction was: wow, it`s so big and well preserved!)Pamukkale- miracle of nature, so unique, real "cotton castle". Izmir- beautiful and very modern city, it surprised us with it`s European atmosphere and spirit (not so asian and oriental). For all the tours we used the same English speaking guide, Ertunga, and he was great, very reliable and knowledgeable. I strongly recommend everyone to visit this area; so many sites to see, nice climate, reasonable prices, very hospitable people
Belgrade, Serbia Mon 05/11/2009
3 weeks in Turkey isn't enough!
There are a lot of great sites (and hotels) in Turkey outside of Istanbul! We just came back from 3 weeks in Turkey, starting in Istanbul, then flying to Cappadocia (a guide here is really helpful, there is so much to see and it is quite spread out), then driving to Antalya, Konja, Cirali, Kas, Kayakoy, Pammukkale, Selcuk (for Ephesus) then flying back to Istanbul. I highly recommend visiting small beach towns like Cirali and Kas. Both were beautiful and there are incredible places to stay--much less expensive than the big city. Hotel Canada is beautiful and friendly, the nightly dinners (optional) are tasty and inexpensive, and there is access to the Cirali beach (a short distance) and the ruins at Olympos--Pateros and Phaselus are also nearby. The hotel owners make you feel like family and will help out with excursions, planning, airport pickups (we didn't need it but other guests did). Gunnay's Garden Villas at Kayakoy are an incredible bargain especially if you are traveling with a group--there were only two of us but we had a beautful 3 bedroom 2 bathroom villa with 3 or 4 decks--and a washer and a line to dry clothes outside which we needed at that point. Only 50 euros for all that, plus a pool and beautiful grounds, and a view of the "ghost town" of kayakoy. The service at Hotel Bella in Selcuk is unlike anything I have experienced (and the rooftop terrace is delightful, I could have spent all day there watching the storks nesting nearby and admiring the view of the basilica if Ephesus wasn't calling). Nazmi dropped us off at Ephesus and picked us up at the bottom to save us the 3 km trudge uphill to get the car, then brought us to an inexpensive restaurant where we had unbelievable gozleme (try the tahini-walnut-honey, yum), then took us the the museum and picked us up after that! After we checked out, we were invited to sit on the terrace and drink complimentary elma chai until it was time to leave to go to the airport. You won't be sorry if you choose any of these places--you'll be sorry if you miss them! Turkey is fantastic, people are friendly and helpful and interested in strangers. It is less expensive than most of Europe--everyone should visit before it gets too popular!
Seattle, WA USA Thu 05/07/2009
Here in Istanbul (continued)
At the foot of Nuruosmaniye Camii (1748-1755) you'll find a few cafes on the that street -- Coffee World, Columbus Cafe and Starbucks. There's also another Starbucks on Divanyolu Caddesu. Of course, go to the small eateries so you can try their teas!
San Francisco, CA USA Mon 04/27/2009
Go against Rick's advice and buy an Akbil!
In Istanbul, definitely get the Akbil. It is loadable transportation pass that can be shared by multiple people and is useful on almost all the transportation systems in the city. It is SO much easier than paying for and keeping track jetons every time you want to ride the tram, etc.
You DO NOT need a photo of any kind to buy one. I can't imagine why they are not overwhelmingly recommended since you also save money on each trip by using the Akbil.
Columbia, SC USA Thu 04/23/2009
Fell in love with Turkey on Rick's tour of Western Turkey. Went back a few months later for the SRM "Seafarers of the Agean" tour. Traveled on our own a few days before and after both trips.
Two things we learned
Nicer restaurants have a 2.50 YTL per person service charge. It is not listed on the menu. Just shows up on your bill. If they have white table clothes, give you water before you order, or provide a basket of bread, you will probably find this charge on your bill.
Do not take torn paper money (the tiniest tear) in change. No one will take it from you except a bank.
Portland, OR USA Wed 02/18/2009
We really enjoyed Istanbul and plan to come back in the near future.
Thank you for organizing the tours for us. It was very professional and well run.
I have mentioned your company to friends of ours who are intending to visit Turkey and they are very interested in using your services.
USA Tue 02/17/2009
Go to Turkey!
My husband and I visited Istanbul and Selcuk (Ephesus) over Christmas and the 2009 New Year and we had a fabulous time. The Rick Steves Istanbul guide was absolutely essential to the success of our trip. In Istanbul we stayed at Hotel Sultan Hill which was charming, in a great location, and had very friendly staff. We spent 9 nights in Istanbul and 3 nights in Selcuk at Hotel Bella which was also a great hotel. We ate and drank anything and everything we wanted. We did not have a single bad meal and we tried most of the street food. It took us 12 hours to travel between Istanbul to Selcuk even though it was only a couple hundred miles. We took the ferry/train/dolmus down but the dolmus/bus back. We sort of understand why most tourists fly between Istanbul and Izmir to get to Ephesus but we were the only tourists on our journeys and they weren't bad journeys, just long ones. We saw the countryside and riding a Turkish bus is far nicer than American buses although Turkish trains are not quite set up for tourists the way European ones are. We found the locals to be friendly and helpful although the salesmen kind of grated on us after a bit with their constant hustling. We are historians so we loved all the museums, mosques, and archeological sites but they were all so much more impressive than we expected that I think everyone would find Turkey fascinating. The sites we visited are set to deal with tourists and even in December, Istanbul was crowded with tourists. All the admission prices were about twice what is listed in Rick Steves but every one was worth it. We never felt unsafe but I felt most comfortable having my husband with me. Western Turkey is a complicated mix of secular and religious, western and eastern, modern and agricultural. Turkish is based on the Latin alphabet not Arabic script so you can read the language. If you buy only two things in Turkey make one an evil eye good luck charm and the other a silk scarf from the place in Rick Steves guidebook. The scarf was not cheap but it is absolutely gorgeous and luxurious. Look for one with the tughra (sultan's signature) on it. If you've ever thought about going to Turkey, do it!
Utica, NY USA Sat 02/07/2009