I just came from Istanbul, Turkey. I had a great time, but I have some points to mention for those of you who want to travel to Istanbul for the first time.
Being the person that I am I made a lot of research before going,planned an itinerary, printed out maps, talked to friends who have been there so as not to waste any time when I'm there.
1. Get an Akbil (that's like an Oyster card in London) you can get it from main stations such as Taksim. You pay 6 YTL to get it (keep the receipt) then you can top it up with as much credit as you wish. The best thing about it is that you can use for the bus, tram, subway and ferry .If you ride twice within an hour and half you get the second ride half price :) Before you leave Istanbul you can return the Akbil and the receipt and you can take your 6YTL back. This has saved us a lot of money and time. Any ride using any transportation is 1.5 YTL
2. A must see are:
1) Dolmabahce palace (make sure you get there early, I stood in the queue for 45 minutes but it was worth it),
2) Aya Sofia (it's best if you get a guide who will fill you in about the interesting history of it, haggle the price with the guide, depends on how many people you are.
3)Topkapi Palace (though it wasn't organised as there are no signs telling you where you are and where to head to next and you stand in a queue not knowing what you're going to see)
4) Blue Mosque
5) Princess island especially Buyukada (the biggest and most popular island) and take a carriage for 50 YTL an hour and you split the money with the people who will take the carriage with you to tour the whole island, it is amazingly beautiful.
6) Bosphorus cruise
7) Visit Bursa City and take a ride with the cable car but be prepared to stand for long hours in the queue.
8) Spice Bazaar.
9) One of the tourist traps (based on many websites) is the Grand Bazaar they sell the same things as Spice Bazaar but with much higher prices. Take a look but buy from Spice Bazaar.
3. Whatever you do DON'T take a taxi, they lie and cheat and they don't understand any language other than Turkish! I took a taxi and he misheard where I wanted to go then when I told him to take me back where he picked me up he said ok, but I ended up in a totally different place almost outside Istanbul, he charged me 60 YTL. I called for the police and they too don't speak except Turkish!! To make a long story short I only paid half the price for the taxi and a very decent man ,who happened to be a tour guide with a mini van, spoke Arabic and Turkish so he communicated with the police , driver and me. Then he dropped me off near my hotel.. He refused to take any money from him. He only gave me his card and asked me to recommend him for other people I know. His name is Mohammed Yasar his number is +905355100456 and his email is firstname.lastname@example.org
Gold bless him :)
4. Make sure you learn a few phrases in Turkish as most people don't speak except Turkish, actually I found it easier to use some Arabic words than English, turns out we have many words in common.
5. Check instructions with them and make sure they understand the price you're talking about. For instance somebody told me that a t shirt costs 50 YTL when he meant 15 YTL. So asked "do you mean one five or five zero?" or better let them use a calculator to show you the number.
6. Haggle, haggle and haggle. For those who come from countries that don't haggle ,in Istanbul you should. That wasn't something hard for me :)
Enjoy your stay there, it's a beautiful place and people are friendly, although most of them don't speak except Turkish but they really wanna help you and feel frustrated when they can't communicate. I used a lot of sign language just make sure it's not offensive!!
- Visit our page for Istanbul tourism organizations
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