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“Istanbul trip” 4 of 5 stars
Review of Istanbul

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Alexandria, Egypt
Level Contributor
68 reviews
59 helpful votes
“Istanbul trip”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed July 17, 2010

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 mehmet-turkish@hotmail.com
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!!

4 Thank Romaica
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Level Contributor
62 reviews
47 helpful votes
“Excellent tour guide in Istanbul”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed July 17, 2010

We spent 3 days touring with Seda Gunay Karaca of Travelium. She made the touring so easy in a very crowded city at the peak of tourism season. Seda has a very good knowledge of Istanbul, her history and all the sites we visited. Rent a car and driver for a day and visit Dolmabace Palace and sites in the new section of the city is highly recommended. Take a drive out to Anatolia if time permits. Having Seda with us made the touring a pleasure - bypassing the long lines at the ticket office, for one. This alone saved us hours. She took us to a great place for lunch near the Spice Market and even though it was crowded, she managed to get us a front row table for 5 with fantastic views of Istanbul.

4 Thank hpmarge
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Level Contributor
43 reviews
40 helpful votes
“Vibrant and Ancient”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed July 16, 2010

I wasn't expecting to fall in love with Istanbul, but after staying there for ten days, I think it is my favourite city in the world. To say it is the place where East meets West is an oversimplification. East has been meeting West here for 4,000 years. So what has formed is a unique and compelling hybrid culture.

I stayed in the Sultanamet district, where the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque are, and I would highly recommend that visitors stay here, because all these wonderful places are within easy walking distance. The steep, winding cobbled streets are charming and there are remnants of the different periods of the city everywhere you look. It feels very Eastern and Islamic. Public transportation is excellent and very cheap.

The ancient monuments are definitely worth the price of admission, but don't miss the amazing Museum of Archeology in the grounds of the Topkapi Palace. Stunning and immaculately curated.

Across the Galata bridge, you step into a different city. Great swathes of the architecture are 19th century rococo. Take the walk down Istaklal from Taksin Square, or ride the crazy little tram, and see the old crumbling cinemas with their poignant, crumbling European style facades. Don't hesitate to explore the little alleyways leading off from the grand boulevard. Every one of them promises something new and charming.

According to the men I was traveling with, the Turkish Bath experience is over-priced and cursory, but for women, it's a fabulous experience that takes you back to a civic activity that began here long before the Christians or the Moslems arrived. It's a unique experience that is both startlingly historic and intimate at the same time. There's really nothing like it, as long as you're not overly modest.

They say that a city is its people, and this is very true for Istanbul. Considering that it is constantly barraged by tourists, I found people to be consistently good humoured and charming. Very proud of their city and eager for you to admire it as well.

Finally, don't go if you're watching your weight. This is, perhaps, the most delicious city I've ever visited. In 10 days I had only one mediocre meal. It's very hard to stop eating because everything is just so good.

For such an ancient city, it's also very modern. The connectivity is great. $20 bought me a SIM card with 3G access which allowed me to photograph and tweet my whole visit, documenting it on a daily basis.

The only drawback to Istanbul is that accommodation and food is a bit on the expensive side. Both are equivalent to London prices and, considering the average income in Turkey, this seems a little high. Nevertheless, it was worth every penny. I can't wait to return.

3 Thank remittancegirl
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Memphis, Tennessee
5 helpful votes
“Watch out from a tour guide named Mr. Bes Bulent Simsek”
2 of 5 stars Reviewed July 15, 2010

Folks, just wanted to alert you of a professional tour guide in Istanbul...he is nice and polite but does not list his price on the front-end. I questioned him about his prices and he keeps skirting around...just make sure folks you are clear before going on tour how much he charges...I got a rude awakening with him. Just want folks to be safe in Istanbul.

5 Thank aragoz
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
9 helpful votes
“East meets West”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed July 15, 2010

A visit to Istanbul is a must! It truly is the crossroads between East and West.

If booked in advance, you can find cheap flights from Europe to IST. Turkish Airlines has direct flights to many European cities.

Things to do: go visit Sultan Ahmed for the crazy shopping experience, but remember to bargain hard! Also if you have time take a cruise along the Bosphorus, it is a great way to take in this vast city.

The Four Seasons in Sultan Ahmed is really nice. The bruch there is simply the best I've ever had. It can be quite pricey but definitely worth a visit.

Walk along Istiklal and you will find some wonderful Turkish restaurants that are reasonably priced and offer delicious food. For views of the city I recommend having a coffee at The Goethe-Institut which offers a beautiful panoramic view of the city.

2 Thank bgmnl
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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