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Our week on a shoe-string in Istanbul

Gosport, United...
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Our week on a shoe-string in Istanbul

Here's our first couple of days in Istanbul. I've missed loads out, There's simply so much to see and do, and we never even scratched the surface. I'll do the next couple of days later on and hopefully finish tomorrow. Just remember we are budget travellers, and not just tight Brits!

Saturday (7 Nov) - Arrived by EasyJet at 1315. Visa easy, make sure you get it before immigration. Shuttlebus already booked and waiting for us. Took an hour or so. The journey gives you a flavour of how awesome and beautiful Istanbul is. Booked into Hanedan Hotel (see review). Straight out and at it. Money changing – easy enough (cash for cash), got a decent rate of £ = TL240 (no commission, but be careful at some places). Followed the tram line down to Eminonu. Absolutely brilliant area, so full of local life colour and energy. All the action on the water takes your breath away. Treated ourselves to one of those famous fish sandwich – watch the odd small bone. Cost 4TL – yummy! Walked back up to Sultanahmet, and found the Grand Bazaar. Chokker with tourist groups, quick exit. Just wandered round for a couple of hours before an early night.

Sunday - Call to prayer at 0545. We lived in Saudi for 4 years so well used to prayer-times! Gorgeous morning, a bit hazy, ships hooters in the distance. Lovely breakfast on the Hanedan roof terrace, glorious views all around. Kadikoy, and a trip into Asia, was our destination today. Slow walk down to Eminonu for the ferry. For some reason the kiosk wasn’t open and taxi drivers were touring for business. Decided we might need a change of plan, so walked across Galatea Bridge, which was lined with locals fishing. Over the bridge on the right (Karakoy) is a ferry stop. Walked down, and great, the ferry goes to Kadikoy. Bought our jetons (TL1.5), and got the ferry 5 minutes later. Wonderful 25 minute journey, stopping briefly at Hyderapasa train station. Kadikoy is brilliant. Be careful crossing the road from the ferry terminal. Then just enjoy the place! You’ll want to go back, again and again. Got the ferry back to Europe from Hyderapasa train station, as we needed to have a look around the train station, which is a beautiful building Galatea Bridge was absolutely mobbed. Walked back up the hill and to the hotel for a rest. All the way to the hotel from Eminonu the pavements are busy and everything is buzzing. You’ll pass the main train station (Sirkeci). Try and imagine the Orient Express arriving in it’s heyday! Have a look around, the museum is great – and free! In the evening we just took in the sight and sounds, and encouragement from the restaurants. We found a cheap and cheerful pasta place, where a huge bowl of 3 different pastas of your choice cost 4TL, and 2TL for a thirst quenching softie. No beer for me so far, a record in the making! Early night, Bosphorus Cruise tomorrow.

Istanbul, Turkey
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1. Re: Our week on a shoe-string in Istanbul

Under 2 quid for lunch,just over 2 quid for evening dinner and a nice boat trip for 75 pence and a really nice chill out day into the bargain.

Being on a shoestring doesn't mean 'no fun'.

Istanbul can be expensive,but it doesn't have to be.Waiting for the next installment :)

Mount Dora, Florida
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2. Re: Our week on a shoe-string in Istanbul

How nice to read a report of people who made the most of a short itinerary and a small travel budget. We also get lots of entertainment by just walking around different neighborhoods. I am sorry that the crowds in the bazaar discouraged you from a brief tour. I think the Grand Bazaar is one of the most unique features of the city, but I know that visitors to the middle-east may have already had similar experiences. I am waiting to read your report of your Bosphorus Cruise.

Surrey, UK
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3. Re: Our week on a shoe-string in Istanbul

Great report - and I can't wait to read the next bit.

It is obvious you have fallen in love with Istanbul - and are no doubt planning your next visit. If you fall in love with the city, you will find it totally addictive!

This thread is a great counterpoint to the arguments that the city is expensive.... It can be done on a budget as you are showing really well - while still getting the full sensory experience of Istanbul.

Gosport, United...
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4. Re: Our week on a shoe-string in Istanbul

It's pretty dank weather where I am in UK (Portsmouth), so here goes with the Bosporus Cruise. Enjoy, I hope!

Monday - The Imam was on form at 0545! I always try and think of a funny story he might be reciting – it eases the pain of having your sleep disturbed, and helps you wake up with a smile!! A warm, sunny day. Another al fresco breakfast, looking out onto the Sea of Marmara, and all its busy early morning activity. The Bosphorus Cruise departs at 1035. A leisurely walk down the hill again to Eminonu (top-tip: walk towards oncoming trams - it's healthier!). There are some low-key touts down there trying to push their own cruises. Walk towards Galatea Bridge and the kiosk for the cruise is the closest one to the bridge. Got there at about 0950 and there was a queue already forming. We were allowed on the ferry at about 1000, and as we were one of the first we could choose a good seat. Even though it was a Monday in November the ferry soon filled up, and by the time it sailed it was as full as I’d like it to be. There were lots of French voices, I just hoped they weren’t Parisians (even Parisians don’t like Parisians!). At least they never had their toy poodles in tow!!! The ferry must be mobbed during the summer, but there are more sailings I suppose to spread the load. Having a great seat doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get a good view or more leg-room. The cameras soon started clicking, and some of these amateur David Bailey’s can quickly become quite tiresome, and are one of the things I’m not too keen on when doing these touristy things. We love travelling on the water, and this trip was no exception. The views, the sheer enormity, and the wealth that abounds along that stretch of water is amazing. The trip takes about 100 minutes, and very briefly stops at several places on the way. Take a good travel guide book with you so that you can identify the many landmarks. There’s much activity on the water, so keep your eyes peeled all the time. The ferry stops at Anadolu Kavagi for about 2.5 hours, and everyone disembarks. There are several 'eager to welcome you' restaurants, as well as the steep walk up the hill to the castle ruins. A very scenic restaurant rewards your efforts, and the views from the ruins are breathtaking. The ferry leaves promptly at 1500, and makes the same stops on its return to Eminonu. It was a bit chilly late afternoon, so taking a sweater might be a good idea.

We were still feeling quite fresh, and once disembarked decided to have another look at the fishermen on Galatea Bridge. Do they only catch 'tiddlers'? Then we'd make our way up the big hill to Galatea Tower, and wander along Istikal Cad towards Taksim Square. I’m not certain we took the best route up the hill to the tower, passing dozens of amazing electrical shops. Anyway, slightly short of breath we made it. Then we walked all the way along to Taksim Square. Everywhere was very busy, and it’s just an amazing area. Watch out for the antique tram, or maybe jump aboard! Take time to slip off down the side streets and those that run parallel to Istikal Cad, as you’ll be well rewarded, especially if backgammon is your game. Lots of good Bohemian type places to chill and have a coffee or Efes. Once at Taksim we decided it was time to eat, and keeping to our shoestring theme we sat at one of several inviting kebap house for a gorgeously cheap and deliciously filling chicken kebap, washed down with a fresh pomegranate juice – another 11TL well spent! Then it was the long walk back, down the hill, over the bridge, past Sirkeci, follow the tram lines up the hill, and back to the Hanedan for a well earned early night. Oh, and by the time we got to Sirkeci we needed another kebap and fruit juice before we attempted the last mile or so. Still not a drop of beer has passed my lips! I think we’ll have a quiet day tomorrow – wishful thinking!

Surrey, UK
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5. Re: Our week on a shoe-string in Istanbul

Another great report - and I am ready for more......

Bristol, England
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6. Re: Our week on a shoe-string in Istanbul

Brought back memories of my trip last month.

I bought yoghurt on the boat (can't remember offhand the place we stopped which is famous for this but it is very nice!) and unaware it was topped off with palm sugar got me, my partner and several other passengers covered in white powder as the breeze took over!

Strangely enough some of the cheaper days out were the more pleasureable! Simmits and water by the lighthouse at Kadakoy, fish sandwiches at Galata Bridge and a fish stew (never found out the exact constituents but excellent nonetheless!) just off the main shopping street on the way to Taksim Square.

I can feel another visit coming on!

London, United...
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7. Re: Our week on a shoe-string in Istanbul

Great report - thanks for posting!! What great fun you are having on your shoe-string budget!

We arrived in Istanbul via Galata Bridge on a Sunday last month - and you are right - it was absolutely heaving - pedestrians, fishermen, bystanders - and traffic!! Worse than Oxford Street at Christmas!

We also took that walk up up "electric avenue" to the Galata Tower - and I might tell you that it was far easier than the first time we walked up on our prior trip - that was up real steep roads! - whereas your way is a relatively easy slope!

Looking forward to the rest! And hard to believe you haven't yet succombed to a lovely cold Efes!!

Oh and joys - I have just discovered the newly implemented edit button!!

Edited: 6:18 am, November 24, 2009
Ruhr Area, Germany
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8. Re: Our week on a shoe-string in Istanbul

The village is Kanlica, where they climb aboard and sell this delicious yoghurt.

And Attagul is right, the other street up to Istiklal Caddesi is even much steeper and a cobble stoned street. And very busy with people and cars. But we liked it because of all those little shops (mostly musicial instruments) and cafes.

It seems that you have really made the best of your trip, and without breaking the bank. Now I´m waiting for your next excursions with impatience.

Gocek, Turkey
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9. Re: Our week on a shoe-string in Istanbul

I think that the steeper hill up to the Galata Tower / Istiklal is "electric tool land", as opposed to "electricity land"!

Great report, just goes to show that you can have a good time without spending a lot of money.

Cincinnati, Ohio
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10. Re: Our week on a shoe-string in Istanbul

Lovely report, especially encouraging for those on a budget. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

I am very impressed that you walked up the hill to Istiklal Street. I walked the other way late one evening, and it was so unbelievably steep that I was afraid of tumbling down.