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“Over the Top! Kagen and Lale are the gems of Istanbul”

KSG Tours - Day Tours
Ranked #133 of 409 Tours in Istanbul
Certificate of Excellence
Attraction details
St. Paul, MN
Level Contributor
43 reviews
19 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 38 helpful votes
“Over the Top! Kagen and Lale are the gems of Istanbul”
Reviewed June 21, 2012

I don't even know where to start! Finding KSG, Kagen and Lale were the best aspect of our five day trip to Istanbul. My only regret is that we didn't book Lale every single day. Hiring a private guide is expensive and you never really know what your going to get but I could tell from the start of my communication with Kagen that we had made a great decision. We exchanged numerous emails prior to our visit to Istanbul. Kagen was so welcoming, kind and considerate of my tendency to micro-manage things. He always responded promptly and with considerable kindness.

We ended up booking his wife Lale for two full days of touring in Istanbul. It was our best decision ever and worth twice what we paid! Lale is like a dynamic living Istanbul and literally brought each and every sight completely alive with her enthusiasm and charm. She had complete command of every detail and moved us through the sights at our pace. For example I told her that we were not shoppers. We expected to make some purchases at the Spice Market but not at the Grand Bizaar. She took us to the perfect spice stall at the Spice Market to get what we wanted and moved us through the Grand Bizaar without hesitation. We were able to keep our purchases at the market stall until we were ready to go so we didn't need to carry bags through the day which was really nice. It was perfect for us. Her knowledge of the sites and history of Turkey and Istanbul were perfect for my nerdy academic wife who had many questions. Lale didn't miss a beat with any her questions. She really is an engaging scholar and educator. She was especially skilled at discussing cultural, religious, and political similarities and differences between Turkey and the US which made for a very informative two days.

Lale took us to a few unexpected spots. My partner's favorite things in the world is Profiteroles. After finding this out Lale took us to a famous spot in Istanbul that serves the best Profiteroles in the world. It was like magic. She also took us to one of the oldest and finest rug shops in Istanbul where were able to see the fine art of rug making and some lovely rugs with out any pressure or obligation! We ended up with some extra time at the end of our second day so she asked us if there was anything else we wanted to do. I had been dying to try a Hookah (narghile) waterpipe but was completely intimidated to do this on my own. So off we went to a Hookah bar for some tea, backgammon and a little try of the waterpipe. We ended the second day on a very high note. Lale picked great spots for lunch, made sure we had ample stops for meeting all of our needs and made perfect use of our time.

Again, well worth twice what we paid and if we did it again we would book way more time with this delightful dynamic guide.

Visited June 2012
1 Thank Caritrous
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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53 reviews from our community

Visitor rating
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • French first
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English first
Sugar Land
Level Contributor
3 reviews
3 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
“Great Istanbul Tour with KSG Tours and Lale”
Reviewed June 8, 2012

We had a fantastic tour of Istanbul last week with Lale from KSG Tours. We arrived in port on the Seabourne Odyssey and were the first ones off the boat. Lale and our driver were waiting for us at the exit to the cruise terminal with our private minibus, which was very nice, spacious and clean. We left immediately for our day tour.

We had originally requested the tour of the old city of Istanbul which included the Hippodrome, Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Topkapki Palace & Harem and the Grand Bazaar. We actually changed this a bit as the tour progressed through the day. This is ONE of the things that made the tour so special for us, Lale worked with us throughout the day to adjust the tour on the fly as we toured Istanbul. We had 4 couples on the tour with us and most of them had seen some of the old city, so we ended up skipping the Hagia Sophia (which we had seen before) and adding the Spice Market, which was fabulous.

We started the tour on the Hippodrome and it was obvious that Lale both loved her home town of Istanbul and knew a wealth of information about it. She was completely enjoyable in the way she presented information. We moved from the Hippodrome to the Blue Mosque where she found a quiet place for us to sit while she shared the history of the place. After we wandered around exploring on our own a bit we walked to Topkapi Palace, stopping along the way for some fresh squeezed grapefruit juice that Lale helped us with from the street vendors.

At the Topkapi Palace Lale secured our tickets for us while we visited the WC, no standing in line for either! She then proceeded to lead us through the Harem and the Palace with amazing stories and information. After the tour of the Harem we had time to view the Artifacts, library and jewels at our leisure. What an interesting site.

At this point we were a bit famished so we skipped the Hagia Sophia and went straight to lunch at the Pudding House restaurant. A very fun place with some great turkish food. More great conversation with Lale over lunch about herself and Istanbul and how she became a tour guide. She had been a tour guide for 23 years, so we had some amazing stories.

Next we were off to the Grand Bazaar. We had the private minibus, but were more interested in seeing the streets of the city so we asked Lale if we could walk. It was a short walk, but she was happy to oblige so we set off, enjoying the streets of Istanbul along the way.

The Grand Bazaar was almost overwhelming. Almost. It was great to have Lale with us showing us some of the history, but the best part was her understanding of the Bazaar, its vendors and how it works. As Americans the process of negotiation in the Bazaar is somewhat foreign to us, but Lale explained it to us well. She also went into each store we wanted to stop at with us to help insure the vendors were fair with us. She explained that most the vendors are fair, but you will get some that try to really take advantage of you and by having her with us in the stores she could help insure they were being fair, or she'd turn them in to the authorities. That eased some fears in the shoppers. We spent a few hours here looking at the many different options including clothing, watches, silk & cashmere and gold. Lots of gold.

When we grew overwhelmed with the Grand Bazaar we still had time left on our tour so we asked Lale to take us to the Spice Market. This was an amazing place like nothing we have experienced in America. Mounds of strong spices displayed in booths, many types of Turkish Delight the vendors were eager to share with us and some amazing teas. We stopped in several booths and bought some very wonderful foods and spices. This was the highlight of the tour for many of us. The vendors selling their spices, the booths of cheese, the fish vendors outside and the fresh produce was all amazing. We stopped on our way out and got some of the best cherries I've ever tasted.

For our last stop we asked Lale if she could find us some authenticate Turkish coffee to try. She took us to a restaurant at the top of one of the buildings near the water that had amazing views and great turkish coffee. It was a relaxing and fantastic way to finish a great day. We enjoyed the coffee and more of Lale's stories and the amazing view.

From there it was a quick ride in the minibus back to the cruise terminal. Thank you Lale for making our day in Istanbul unforgettable for all of us.

Visited June 2012
1 Thank LonghornRon
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Midland, Texas
Level Contributor
63 reviews
17 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 31 helpful votes
“Excellent Private Tour”
Reviewed November 7, 2011

We had a wonderful tour in Istanbul with Lale. Lale is extremely knowledgeable about the history of the various sites that we visited. We were leaving a cruise and they arranged for the pick up at the port and transportation to our hotel followed by the tour. One of the best things about having a private guide is that you don't stand in line to get your ticket for the various sites. The lines looked like they could take an hour or more. Lale is able to purchase tickets directly and so - no waiting! Our tour was a walking tour and the pace was very comfortable. I would strongly recommend KSG Tours and Lale in particular.

Visited October 2011
1 Thank Seismo_mid
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Jacksonville, Florida
Level Contributor
21 reviews
9 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 37 helpful votes
“Can't Wait to return!”
Reviewed November 2, 2011

My husband and I, along with several other couples, had the pleasure of touring with Kagan of KSG Tours while in port in Istanbul. We were met at our ship and boarded a comfortable, air conditioned van for the day. Kagan was the consummate professional, extremely knowledgeable and affable. We were supposed to tour the Blue Mosque, but our group elected to skip it since there were many ships in port that day and the line was ridiculous. We did, however, visit the Suleymaniye Mosque which was breathtaking. Other sites visited during the day included the Cisterns, Hagia Sophia, the Spice Market and the Archeological museum. Along the way, we stopped at a local restaurant for a terrific lunch. I can't say enough good things about Kagan. He really made our day in Istanbul one we'll never forget. My husband and I fell in love with the city and can't wait to return! I would highly recommend KSG Tours to anyone visiting this beautiful city! P.S. The day after he took our group, Kagan was going to be touring the actor, John Kusack and his family. We almost wanted to miss our ship and join them!

Visited September 2011
Thank Jagfan
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Vancouver, BC
Level Contributor
36 reviews
7 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 35 helpful votes
“Not so good”
Reviewed October 9, 2011

I wanted to love this tour. It was to be the highlight of my cruise. Our group booked 3 vans. The group who had Lale seemed to really enjoy their tour and spoke highly of her. The third van had? As a leader. They got involved in a huge hour plus traffic jam (yes, traffic is very congested but the other 2 vans managed to avoid the jam) and they didn't get to see everything listed.
Our group had Kosgan. The day started out fine. Kosgan is very personable and his love of Istanbul was very evident. Yes, he had a few interesting stories but it became very evident very quickly that he has trouble organizing a group. He is probably delightful for a couple or a family but our tour got totally bogged down when he allowed a few to monopolize the tour but asking many many questions. Rather than put the people off ( eg: let's talk about that later in the van) the whole group had to wait and wait and wait while minor questions were answered. I thought we would never leave the dormitory area at the palace. His standard response to any question about the harem was " sparkling eyes" complete with hand gestures. Interesting the first couple of times but not 10 or 20 times. He was publicly extremely rude to me when I attempted to get the group moving ( he totally missed that 3 of us were openly yawning). A full day tour? Not really. Over an hour for lunch ( lunch was excellent) followed by 2 hours while we shopped ( unaccompanied) at the Grand Bazzar. That's 3 hours out of 8 where Kosgan was not working ( eg he didnt sit with us through lunch and answer questions (Lale sat with her group and chatted with them) the but rather disappeared and then returned only to quickly eat). Add in driving time and not much tour time was left. The pace was brutally slow. Yes, the Cistern is interesting but did we really need to walk the entire length of it? And that was after talking about it. It felt like a time stall.

I think Kosgan loves his city, is entertaining but as one other participant said was OK at best as a group guide. A lot more substance and a lot less " sparkling eyes" would have made for a much better tour.

The people who asked all the questions thought he wad excellent. My husband and I thought he was one if the worst guides we ever had ( lazy comes to mind). No one wants a guide who reads from a script but " I'm not going to tell you facts and dates, I'm going to tell you stories" doesn't work unless the guide has many interesting stories that provide history. I think he would rather chat than guide.

Bottom line ... Either be guaranteed to have Lale or try another company.

Visited September 2011
Thank barbh
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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