TIPS FOR VISITING ISTANBUL ON A BUDGET!
Is Turkey or Istanbul on your bucketlist? Or are you planning, at this very moment to visit Turkey? If either one is true...this post is especially for you!
Just a heads up, if you didn't already know....majority of the people in Turkey are fluent in Turkish and very few are well versed in English...but trust me, you will be ok!
Tip 1: Pack light! Yes you heard me... There are lots of quality clothes at amazing prices in Turkey especially at Taksim Square from LC Waikiki, and outside Hazrath Eyup Ansari Mosque alleys. Modest and modern wear for both men and women... You can buy kids clothing at the malls. I always carry an extra empty suitcase and pack light. Place your full suitcase into the empty one and check your weights on a home or travel scale. Make sure you pack flat shoes only, because there is alot of walking, heels will also damage on the cobbled paved roads.
|When we reached Ataturk airport|
There are usually about 4 atm's in a row and are not really busy, depending on the time you arrive. Bank charges for converting depends on your bank, I paid around R56(South African rands) for my single transaction withdrawing 300 Turkish Liras (tl) (or just Over 900 South African rands) with Standard Bank...still a bit steep!
|Some ATM's at our hotel|
|A store in Grand Bazaar|
|Just outside Grand Bazaar|
We loved our stay at Frasers Anthill! The apartment we stayed in was 40 floors up and the view was Breathtaking!
It was neat, spacious, cleaned everyday, stocked with plenty of towels, had a washing machine with dryer and a dishwasher, stove, oven and micro in the kitchen. It was the best of self catering and a hotel.
Tip 8: I found the water hard in Turkey, your skin dries easily. Your skin can also burn easily, so you should ensure you have a good body and sun protection face moisturiser or Lotion. I love Bioderma spf50 sold at Dischem.
Tip 9: Drink bottled water. We never drank tap water unless we boiled it in the kettle first. Fraser's hotel gave us at least 4 bottles a day, which we took with us and was sufficient to carry around on our tours. We also bought at restaurants or as needed.
Tip 10: Immediately check with the hotel if they offer any complimentary shuttle service to popular tourist points. They will usually have a bus which picks up at particular times and various drop off points.
Our first tour was with the hotel shuttle which dropped us close to the infamous Grand Bazaar. A real feast for the eyes and Turkish delights in all flavours, even the fussiest would enjoy. My absolute favourite Turkish delight was the blackberry with creamed nougat and pistachios, sold at the Topkapi Museum shop. It costs more at the museum but well worth it, you wouldn't want to share or waste it! Lol... and I don't even like blackberry.
Tip 12: learn the tram routes to travel well... Grab a brochure from tourist operators at museums and surrounding shops, they should include a map of the tram stations at the back. There are different colored trams which stop at different areas, and stations where you can switch trams to go the route of that specific colored tram.
If you are imagining a closed station... It's not like that at all. It's all in the open and above ground level. Cars on the road even cross over tram railways when its safe. Please be safe when crossing the tram railways, especially with kids.
Tip 13: Trams get packed really quick... It's a squeeze, so unless you ok with the public being that close, don't use the trams. Use taxis instead. We mostly used the taxis, but it's alot more expensive, so sticking to trams is a better option financially.
Tip 14: Keep your belongings safe and donot keep your wallet in your pocket when going on trams. There are pickpocket incidents. Rather keep it in a secure bag, preferably backpack and hold and strap it to the front, rather than behind you.
Tip 15: when traveling with Taxis and I cannot stress this enough... Always check your liras in front of both the taxi driver and a family member, confirming out loud the number of liras you are giving him. My husband handed the taxi driver 2 fifty lira notes and he handed one back saying, that my husband gave him 5liras...naturally we thought we could have made a mistake. You don't focus when you getting off a taxi with sleeping kids. So my husband took the 5liras and gave him another 50liras...The taxi driver scored 50+50+50-5= 145liras for a 100 liras trip... Ofcourse second time around they tried it again and the taxi driver sped off before we could give him a mouthful. Other than that, Turkey is really relatively safe! Lol...
|Taking a walk up the road from the hotel|
It's chilly in the morning...he definitely agrees.
The cutie who seems to belong to everyone.
A common sight in Turkey are stray dogs and cats, but the public takes it upon themselves to leave food for them on the sidewalks.
Tip 16: keep your Google maps or GPS on while in the taxi they often drive in circles to get more out of the taxi meter... Check the traffic as they love to say "too much traffic" . There is alot of traffic between work start and end times on weekdays though, so maybe avoid those times when taking a taxi.
Currently, it's still a little chilly and you should carry your jackets.. In April they are going into Spring but the locals still sport windbreakers, puffers or bomber jackets with fur trimming.
Tip 17: Choosing a good place to eat can be a toss up if you are walking outside Sultan Ahmet Mosque, as the roadsides have dozens of eateries. I judged it by the menu, I looked at the state of the menu, generally neater menus, means the eatery cares about cleanliness and keeping their restaurant maintained. I couple that with prices and portion size, as well as variety which is important if you are travelling in a big group. You will find alot of the restaurants sell the same things, this is where you compare prices, go for affordable, not cheap or too high. You might be tempted to go where its busy, believing it to be popular because it's good... But sometimes the bus crowds all go to the same place, and they might just be chancing it too.
Tip 18: When visiting historical landmarks, buy combo tickets only if you are interested in visiting all places included, else rather pay for access to the individual places. It will cost less. There is no need to pre-book, unless you are going with a holiday/tour operator who is including tickets in your package. We preferred buying them while there, because you can spend alot of time in traffic and not get to visit all the places you'd like to as planned.
Tip 19: If you plan to go on Boat trips, don't place high expectations on food to be served, there usually isn't much. Rather eat an hour or two before and carry snacks. Definitely dress comfortably.
Hope I didn't lose you guys... But this is pretty much the kind of info I would have loved to have known before going there. Turkey is a beautiful country but like any other, you also need to know how to get around and be wise on how you go about things...
I wish you the very best for your trip or bucketlist trip.
Check out for my next post on our travel diary and the spots we visited in Istanbul and whether they were a hit or a miss for us and why...