I’m writing this from a very comfortable bus (an autocar to be exact). I thought I’d document my trip to remember the places I’ve been to and faces I’ve seen. Today is Day 3 out of Day 12 so you can say that we’re at the beginning of our trip.
Hubby and I usually look for a good balance between comfort, local-living, and adventure. So, if you are into that as well, continue reading.
PS. This is my second attempt at writing this as I lost my first draft. So, here goes nothing…
Before I get into the deeds of how the past 2 days went. Let me give you a little bit of context. We are a young couple based in Paris, who decided to come to Turkey for 12 days (and 11 nights). Our dates are 25 May to 05 June, so you can say that we are traveling off-season during a period where the Turkish Lira roughly amounts to 17.5 TL per 1 EUR.
Several people have told us that we’ve got a good deal but deep down something didn’t sit right with us. Enjoying services that should have been doubled in price for what they are worth doesn’t seem fair somehow.
Having said that, we’ve decided to travel differently; by being less of a tourist, supporting small local businesses & using public transportation.
We’ve decided to be fully immersed in day-to-day Turkish living during these times.
On a positive note, Turkey is as beautiful as it has always been, if not more. And we can’t wait to follow through with our schedule.
Hubby planned a closed-loop trip with a couple of stopovers starting with a day in Istanbul:
- Paris to Istanbul (by air) – 1 night
- Istanbul to Ankara (by train) – 1 night
- Ankara to Gorëme/Capadocia (by bus) – 2 nights
- Gorëme to Konya (by bus) – 1 night
- Konya to Antalya (by bus) – 1 night
- Antalya to Pamukkale (by bus) – 1 night
- Pamukkale to Istanbul (by air) – 4 nights
Even though city hopping isn’t for everyone; for us, with a backpack each, is perfect.
Istanbul day trip
We landed in Istanbuls’ largest & latest airport (Istanbul Airport, IST) that is roughly one hour away from the city center (on the Black Sea side/European side of Istanbul). To get to our Hotel from the Airport, we took Havaist-12 from platform 12 (52 TL/person).
Mid-way to our desired destination, the bus stopped in a local neighborhood. Lost and hungry, we decided to grab a bite and buy a SIM card. We got our SIM card from a Vodafone shop for 300 TL. Our package was 20 GB for a month. And ate some glorious fried chicken and shawarma from a Syrian restaurant called “Anas Chicken Aksaray Şubesi”.
Now full & found, we went to our hotel via Tram T1. We bought our tickets via credit card from an automatic box (stand-alone ticket selling point), next to the tram stop.
Once checked in, we only had time to visit SultanAhmet (blue mosque) and Hagia Sophia before it got dark.
At night, tired and full, we opted for a light dessert from a local chain, called Mado before calling it a day.
This is Hubby’s second time and my first time to Turkey but regardless here are a couple of things that surprised us:
- +ve: The world should take Turkey as an example for animal welfare. Never seen stray animals in such good shape!
- +ve: Religious Liberty. It feels so liberating to see people dress as they please and practice any religion of their choice FREELY.
- +ve: Greenery EVERYWHERE
- +ve: Amazing infrastructure. Public transportation is clean. Roads are well maintained. Touristic sites are clean, safe, & well conserved.
- +ve: Trustworthy. Shop keepers leave some of their merchandise outdoors at night & nothing gets stolen.
- -ve: English is not widely spoken even in touristic areas.
- +ve: Turkish people are very Patriotic. (Images of Turkeys’ Founder are everywhere)
- -ve: Like other touristic countries, tourists can be scammed or taken advantage of. Unfortunately, Turkey is no exception.
- +ve: Intercity transportation (bus & train) is very comfortable. Food & drinks are distributed for free during the journey.
To wrap up DAY 1, here are some useful tips:
- Accommodation: Villa Sofia in Sultanahmet (great location, breakfast included)
- Transportation: Tram T1 & Bus 12
- Tip 1: Don’t withdraw money from ATMs in the airport, there is a 10% fee. ATMs in SultanAhmet don’t have a withdrawal fee charge (if your bank doesn’t charge one).
- Tip 2: Most restaurants accept credit cards.
- Tip 3: Try out a rooftop cafe or restaurant. The view is to die for.
NOTE TO SELF: Blog post has been written on the road. Started on 27/05 (Day 3) and finished on 29/05 (Day 5)