Turkey is a perfect combination of amazing history, great food, hospital people and untouched nature. It is not always a first choice for many of our fellow travellers but we are here to show you why this should change.
This guide was written by Iva, also known for her "Ass on the road" Instagram blog (sounds better on native Croatian :D) who went on a 15 day trip in Turkey and decided to share her thoughts on this beautiful country and help everybody who find Turkey a desired destination. Follow Iva on here Instagram page for more great pictures and stories on the link.
We set off on our trip to Turkey very unprepared because we booked the flight literally a few days before departure. Considering that I am a freak who plans a trip months in advance, this was a totally new, in many ways wonderful experience for me.
That’s why we had very little time to research and again I was a little annoyed by the amount of online articles that weren’t very helpful to me, so I decided to write things we’d love to have read ourselves before the trip.
In the first section I will give you 7 interesting things you should know before coming to Turkey. After that I will share my view on how to best spend time in Turkey when you do come! Enjoy!
7 THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE COMING TO TURKEY
INTERNET OPTIONS ARE NOT GOOD
Turkey is not in the EU, I know it's shocking! So there is no free roaming for travellers from EU, which means no surfing at domestic price. So, we had to settle for the old fashion way - looking for wifi wherever you sit.
There are options to buy their card with which you can be online, but you should bear in mind that you can't just buy a card there as if you were a local, because you have to confirm the address and sign some contracts.
For tourists, each operator has its own option, a card that lasts a couple of weeks and has "some internet" on it. Prices are about 13 euro/16 dollars for 15GB.
We decided to take a break from constant online availability so we relied on wifi in pubs, hotels and restaurants which was often weak or non existing, but who cares we or on a trip in Turkey!
BOOKING IS NOT AVAILABLE IN TURKEY
Booking.com is not available in Turkey. Once again, don't worry, there are worse things that can happen!
I don’t know about you, but I really always get the best deals on Booking.com (not a commercial) and now that we couldn’t use it I just realised how much more expensive my other options are.
The point is that you can book accommodation while you are out of Turkey for Turkey, but while you are in Turkey you cannot book anything in Turkey. Read this sentence three times quickly and let that sink in.
In the end we managed to find out which VPNs work, because some of the most famous ones are of course not active in Turkey. VPN that worked great for us was from speed test application that you can use to measure how slow the internet is and wonder if it can be slower than the last one (which by itself was amazingly slow).
NO PROBLEMS WITH ATM-S THROUGHOUT THE TRIP
The official currency in Turkey is lira and their exchange rate is very unstable. When we travelled the exchange was very good for us, but you should check before the trip what the situation is (fingers crossed).
We were withdrawing money at ATMs from Revolut and everything worked great. They accept cards almost everywhere so we had no problems.
TRANSPORTATION IN TURKEY IS GOOD AND CHEAP
Our original idea was to rent a car and go around the country as a part of a one big road trip. In the end it turned out to be a much more expensive option (at least twice as expensive), so we gave up on that idea.
Still, I don't think we missed much, now that I think about it, but there were a couple of places we wanted to visit, and in the end it wasn't convenient without a car. If you go with a bigger group (at least 4), I think a car is a great option.
In general, airline tickets are very cheap, especially if you book a little earlier (I am not talking a couple of hours before the flight of course :D). For example, the flight Istanbul to Cappadocia costed us 40 euro/47 dollars, and Antalya to İstanbul was 30 euro/ 35 dollars, per person. Nice deals!
Buses are by far the cheapest option and in fact if you are on the budget I recommend that you do all the longer routes by night bus ( the buses are solid, and you save on accommodation) :).
We traveled mostly with Kamil Koç carrier, but every other company that we used was okay. The prices are ridiculously cheap, so for example a trip from Cappadokia to Pammukale that takes ovee 9 hours you would pay 75 lira/ 7.5 euro / 9 dollars.
FOOD IN TURKEY IS ONE OF THE BEST IN THE WORLD
Food, food, food! Turkey is known for its rich and varied breakfasts, with lots of salty and sweet meals that are brought to your table all at once.
It is an experience just to see all this beautiful food in front of you! Apart from breakfast, a lot of things revolve around meat, and I as a vegan person did not enjoy the food after breakfast so much, but for me there were a lot of fine home-grown vegetables in various combinations.
For all you carnivores out there, Turkey is a paradise!
STRAY DOGS AND CATS
There are many of them in Turkey! The Turks have a good program in which people can donate money, and some good run associations and organizations supported by the government and local governments then feed the animals every day, castrate them, chip them and take care of them.
In addition, everyone somehow lives in harmony with these animals, so no one drives them out of restaurants, shops and pubs. Cats and dogs are pampered and cared for and can be an excellent example of how to treat all living beings with dignity .
WATER IN TURKEY
Water in Turkey is not drinkable, but you can buy next to nothing (20 cents per liter / 0.01 euro / 0.012 dollar). If you want to show a little love for nature, bring your own water bottle and buy large bottles of water from which to pour yourself!
ISTANBUL - CITY THAT HAS SOMETHING TOO OFFER FOR EVERYONE
FROM AIRPORT TO ISTANBUL
Bus to the airport is called Havaist and goes about every half hour. A one-way ride costs 30 lira (approx. 3 euros/4 dollars at the moment) and can be paid for by card at the entrance to the bus.
There are more buses going to different parts of the city but we went to Taksim. The airport is 40km from the city and there are unimaginable traffic jams all day so it should be taken into account that the ride can take from 1h to 2h (maybe even longer).
You can also use the Havaist app through which you buy tickets, but it doesn't make much sense because if you want to use it you need an internet connection, and it's easier to buy it right away with a credit card.
ACCOMODATION IN ISTANBUL
Istanbul has a lot to offer and it was quite confusing for us where to look at the beginning. We hesitated between setting in the Old town or Taksim.
The Old town has the advantage that all the main attractions are only a 10min walk. On the other hand Taksim is still a lively part of town with more bars, pubs, restaurants and life in general. In the end we choose Taksim and were generally satisfied with that choice. There are a lot of pubs there and that is why you should double check online reviews to see if there are complaints about the noise, as it sometimes can be unbearable all night.
The next time we go to Istanbul we will probably choose the Karakoy district around Galata Kuleshi Tower. There are beautiful places in this neighborhood for food and drink, and you can walk to the old town in half an hour approx.
PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION IS SAFE AND CHEAP
Public transport is really good in Istanbul. We really went overboard with walking in these few days, but we also made an Istanbul card with which we sometimes took the metro or tram.
The card is made in an hour at almost every station on the device and is also easy to make. Just have one card for as many people as you can and tweak each for yourself with the same driving card. The card costs 6 lira (currently about 0.6 euro / 0.7 dollars) and the rides are around 3.5 lira.
ISTANBUL HAS A LOT TO OFFER FOR ALL THE FOODIES
Breakfasts in Istanbul are amazing! Our favorites were Menemen (a traditional Turkish omelette) in the Besiktas district of the Çakmak Kahvalti Salon and a Turkish breakfast for two (with a million things you get on the table) at the Dogaciyiz gourmet restaurant.
For lunch, if you are a carnivore there are many options, so it is hard to choose what to try first! There are plenty of options for vegetarians and almost everywhere there will be veggie menus in Kebab places as well. For vegans, there are a lot of things with cheese and eggs, so we would have to make an effort to find something nice (not an impossible mission but still!).
We had an excellent lunch in the old town at Istanbul Kebab Cafe & Restaurant. The food was delicious, the price low, and the owner the kindest man in the world. Be sure to stop there when you are in that part of the town!
Don't be surprised that wherever you go Turks drink tea all the time, every day. My recommendation for the first timers in Istanbul to try the exquisite apple tea 🤤 Turks also have their own type of ice cream and it's very thick, almost as frozen pudding, so try it, try everything! :)
One of the best moments of the trip was our visit to caffe called Balkon bar, in which we came twice in three days.
The view is simply beautiful, the atmosphere is total chill and the variety of beers and cocktails is amazing. My recommendation is to come at sunset when all the mosques in the city are lit. Prices are not excessive and are worth every buck. Cocktails are approx. 5 €/6 dollars and beers about 3 €/ 4 dollars. They also have great food even though we just took the fries with some booze. The fries were amazing and were huge as well (price is € 2/ 3 dollars).
Another noteworthy place is a cool bar called Urban bar, a little quieter place but with a very cool atmosphere.
MUST SEE ATTRACTIONS IN ISTANBUL
We took a walking tour from Viaurbis to check out the center of the city and main attractions (Blue Mosque and Ayasofya). I think this was a good decision because we hadn't read anything about it beforehand so we found out everything we wanted to know and it was generally an interesting experience to hear about life in Istanbul from the local guide. Still, to me, both Blue Mosque and Ayasofia can't compare to Suleymanyie Mosque which is really something you must see!
We were also delighted by the Dolmabahçe Sarayi Palace - take your time here and take a walk, it's just a wow experience. The ticket can be only paid on the spot and it costs 60 lira (approx. 6 €/8 dollars) if you just want to walk around. 120 lira (approx. 12 €/16 dollars) if you want to enter all the museums and the inside of the palace.
The Grand Bazaar is also a great place to see! We were lucky as when we took a walk through it there were no crowds. Everyone warned us not to buy souvenirs there because all the prices are too expensive (and they really are!), but we bought a few small things there and negotiated good prices.
You should consider that we were really buying little things and if you want to buy some leather goods or some more bigger things then you will have to google a bit more about it because it was not as interesting activity for us.
Be sure to throw a detour to the surrounding streets, not just the inside of the bazaar, and you’ll find everything from fabrics to washing machines. :)
TURKEY IS A LOT MORE THAN JUST ISTANBUL
Most travelers often go to Turkey only to see Istanbul, which is as shown in this blog post a great choice considering that is a beautiful place full of culture, life, colorfulness and food.
But, if you have more time here are tips on where to go after Istanbul.
This was definitely the most beautiful place we visited in Turkey and it is maybe the one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited. Pretty heavy words I know, but I mean it! :)
Cappadocia is mostly known for its landscape which is full of rocks that look like small chimneys. It is believed that British couple was the first to conclude that the area is great for balloon flights and that it's wonderful to fly over it - one thing led to another and nowadays Cappadocia is best known for those balloon rides.
We didn't fly for two reasons - it was expensive and we weren't that interested. If you want to catch the ride now, the price is the cheapest ever (around € 80/ 95 dollars per head), while before the Corona in the season it was € 200.
Even if you don’t decide to fly, it’s definitely worth waking up in the morning before 6 and watching up to 200 balloons rise over Cappadocia. They are really unreal scenes. :)
The biggest attraction of Cappadokia is not in the air but down firmly on the ground. Take your sneakers or boots and you can walk all day on the paths between those rocks. One of the most beautiful walks that you will ever take - I promise! Take a look at more stories from my profile on the link if you are not convinced yet.
There are two most used paths called - Green and Red. The Red route is around the town of Göreme but we didn’t take it because we did that part all on foot and rented a car one day and visited all the most remote sights.
We decided to take a Green route and were really impressed by the things we visited. The largest underground city and basilicas in stone can be seen on this path. It is quite far from Göreme so if you are not with the car it is still worth visiting. Göreme is the city where we slept even though we had some other surrounding options. This was the best options for us as it is at the center of everything.
Interesting thing to consider is that it was hard for us to find a good breakfast. I don't know the reason for this, maybe it is because it is not the peak of the season, but still it is not as simple as we would like. I recommend eating breakfast at the accommodation (everyone offers a breakfast option).
In total we spent 4 days in Cappadocia and that was enough for us to go through everything that we wanted to see.
The number of days depends a lot on what type of passenger you are. If you come just for the balloon ride and you are not too excited about the walking tours, then I think two nights is enough for you. One morning you can fly a balloon and another watch balloons fly from the ground.
My recommendation is to book a ride immediately for the first day (do not wait) because it can be canceled due to unfavorable weather conditions, so you can do it the next day.
We took the night bus from Cappadocia to Pammukale and stayed for two nights. This may have been our biggest mistake in planning the trip, but you do not know until you arrive! :)
Well, at least you'll know better. Pamukkale is moslty famous for its natural thermal pools, it looks wow, clean, white, beautiful!
BUT, there are a million people there (even now that in the pandemic and out of season) and I can’t even imagine what it looks like when everything is in full swing. It’s still beautiful and you can swim in those pools, but still it ruins the experience a bit.
So the lesson - one day is enough for you! I recommend actually skip sleeping in Pamukkale and go from Antalya or Ölüdeniz for a day trip there.
When I was reading and exploring online what to do on the coast of Turkey a lot of recommendations were pointing to the beautiful Ölüdeniz! We went for it and the internet was not lying, Ölüdeniz is a fantasy.
The city is only a 20min drive from a larger city of Fethiye, which also is worth a visit, but we did not have time on this trip (next time it is a must!). Ölüdeniz has a beautiful upper part of town and a great beachfront resort. My recommendation is to look for a place by the beach as the scenery is amazing.
The sea has a beautiful turquoise colour. Interesting trivia, the name of the colour Turquoise actually came from Turkey from the precious stones that were that same colour. The French brought the stones to France and called it turquoise so the name turquoise sticked to this day.
The sea is clean and warm even now towards the end of October. Whenever I go somewhere abroad, I can rarely be thrilled by the beaches and the sea because my native country of Croatia has spoiled me, but I must admit that this place is a very good competition. :)
Apart from the beautiful sea, this place is also known for paragliding. There are a lot of paragliders in the air descending on the beach and this by itself gives you a lot of cool scenes while swimming.
Most of them take off from the top of Babadag, where you have to get by van in about 20 minutes. The highest peak is located at 2000m and thus represents the highest place for paragliding in Europe.
We went for it and we had a wonderful time! This is definitely one of the highlights of the trip. If you are scared you can arrange with the pilot to just calmly take you down the mountain, and if you are more wild like me then look for an adrenaline ride and scream all the way down. :)
In addition, I recommend you to go for a boat ride, a full day trip to nearby beaches, bays and islands.
In terms of prices, paragliding varies from 40 euro/ 47 dollars to 100 euro/ 118 dollars. Photos and videos are extra and can from 15 euro /18 dollars to 20 euro/ 24 dollars. We took a medium package and paid 70 euro / 83 dollars total per person with photos - we used Hanuman agency and they were great!
The boat ride cost 8 euro / 10 dollars per person with lunch on board included, so it’s definitely worth it.
We stayed 4 days in Ölüdeniz, but even if it was a bit longer I would not complain much.
Our last destination was the Turkish Riviera. The small sweet city of Kaleçi is definitely the place where you should be looking for accommodation. The whole part of this part of the country is full with restaurants, pubs and clubs - it's generally a lot of fun :)
If you are looking for a good swimming spots, the most famous are the two beaches around the city, Konyaalti and Lara. Everyone had a lot of praise for Lara and we went there and Lara wasn't nearly as beautiful as Konyaalti.
Lara is located 40min by city bus from the city center. Near the city you can also see the Düden waterfalls that flow into the sea and Sand land, a museum of sand sculptures. The waterfalls were great to see, while this sand museum is not as beautiful. Honestly, I would rather drink Mojito on the beach for the money paid for the ticket 🤷🏻♀️ (35 lira/ 3.5 euro/ 4 dollars).
Konyaalty beach is just half an hour from the center by foot, but for God's sake do not be crazy like me and get on the tram because once you get to the beach you will have room to walk :)
Unlike the sandy beach of Lara (I see you picturing a white beach but it is rather brown), Konyaalti is rocks and gravel, but it is wide, clean and I would say "local". It stretches for 7 km, and you have lanes for biking, roller blading and running. There are a lot of parks where locals bring lunches on Sundays. Skate parks, restaurants and pubs are all around, so it's just a good vibe and we really liked it.
We didn't stay here for long so there were some things we didn't do, and I believe some of them are a good things you can consider doing.
- boat tour - the steep cliffs on which the city is built is very cool, I believe the view is from the boat is amazing
- cable car ride to the nearby hill (at the very end of Konyaalti beach) - other people we talked too say it's a great view
Finally, here are my suggestions if you are planning to go to Turkey depending on the number of days you plan to go.
- Up to 6 days: Istanbul only
- 7 days: Istanbul 4 days + Cappadocia 3
- 10 days: Istanbul 4 days + Cappadocia 3 days + Ölüdeniz 3 days
- 14 days - Istanbul 5 days + Cappadocia 4 days + Ölüdeniz 5 days (one day sightseeing in Pamukkale)
- 18 days - Istanbul 5 days + Cappadocia 4 days + Ölüdeniz 6 days (one day sightseeing in Pamukkale) + Antalya 3 days
In general, we were delighted by Turkey and we did not expect we can find so many interesting things just 2 hours from our home town of Zagreb (Croatia). The food, the culture, the nature! It was amazing, go Turkey!
Follow me on my Instagram page for more interesting stories!