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Istanbul and Turkey- advice needed

zentraveler

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DISCLAIMER: not a timeshare question, but in the spirit of @ValHam who recently posted questions about Cairo and Luxor, I would be appreciative of info from some of you middle east travelers. Planning a 2+ week trip beginning October 1.

Am starting with where to stay in Istanbul, particularly the area ( Sultanahmet /Sirkeci, Beyoğlu, Taksim, Beşiktaş) although specific hotel recommendations appreciated. Was there decades ago in 1985 and stayed in Sultanahmet in a small hotel with a roof restaurant where we had breakfast. We will see the usual sites, but staying outside of Sultanahmet would be fine if close to transportation, and we like the somewhat less touristy areas. (In Paris we love staying in the 4th and 5/6th the most.) Plan to stay 5-6 days then head out to explore some of the rest of the country. Will appreciate any information!
 

zentraveler

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The update is that we figured out which neighborhood and what hotel we wanted. Happy to pass along info, although mods if this is just too obscure for TUG, feel free to delete.
 

samara64

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DISCLAIMER: not a timeshare question, but in the spirit of @ValHam who recently posted questions about Cairo and Luxor, I would be appreciative of info from some of you middle east travelers. Planning a 2+ week trip beginning October 1.

We did visit Turkey for few days in 2019. A visit that non of us wants to go back to.

We stayed at the Istanbul Marriott Hotel Asia which is a very nice hotel. They gave us an Executive Suite with lounge access on the 21st floor if I remember correctly with a nice view of the Basfor Strait. Hotel is in a nice area away from downtown. In front of it there is a Starbucks and a nice Carrefour supermarket. You can buy lots of food items from there which we did.

We rented a car and they gave us a brand new 2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid. I was really happy with it. It was nice to be able to move around the city but we had hard time finding parking sports anywhere. There was a 1-2 hour wait time to enter public parking lots which are available in downtown Istanbul.

That was the nice part. Now to the ugly one.

Majority of people we met are super unfriendly and I feel they wanted always to deceive us. The same experience I got from 2 friends that visited there too. There was a parking spot on the street that I found as a parked car just left so I parked in it. I was not sure if that was OK so I asked a person in a store just in front of the spot if It was OK to park and he said no. I went to another store, which I think is owned by Syrian people, and they said it is fine which it was.

As I was walking away from the car, I found Tourist police on the street so I figured I ask them but no English what so ever. So they got me someone to translate but was never able to get an answer or they did not want to give me one.

Anyway we moved on to St. Sophia church after going through the Turkish bazar. After the visit, I went to get the car to pick up my family. On the way back after picking the car, I got stuck behind a box truck that kept on stopping in front of every shop to drop merchandise. After the first 2 stops, I started using the horn to get out but suddenly there were tons of young men around the car unhappy that I did so. I asked if he can go in a side street so we all can pass then they can come back to continue delivery. No way and they were also very aggressive and wanted to open the car and maybe attack me. See the picture below. I drove in tons of countries but never had something like this happen to me.

While I was behind the truck, one of the young kids (12 YO) that pushes a garbage dolly scratched the car and I could not do a thing about it. Thankfully enterprise did not charge me for it.

We did not like the food there in general as it has tons of spices which made it uneatable for us. Also the pastry (like baklava) is super sweet. We ended buying some basic items form the supermarket and eating at the hotel. Cheese that Marriott had for breakfast had a wired taste.

We were so unhappy after the first day that we called the airline to see if we can fly the next day to Berlin but it did not work out. The few days we stayed in Germany after Turkey made for it.

If I ever got to this area of the world, It will be Greece for sure. You will be very happy there. One of our favorite destinations.

Stuck in car.

1652201995639.png


View from hotel.

1652201926982.png
 
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gail

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Oh my! My trip to Istanbul (and many other parts of Turkey) was one the greatest trips I have ever taken. The food was absolutely outstanding. Closest to Greek food but definitely it's own twist. So many vegetables served in so many ways. Always very fresh. Istanbul straddles Europe and Asia and the food reflects this. Driving in Istanbul is crazy. I would not attempt it. It seems that lack of English was a real issue but with modern translation apps, this is easily overcome. I stayed at a Marriott Hotel the first night at the airport but was happy to move into a small Turkish boutique hotel in the middle of the city. There are so many rich layers of history and culture to explore in this country. It is too bad you were unable to enjoy all it had to offer.
 

zentraveler

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Thanks @samara64. Certainly does not sound like a very fun trip for you at all. Hopefully ours will go more smoothly; at least I love food of Turkey and Greece. We also will not rent a car in Istanbul itself. I barely like driving around San Francisco and we always use public transportation in major cities like NYC, Paris, Honolulu etc. in part for the kind of parking issues you had and in part because public transit is so much easier.

We have also added Greece to the trip (less time in Turkey) so I am happy you enjoyed that so much more. I have been to both countries and like them both so hoping for a peaceful trip. Thanks again for the trip report.
 

zentraveler

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Oh my! My trip to Istanbul (and many other parts of Turkey) was one the greatest trips I have ever taken. The food was absolutely outstanding. Closest to Greek food but definitely it's own twist. So many vegetables served in so many ways. Always very fresh. Istanbul straddles Europe and Asia and the food reflects this. Driving in Istanbul is crazy. I would not attempt it. It seems that lack of English was a real issue but with modern translation apps, this is easily overcome. I stayed at a Marriott Hotel the first night at the airport but was happy to move into a small Turkish boutique hotel in the middle of the city. There are so many rich layers of history and culture to explore in this country. It is too bad you were unable to enjoy all it had to offer.
Gail, would love to know where else in Turkey you went. We were planning to drive for about 10 days from Cappadocia back to Istanbul along the Aegean sea, but then we added in Greece and are now just thinking of a single destination for a few days with some side trips. Still trying to decide where.

Would also be interested in the name of the boutique hotel. We settled on Georges Hotel Galata.
 

pedro47

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My one suggestion. Always be aware of your surrounding.
 

samara64

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Oh my! My trip to Istanbul (and many other parts of Turkey) was one the greatest trips I have ever taken. The food was absolutely outstanding. Closest to Greek food but definitely it's own twist. So many vegetables served in so many ways. Always very fresh. Istanbul straddles Europe and Asia and the food reflects this. Driving in Istanbul is crazy. I would not attempt it. It seems that lack of English was a real issue but with modern translation apps, this is easily overcome. I stayed at a Marriott Hotel the first night at the airport but was happy to move into a small Turkish boutique hotel in the middle of the city. There are so many rich layers of history and culture to explore in this country. It is too bad you were unable to enjoy all it had to offer.
We enjoyed the places we visited but were expecting more. How long ago was that. I hear things have changed a lot lately. Have friends that visited 10 years ago and it was fine.

Glad you enjoyed it.
 

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We did visit Turkey for few days in 2019. A visit that non of us wants to go back to.

We stayed at the Istanbul Marriott Hotel Asia which is a very nice hotel. They gave us an Executive Suite with lounge access on the 21st floor if I remember correctly with a nice view of the Basfor Strait. Hotel is in a nice area away from downtown. In front of it there is a Starbucks and a nice Carrefour supermarket. You can buy lots of food items from there which we did.
This is where we stayed too. I think the main reason was it was the best MRP value I could get. My wife's Aunt and Cousin live in Istanbul, on the European side (where one might argue most of the tourist sites are at). This meant driving across the bosphorus bridge, usually about 1 hour to get across the bridge. Wife's relatives live near Nişantaşı and I liked walking around there, upscale area.
 

Carolinian

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Working in eastern Europe, I frequently did stopovers in Istanbul when travelling back and forth to the states. It is a very enjoyable city. I always stayed in Sultanahmed on stopovers.

I did an extended trip there with my wife and son and we stayed on Buyukada (sp?), one of the Princes Islands in the Sea of Marmara off Istanbul. The place is a time capsule of the period before World War I. It was the first place where the Ottomans allowed foreigners to own land, so rich foreign merchants and Ottoman aristocrats built mansions there in the late 1800s up to 1914. They do not allow motorized vehicles, so you get around by horse and buggy taxis that are not expensive. There are numerous ferries back and forth to the Golden Horn throughout the day, so we would take a ferry into the city in the morning and sightsee and return to the island in the evening. The ferry crossing took about 30 minutes. It is a very atmospheric place to stay while visiting Istanbul. The hotel we stayed in belonged to the Ottoman aristocratic family that built it and now run it as a hotel. The room rates were very reasonable.
 

zentraveler

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Working in eastern Europe, I frequently did stopovers in Istanbul when travelling back and forth to the states. It is a very enjoyable city. I always stayed in Sultanahmed on stopovers.

I did an extended trip there with my wife and son and we stayed on Buyukada (sp?), one of the Princes Islands in the Sea of Marmara off Istanbul. The place is a time capsule of the period before World War I. It was the first place where the Ottomans allowed foreigners to own land, so rich foreign merchants and Ottoman aristocrats built mansions there in the late 1800s up to 1914. They do not allow motorized vehicles, so you get around by horse and buggy taxis that are not expensive. There are numerous ferries back and forth to the Golden Horn throughout the day, so we would take a ferry into the city in the morning and sightsee and return to the island in the evening. The ferry crossing took about 30 minutes. It is a very atmospheric place to stay while visiting Istanbul. The hotel we stayed in belonged to the Ottoman aristocratic family that built it and now run it as a hotel. The room rates were very reasonable.
Wow - looks really interesting. Thanks for the tip about this; I had never heard about it. Unfortunately our hotels are booked but it also looks like a fun place to stay. We have several days in Istanbul so this could be a welcome quieter day.
 

bizaro86

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We've been to Istanbul twice and loved it. I found people very friendly and loved the food. There wasn't much English. We took public transport almost everywhere, and found it much faster than taking a taxi, which we did occasionally. I wouldn't recommend driving.
 

bjones9942

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Prague for a week, then Istanbul for a month is top of my list for my travel adventures. When in another country (I live in México) I wouldn't think twice if someone didn't speak English. Whip out the google translate app and be done with it! Personally I would be very sad if I were bothered by trivial things like being stuck in traffic when I was someplace so culturally vibrant. Roll down the window and let the sounds of the city in!
 

Carolinian

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Prague for a week, then Istanbul for a month is top of my list for my travel adventures. When in another country (I live in México) I wouldn't think twice if someone didn't speak English. Whip out the google translate app and be done with it! Personally I would be very sad if I were bothered by trivial things like being stuck in traffic when I was someplace so culturally vibrant. Roll down the window and let the sounds of the city in!
Prague is one of my favorite cities in Europe. There are several interesting castles to visit on short trips outside the city, as well.

One can usually find a way to communicate when the need arises. I remember one weekend trip to Odessa when I took a suburban railway line south of the city to a town where the White Castle is located in order to visit it. Arriving at the station, I found nothing at all in the way of tourist information and no one who spoke much English. Finally I found someone who spoke a little German, as I did, as well as a few words of English and Romanian. My Romanian was fairly minimal but using a combination of all three languages, he was able to give me directions to the castle, which got me there.
 

bjones9942

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Prague is one of my favorite cities in Europe. There are several interesting castles to visit on short trips outside the city, as well.

One can usually find a way to communicate when the need arises. I remember one weekend trip to Odessa when I took a suburban railway line south of the city to a town where the White Castle is located in order to visit it. Arriving at the station, I found nothing at all in the way of tourist information and no one who spoke much English. Finally I found someone who spoke a little German, as I did, as well as a few words of English and Romanian. My Romanian was fairly minimal but using a combination of all three languages, he was able to give me directions to the castle, which got me there.
Where there's a will, there's a way! Lol. I had misgivings about communicating when I went to Beijing, AND they block everything google! But I didn't need to worry ... most of the signs have English as well as Chinese! My only problem was finding my hostel the first day - the third person I asked just shook his head and pointed across the street! I knew I wasn't lost!!!!

Some people take the bumps in the road as obstacles and some take them as adventures. I like to think I'm of the latter.
 

tugcccsp

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Went with a tour group to Turkey and it was wonderful. It was a land tour, not a cruise ship.
 

Carolinian

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Went with a tour group to Turkey and it was wonderful. It was a land tour, not a cruise ship.
I have never been much of a fan of tour groups. With independent travel, one can put a focus on their own priorities. When I go to a new place, I new a good guidebook, usually from the Rough Guide or Lonely Planet series and use that to plan my itinerary.
 
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