Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Advice on travel to Istanbul

In the absence of time to do a full review, here are some tips:
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1# Istanbul is well worth visiting. You can stay at the Sultanahmet, Taksim or in the Bazaar district to be close to those things worth seeing.
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2# Taxi drivers are mad, wear your seatbelt.
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3# Don't stay at the TashKonak Hotel unless you are paying no more than about US$100. The rooms are pokey, electricity unreliable and breakfast is a complete rip off. Staff friendly and good location, ideal for top end backpacker side of the market.
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4# Turkish Airlines is actually not bad. In economy class choice of hot meals which are pretty good as far as economy class goes and reasonable range of drinks. That plus headsets and a movie means it is ahead of most airlines in Europe on a regional flight. Legroom still bad but online checkin allows you select seats 24 hours in advance, so I got an exit row on the way back, and as it is Star Alliance you get Air NZ airpoints, and those with Gold status can use the rather opulent lounge at Istanbul (although the food there is nothing special).
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5# Be prepared if your hotel is located next to a mosque, the first call to prayer is 5am and last one after 10pm. It's everywhere at Sultanahmet, but mosques are all over this city of 11 million.
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6# Take time, there is a lot to see. You need a day to do a boat trip up the Bosphorus or hop over to the Asian side.
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7# The tram is dirt cheap, air conditioned and a very reliable way of getting between certain places as it is largely separate from traffic (yes and light rail enthusiasts can see the density of housing in Istanbul to see why it works there and wouldn't in NZ).
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8# NZ passport holders don't need to buy a tourist visa at the airport. Australian, British, US and umpteen others do. Gloat away.
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9# Locals stare, especially at Western women (given few local women bare legs and arms, although maybe half of the younger ones do in trendier shopping areas), it isn't considered offensive.
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10# Go see the Basilica Cistern, it is right in the heart of Sultanahmet. Istanbul was once the centre of the Roman Empire, there is much history to be seen here.

1 comment:

sultanahmet said...

Dream Destination
Dream City
Dream Holiday

Wait me Sultanahmet
I'm comming