1st time to Turkey - tour or not to tour

My wife and I would like to go to Turkey for about 2 weeks in September. We've taken tours before, but prefer traveling on our own. We're seasoned travelers and have traveled independently to some intense places, so Turkey should be very comfortable for us. Should we take a tour to save time and hassle, or travel on our own? If we go on our own, what's the most efficient: rental car or buses/etc.? Thanks!

Posted by Zoe
Toledo, Ohio, US
2442 posts

If you're seasoned travelers, no reason not to go it alone. Long-distance bus service is excellent in Turkey. You can rent a car if you're going off the main track, but in 2 weeks you'll have plenty to do and buses will get you there. I've mostly traveled around the coast (from Istanbul to Antakya) and the buses were very convenient.

Posted by Agnes
Alexandria, VA, USA
616 posts

It really depends where you're going and whether the car would be a true "value added" to get you to certain destinations. Otherwise the public transport is excellent and inexpensive, including the shared vans called "dolmus" that fill the in-between spots. I found the Lonely Planet guide to Turkey to be very helpful in figuring out where to go and what to see. I've been there both as a solo traveler for 2 weeks and with an RS group for 2 weeks - both experiences were great (although I strongly lean toward independent travel)

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
2811 posts

In addition to Rick Steves Istanbul and Lonely Planet Turkey, the Turkey Travel Planner website was invaluable: http://turkeytravelplanner.com/. While the train network in Turkey is limited, the buses go all over, and they also have a lot of airlines with inexpensive flights. If you want a tour, you certainly can take one, but there's no "need" to take a tour.

Posted by Rob
Dunwoody, Georgia
235 posts

If you prefer traveling on your own, I suggest you plan your own trip and go it alone. Likewise I highly suggest you rent a car if it works in your budget. Turkey is so dense with historic sites and interesting places that you'll have much more flexability traveling on your own. You'll have smaller and even many larger sites to yourself. There is a lot of cool stuff off of the beaten path to see and do. If you do drive/go it alone, I have a few recommendations. 1). Most rental cars are manual transmission, so be sure to request/reserve an automatic tranmission if it's important. 2). Pick up an English language map in advance. It does not need to be too detailed - just one for the entire country that shows major roads and towns. Local signs are good enough to find what you're looking for, but only if you know where towns and cities are in relation to each other. 3). Buy a copy of the Lonely Planet guide. It has just about every village and interesting site in the entire country included in it. 4). Don't rent a car in Istanbul. 5). Bring a compass. I do this everywhere I travel. It will help you find your bearings whether you are walking or driving. Have fun!

Posted by Todd
Santa Clara
8 posts

Thanks again to everyone for your advice. You've confirmed that we'll go independent of a tour! Cheers!

Posted by Jerry
Madison, WI, US
66 posts

Hi Todd - I traveled to Turkey last May. My group consisted of 4 adults. 3 near 60 yrs old and one aged in late 20s. I have never taken a tour but I can give you a perspective of getting around. If you prefer to travel alone...do so. I found traveling around to be no different than other less exotic places in western and eastern Europe. You don't need an organized tour group for Istanbul. Public transportation (trams/ferries) were fantastic. Cheap and efficient. I didn't have any language issues trying to figure out where to go. We did fly (Aegean Air...$100 round trip if I remember correctly) to Izmir and then rented a car and traveled around the western side of Turkey. Loved it. I had no parking issues or road signage problems. We took a flight instead of the train due to time constraints. There were 4 of us so renting a car was a cheaper way to get around. Istanbul is a large city....sensory overload. The rest of Turkey is not intense at all...beautiful, easy to navigate, friendly....never had a problem getting lost. I used VRBO.com to rent an apartment in Instanbul. Be sure to stay in Sultanahmet. I stayed in Taksim and Sultanahmet...2 different apartments. Hands down the better location is Sultanahmet. Didn't get to Cappadocia...stayed in the cities of Selcuk and Sigacik. They were fantastic. Getting to another part of Turkey would take to long in travel time. I enjoy the adventure of traveling and discovering places on my own. My vote....go on your own.....

Posted by heather
Chicago
4 posts

Just got back from Turkey and did everything on our own. Travel in Turkey is easy. Good public transportation and cheap flights around the country. Go on your own- you'll have more adventures.

Posted by JS
Bay Area
2081 posts

I too am an independent traveler however I chose a tour last yr to Turkey. I suggest you do Istanbul on your own as well as west coast but pick up guided tours for some of the key archaeological sights. Language challenges were
apparent away from above areas and gd lodging and services sparse.